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Category Archives: Current Affairs

Easter 6–“Love” (John 15:9-17)

B-58 Easter 6 (Jn 15.9-17)Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

In the movie Arthur, a filthy rich young man, who had never in his life had to care for anyone, suddenly falls in love. It is a feeling he cannot describe. In order to determine if it is the real thing, he asks a total stranger, “How can you tell if you are in love? Does it make you feel funny? Does it make you whistle all the time?” The stranger, unimpressed by the joy of new love, tells him, “You could be in love; then again, you could be getting sick.”

Arthur’s dilemma of not knowing what love feels like is unfortunately typical. In fact the problem is even worse than that. Not only do we not know what love feels like, but it is difficult for us even to know what love is. The word itself covers such a broad range of emotions that it is no help at all in getting to know what love is.

Scripture tells us that “God is love” and that “we love, because He first loved us.” From God we learn what love is by experiencing it in the gift of His Son. The more we can know about how God loves, the more we will know what love is and the more we will be able to love.

Our text today is more of what was spoken by Jesus to the disciples on Maundy Thursday. As we saw from the Gospel reading from last week, Jesus tells them the comparison of the vine and the branches. He reminded His disciples that just as a branch needs to be connected to its vine and to remain in it to be productive, so they also needed to be connected to Him and to remain in Him to be productive followers. Now He tells them the discourse about love.

In the Greek, there are three kinds of love: ἀγάπη , φιλία, and ἔρος . Φιλία is the love of friendship, and ἔρος is sensual love. Aγάπη denotes the highest type of love, a love which is sure, steadfast, heartfelt, and warm. This is the love that Jesus came to bring. Αγάπη love is Jesus, a love that sacrifices. What a blessing it is to enjoy the love of the Son of God. No matter what you experience as you travel through life on your way to heaven, you have the assurance that your Savior is dealing with you in love.

Think for a second what makes you happy, what causes joy in your life. Is it your car? Your house? Your money? Your family? Contrary to what the believing world thinks, true and lasting joy comes from knowing and serving a loving Savior. While the unbeliever seeks joy in the pursuit of sinful pleasures, the believer is reminded that real, complete joy is found in the Savior. That is what Jesus tells us in verse 11. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Where is that joy found? It’s found in love. Jesus says it as clear as day: “…love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”

To love each other. Easier said than done, isn’t it? Do you really love everyone? If we really loved everyone, then there would be no war, there would have been no slavery, and there would be no racism. We would all truly “get along.” But a greater love has been shown to us by the death of Christ. The supreme sacrifice that a person can make for his friends is to lay down his life them. Jesus made that supreme sacrifice when He laid down His life for us on the cross on Good Friday. However, Jesus not only laid down his physical life, He also suffered the torments of hell, separation from His heavenly Father, all to pay for the sins of the world. How many of us here this morning would be willing to give our life up for someone? I’m not talking about a parent willing to die for their child, but I mean who of us would be willing to die for the homeless person standing on the street, who none of us know? Would you die for him or watch him die?

Friends do things for each other. Friends look out for each other. Jesus has friends. Jesus’ friends are those whom He laid down His life to pay for their sins. The friends of Jesus are you and me, the believers in Christ. The friends of Jesus are those whom the Holy Spirit has worked saving faith in, granting to them the gift of everlasting life, won for them by Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus asks us to do one simple thing: love your neighbor as yourself. If you can love someone you have never met, then you can love anyone. That is what Jesus did. He did not personally know every person that came to Him or that He healed, but He loved them regardless. That is what we should do. We do not know everyone who asks something of us, but as Jesus tells us, “love one another as I have loved you.”

All people need and want friends. What a blessing it is for those who through faith have Jesus as their friend! He is the One Friend who is always there when they need Him. He is the One Friend who completely knows and understands them. He is the One Friend who never fails to grant peace and comfort through His Word. He is the One Friend who will receive them into His heavenly home.

Friendships usually develop mutually. Friends choose one another. Jesus points out that this is not the case when it comes to Him and His friends. He tells us, You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

Jesus chose the disciples to be His friends and to do a certain task: to go out and be ambassadors for Him. And so it is with all believers. They did not have the ability to come to faith on their own. Regardless, Jesus chose them and brought them to faith through His Word. Like the apostles, all believers are chosen for a definite purpose. Jesus chooses His believers to live fruitful Christian lives for Him. What meaning and challenge that purpose puts into their lives.

God loves us unconditionally. He is the only source of pure, unconditional, ἀγάπη love. It is in this love that God created us and still sustains us. It is this love that compelled the Son of God to assume a human nature and sacrifice Himself on the cross to save us from sin. It is in this love that we abide by faith. Just as God’s love raised Christ from the dead, it promises that He will be with us here on this earth and that we shall be with Him forever in heaven. By faith this love works in us and through us to free us so that we can obey God’s command and love our brother even as God has loved us. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until life everlasting. Amen.

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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Current Affairs

 

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Easter 5–“Vines” (John 15:1-8)

B-57 Easter 5 (Jn 15.1-8)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 has been a month since Easter and now our hearts are beginning to turn toward the joy of Christ’s Ascension. However, as we look at our Gospel for today, it does not occur after Christ’s resurrection, but rather it occurs on Maundy Thursday, the night when our Lord was betrayed. What Jesus tells the disciples takes place just before they go to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus invites the disciples to abide in Him so that they will be comforted in the difficult hours to come.

In our Gospel today, the Father prunes us as branches of a precious vine. He forgives our sins through the Word Jesus speaks to us. Pruned and cleansed, we bear new fruit as we receive spiritual life through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Jesus told a parable to the disciples that compared all who believe in Him to branches on a grape vine. Jesus is the vine. His Father is the vinedresser. Just as a branch gets its sustenance from the vine, so also we get our sustenance from Jesus Christ. Just as a branch quickly dies when taken away from the vine, so also will we die when we are removed from Jesus Christ. In this way, we are totally dependent on Jesus for all things. As we live in Jesus the vine, God the Father, our vinedresser, prunes and cleans us.

Jesus uses the phrase, “I am the vine” twice as He talks to the disciples. The vine is often used symbolically in Scripture. In the Old Testament, the vine was used as a picture of fruitfulness and even as a picture of God’s people. When this imagery is used, Israel is often shown as lacking in some way. Here, Jesus portrays Himself as the vine, in fact the true vine.

Because Jesus is the true vine, our life as the branches depends on Him for all things. Listen again to what Jesus tells the disciples: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” You bear fruit because you are forgiven branches on the vine of Christ. With Jesus as the true vine and God as the vinedresser, you have everlasting life. Without Christ, you would be dead in your sins and doomed to everlasting death.

You are a branch in Christ. You became a branch because, and only because, you were connected to the Vine, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. You did not become a branch because of who you are or what you have done. You did not become a branch of Christ because you are someone special. Rather, you were made a branch on account of your Baptism into Christ, and on account of your Baptism, life that comes from the vine now flows to you.

Jesus declares that you who are on the vine, you who are connected to Jesus Christ, are forgiven. He declares you to be “clean because of the word that I have spoken to you” says Jesus. That forgiveness that we have was earned for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. That forgiveness that we have was given to us at our Baptism, where we receive God’s name and are made His own.

However, not all branches produce fruit, and so are not connected to Christ. If we are not a part of Christ, then we cannot bear fruit. That may not sound too bad, but we cannot forget what Jesus said just a few verses ago: “Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away…. God removes what is fruitless, that which is of no use. The unproductive branches are cut off from the vine, while the fruitful branches are pruned to make them still more fruitful. Cut off from Christ, we would again be as dead and doomed in our sins as we once were. This can happen to any of us. Our faith can die if we separate ourselves from His Word and Sacraments, which is our connection to Him and His forgiveness.

God does promise something for those who remain faithful to Him. Jesus goes on to say, “…and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Living branches that bear fruit only continue to do so when the vinedresser lovingly cares for them by pruning parts of the branches that are sick or dying. The Father will work in their lives by His Spirit, taking away imperfections to help them grow, making them clean by His Word.

Our Lord prunes and cleanses us by His Word. Through the Word, Jesus works faith and gives life. Through the Word, He nourishes and energizes His disciples to live in faith. Through the Word, He cleans His own followers, that is, you and me. Through the Word, you hear time and time again the love of God that has been shown to you through Jesus, as He gives His life on the cross to forgive you your sins; as He gives you His body and blood to strengthen and keep you in the true faith.

It is the Word that brings us together with Jesus and keeps us together, like a vine and branches, and because of the Word, we bear fruit. But a branch by itself cannot produce any fruit. And we by ourselves, separated from Jesus, cannot produce fruit. So we need to remain steadfast in the Word and the Sacraments, as they give us the nourishment that we need from the vine.

Through Baptism Christ’s suffering and crucifixion become our suffering and crucifixion. When God looks at us, He sees the work of Jesus Christ’s suffering and crucifixion and applies it to our account. Just as the vinedresser cuts the vine in order to graft in a branch so also Jesus was cut so that we might become part of Him. We begin life as a branch of the vine of sin and death, but God cut us away from that vine and grafted us into the vine of life – Jesus Christ. God the Father is the vinedresser. He is the one who sent His only begotten son into the world, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. He is the one who gives us the Holy Spirit to be with us forever. It is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who work together to save us and to give us faith in that salvation.  God is the one who grafts us into the vine through faith.  He is the one who nourishes us with His forgiveness, life, and salvation. He is the one who produces the fruit in and through us.

All of this revolves around one word: abide. Three times Jesus uses the word “abide.” A person remains in Christ by faith. Christ is telling us to abide in Him. He is assuring the individual believer that so long as he trusts in Christ he is cleansed and forgiven. Jesus always abides in those who abide in Him. That staying power is not something that the branches of the true vine can muster of their own strength. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that alone can accomplish this, but with that power in action, we the branches, remain intimately connected to Christ, the vine, so that we might produce much fruit. Christ functions as the source of life for his people. As long as the connection remains, there will be spiritual fruit as a result.

Jesus assures His followers that He will abide with them, and He calls upon them to abide in Him. We remain firmly planted in Him through His Word. We are pruned by the continuing work of the Holy Spirit. We remain firm and steadfast in our faith in Christ Jesus by being disciples of Jesus Christ by abiding in Him, just as He abides in us. 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 May 7, 2012 in Current Affairs

 

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Rite of Confirmation–“Confirmed in Christ” (John 10:11-18)

LSB Icon_024Grace, 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.

Confirmands, are you ready? Are you ready to confirm that faith which was granted to you in your Baptism? That is what this is all about. This is not graduation from church but rather the next step in your Christian life.

One of the most familiar pictures the Bible uses to teach us about our relationship to God is that of a shepherd and his sheep. It has its roots deep in the Old Testament. In the most popular psalm, Psalm 23, the author declares, “The Lord is my shepherd.” He describes his Lord as a good shepherd who takes care of His faithful believers who are His sheep. Jesus uses this same picture in our Gospel reading for today when He says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

As we read through the New Testament, we see Jesus described in various ways as Prophet, Priest, and King.

When we speak of Christ as being Prophet, Christ preached personally during His life on earth, validating His word with miracles, especially His own resurrection. Jesus says in Mark 1, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Just what exactly was the message that Christ was preaching? His preaching was focused on the salvation that came because of Him. Everything that Jesus did throughout His ministry was for the sake of the people. The problem was that they didn’t know it, yet that what was Jesus came to do. The message of Christ was and has always been that of salvation. As Jesus says, “They will listen to my voice.” That voice of Jesus tells you that while you are a damned and convicted sinner, Christ died for you to forgive you all of your sins.

Again, we ask the question: why? Why did Jesus give His life for mine? Why did Jesus do what He did, suffer the cross for me? He did this out of love for you. He did this out of love for the Father. He did this out of love for all of creation. He did this so that you would have the gift of everlasting life. He does this for you because He is the Good Shepherd.

What does Jesus mean when He calls Himself the Good Shepherd? His listeners knew that a real shepherd is concerned first and foremost with the welfare of his flock. He would provide the flock the necessities of life such as food and drink. When a wild animal attacked, he would risk his life for the sheep. He would put his own life in jeopardy to protect his flock.

Even today, as Prophet, Christ through the preached Gospel still proclaims Himself to be the Son of God and Redeemer of the world. Jesus tells the disciples, “The one who hears you hears Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me, and the one who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” This Gospel that Jesus comes preaching is nothing short of the promise of forgiveness that has been won for you by Himself on the cross. This Gospel is the one and only thing that can and will save you. Anything other than Jesus Christ cannot and will not save.

My dear confirmands, you will indeed be tempted to fall away, just as everyone is. But you must remain faithful. That is one thing that you will you promise to do, just as every other member here as done. But hear these words of St. John: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” That is what our Lord has promised to you.

As our priest, Jesus Christ is the One who fulfilled the Law perfectly for us when we could not. This is most clearly presented in what St. Paul wrote to the Galatians: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

You and I are under that Law of God. It is a Law that convicts. God’s Law tells us that we are to be holy as God is holy. That means that we are to be without sin. For a brief moment in time, we were. When God created man, we were created in His image of being perfect and without sin. Because of Satan’s temptation, we lost that image of God and became sinners. Because of sin, you and I experience death – both physically and spiritually. We are in desperate need of restoration to God. Through Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection, we have that means of restoration. He willingly gives His life as a sacrifice in order to redeem us, to buy us back, so that we may live with God in a state of forgiveness.

What Jesus sets out to do is to make the distinction between shepherd and hired servant. Most of the time, it is hard to tell the difference between the Good Shepherd and the hired hand. Both the Good Shepherd and the hired hand lead the sheep to good pasture. They both see to it that the sheep get the water they need. They both attend to the minor cuts and scrapes of the flock. At the end of the day, both see to it that sheep find safe shelter. It is very hard to tell the difference between the Good Shepherd and the hired hand under ordinary circumstances.

The one time that the difference becomes very clear is when the flock is in danger, for example: when a wolf is stalking the flock. When the wolf appears, the hired hand leaves the flock to defend itself. The Good Shepherd goes out to meet the wolf and defend the flock. The hired hand runs away. The Good Shepherd puts His life on the line and gives it up for the flock. The enemy of the flock brings out the difference between the hired hand and the Good Shepherd.

Look at some of the characteristics of the Good Shepherd: He calls His own sheep by name; He leads them out to pasture; the sheep follow Him; He gives His life for the sheep; the sheep are His; He does not flee in the face of danger, but puts Himself between the danger and the sheep; He cares about and knows the sheep. These are just a few of the characteristics of the Good Shepherd, of what Jesus does for us.

Just as a shepherd defends the flock, so does Jesus defend us, His flock. He does so by laying down His life for the sheep, just as He says: “I am the good shepherd….I lay down my life for the sheep.” This He does for you. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus gave up His life to secure that bond and keep His sheep safe. He makes the sacrifice of all sacrifices as Priest, a sacrifice that replaces all sacrifices. He sacrificed Himself for your sins, and His sheep all over the world receive the benefit. That benefit is meant for you. He delivers this gift to you in simple yet powerful means of Word and Sacraments.

Not only is Jesus our Prophet and Priest, He is also our King. He rules with His almighty power over all creation and governs and protects especially His church here on earth. He protects us from all that threatens us: the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. He defends us from the wolf that comes to snatch and scatters us. All this He does so that He can finally lead His church to glory in heaven, just as St. Paul writes: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom.”

Because of this love, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ knows who we are and how best to take care of us. He knows that we are feeble from the outset because of our sinful nature. He knows that because of that sinful nature, we will do stupid sheep things like stray from His Word by not hearing it preached and by not studying His Word with the other sheep of His flock. He knows that we will stray from His body and His blood which gives us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. When we do all of that and even more, our Good Shepherd comes after us, to find us and bring us back into the sheep fold. He does not leave us to the wolves to be devoured; rather, He brings us back to Himself where He can keep an ever watchful eye on His beloved sheep.

For you six young ladies, let me ask one thing of you. Please come back to church next Sunday, and the Sunday after that, and the Sunday after that, and every Sunday after that until your Lord calls you home, for this is where your Lord has promised to come to you. He comes here to feed you and to forgive you and that is what He wants more than anything. And for everyone else who is here today, the same thing holds true for you, so please come and be fed by your Good Shepherd. 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 April 29, 2012 in Current Affairs

 

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Easter 4–“Prophet, Priest and King” (John 10:11-18)

B-56  Easter 4 (Jn 10.11-18)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.

As we look at our Gospel for today, it is all about Jesus. It tells us who Jesus is and His three-fold office that He has: Prophet, Priest and King.

When we speak of Christ as being Prophet, Christ preached personally during His life on earth, validating His word with miracles, especially His own resurrection. Jesus says in Mark 1, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Just what exactly was the message that Christ was preaching? His preaching was focused on the salvation that came because of Him. Everything that Jesus did throughout His ministry was for the sake of the people. The problem was that they didn’t know it, yet that what was Jesus came to do. The message of Christ was and has always been that of salvation. As Jesus says, “They will listen to my voice.” That voice of Jesus tells you that while you are a damned and convicted sinner, Christ died for you to forgive you all of your sins.

Again, we ask the question: why? Why did Jesus give His life for mine? Why did Jesus do what He did, suffer the cross for me? He did this out of love for you. He did this out of love for the Father. He did this out of love for all of creation. He did this so that you would have the gift of everlasting life. He does this for you because He is the Good Shepherd.

What does Jesus mean when He calls Himself the Good Shepherd? His listeners knew that a real shepherd is concerned first and foremost with the welfare of his flock. He would provide the flock the necessities of life such as food and drink. When a wild animal attacked, he would risk his life for the sheep. He would put his own life in jeopardy to protect his flock.

Even today, as Prophet, Christ through the preached Gospel still proclaims Himself to be the Son of God and Redeemer of the world. Jesus tells the disciples, “The one who hears you hears Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me, and the one who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” This Gospel that Jesus comes preaching is nothing short of the promise of forgiveness that has been won for you by Himself on the cross. This Gospel is the one and only thing that can and will save you. Anything other than Jesus Christ cannot and will not save.

As our priest, Jesus Christ is the One who fulfilled the Law perfectly for us when we could not. This is most clearly presented in what St. Paul wrote to the Galatians: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

You and I are under that Law of God. It is a Law that convicts. God’s Law tells us that we are to be holy as God is holy. That means that we are to be without sin. For a brief moment in time, we were. When God created man, we were created in His image of being perfect and without sin. Because of Satan’s temptation, we lost that image of God and became sinners. Because of sin, you and I experience death – both physically and spiritually. We are in desperate need of restoration to God. Through Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection, we have that means of restoration. He willingly gives His life as a sacrifice in order to redeem us, to buy us back, so that we may live with God in a state of forgiveness.

What Jesus sets out to do is to make the distinction between shepherd and hired servant. Most of the time, it is hard to tell the difference between the Good Shepherd and the hired hand. Both the Good Shepherd and the hired hand lead the sheep to good pasture. They both see to it that the sheep get the water they need. They both attend to the minor cuts and scrapes of the flock. At the end of the day, both see to it that sheep find safe shelter. It is very hard to tell the difference between the Good Shepherd and the hired hand under ordinary circumstances.

The one time that the difference becomes very clear is when the flock is in danger, for example: when a wolf is stalking the flock. When the wolf appears, the hired hand leaves the flock to defend itself. The Good Shepherd goes out to meet the wolf and defend the flock. The hired hand runs away. The Good Shepherd puts His life on the line and gives it up for the flock. The enemy of the flock brings out the difference between the hired hand and the Good Shepherd.

Look at some of the characteristics of the Good Shepherd: He calls His own sheep by name; He leads them out to pasture; the sheep follow Him; He gives His life for the sheep; the sheep are His; He does not flee in the face of danger, but puts Himself between the danger and the sheep; He cares about and knows the sheep. These are just a few of the characteristics of the Good Shepherd, of what Jesus does for us.

Just as a shepherd defends the flock, so does Jesus defend us, His flock. He does so by laying down His life for the sheep, just as He says: “I am the good shepherd….I lay down my life for the sheep.” This He does for you. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus gave up His life to secure that bond and keep His sheep safe. He makes the sacrifice of all sacrifices as Priest, a sacrifice that replaces all sacrifices. He sacrificed Himself for your sins, and His sheep all over the world receive the benefit. That benefit is meant for you. He delivers this gift to you in simple yet powerful means of Word and Sacraments.

Not only is Jesus our Prophet and Priest, He is also our King. We sang that just a few moments ago: “The King of love my Shepherd is….” He rules with His almighty power over all creation and governs and protects especially His church here on earth. He protects us from all that threatens us: the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. He defends us from the wolf that comes to snatch and scatters us. All this He does so that He can finally lead His church to glory in heaven, just as St. Paul writes: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom.”

Because of this love, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ knows who we are and how best to take care of us. He knows that we are feeble from the outset because of our sinful nature. He knows that because of that sinful nature, we will do stupid sheep things like stray from His Word by not hearing it preached and by not studying His Word with the other sheep of His flock. He knows that we will stray from His body and His blood which gives us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. When we do all of that and even more, our Good Shepherd comes after us, to find us and bring us back into the sheep fold. He does not leave us to the wolves to be devoured; rather, He brings us back to Himself where He can keep an ever watchful eye on His beloved sheep.

For us sheep, we know that we may safely graze in the green pastures because our Good Shepherd is with us, will never leave us nor forsake us, because we are safe in the arms of our Shepherd. 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 April 29, 2012 in Current Affairs

 

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Easter 3–“Behind Locked Doors” (Luke 24:36-49)

B-55 Easter 3 (Lk 24.36-49)Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

If you have ever watched “Little House on the Prairie”, you might remember something about the house. Try to remember very hard about the house. Do you remember the state-of-the-art alarm system and guard dogs that the Ingalls had? Remember all the locks on the door? They didn’t have alarm systems and I never saw guard dogs and to be honest, I don’t ever recall seeing a lock on the door. All they had was a latch to keep the door from flopping in the wind.

Look at the society that we live in today. We have the state-of-the-art alarm systems, guard dogs, deadbolts. We install alarms in our cars, no matter how much the car is worth or not worth. Why do we do all of this? We live in a society with certain fears everyday. Something similar prevailed in Jerusalem on that first Easter evening. This account of Luke is very similar to our Gospel from last week from St. John.

Look at what the disciples had been through. Jesus, their Teacher, had been killed. Judas, one of their own, betrayed Him and all of the others, and then hung himself. They saw what Jesus was put through and saw His death. If the Jews killed Jesus, what would stop them from going after the disciples next? The logical thing for the disciples to do was to hide. They found a room and locked themselves in it. They also had doubts about their eternal salvation. This Man Jesus, who they believed to be the Messiah, was now dead. They followed Him for three years, they were taught by Him, and they taught others about Him. Jesus told them, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Some way, truth, and life He turned out to be. Look at what all of that stuff got Jesus: dead and buried in a tomb.

Imagine the looks on their faces when Jesus appeared to them. Here they are, locked in a room and somehow, Jesus appears to them. Imagine the thoughts of the disciples: “I thought the doors were locked! How’d He get in here?” “What are you talking about? He was dead and buried in a tomb with a huge stone in front of it. How’d He get out?” I’m sure Jesus knew they were scared. He knew what was in their hearts. That is why He greets them with three simple words to help calm them: “Peace to you!” Up until this point, the accounts of Luke and John are very parallel in what has happened. But that changes with the exchange Jesus has with the disciples.

As evening came that first Easter Sunday, the eleven apostles and the other followers of Jesus, men and women, were more and more convinced that the grave was empty because Jesus had risen. But they had little understanding as to just what the meant. People in those days generally believed that the souls of the dead were able to roam the earth. There was a great fear of ghosts. However, it was unthinkable that a dead person could make bodily appearances. Yet that is exactly what Jesus did: with His glorified body, He appears to Mary Magdalene, Peter, the Emmaus disciples, and to the group that has assembled here.

The disciples are understandably frightened, as anyone would be when someone suddenly appears before you in a locked room. Trying to calm them, Jesus asks them a question. “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Even after they saw everything, they still doubted. Once more Jesus tries to calm them and show that it is He. Obviously with locked doors, there’s no way that anything could get in or out, except Jesus; Jesus could not be locked out. Jesus appeared in front of the disciples in a locked room. There He is, doors locked and all. He even shows them His flesh to help prove that it is He. See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” He shows them the holes that are in His body. As we saw in last week’s Gospel, Thomas would not believe unless he could put his fingers in the wounds of Christ. Jesus wants to convince them that they are not seeing a ghost but rather a real, live person. He shows them His wounds, something that only a body and not a ghost could have.

Jesus goes a step further to prove who He is. He asks them, “Have you anything here to eat?” I don’t know a lot about ghosts, but I’m pretty sure that you can see through a ghost. If you gave a ghost something to eat, it wouldn’t have anything for the food to go through so it would just fall on the floor. Jesus is in a tangible form. You can see Him, but not through Him. That means if you gave Him something to eat, He would eat it and it wouldn’t fall to the ground. Jesus is doing all He can to bring peace to the disciples and establish that He is their risen Lord standing before them. Unfortunately, fear was something they couldn’t lock out.

When the disciples gave Jesus the fish to eat, they didn’t know what would happen. Would it fall to the ground? Could a ghost eat fish? Well, Jesus ate the fish. It didn’t fall to the ground. The text says that He took it and ate it before them. So much for being a ghost I guess.

After Jesus showed that He was who He said He was, He talked to the disciples. They knew what had to happen to Jesus. He told them many times during the times that He spoke to them, taught them, ate with them, but they did not understand then. But remember: Jesus’ disciples had the risen Lord Himself standing in front of them, and they still didn’t get it! Jesus had to open their hearts and minds to understand the message of the Gospel. When He opened their minds, they fully understood what had happened to Jesus in the days before this meeting. Christ had to die, He had to suffer, and He had to rise again. If He had not done so, then all of mankind would be condemned sinners doomed to hell. Christ took your sins and my sins upon Himself. Imagine that 2000 years after the death of Christ, you are the one person that Christ died for. If the only two people on this earth were you and Christ, Christ would die for your sins. He would gladly give up His life so that you may have life eternal.

So what does this have to do with you? It means this for you: Jesus Christ died a horrible death so that you can live forever. And to prove His love for you, He gives you His very body and blood in a wonderful meal. Eat His flesh and drink His blood for the forgiveness of your sins and in remembrance of everything He has done for you. Believe this message in the face of doubt. You don’t see the Lord Jesus in front of you like the disciples, and yet at the same time, you do. For wherever His Word is preached and His Sacraments are given out, there is Jesus. Jesus is not in the tomb, for He rose from the dead. But He is right here, right now, in our midst, and He gives you life, and hope, and above all, He gives you peace. Because He has risen from the dead for you, there is no need to hide behind locked doors. 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 April 22, 2012 in Current Affairs

 

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Easter 2–“Peace Be With You” (John 20:19-31)

B-54 Easter 2 (Jn 20.19-31)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.

Last Sunday we saw the triumphant resurrection of Christ. With it brought new life for all people, believer and non-believer alike. But with it also came fear. The disciples were gathered behind locked doors. They had just experienced a very exciting and soul-riveting few days. Mary Magdalene had discovered an empty tomb and told this to Simon Peter and John. The two disciples had gone with Mary to the tomb to see for themselves what she had told them. They also found an empty tomb but did not understand. Mary later saw Jesus and then told the disciples, which brought them together in the locked room. Someone had taken Jesus. The disciples were afraid. Look what happened to Jesus, the same could happen to them. They could be crucified for their part in Jesus’ heretical teaching. The best thing for them to do is hide out until this blew over.

So here you have the disciples, locked away in some room where no one can get to them. No one, that is, except Jesus. The disciples obviously had a lack of faith. They had been with Jesus for three years. They had seen His actions, heard His teachings and received His body and blood less than a week before. Now their faith was gone. Their Teacher was dead and the authorities could be coming after them next. All was lost according to them.

While they were eating and fearing for their lives while trying to make sense of everything that had taken place, Jesus appears in the room. The doors are locked, the windows are closed. There was no way for Jesus to get into the room. He says four simple words to them: “Peace be with you.” Here is the risen Lord, after everything that has happened, coming to His disciples and giving them a greeting of pure Gospel. He forgives their sins and declares that all is well. With this greeting, they now know that there is no reason why they should be fearful of their lives.

Now if walking into a room that was locked up tighter than Fort Knox didn’t convince them that it was truly Jesus, He shows them His hands and sides. If you didn’t believe it was Christ before, you have to believe it now. And when they saw His wounds, they were overjoyed. They had never before experienced this much joy. Here is the risen Christ standing right before them. Jesus appeared again and again, intensifying faith and joy, until nothing could even disturb the solid certainty.

Jesus speaks again. “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Here it is, the Gospel charge. We’ve seen what Christ was all about for three years, we’ve seen His miracles, heard His teachings, and seen His death and now His resurrection. So what are we supposed to do? As Christians, it is our charge to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ, of His life, death and resurrection and what that entails: the forgiveness of sins.

When Christ breathes on them the Holy Spirit, He gives them the Office of the Keys, a permanent bestowal on all Christians. He gives all Christians the ability to forgive sins. On Calvary, Christ attained redemption, justification, reconciliation, and forgiveness of sins for all men. It is our duty as forgiven Christians to proclaim that message to other Christians and to non-believers: Christ has forgiven your sins, go and sin no more.

Thomas wasn’t with the disciples the first time they saw Jesus. We don’t know why he wasn’t there, but when they told him, he wouldn’t believe what they had told him. How often do we not believe? If I told you the sky was falling, would you believe me? If I was just outside and I saw the sky falling, would you believe me? Why would you doubt? You mean to tell me the only way that you’ll believe is if you go outside yourself and see the sky falling? Of course, the sky isn’t falling, but you doubted what I said. Was there any truth to what I said? Of course not, but you still had that little bit of doubt. The same was true for Thomas. He wanted to see the nail marks, put his fingers there and put his hand into the side of Christ. Unless he could do that, he doubted; there was no way that that could be true.

The following week when Thomas was with the disciples, Christ appeared to them again. The conditions were the same. The house was locked; there was no way of entry. Jesus enters and again speaks to the disciples: “Peace be with you!” Then Jesus addressed Thomas personally. He told him to do exactly what he needed to do to believe. But Jesus tells Thomas something else: “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” He told that to Thomas because he had seen the wounds of Christ, he saw Christ standing in front of him. There was no longer any reason for him to doubt. But Jesus also tells us that today. The only reason for us to doubt is stubbornness. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” You don’t have to see everything to believe it, especially when it comes to Scripture. If it’s in the Bible, it’s true, because God has declared it to be so. “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” You see, one does not have “to see it to believe it”, like the saying goes. Everything you need to believe in is already written here. If you believe, you have life in Jesus’ Name.

Today’s Gospel gives us an account of the great gifts that Jesus desires for us. He patiently ignored the doubting hearts of all the disciples in order to show them His risen body. Then He sent those disciples to be apostles so that the church down through the ages would have the very word of God through the mouths and pens of those apostles. He puts His own forgiveness – the very forgiveness that He earned with His life’s blood on the tree of the cross – He puts that forgiveness into the mouths of the faithful pastors of His church. In all these ways, He sends the Holy Spirit to establish and strengthen our faith – the very faith that believes in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and receives all the gifts that Christ gives to us.

Today’s account from the Gospel shows us how gracious Jesus is – not only with Thomas, but with all of the disciples. Even though the disciples denied and abandoned Jesus – even though they believed He was dead and gone – even though they continued to sin daily, Jesus did not reject them. Instead, He made them part of His plan to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

From this Gospel account we learn that Jesus does not deal with us as we deserve, but He is gracious. He seeks us out as sheep who have gone astray. In spite of our many failings and sins, He continues to supply us with His loving and gracious forgiveness. In spite of our many failings, He has chosen to make us His forever.  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 April 15, 2012 in Current Affairs

 

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Easter Festival–“Easter Triumph” (Mark 16:1-8)

B-53 Easter Morning (Mk 16.1-8)Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

As St. Mark begins our text for today, he writes, “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.” Maybe we should ask a few questions before we begin. Why were the women going back to the tomb? Why were they bringing spices? What was the point of anointing Jesus’ body? Why do these women have such urgency in doing this?

Jesus died Friday at 3:00 pm. The amount of time it takes to take the body off the cross and begin to wrap the body and begin to anoint takes time, plus getting to the tomb and securing the stone – all of this takes time and the Sabbath was drawing nigh. The disciples of Jesus simply ran out of time to properly prepare His body for burial. We can understand this. When our loved one dies and the time comes for them to be buried, we want proper care taken. The women wanted the same thing for Jesus. In order to finish the anointing process, they had to wait until Sunday morning – as soon as the Sabbath was ended.

The spices brought by the women were liquids because they wanted to anoint the body with them. Nicodemus had brought no less than a hundred pounds of dry, powdered spices which were strewn between the wrappings. But the body of Jesus itself had not been treated with perfume-like essences before being wrapped with linen strips. The women wanted to make this deficiency right. To anoint the body for its burial in this way was part of the honor bestowed upon it by loving friends.

As they were making their way to the tomb, there was one small issue they had not resolved: “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” These women had thought of every detail, except this one. We might ask ourselves, why didn’t they think this through? But when great tragedy happens in your life, we are not thinking with great clarity. All of the details after death for us in our culture today can take days or even weeks. We need to get our family together, we need to make all of the proper funeral arrangements, get everything in order. But with Jesus, beginning with His betrayal, mock trial, crucifixion – this all happened in just a few short hours! They had watched Jesus being tortured, beaten, flogged, and die a horrible death. It is no wonder that the women don’t have an answer as to who will roll the stone away – they just aren’t mentally there yet.

When they arrive, they find that the stone had been rolled back already. This stone was massive, what would take several large men to move it. To see that the stone was rolled back would have caused the women great fear, as it should have. Did someone rob the grave of Jesus, taking the body of Jesus?

Upon entering the tomb, they were not greeted by the dead body of Jesus, or any body of Jesus for that matter. Instead, “they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.” How could they not be alarmed? They were on their way to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His body, only to realize that there was no one there to dislodge the stone that sealed the tomb.

From his shining garment, they knew that he was an angel, a messenger from God. His message? “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.” And then, so that they might fully believe, they were given a special message to deliver to the disciples and especially to Peter. They were to remind the disciples of an appointment Jesus had made with them as they were leaving the upper room to go out to Gethsemane: “After I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” And so the angel tells them, “There you will see him, just as he told you.” It was too marvelous to believe and the angel’s presence was too awesome. They fled from the tomb. Fear filled their hearts, and as a result they didn’t race into town shouting, “He’s risen! He’s risen!” This shows the reality of the event. Anyone who comes back from the dead – that is a scary and astonishing moment.

For you this morning, there is no reason why you should be filled with fear. You can run into the streets shouting that Christ is risen and you should! Jesus’ resurrection not only defeats our death in the grave but Jesus’ resurrection defeats the power of the devil and hell.

What we celebrate today is your salvation. You have a written guarantee of the resurrection of your body from your grave. You will not simply die and be gone. Some – many – will wish that it were so, for they have forsaken God and rejected His gifts and chosen death and hell, like the leaders of the Jewish Church in the days of the first Easter. But those who believe the Gospel have a resurrection to life and joy and glory, not pain and sorrow and corruption without end. How are you going to respond? What does it mean that you will rise to eternal life? The question is not about defining terms, but how this truth transforms your life. What difference does it make? Does it mean anything to how you face and approach death? It should. It should change your fears to confidence. It should change your sorrows to comfort. He is risen – and we too shall rise. You shall rise again because Jesus has risen.

Listen to what St. Paul says: But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Now we know that our sins have been fully paid for and forgiven. That means, of course, that God loves us, now. The cause for the enmity between God and man has been removed. Now we have no reason to fear anything, because the Lord God Almighty is on our side. He considers us to be holy with the righteousness of His only-begotten Son, who He declared to be “well-pleasing” to Him. 

St. Peter calls this the living hope that we have obtained through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As Christ prevailed victoriously, so shall we. As Christ lived, so we live. Because Christ is awakened from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God and intercedes for us, so now nothing can divide us from the love of God: neither death nor life, neither angels nor kingdoms, nor strengths, neither present things nor future things, neither height nor depth, nor any other creature can separate us from the love of God in the crucified and risen Lord.

This is your inheritance, not because of anything you have done. No one is worthy of these awesome, infinite gifts of Christ, for all are sinners, from youngest to oldest. But all is given freely by Christ, the Firstborn from the dead, the Crucified One who lives and can nevermore die. He has given you everything. Christ has risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 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 April 9, 2012 in Current Affairs

 

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