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!”

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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!




















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



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.


Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Pentecost 8–“Strangers and Citizens” (Ephesians 2:11-22)

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.

Memories are such a powerful thing. They can be good and pleasant, reminding us of times and feelings that are good, but they can also be bad, reminding us of times and feelings that bring heartache or disappointment. Memories can invoke such strong feelings, even help you remember who you are.

Calling upon the memories of the Ephesians, Paul is helping them to see what they have by looking back at what they were. It wasn’t a pleasant time for the Ephesians by any means, for they were a people without God, and Paul reminds them of their dark days. He says, “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” This was a terrible problem for the Ephesians, an insurmountable obstacle. Now Paul reinforces how desperate their situation was by adding four more negative descriptions. They were excluded from citizenship in Israel, foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope, and without God in the world.

Recall that at Jacob’s well, Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “Salvation is from the Jews.” For Gentiles to be “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel” and “strangers to the covenants” that promised the Messiah was a dreadful plight. It made their situations hopeless. Paul can rightly say they were without hope because they were “without God in the world.” It is not that they were atheists, who denied the existence of a god. They had many gods, but they were false gods. They did not have the triune God, so they had no god at all to help them.

Paul doesn’t dredge up these old memories to hurt the Ephesians, but to help them; not to pull them down but to build them up. He wants them to make a comparison. Formerly they were without hope and without God in the world, but all that has changed.

Formerly they were “separated from Christ,” but now they are “in Christ Jesus.” Formerly they were “far off” from the covenant and God’s promised salvation, but now they “have been brought near.” Paul showed them their memories of days of old where they were and where they came from to where they are now and what has been done for them by Christ.

Each and every one of us is just like the Ephesians. We were people who were separated from God, but now are God’s beloved children. We were people who wanted nothing to do with God, but through the work and power of the Holy Spirit, we now flock to God as the One who gives us life and salvation.

That is the great mystery and joy in all of this. God our heavenly Father was not content to watch us die and be eternally separated from Him. And so He sends Jesus to make that atoning sacrifice on our part. And it is only Jesus who does this work and not us. Look at what Paul says: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Not once but twice does Paul say that it is by Christ’s work that we have salvation. Man is not mentioned as the one who does the work. It doesn’t say on account of man’s actions or man’s doing that we earn our salvation. The reason why man is left out of the equation is because man must be left out of the equation. We’re sinful. All that we do is tainted with sin. That includes whatever we might do to earn our salvation.

It is all Jesus who does the work for you. How has Jesus done this to you? It is no mystery, for the text tells us. It is not your efforts or character or desires: it is all the Lord’s doing. He has died for you and He is risen for you. Now, He builds you into His Church by means of His Word: that is what our text means when it says that you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone;” for the Lord used the apostles and prophets to record His holy Word and to point you to Christ, on whom the Church is built. And because you are now forgiven, you are a living stone in that holy temple, being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Everything is done by Jesus. That is the emphasis that Paul makes to the Ephesians in the last half of our text. He tells them, “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Where do we receive our salvation? It is through Jesus. It doesn’t say that we receive it through ourselves. It doesn’t say that we receive it from someone else. It doesn’t say that we receive it through anything of this world. Our salvation is solely from Jesus.

Christ not only redeemed sinners from the guilt and punishment of their sins, be He also made sure the good news of His victory over sin and death was proclaimed. The good news He brought was twofold. First, Christ brought peace, “peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” It bears repeating that the basis for peace is Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and nothing else. Not only does that reconcile the sinner to God, but it also forms the basis for reconciliation between sinners, forging a complete, true, and lasting peace.

A second gift that comes through Christ’s preaching of reconciliation is the realization that an equality exists among forgiven sinners. We all stand on the same plane as God’s forgiven and redeemed children. For the Ephesians, this was quite the revelation, as this did away with the distinction of Jew and Gentile, of those who were “more favored” by God. And so that holds true for us as well. There is not a single one of us that is more loved or more important to God than another, for we are all of the same value: sinners who have been made children of God by Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection. Everyone is one for whom Christ has died. Some believe, but many do not. Some will be untrustworthy, even predatory and harmful – not because of skin color or ethnicity or social status, but because of sin. But everyone is one for whom Christ has died. This is what we practice as Christians.

Christ is our Cornerstone. He is the foundation of our Christian faith because it is He who earned forgiveness for each one of our sins. It is He who made atonement that no mortal man ever could. Through Him you have access to the Father, who no longer sees your sin but rather sees Jesus when He sees you. By virtue of your Baptism into Christ, where you were clothed in Christ’s righteousness, you are washed in the blood of the Lamb without blemish. In Him, you are now no longer a stranger, but a fellow citizen and member of the household of God. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.


Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Pentecost 7–“God’s Blessings” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

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.

As a young kid in school, gym class could be a good thing or a bad thing. The reason why came down to whether or not you were chosen by a particular team. When you played dodge ball, were you the first one chosen or were you the last? How you were chosen marked your value to the team: the higher you were chosen, the better the team valued you. If you were the last one chosen, then it reflected what the team thought of your playing skills. Everything for that brief amount of time came down to being chosen and what that meant for you.

As Paul sets out to write his letter to the Ephesians, he focuses on being chosen by God. Paul wants the Ephesian church to know just how much God loves them and what they mean to God. The Ephesians were very important to God and Paul wanted them to know that. What was so special about the Ephesians? What was it that set them apart from everyone else? What made the Ephesians so special had nothing to do with them. Rather, it had everything to do with God. Paul says, “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ….” You see, what made the Ephesians so special was that God had chosen them, not that they had chosen God. What made them special was the love that God has for them through Jesus Christ.

In Christ, God chose us to be holy and blameless. It is not that we were holy and blameless to begin with, and for that reason God took a liking to us and chose us. Rather, He chose us when we had no righteousness to offer. In fact, He chose us before we were born, before the world even existed. God chose us, Paul says, not because we were holy and blameless, but He chose us “that we should be holy and blameless.” He chose us, the sinners that we are, in order to make us righteous in Christ. Every spiritual blessing rests on Christ and His saving merit.

Just think what Paul is saying here in our text. From eternity, before time began, God’s plan was to make us members of His family, to bring us into His household as His sons and daughters! One has to ask themself this question: why? Why does God do all that He does? Paul tells us exactly why: “In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will….” In other words: He did it because He wanted to, not because He had to. He did it because He wanted to, not because we deserve it. He did it because He wanted to, not because we earn it. These spiritual blessings that come as God’s children are totally underserved. They come purely as a gift of God’s grace.

As we look at what we are, chosen and holy and blameless, we must remember that this did not come without a cost. You and I do not bear that cost, for it is beyond what you and I could ever pay. The cost was paid in full and the cost was not what you would expect it to be. Luther writes that Jesus Christ “purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” It wasn’t anything that you and I paid for that won our salvation. It wasn’t anything in this world that paid for our salvation. It was Jesus Christ and His blood, His death, His resurrection that earned for us our salvation.

The greatest blessing that you and I receive is the forgiveness of sins we have in Christ. Nothing else that we have in this world or could ever have means anything when compared to what we receive from God.

It is such a wonderful thing to know that God did all of this for me and not because of me. You might be wondering what difference there is between God doing this for me and God doing this because of me. There is quite a difference between the two and only one is the correct understanding of God’s love for you.

What God has done through the saving work of Jesus Christ has all been for you. The saving work of Christ was done out of the love He has for the Father. In creation, it was meant to be perfect, that is, without sin. But through the fall of sin came death. In order to restore creation to what it was intended to be, God sent Christ to redeem it. That meant that Christ was sent to redeem you. Everything that was done was done by Christ, the One who made salvation for you possible. God’s eternal plan, fulfilled in Christ, for our good and blessing, was so that you and I would have the restored relationship with God our heavenly Father, and that we would be able to stand before Him as His beloved children with sins forgiven.

That is how this relationship is meant to be. However, for many, the relationship is often skewed, in that we think that what God has done is because of me. In this thinking, God sends His Son Jesus Christ to save us because we’re such good and loving people. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is not how God’s plan of salvation works. God does not send Jesus into this world because of us and who we are or what we’ve done. The only thing about us is that we are damned sinners. Paul says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There is nothing redeemable in that statement, yet there are many that think that their works or other qualities about them make God love them and redeem them.

What does this thinking do to Jesus and the blessings God lavishes upon you for Jesus’ sake? As far as Jesus goes, it robs Him of glory: it says that He did His part to save you, and that you do your part to save yourself by choosing to believe in Him. It takes the focus off of Him, and puts it on your decision, your commitment, and your dedication. As far as the blessings go, it makes them uncertain again: they’re yours, if you really believe in Jesus enough. If you’ve truly chosen Him and made a decision for Him, then salvation and all those blessings are yours. But if your decision wasn’t sincere enough—if you’re only fooling yourself, then you’re lost. You can’t be sure if you’re truly committed.

Those are too many “what ifs” for salvation. All the work is placed on my shoulder and I know that I can never do enough to earn my salvation. Left to my own vices, I would continue to remain a damned and condemned sinner, and so would you. But thanks be to God, our salvation does not depend upon our own work but what has been accomplished for us by Jesus Christ.

That is your joy today: from the foundation of the world, God purposed that His Son would come and redeem you by His blood, so that He might seal you with His Spirit and lavish His grace upon you today. There is no doubt to these blessings beyond reason: for Christ’s sake, most certainly, you are forgiven for all of your sins. 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 July 17, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Pentecost 6B–“Salvation’s Work” (Mark 6:1-13)

B-70 Proper 9 (Mk 6.1-13)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.

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt. Familiarity only breeds contempt where contempt already exists. It’s like an incubator. Incubators breed germs but they also hatch chicks.

As we see in our Gospel reading, Jesus returns to His hometown of Nazareth; not as the son of a carpenter, but as a rabbi and teacher. This synagogue Jesus had attended as a boy, a teenager, and a young man. The worshipers that day were all people who knew Him well. He had now come to share the Gospel with them, but they were not ready to receive Him as the One who embodied the Gospel.

The synagogue audience was amazed at Jesus’ teaching and at His miracles of which they had heard. However, in their eyes, He was no more than a carpenter, “the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon.” Jesus was just “one of them,” an ordinary fellow who once had made a living with His hands. How could He be a prophet and the fulfillment of Scripture? It was more than they could stomach. They rejected His claim and then in their wrath attempted to cast Him off the cliff at the edge of town according to Luke.

Why was contempt bred amongst Jesus own family and townsmen? It was because they already had contempt for Him as He did not stroke them just the way that they wanted. He called them to repent of their sins and be forgiven just like everybody else. Like the Jewish religious leaders, they were looking for someone to accept what they were doing, to give them their blessing. Jesus didn’t do that. He “came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Instead of being proud of their local boy made good, “they took offense at him.”

What a sad day for the people. Jesus comes to bring healing and forgiveness and instead of the people flocking to Him to receive what He has to offer, most choose to stay away from Him. They were so offended that only a few people brought the sick and injured for healing. Even for as few that came to Him, He “laid his hands on [them] and healed them.” How sad! Even Jesus Himself had to marvel because of their unbelief.

Unfortunately, things haven’t changed much since the time of Jesus. Even today, when given the opportunity to come to Jesus through His means of grace to be forgiven and healed, people shy away from Him. What a lesson this is for the servants of Christ’s Church. There are people who resent it when they are encouraged to come to church to receive God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament. Paul tells us, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” How dare a pastor lead a person to Jesus! Our text tells the baptized to accept nothing less from their called servants of the Word to preach and teach according only to the Scriptures, but pastors are criticized for not giving them what their itching ears want.

This is what our Lord faced in His own hometown. If Jesus cannot bring the people of His own town the Gospel, bring to them Himself, what hope does He have with the outside world? The fact of the matter is that we are not much different from those people of Nazareth. The message that Jesus has for us is still offensive to many, but it is what they need to hear. The people need to hear that they are sinners. The people need to hear that without Christ, there is no salvation. The people need to hear that solely because of Christ do they have the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. As much as you may not want to hear it, you are a sinner. As much as you don’t want to hear it, there is no salvation apart from Christ Jesus our Lord. As much as you don’t want to hear it, it is solely because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that you have everlasting life and not because of anything that you have done.

In spite of the opposition that Jesus faced, He continued to go into all the world and bring them the saving Gospel that comes from Him. He continued to go preaching and teaching to the people, even if they didn’t want to hear it. He sent forth the twelve to preach and teach, to cast out demons and anoint with oil those who were sick and heal them.

Even today, our Lord continues to bring His gifts to you. He continues to bring to you the declaration that your sins are forgiven, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” He continues to feed you with His body and blood, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” Jesus does not do this because you are nice. He does this because you are a sinner in need of forgiveness. St. Paul tells us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” He does this for all people, for everyone is a sinner. He died for those who rejected Him in Nazareth. He died for those who sought to put Him to death. He died for those who believed in Him as the promised Messiah. He died for you, those who gather around His means of grace this morning and for those who choose not to avail themselves of the gifts that Christ brings.

Jesus doesn’t use anything special to deliver this forgiveness and His means of grace. Rather, he uses the ordinary to deliver them: water, bread, wine, men. After Jesus goes teaching among the villages, He calls the disciples and charges them to go and minister to those they encountered. These weren’t supermen, but rather your plain, old, simple, sinful men called by Jesus to do great things. They were fishermen, tax collectors; nothing special about them at all, yet Jesus sought to use the ordinary to perform the extraordinary.

Why did Jesus do this? Why didn’t He just go preaching and healing everywhere Himself? It was a matter of life or death – eternal life or eternal death. He sought to take the Gospel to as many as possible, in order that as many as possible would hear the saving work of Jesus Christ and be saved. In order for the disciples to be accepted, Jesus gave them authority over the unclean spirits. The reason why was this: they were Christ’s official delegates. Their listeners would not accept them as representatives of Christ unless they had the same ability to do what Jesus could do. And so, He gave them the authority over demons and the ability to heal in order to establish that they were indeed from Jesus.

Mark tells us the main duty of the apostles: “so they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” In English: they went out bringing the Law to sinful people so that they would recognize their sin, repent of it and receive the forgiveness that is granted in the Gospel. That’s the exact same thing the Church does today through her called servants of the Word: to preach the Law and Gospel, to forgive and absolve people of their sins.

This account from Mark may seem like two separate accounts, but rather, they are more connected than you think. Both Jesus and the disciples go into the world to proclaim the mysteries of God, to preach the Gospel, to forgive sins. Both face adversity in their work of proclaiming the Gospel. The same difficulties Jesus and the apostles faced then, the Church continues to face today. Regardless of the adversities that we face, we continue to bring the Gospel to a world that is in desperate need of it. We continue to preach and forgive, because we have been forgiven. We continue to preach the saving work of Jesus Christ because He has died to save us and desires to save all.

Jesus loves you enough to give His life for you. He wants you to know Him and the love that God the Father has for you. He has given the Church the command to teach the nations to hold fast to all the things that He taught. Take advantage of this command. Learn about the Christ who loves you and gave Himself into death for you. Learn about the Savior who delights in giving you the things that are best for you. Learn about the Lord who rose from the dead in order to give you the promise of eternal 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 July 8, 2012 in Uncategorized


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