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Pentecost 13–“On That Day” (Isaiah 29:11-19)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon comes from the Old Testament, which was read earlier.

Last week, I finally watched a movie that I had wanted to see for a while: 2012. The premise of the movie is this: according to the Mayan calendar, the end of the world will be December 21, 2012. Scientists had discovered that the end of the world as we know it is quickly coming and they have just a matter of a few years to figure out how to save the human race. Unfortunately, the end of the world comes sooner than December 21 and the beginning of the end of the world commences.

Now, if you are wondering, the end of the world will not come on December 21, 2012. We do not know when the end of the world will be, not even Jesus Christ. That is information that only God the Father knows. However, this movie is a good reminder for us that we are living in the last days, that period of time that we await the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

As we look at our text, Isaiah is doing what Isaiah does best: prophesying. Prior to our text, Isaiah tells the people of Israel of how God mercifully delivered His people from Assyria. Those in Jerusalem lived to see the dramatic events and rescue, but failed to see beyond the disappearance of the Assyrian armies. They failed to recognize the work of God in all of this and instead continued in their rebellion and unbelief. He revealed to them the unhappy truth about the spiritual blindness of the people of Jerusalem. For those people who were spiritually blind and drunk, the message of God was a sealed book they could not understand. For all who remained in unbelief, the book was sealed. Those who could read couldn’t, because the message was sealed, that is, it was impossible to understand. Those who could not read could not penetrate the meaning of the words.

Why would God cause His Word to be sealed for His people? Isaiah tells them it because their hearts were far from the Lord. They would speak the right words, go through the motions, but at the end of the day, their hearts were as far from God as could be. They had lost the essence of God and His revelation to His people. They did not understand His grace and the promises of the coming Messiah. They were a people who had more or less developed a religion made up only of rules taught by men.

How fortunate for us today living in these last days that we are a people solely centered upon God and His Word, focused on the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ. Oh wait, we’re not that people. Instead, we are a people that are fractured when it comes to who God is. We are a people who say that God can be anyone or anything. We are a people who say that you can have your god, lowercase g, and I can have my god, lowercase g, but even though they have different names, we’re talking about the same god and that both are equal in stature.

Instead of focusing on the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ, we focus on the salvation that our works earn for us. Instead of focusing on the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ, we look to the various other avenues in which we can be saved, all just as equal or greater to the salvation accomplished for us by Jesus Christ on the cross.

The prophesying words of Isaiah not only speak of people whose hearts are not in their religion, but also speak of those whose hearts are sincere and devout, but whose beliefs are wrong and without Christ. Such people believe that they are worshiping the true God when they follow rules taught by men. Many are devout and zealous in their beliefs, but they are without Christ.

Even those within the visible Church of Christ can have hearts that are far from the Lord. When they abandon the message of the cross and adopt social issues, they begin to adhere to rules taught by men. Whenever the free and gracious gifts of God become rewards earned by man, worship and religion become hollow and we find ourselves separated from that communion with God.

Isaiah speaks to those who know they oppose God and who persist in their unbelief and rebellion. Such people sought to hide their evil and perversion from the Lord, just as Adam and Eve tried to. Unfortunately, we cannot hide our evil from the Lord because our God is an all-knowing God and knows all that we do, including our evil acts. Instead of hiding our evil from God, as if He would not be able to see what we have done, we must confess our sins and repent of them in order to receive that blessed forgiveness our Lord desires to grant to us.

However, there is good news for us and for all people. Even though we still sin and even though we still die, our Lord has sought to grant to us a Savior. Jesus Christ has redeemed us from sin and death and hell. His death on the cross is our death, and His resurrection is our resurrection, shown to us in advance, to comfort us in the face of the dangers of life and the terror of death. God addresses those truths through Isaiah. He says, “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.”

We live in that day, spoken of by the prophet. We are the deaf. We are the blind. In and of ourselves, we cannot hear the Word of God. We can physically hear it, but without the working of the Holy Spirit in us, we automatically reject it as false, old-fashioned, or absurd superstition.

Our Lord rescues, redeems, and reconciles us to Himself, not out of our worthiness but out of His grace. He turns our sins into salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. This message that the deaf shall hear is none other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of His life, death, and resurrection for us. It is the story of how He atoned for the sins of the whole world in order that you and I might have the free gift of everlasting life. It is the story of how you have become one of God’s beloved children.

We rejoice in our forgiveness. When all else fails, we have eternal life ahead. We shall rise from our graves and live with the Lord forever! But even while we live here, our sufferings are not pointless and endless and hopeless. God is with us, and He has a plan. He will guide us and keep us, and He will not allow us to bear more than we are able, but will provide us with a way of escape and bring us through. That is His promise, and that is our faith and our hope. And believing that we can rejoice, and increase in our gladness in the Lord.

We live in that day spoken of by Isaiah. And on that day, the promise is true, and it still brings comfort and hope to the chosen people of God! On that day we do hear the words of a book that we are not naturally able to hear, and we do see though the gloom and darkness of a fallen and utterly corrupt pagan world. Our gladness is increased because we who are needy have our needs met: our sins are forgiven, and we have received that gift of everlasting life. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Wesley’s First Day of School 2012-2013

“Yay school!”


Brothers
 
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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Bryce, Wesley

 

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Pentecost 12–“Children of Light” (Ephesians 5:6-21)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle, which was read earlier.

Have you ever been deceived before, whether it is by purchasing something or buying into something that someone has said? It’s not a good feeling when you realize you have been deceived and often times, there’s nothing you can do to undo it. You are left feeling jaded and disappointed at what has happened. Once you have been deceived by a particular person or company, you learn not to associate with them again, for fear of being deceived in the future.

As we look at our text today, that is the warning that St. Paul gives to the Ephesians. The old Adam in sinful man will try to deceive us with “empty words,” those things that we may want to hear or that sound good to our itching ears, but are none the less false and deceiving, going against God and His Word. These arguments will not hold up before God’s final judgment. Paul’s message is clear for all: “do not associate with them.” The reason is because in associating with them comes the danger that we too will fall into the lies and deception and fall away from God and revert to our pagan ways.

Paul’s call for us Christians is clear: “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light….” This is both good and bad, for it reminds the Ephesians just what kind of people they used to be. Not only were they misled and under the influence of wicked paganism, they themselves were a bad influence. They were the darkness that misled others to practice and even enjoy gross immorality and wickedness.

What a sad and unfortunate time it must have been for the Ephesians before they came to know Christ. They were led to believe and practice the popular things of the day, without questioning as to whether or not this was God-pleasing. They were deceived into thinking that what they were doing was ok and that there were no consequences to their actions. However, St. Paul knew better. He knew from his own life that his actions indeed had consequences, and they weren’t earthly consequences. He knew that because of who he was and what it was that he was doing, he was separated from Christ and His forgiveness and glory. He knew that eternal death was his when his eyes were opened on the Damascus Road. He did not want the Ephesians to face the same eternal spiritual consequences that he was going to face. Because of this, St. Paul set out to make sure that the Ephesians knew Christ and knew Him to the fullest extent possible.

The Ephesians were not only enlightened by knowing Christ; they themselves have become light. Not only were they influenced by the Gospel of Christ, but they themselves are now the influence that builds up their brothers in the church and wins new converts for Christ.

Lest we get too far ahead of ourselves, these words ring true for us as well. At one time in our lives, we were the ones who were both deceived and doing the deceiving. Before we became God’s children through Holy Baptism, we were deceived by the father of lies, Satan. We brought into his lies that it didn’t matter what we did, that there would be no consequences. However, there are eternal consequences to our actions, namely death. St. Paul writes to the Romans, “For the wages of sin is death.” You and I are sinners in the darkness. We deserve nothing but death, but because of what Christ has done for us, we have been redeemed.

Because of what Christ has done for us, we are able to “walk as children of light.” The light that we reflect is that light of Jesus Christ. By virtue of being light, God’s people are both a positive influence toward those things that please God and also a strong deterrent against those things that do not please God, namely, the unfruitful works of darkness.

So that we might know the truth about sin, God gave us His Law. The Ten Commandments reveal that because of sin we become idolaters, counting other things as more important than the one true God. Because of sin, we use God’s name only to condemn others or justify ourselves. Because of sin, we ignore, even despise, God’s Word and do not worship Him as we should. Because of sin, our relationships with others – mother and father, wife and husband, enemies and friends, coworkers and strangers – all these are disrupted and destroyed.

We live in a world still entangled and deceived, enslaved by sin. For as many ways as people have tried to redefine it, excuse it, redecorate or hide it, the fact of the matter is sin is still at the bottom of what makes life and relationships difficult, breakable, sick and dying. It is that sin that separates us from one another and from God, but it is Christ that unites us with our Father.

Because of the slavery of sin and our inability to free ourselves, God in His infinite mercy determined to save us. His mercy shone line a bright beacon of light, of hope, just as He had promised to Adam and Eve a Savior from sin. This light of salvation burned as hope in God’s people through the centuries until “the Word became flesh.”

Jesus said of His followers, “You are the light of the world.” By our Baptism into Christ, He lives in us, enlightening the eyes of our hearts, awakening us to be able to walk in newness of life. And so Paul is now able to say in our text, “Now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”

Suddenly, we see things in a whole new way. We see God for who He really is: not distant, way up in heaven, disinterested in or irrelevant to our lives, but here, present, eager to have a relationship with each one of us. That’s what Jesus lets us see in His light. God is not angry and keeping score on how well we keep His Commandments, but rather is forgiving, not counting our sins against us, because Jesus took them upon Himself on the cross. That’s what we see as children of light.

As children of light, we are to avoid sin and evil. However, that is hard to do since we are sinful to the core. Even as children of light, our sins become exposed. When it is exposed in us, we return to the promise of our Baptism in daily repentance and faith. When sin is exposed around us in others, then we have the opportunity to extend the same forgiveness and salvation we ourselves have received from God.

Walking in the light of Christ is to walk as children of God with purpose; it is the walk of repentance and faith. We live in the forgiveness of all our deeds done in darkness, with no wholesome purpose, and we invite the world to the glorious light of salvation in Jesus Christ, just as we have received. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pentecost 11–“Bread of Life” (John 6:35-51)

B-77 Proper 14 (Jn 6.35-51)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

When my boys wake up every morning, they often play downstairs, maybe play a little upstairs and then this is what I hear, “Dad, I want some supper.” Aside from saying the wrong meal of the deal, I know what they want: food. So after you feed them breakfast and not supper, a little while goes by before I hear this next line: “I want a snack.” How could they really want a snack after just eating not that long before?

Things are not all that different for us, are they? We eat a meal and the next thing you know we are looking in the fridge or pantry for something else to eat all because we’re hungry. Our problem is we are focused on earthly food, but what we fail to focus on is the heavenly food which we receive.

In looking at our text, Jesus begins with the words He ended last week’s text with: “I am the bread of the life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

In his ongoing conversation with the Jews, Jesus repeats the theme of his teaching—I am the bread of life.” Already, we have heard that this bread of life is superior to the manna bread that God gave the Israelites, for it is bread for the soul and not the body. Furthermore, Jesus has declared the good news that the bread of life is given to man as a divine gift and not a result of his own efforts.

Today, Jesus further expounds on his bread of life theme for us, telling His hearers that he who eats this bread will live forever. And while the people had expressed desire for such bread, you don’t exactly see them falling over themselves to worship Jesus when He reveals that He is that bread. Instead, we get a lot of confused looks and grumbling. This is because the sinful heart of man does not receive the Gospel of Christ joyfully with open arms. It questions the Lord and is disappointed because Christ Jesus is not someone we can mold into whoever we want Him to be.

When it comes to the bread of life that grants life eternal, Jesus’ words themselves give life. Jesus tells us what is in the bread of life, namely Himself, and tells us what it does for us. But it is interesting to observe how Jesus’ words are treated in our day, when health, fitness, and nutrition are given so much prominence. We check labels on almost everything we buy—often under doctor’s orders—the calories, sodium, trans fats and the carbs! We become obsessed with monitoring everything that we and our children take into our bodies, but such vigilance is lacking when it comes to what we take into our souls.

Jesus is the bread of life because He is the one thing we need. All of the other things we think we need, we can live without, at least for a time. Food—you can fast for a time. You won’t die. The company of other people—you can have a time of solitude. Sometimes it’s even helpful to be alone. Money—it’s an illusion to think you will be happy if you have enough of it. Sex—people can go their whole lives as virgins and be content and happy. But a relationship with God is the one thing we can’t really live without. We can’t find peace, we can’t have a lasting purpose, and we can’t know who we truly are. And the only way to approach God is through Jesus Christ.

Through Jesus’ gracious invitation, He bids us to come to Him and be fed with food that will never pass away, with food that will never cause us to be hungry again. Listen to the words of Jesus: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” This eternal life comes from the bread of life, from Jesus Christ, and from nothing else.

Jesus’ message is clear: if you eat of the bread of life, you will have life and you won’t hunger spiritually because you will have what you’ve been looking for. If you refuse to eat, you won’t enjoy the benefits of eternal life and you’ll be among the walking dead. The Word of God, made flesh, who dwells among us, is giving Himself to feed us. We need that food; we couldn’t purchase that kind of bread. Earthly food is all we can buy; God gives freely eternal life and I pray we never lose the hunger for that.

Unfortunately, there are those that see no need for that eternal life and the bread of life that our Lord gives. They think that there are other ways to achieve eternal life or another source as the bread of life. However, there is only way to receive eternal life and there is only one bread of life, Jesus Christ. We don’t work our way to heaven and get there by being good or leading mostly good lives. We know we don’t ever belong there on our merits, but God invites us to believe in Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. We shouldn’t follow Christ, acting like our lives might go better if we follow Him. If anything, we can expect challenges to our faith to increase. We do not follow our next meal of loaves of bread to fill the stomach for one day, but to believe in Jesus as the very bread of life Himself. 

In all these things, God gives you the bread of life that came down from heaven, your Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the bread that nourishes your soul. He alone is the sustenance that also gives life. For this reason, Jesus tells you today that when you eat of the bread of life you will live forever. He gives you His own flesh, which is for the life of the entire world.

What better place is there for you to receive the bread of life than here at the Lord’s altar, where you receive His body and His blood? The true bread from heaven is here for you, for Jesus Himself is present. Jesus bids you to come, all who are weary and heavy laden, and He will give you rest. He will strengthen you in faith and draw you closer to Himself. He promises to forgive you your sins and to remember them no more. And He sanctifies you with His gifts, that you might live a Christian and God-pleasing life. In so doing, He empowers you to live in the way that Paul described in today’s epistle: putting away all bitterness, and wrath, and anger; being kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you!

The invitation has been extended to you by your heavenly Father to come and to feast on the bread of life, for “if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pentecost 10–“One” (Ephesians 4:1-16)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle, which was read earlier.

When we look at our text, there is a common trend that goes throughout it and Paul’s thought process: one. In looking at three verses of our text, we see exactly what the focus is all about: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” The word “one” appears seven times. St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is all about the Church; and because it is all about the Church, it is all about being one. While the world makes all sorts of prejudicial distinctions and divisions, in Christ we are all one. Now, in chapter 4, we hear of all that the Lord does to make and keep us united, one, as the Church—the body of Christ.

That is why Paul makes such the emphasis of “one” in our text. There in Ephesus and throughout the New Testament world, there was not that sense of oneness in the Church. There was the Church that followed the teachings of Christ. There was the Church that followed the teachings of the ruling Jewish leadership. There was the church that followed the teaching of what was relevant of the day. Each taught and practiced very similarly but also very differently. There could be no salvation found outside of the true Church, that of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus Himself tells us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that you can come to the Father through other teachings, or other persons, or anything else for that matter. Salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ and that is what the Church is founded upon: Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection for us.

There is one body—there is one Church. That Church is made up of all who believe in Jesus Christ. That Church does not bear the name of “Lutheran” or “Baptist” or “Roman Catholic.” Do not misunderstand: we hold firmly to our doctrine here, because we believe that it purely confesses our Lord, Jesus Christ. Otherwise, why hold to it? However we also condemn the false teaching that “only Lutherans are going to heaven.” People are not saved by the name on a church sign; they are saved because, by the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, they trust that Jesus has died for their sins.

There is one Spirit who gathers us in. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that you are given faith and brought into the Church. It’s not by your actions because your actions and everything about you are sinful. It is the Holy Spirit who has gathered you and keeps you in the Church. If we were saved by our own actions, then it would be a free for all to God, with no wrong way to get there and everyone would be saved, regardless of what they believed or didn’t believe. However, that is not salvation that is found in the Church.

There is one hope. This is the hope that is found in Jesus Christ. This is hope of eternal life for Jesus’ sake. This is hope that the world cannot give, hope that is sure and certain and not because of us.

There is one Lord – Jesus Christ. This is the only-begotten Son of God. This is the One who would live a sinless life, the One who makes the sacrifice for your sins. This is the One whom we find our salvation, salvation that He offers to all.

There is one faith. The Christian faith is one faith, not many faiths. We sing in our hymnody, “I know my faith is founded/On Jesus Christ, my God and Lord;/And this my faith confessing,/Unmoved I stand on His sure Word.” Notice what our faith is centered on. It is centered on Jesus Christ and His Word. This one faith has nothing to do with us but everything to do with Jesus. That is what Paul impressed upon the Ephesians and that is what he continues to impress upon the Church even today.

There is one Baptism. It is Baptism by water and the Word “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Through this Baptism, you die to your sin and are born again in Christ, with sins forgiven. Through this Baptism, You are made a child of God. You are adopted into the family of God through the blood of Christ. Through this Baptism, you are united with all Christians in the one, holy, Christian and apostolic Church.

Finally, there is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” There are not many gods, but one God in three Persons. This one God has created us, redeemed us, and sanctified us. Only in Him do we find our salvation. The Church is united by what our God has done for us, is doing for us now, and will continue to do for us.

One. One body. One Spirit. One hope. One Lord. One faith. One baptism. One God and Father of all. This is what the Church is founded upon. This is what the Church is all about. This is what the Church gives to you. These are the gifts Christ gave to man. These are the keys to your salvation and that salvation is yours because the price has been paid in full by Christ, once for all.

Where do we find these gifts? We don’t find them in the things of this world. We don’t find them in our own merits or achievements. We find these gifts where we are told they will be found: in the Word and in the Sacraments. It is through the preached Word, by rightly dividing the Word of truth. It is by administering the Lord’s Sacraments according to His Word; the Word uniting us in faith and knowledge of the Son of God. It gives us spiritual maturity as we grow in that faith and knowledge. It further unites us to Christ, our Savior.

With the Church focused on being one, what is left for it to do? As Paul closes this portion of his letter to the Ephesians, he gives to us that answer. He says, “We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

That is why we speak the truth in love about the one faith God gives: it unites His people in His Word. Pure doctrine is not a barrier to Christian unity: it is the basis for Christian unity. We look forward to heaven, where the Church, united in Christ, is seen in the glory of Christ, singing praise around His throne. By Jesus Christ, you are united with Him, with sins forgiven. That is the joy you have in Christ’s Church. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Happy 4th Birthday Wesley!

Wesley-birth-picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to believe that my little boy is 4 years old today. I guess he isn’t all that little anymore.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pentecost 9–“Willing and Able” (Ephesians 3:14-21)

(I also had the pleasure of baptizing my nephew today as well).

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this morning comes from the Epistle which was read earlier.

A willingness to do good is a wonderful attribute. Combined with the ability to do good, we’ve got the complete package. We, of course, are not that package. Often we’d like to do good and can’t. Other times, we could do something but don’t because we just want to. In our text for today, the apostle Paul recognizes that God is willing and able to do good for us, specifically, to strengthen the one Holy Christian Church.

God’s willingness and ability are well documented in Scripture. John writes, “For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Added to this creative will is God’s re-creative will: God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Equal to God’s willingness is God’s ability. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him.” God’s ability to save and strengthen is absolute: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Yet nowhere is Scripture more emphatic about God’s willingness and ability to help us than in our text for today. Paul says that God’s love surpasses knowledge and that He “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” What we see is that God is both willing and able to strengthen His Church.

Paul says at the beginning of the letter to the Ephesians that God has set forth in Christ “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Our heavenly Father sets out to accomplish His plan through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for it is Christ and Christ alone who is able to restore the created order: for “he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him”

The reason for all of this, the reason why we need God to strengthen His Church is because of what the world throws at us. The world applies heat to our spiritual lives. We are heavy with the weight of our sin. Our sins make us miserable and alone. The world will tell us that we are not “a poor, miserable sinner.” The world will tell us that even little Jesse is not a sinner. But that is not what David says. He says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We are told that there is nothing for us to confess because we didn’t sin; we are a good person. As much as we don’t want to admit it, we are “a poor, miserable sinner.” We are not good because we are sinful. The world is wrong, yet we continue to buy into what the world has to say.

Instead of showing to the Ephesian Church what the world will and can do to forgive sins, rather, Paul points them to the source of willingness and ability to strengthen us: our triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Through all of this, though, God is willing, ready, and able to strengthen us. He is willing, ready, and able to forgive us of our sins. It is God, our heavenly Father, who chose to make us His family. It is in our Baptism that we receive God’s name. It is from God Himself that we receive our name as His children, for He made us in His own image – that of being perfect and holy. While our sin has destroyed that image of God upon us, we still receive our name from Him and continue to receive “the riches of his glory.” That is accomplished for us through what our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has done.

Jesus Christ is willing, ready, and able to strengthen us. He dwells in our hearts through faith, as the apostle Paul says. Christ loves us beyond what our minds can fathom. It is beyond our human understanding why Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, would be born into a sinful world to die for sinful people like us. For a reason unknown to us, He was willing to go to the cross for us and for our sins. Because He is man, He was able to substitute for us. Because He is God, His sacrifice was able to satisfy God’s demand for justice, to do what we could not do. Without the saving work of Jesus Christ, everything we have would be worthless. In fact, everything that we do have is worthless unless we have Christ. We can have everything that the world can offer, but without Christ, nothing we have is worth anything, because everything pails in comparison to the gifts which Christ has bestowed upon us: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Not only does God the Father and God the Son strengthen us, God the Holy Spirit also strengthens us. Our inner being is strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, saving faith is created in us. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, saving faith is nurtured in us. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, saving faith is strengthened in us. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, saving faith brings to us the salvation given to us by Jesus Christ.

The work of the Holy Spirit goes beyond that. Luther says that “the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” He also “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth.” “He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.” “He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.” Do these words sound familiar? They should, for these are words which we all studied at one time or another in our lives – these are words from the explanation of the Third Article of the Creed. These are all things which are done for us, not by us. These are things which the Holy Spirit does for us, things which we cannot do for ourselves.

In many and various ways, we see how God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is able, ready, and willing to strengthen us. For the Church, this means several things. First, it means that we are renewed in our identity as God’s children and in the unity of the Church. We are God’s and we are connected to Him. We have that sense of belonging: belonging to God, belonging to a heavenly family with all believers. We are renewed in our knowledge of Christ’s love – love that is for us, even though we are sinners. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Think about what that means. While we were detestable and revolting in the eyes of God, Christ still came into the world to live and die to redeem us, even though there was nothing about us that was worthy of being saved. Despite our limited knowledge, we are renewed in our confidence that God is willing and able to strengthen us. Daily we are strengthened in the promise of our Baptism. When we hear the Word of God preached, we are strengthened. When we are fed with the life-giving body and blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we are strengthened. Recognizing God’s willingness and ability to do for us far more than we know and even ask, we find strength to grow in grace and see the importance which God has placed upon us: the fact that He has sent His Son to die in our place; the fact that He has sent the Holy Spirit to create saving faith in us and to sanctify us; and the fact that through the saving act of Holy Baptism, we have been given a name – a name which can only be given to us through the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; a name which makes us God’s own child. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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