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Baptism of Our Lord–“Gift of Baptism” (Mark 1:4-11)

B-18 Epiphany 1 (Mk 1.4-11)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.

Christmas is over. With it, we saw the coming of our Lord. He came to us in the form of a babe, lying in a manger. The Christ Child was brought to the temple to be presented. There, Simeon spoke the words of the Nunc Dimittis to Mary and Joseph. Simeon had seen the salvation of the Lord, which has prepared in the sight of all people. We have heard what John has said: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

All of that brings us to today. Today we meet John again. Here we find him in the desert preaching about a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. While he was doing this, he had a message: “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

So what does all of that mean? Why should I care? Well, you have John. He came as the fulfillment of the Old Testament passages concerning the second Elijah, the immediate forerunner of the Christ. John preaches a simple message: Jesus as the promised Messiah. He focuses on the necessity of repentance for receiving Christ aright, on the person of Christ as both God and Savior, and on Baptism for those who sincerely repented and believed in the Messiah. John also alludes to the Baptism with the Spirit and with fire that Christ will give to His people to carry out His saving mission in the world. John’s Baptism, too, worked forgiveness of sins, delivered from death and the devil, and gave eternal salvation to all who believed.

So we come to the focus of John’s Baptism: repentance. Are you truly repentant for your sins? Are you sad that your sins caused a Baby to be born, so that 30-some years later, He would die on the cross for you? It’s a hard question to ask. True repentance means not only sorrow over sin and dread of God’s punishment, but a turning of mind and heart away from sin that expresses itself in outward ways wherever possible. True repentance will not allow the penitent soul to continue to live in sin.

You see, John came and he went. He went to the desert region and baptized people. Why did he do that? No one told him to do it. He did it because he knew that the people were repentant of their sins and that by being baptized, the Old Adam would die and when you emerged from the waters, you were a new person.

The early Church had an interesting way of baptizing. They had a huge baptismal font. You would descend the stairs to the font. That symbolized your dying to sin. Once at the bottom, your clothes were removed and you were baptized. You then ascended the stairs as a new person. Who you were before died in the waters of Holy Baptism. That is the same thing that John did in the desert. John knew that there was One coming more powerful than he was. He knew that he was only a preview of the joy that would come.

John eventually moved to the River Jordan. There, he met Jesus and an interesting turn of events took place: Jesus comes to be baptized by John. Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; He had no sins to confess! Why did Jesus need to be baptized for the remission of His sins that didn’t exist? Matthew records for us Jesus’ simple reply to John when John questions the Baptism: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.Then John baptized Jesus.

Can you imagine Jesus coming up to you and saying, “Bob, it’s time for you to baptize me now?” How would you react? What would you say or do? We see in our text just how easy it was for John to question and do what he did. And when Jesus came out of the water, heaven was torn open and the Holy Spirit came to Him and dwelt with Him. Did Jesus have to be baptized? Was it mandatory for that to happen? No. In allowing Himself to be baptized, Jesus was showing His solidarity with sinners. Though Himself sinless, He was identifying Himself with sinners by giving Himself to the work of bearing their sins then and our sins now.

We need to make sure we fully understand what took place in the Baptism of Jesus by John. The view that by being baptized by John, Jesus only showed His willing obedience and that Jesus, though not needing baptism and yet submitted to it, makes the baptism nothing but a formality and misconstrues what John’s Baptism really was. It was not law, but gospel, not a demand to obey but a gift of grace to accept and to retain as such. Jesus was baptized by John because He regarded this as the right way in which to enter upon His great office. He, the Sinless One, the very Son of God, chose to put Himself by the side of all the sinful ones, for whom this sacrament of John’s was ordained. He signifies that He is now ready to take upon Himself the load of all these sinners, that is, to assume His redemptive office. As Luther points out, Jesus was here rightly beginning to be Christ, the Anointed One, and “was thus inaugurated into His entire Messianic office as our Prophet, High Priest, and King.”

Every time we celebrate a Baptism, the one being Baptized is made a child of God by the waters of Holy Baptism, and every sin that they will ever commit will be washed away by those waters, just as it was earlier with Averyanna. That person receives sonship in the kingdom of God. Their sins are forgiven. How is this done? It is done by a man named Jesus, sent from God to be our sacrificial Lamb, baptized in the waters of the Jordan River, forever joining Himself to sinful man in order to redeem us. It is accomplished for us by His death on the cross for us sinners. It is accomplished for us only by Jesus who has atoned for all our 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 January 10, 2012 in Sermons

 

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Funeral for +Dorothy Jahn+

LSB Icon_040The text I have chosen for Dorothy’s funeral is Isaiah 61:10

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Here ends our text.

Maxine, Carol, and David, family and friends, it is the season of Christmas, a time of rejoicing and celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Instead, we gather today in mourning, or at least, that’s what you might think.

As hard as it might be, this is precisely the right time that we should be rejoicing and celebrating, not only for the birth of our Savior, but also for Dorothy as well. We rejoice and celebrate because our sister in Christ is now with Christ. She has left the valley of the shadow of death and she now rests in the everlasting light and life of Jesus Christ.

If there was anyone who would want you to mourn less, it would be Dorothy. It’s not because she doesn’t want you to worry or care about her or to mourn her passing. The reason why she would not want you to mourn is because there is nothing to mourn. Dorothy knew that. She knew that her time on this earth would be limited. She knew that one day, she would die. For Dorothy, that day happened to be last Wednesday. But she also knew that when she died, this would not be the end of her life. She knew that because God had placed His name upon her, that because Jesus Christ came to live and to die for her, she would have eternal life. She knew what would happen when she drew her last breath on this earth. She knew that her loving Father would welcome her with open and waiting arms.

That is why we should not mourn but rejoice! We should rejoice because of the eternal life that Dorothy received! Yes, it will be hard to rejoice when right now it feels only natural to mourn, but like all things, this too shall pass. If there was one who knew sorrow and mourning, it was David. But even for all the sorrow and mourning David experienced, he was able to say, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”

We have every reason to rejoice at death and now is one of the two best times to rejoice because of what we celebrated on Sunday, the birth of Jesus Christ. We can and should rejoice because God sent Jesus for us, He sent Jesus for Dorothy. Because of the birth of Jesus, we know that Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us. We know that God is for us and that God is in us, redeeming us, giving to us his gracious gift of forgiveness of sins, something that Dorothy received all those many years ago in her Baptism, something that she heard every Sunday in church. And in the last few years when she was at the Beehive and Pioneer Manor, she heard them pronounced for her also.

On account of the work of Jesus Christ, we know that when we breathe our last breath, there will be more to our life than the years we live on this earth. We know that we too will see the face of Christ and the heavenly room He has prepared for us. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we will have everlasting life. St. Paul reminds us, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

We are able to come together not as those who have no hope, but those who know the hope that we have received through Jesus Christ. We rejoice as Dorothy rejoices – not in our accomplishments but in what Jesus has accomplished for us. We have received the gift of salvation through His atoning sacrifice for us. When God speaks to us in this way, when He comes to give us a garment of salvation, a robe of righteousness, it is most certainly better for us to receive than to give. In fact, when God speaks pure words of grace and mercy to us, there is really nothing we can give. God’s grace is complete. It is absolute. It is perfect. It lacks nothing and consequently nothing can be added to it.

It is God working righteousness for us, not us working righteousness for God. Dorothy could never do anything for God than to simply receive from His bountiful goodness. There is nothing that any of us can do except to receive from God. God gives and we are merely capable of receiving, nothing more. For 90 years, Dorothy received from the Lord: she received His gift of God’s name. She received the gift of forgiveness. She received His gift of body and blood which was given and shed for the forgiveness of her sins. She received His gift of everlasting life for her. She was covered with the robe of righteousness, the righteousness that she desperately needed but could not earn. The robe of righteousness that she received was not something that could be bought, earned or achieved. The robe of righteousness was given to her by Jesus Christ, won for her by His death on the cross. That very robe of righteousness that she received is what Christ brings to you as well. God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

For you Maxine, Carol, and David, you will mourn today and in the days ahead. But the joy that you have is the ability to rejoice – rejoice in the faith that Dorothy had, the faith given to her in her Baptism, the faith that gave to her everlasting life. Rejoice because this dear sister in Christ is now with Christ. Rejoice, for one day, we too shall stand with Dorothy and all the saints who have gone before as we gaze upon Christ, our heavenly King. Amen.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Funeral, Sermons

 

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Christmas Day–“The Word” (John 1:1-14)

B-13 Christmas Day (Jn 1.1-14)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for our sermon comes from the Gospel which was read earlier.

Few words in Scripture have gripped the human mind with the power of the opening lines of our text: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The language is simple, yet the thoughts are so vast that the words seem to have a magical power. The Western Church used it for centuries as a blessing for the sick and for the newly baptized children. It was even placed in amulets and hung around the next to protect one from sickness. It’s seductive, though, to be so entranced by the mysterious repetition and simplicity of these words, that we forget their importance.

John’s Gospel is not the first place where we hear these famous words, “In the beginning….” The very first words of Scripture begin the same way: “In the beginning….” We find God in the beginning: uncreated, infinite, and eternal. He always has been and He always will be. He is without beginning and without end. Prior to creation, when there was nothing besides God, there was God’s Word. It is this Word that we gather around this morning, the Word who “became flesh and dwelt among us.” This Word is Jesus, the Babe in the manger.

Prior to our Lord’s incarnation, prior to His coming on Christmas Day, the Word was with God. St. John says that “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” He was the agent by whom God spoke the entire creation into being. Light and life have their beginning and source in Him. It was this Word that created life, that created you.

Now let us fast forward to today. Things are far different than what they were at creation. Creation was deemed “very good” but would we call creation “very good” today? What is “very good” about it? There is nothing that is still “very good” according to God’s declaration. Look at this world that we live in. It is a world of darkness, a world that is spiritually ignorant and blind to God and His Word. It cannot recognize God for who He is, though His imprint is still evident of creation. With a single word, “darkness,” John describes creation’s fall, sin, death, and hell. The word “darkness” captures the confusion and misunderstanding and futility around us and even in us.

If the creation were to be redeemed, saved, rescued from this darkness of sin and death, then God would have to make Himself known, point Himself out, reveal Himself to us. But how would God do this? God would come to the place where we are, descend to earth, enter His creation so that we lost and condemned creatures might know Him and have communion with Him, the way we were meant to exist.

This is the true and wonderful meaning of Christmas. It is God coming to us and He has in the form of a Babe whose birth we celebrate today. God shows up in a place where we don’t expect to find Him: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God the Word, who was there in the beginning and participated in the creation of all things, took on a human nature like yours. God became man. What was eternal now became finite in the person of Jesus. The Word became flesh, Jesus Christ, true God and true man in one person.

The glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. He is the light of the world, the light that shines in our darkness, the light no darkness can overcome.

Think about it. When Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds looked into the manger, they were looking at God. When anyone saw they face of Jesus, they saw the face of God. The little child who lay in the manger is the same one who created Adam out of the dust of the ground. The one whom Mary wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger is the one who was before Abraham – more than that, He was before Adam. He is the uncreated one who is before time itself was created.

Think about it. The little one in the manger is the one who would one day hang from a tree that He created. The little one wrapped in swaddling cloths is the one who would one day be wrapped in burial cloths and laid in a tomb carved from the rock He created. Because He is the creator of all things, the life, suffering, and death of this little one will be more than enough to pay for your sins. The little one in the manger is the one who would one day burst forth from the tomb to proclaim His salvation for all people.

For God the Word who was in the beginning is now and forever incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. That makes Christmas a blessed surprise: the uncreated, eternal, and infinite God comes right here among us as our light and our life.

Today we rejoice, for the Savior, which is Christ the Lord, is born. He is the Savior, which is Christ the Lord every day of the year and not just on Christmas Day. He was born for our sin and takes away our sin ever day of the year. Because you and I were born in sin, He is born to save us from sin. Because you and I are made of mortal flesh and blood, He becomes flesh and blood to raise us up to immortality. Because you and I face death, He is born to die and rise again to give us new life. He is our Savior, Christ the Lord, and He is born for you and has forgiven us all of our sins. Let this be our focus at Christmas: the Word made flesh in the form of an infant, so that one day, He may die for our sins and open the gates of heaven for us sinners. Let us rejoice in the Gift of all gifts which has been given to us, Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us, 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 December 26, 2011 in Christmas, Sermons

 

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Christmas Eve Candlelight–“Glory to God” (Luke 2:1-14)

B-11 Christmas Eve Midnight (Lu 2.1-14)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 Gospel, which was read earlier.

Just as quickly as Christmas came, it will all be over in a blink of an eye. For some, Christmas Day will be nothing more than a giant let-down. The day after Thanksgiving marked another year where people stood in lines for hours and hours to save a bit of money on that big-ticket item that they just couldn’t live without. When presents are opened, they realize they didn’t get the gifts they had asked for. Instead of the big-ticket item on their Christmas list, they got clothes instead. If they didn’t get everything and more they had wanted, then Christmas just didn’t matter.

The sad thing is, for some, that’s what Christmas is really all about it. The focus is put on us, on the world, and taken away from the point of Christmas: Jesus Christ, a baby born in a manger. Aside from all of the festivities, all the cards, all the songs, this one day revolves around a baby, who grew in stature, who became a man and took upon Himself the sins of us all.

It’s ironic that Jesus was born in a manger, the most non-ideal conditions for a birth, especially the birth of a King. The fact that the Savior was born in such humble surroundings and of such an unassuming mother was not meant to make us feel sorry for Him. Where do we have the time to feel sorry for Jesus anyways when we take the focus of Christmas from Him and put it on worldly things? Who has time for Jesus when we’re enjoying the gifts that wait for us under the Christmas tree? But the coming of Jesus was in line with His mission: “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” That is precisely what Jesus has come to do and that is shown in His simple birth. He was not born in great and lavish conditions. He was born in a feeding trough surrounded by animals you would find on a farm. There would be no posh palace on earth for this King. His reign on earth would be marked by humility.

Though the Savior’s birth was humble, its significance for sinners is life-changing. He comes in a manger in order to die on a cross to give you eternal life. The angels come to proclaim that this is the Savior, the one who rescues sinners from eternal death. He is the Christ, the anointed One, appointed by God for this saving work. He is the Lord, the one who is full of grace and truth, come to do what no one else could do.

The angels rightly proclaim, “Glory to God.” Even though Christ was only a tiny infant, the angels were quite correct to proclaim that His arrival already meant peace on earth, a spiritual peace between a God who demands perfection and sinners who daily fail to keep God’s commandments.

It’s incredible to think that our salvation hinges upon this little Child’s birth that we celebrate. Mary knew that Jesus was going to be important because the angel Gabriel had revealed it to her. The angels knew that Jesus was going to be important. They made it known to the shepherds out in the fields. These were a people who had heard of the promised Messiah dating all the way back to the time of the Isaiah the prophet: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”

This is who the newborn Babe in the manger is. Isaiah has described for us who Jesus is, but we don’t yet know what it is that He has come to do. Isaiah later tells us what Jesus has come to do: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Here there is no Santa Claus. Here there are no Christmas parties or gift giving. The only gift that matters is the Gift that God gave to His people. Here there is only the promise of a Savior. Here there is only the assurance of hope. The shepherds asked no questions, but to the angel at his word because it was the word of God. If only we did the same thing. We question everything there is about Christmas. We question the meaning behind Christmas: is it about Jesus Christ or is it about us? Is it about the gift of salvation or is it about the gifts under the tree?

Why do we make December such a month of focus on the commercialization of Christmas, somewhat on the coming of Jesus Christ, and when December 26 rolls around, we put Jesus back on the shelf until next December? Christ is present in the world year-round, not just one month of the year. He came to save us from our sins year-round, not just one month out of the year. The shepherds were forever changed by what they had seen and heard. Should it be any different for us? Shouldn’t we be forever changed by hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of seeing the infant grow into a man, who gave His life that we might have eternal life? Does our Christmas celebration move us the same way it moved Mary and the shepherds? If not, why doesn’t it? Could it be because our celebration is focused on the wrong gift?

The promise of the Messiah in the Old Testament is fulfilled. The Word was made flesh in the form of an infant, and that Word made flesh died so that the gates of heaven are opened for sinners. Here is Jesus, our Savior, the Anointed One, and our Lord. 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 December 26, 2011 in Christmas, Sermons

 

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Christmas Eve–“Immanuel, God with Us” (Matthew 1:18-25)

B-10 Christmas Eve Early (LHP) (Mt 1.18-25)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.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.” Matthew records the birth of Jesus as very simple. He doesn’t add anything to make it sound better, he just records the facts. Matthew is brief in his account. He doesn’t mention many of the details we have come to associate with Christ’s birth when compared to the Lukan account. Matthew’s God-given task was simply to relate the facts of the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ. For Matthew, he does it from a different angle than one would expect: he does it from the perspective of Joseph, the step-father of Jesus.

Matthew begins by saying, “When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” This was significant for the fact that Joseph and Mary were only betrothed and not married. They had promised their lives to each other as husband and wife, yet according to custom, they would not live together as husband and wife until a certain period of time had elapsed. During that time, they would not consummate the marriage until that period of time had passed. A situation arises that poses a problem: Joseph learned that Mary had become pregnant.

Joseph was left with a couple of options. Option 1 would be to divorce her. This would have been a very simple and easy thing to do. It would have meant little difficulty for Joseph should he do that. What’s more, it would have been his right to do so since Mary was the one who cheated on him. Mary, a less-than second-class citizen would have born the entire fault and the law would have sided with Joseph because he was a male. In ancient Judaism, betrothals, unlike our modern engagements, were as binding as marriage; an economic transaction had united the couple. Even though they had not yet consummated the marriage, their betrothal could be ended only by divorce or by the death of one party. Unfaithfulness, however, was universally regarded as grounds for divorce, and Jewish law, like Roman law and all ancient Mediterranean custom, would have expected Joseph to divorce Mary.

Option 2 would be to have Mary put to death for her act of infidelity. Because of the law of the land, death would have been an option. According to Deuteronomy 22, the life of Mary, and ultimately Jesus, could have been in jeopardy if Joseph had wanted to press the issue. Joseph did not desire any harm to come to Mary because he was a just man.

Option 3 was that he could accept the child as his own. With that would come a certain stigma, since he and Mary were only betrothed – meaning that though they were married in the eyes of God, yet not married in the eyes of the government, the stigma would be that he willingly married a woman who had not only cheated on him with another man, she became pregnant by that man as well. It would not be Joseph’s responsibility to care for this child, since he has no tie to the child. Joseph, with the options before him, had settled on Option 1, to divorce Mary, but do it in a quiet way so as not to bring about shame to her for her act of infidelity against him.

However, Option 1 was not what God had intended for Joseph. He sent the angel to Joseph with a message, a message from God: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Any questions or doubts that he had about his betrothed have now been answered. There was no adultery on Mary’s part. There was no other man in their relationship. Instead, God our heavenly Father, has chosen to use Mary and Joseph as His chosen instruments in bringing Jesus, the Son of God, into the world.

Joseph did a complete 180° upon hearing the words of the angel. Instead of quietly divorcing Mary, he instead embraced her and the Child that she was carrying, for this was not just any child, but it was the very Son of God. Joseph assumed his role as step-father to this Child, knowing that He would save His people from their sins. He didn’t know what that would look like or how it would be accomplished, but he didn’t need to know. Instead, he trusted the words of the angel and cared for the Child as his own.

As hard as it might be for some to believe, Christmas is really for you. It is about Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, come into the flesh for you, in order to live a perfect life and die a criminal’s death for you. Christmas is about the giving of a Gift, the Gift of Jesus and what He comes to bring you: forgiveness, life, and salvation. It is not about the presents that are wrapped under the tree or the presents that we give to one another. Christmas is all about the gift that God gives to you. God gives to you the one and only Gift that you will ever need, for this Gift gives to you what is most important – everlasting life.

This Son born to Joseph and Mary is the Son born to all creation, to you and to me. It is the Son “born that no man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” This Child whose birth we are preparing to celebrate is like no other child that ever has been, is, or ever will be. This is the very Son of God made flesh for you. This is the very Son of God who came to take your sins upon Himself. This is Jesus, the Lord saves. Jesus came not to merely save a person or a few. He came in order to save and redeem all of mankind, including you, for He is the Messiah which the prophet Isaiah had foretold hundreds of years before.

This Babe that lies in a manger, this is the One whom was told of long ago. He is the Messiah that is promised of in the Scriptures, the One who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He has come to be Immanuel, God with 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 December 26, 2011 in Christmas, Sermons

 

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Funeral Sermon for +Ray Hopkins+

LSB Icon_040The text I have chosen for Ray’s funeral is Isaiah 43:1-3a, 25.

1But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…. 25“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Here ends our text.

Shirley and Sandy, gathered family and friends, hear the words that the prophet Isaiah speaks and listen to them very closely: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” These are words that God our heavenly Father spoke to the Israelites while they were captives in Babylon, carried away from their own land because of their sin. They had been far from faithful: they’d become rebellious runaways who wanted nothing to do with the Lord, who snatched everything He gave to them and used it for their own desires. They’d put their trust in other gods for protection, and the Lord had let them have their wish: He left it to those gods protect them.

But the Lord was not all about anger. Despite their rebelliousness, God was still faithful. He had created them, formed them as His people – and He had promised that the Savior of the nations would be born among them.

We are just like the Israelites of old. We have been far from faithful. We have become rebellious runaways who want nothing to do with God. Fortunately for us, God wants everything to do with us. In just a matter of days, we will celebrate the coming of the Savior of the nations for us, to redeem a people of sin. That is precisely what God did for Ray. All those many years ago, in His Baptism, all of his sins of past, present, and future were forgiven. Because of the saving work of Jesus Christ, Ray now rests from his labors in the eternal glories of heaven.

The words that Isaiah records for us are words of hope, just as they are words of hope to the ancient Israelites. They remind us that God has not left us forsaken in our sins. He has not left us without a means of salvation. He reminds us that He has redeemed us and called us by name. Just as everything looked grim and bleak for the Israelites, God gives to them hope. The hope that He promised to them was Jesus Christ. It was the saving work of Jesus that forgave them all of their sins. It was Jesus who redeemed them. Today, we give thanks that Jesus has forgiven Ray all of his sins. We give thanks that Jesus has redeemed Ray, “a lost and condemned person, purchased and won [him] from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil…. All this He does only out of father, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in [Ray].”

What great comfort in knowing that because of God’s divine goodness and mercy our sins are forgiven. It is reassuring to us to know that God forgives out of love for us and not something that we have done. I am sure that it can be said that Ray was a good man. He was a loving husband, a loving father. He was a great employee, a great friend. All the way around, it can be said that Ray was a great man. But even for how great a man Ray was, one fact remains: Ray was a sinner, just as you and I are. Ray was damned and condemned for his sins, yet he received the gift of everlasting life; not because of what he did but because of what Jesus Christ did for him. All of us are damned and condemned sinners, yet for those that God calls His beloved children, we stand before Him as holy and sinless because the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed us from our sins. When God looks upon His servant Ray, He doesn’t see a man damned and condemned but instead sees the holiness and righteousness that He has received from Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection.

Isaiah records for us, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” Ray received the crown of life from Jesus Christ because God made it so. He stands in the company of the saints who have gone before him in the faith. He is reunited with his bride Ella, sharing together what would have been their 68th anniversary.

The Lord has called Ray and He has called you by name. He has put His name on Ray and you. He has redeemed Ray and you. This was not without cost: He has paid a ransom for you. But the ransom was “not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”

This was the comfort that Ray had all the days of his life. He was comforted in knowing that because of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, one day he would stand before his God in all holiness and righteousness. He cherished this fact, a fact that he heard each and every Sunday. Seated each week in nearly the same pew, he would hear the same thing: he was a sinner, but he was forgiven. He would hear the love of God for him. He would hear of the forgiveness granted to him by God through Jesus Christ. Why was it so important for Ray to hear this week in and week out? Why is it so important for you to hear it week in and week out, day in and day out? We need to be reminded of the love that God has for us in Christ Jesus, for Paul tells the Romans, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Ray knew who he was and he knew what had been done for him. This was not something that he took lightly, because he knew the cost of his redemption was not something that came lightly – it came at the cost of God’s one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

The psalmist David says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Ray should have received everlasting hell and condemnation on account of his sins. Instead, he received the opposite of that; he received everlasting life. God has chosen not to remember his sins or the sins of any of His beloved children because of what Jesus has done. Our comfort lies in the same comfort that Ray had: the comfort of sins forgiven by Jesus Christ. Through Christ, we are able to believe the words of God through the prophet Isaiah, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Amen.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Funeral, Sermons

 

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Advent 4–“Miracle” (Luke 1:26-38)

B-8 Advent 4 (Lu 1.26-38)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 is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Have you ever seen, witnessed, or experienced a miracle before? When I say miracle, I mean a full-blown, only Jesus could do this, miracle. Chances are, you probably haven’t. There once was a TV evangelist who was a miracle worker. He would bring people up on stage and heal them of their various maladies or infirmities, freeing those individuals from pain or suffering some sort of physical problem. Everyone thought that he truly was a miracle worker. However, it was later revealed that it was all an act, that those individuals who came forward were indeed healthy. He was proven to be a con-artist and there were no miracles.

When we read our Gospel for today, we see a modern-day miracle occur: a virgin is impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Here, in a little town called Nazareth, an angel of the Lord came to a virgin to tell her she was to be the mother of God’s Son.

Nazareth was a small town, north of Jerusalem and west of the Sea of Galilee. In a sense, there isn’t anything fascinating about Nazareth. St. John tells us of a discussion between Nathanael and Philip when they are called by Jesus to be disciples: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Obviously the locals did not care much for the town. As far as the general public was concerned, it was impossible for anything to come out of Nazareth. Philip answered, “Come and see.” It is here in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel came to a virgin named Mary. Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” O favored one? Really? Mary must be asking herself what makes her so special. She is simply a young woman. There are many women in Nazareth so why is this angel coming to her? Imagine the reaction if Mary were to go next door and told someone that she saw an angel. They would say that it was impossible, yet it was an act of God’s desiring.

However, for Mary, Luke says she was “greatly troubled at the saying, and she tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” Doubt is going on in Mary’s mind. First an angel appeared to her. Angels don’t make everyday appearances, especially to someone as lowly as Mary. All that she knew was that she was favored and the Lord was with her. But why her? What made her any more special than any other young woman? What could the Lord have in store for this young woman from Nazareth?

Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive in her womb and bear a son, “the Son of the Most High.” She will be the God-bearer, the one who will give birth to the Savior of the world. The miracle of miracles was to happen to Mary, to this unassuming girl from Nazareth: from her would come the Son of God, the One sent to redeem all from their sins. From Mary would come the Christ, who would put our sins on Himself and be the sin sacrifice for us all. All of this was done to fulfill what the prophet Isaiah had written, “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

By virtue of His virgin birth, Jesus shared in our humanity, but not our sinfulness. Such a perfect, Holy Savior was necessary. It was this Savior who kept the law perfectly in our place and offered Himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

In this miracle, we already see our salvation at work. After all, the Bible tells us that Mary, like all human beings, was born in sin. Like all human beings, she deserved eternal punishment. The Holiness of God in her womb should have destroyed her sin and her along with it, but it did not. Instead, God came to be with her to bless her. The Holy Son of God had taken up His human flesh inside of her. He had already taken His first step on the road to the cross. The salvation He earned on the cross as both God and Man was already at work protecting Mary from the condemnation she deserved because of her sin.

Here we once again see God at work to come to us – to be with us – not in condemnation, but in grace. Here we see that the same grace of God that allowed Mary to be the Mother of God is also available to us so that we can be the children of God. The Son of God who took up His humanity in the womb of the Virgin Mary also comes to us. He is with us.

The Lord Jesus came into this world for you. On Christmas, we will celebrate the fact that God and man come together in one person – Jesus the Christ, the Son of Mary, the Savior of the world. His conception by the Holy Spirit and His birth of the Virgin are the beginning of His journey to save us. During His journey, He will live a life without sin, He will teach and heal, He will suffer, die, and be buried. He will rise and ascend back to His Father in Heaven. He will do all this so that He could come to us without punishing us for our sin. He will do all this so He could be with us and we could be His favored people.

If you were Mary, all of this would have probably been hard to take in, yet Luke leaves us with a few words of Mary: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” As far-fetched as this might have been to Mary, she believed. She believed in the words of the angel Gabriel as the words of God Himself. Mary’s faithful response is clear evidence of God’s grace in her life. Her God-given faith allows her to accept the angel’s message without question and humbly place herself in the Lord’s service. The final miracle has happened: a miracle accepted by faith. Our human reason may not be able to comprehend the miracle of the virgin birth; but we accept it by faith, just as Mary did.

Gabriel uttered God’s message to Mary over two thousand years ago. The promise in those words has come to pass. The baby was born and Mary named Him Jesus just as Gabriel had said. Jesus kept all the promises that God had made. His life was perfect in every way. Never the less, even though His life was perfect, He suffered the cruelty of death on a cross. Because His death conquered sin, death could not hold Him and He rose from the dead just as He had promised.

Just like Mary, you are the recipient of a miracle. You have received the miracle of life and salvation in Jesus’ name, on account of Him and His sacrifice for you. You have received the gift of forgiveness of all of your sins. This miracle God caused to happen for you, for He has created you. It is by the Babe promised to a young woman named Mary that your miracle has happened: your sins are forgiven and you have been granted 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 December 18, 2011 in Advent, Sermons

 

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