That Nothing May Perish – Sermon on John 6:1-15 for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

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John 6:1-15

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus Feeds the 500010 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus does what He was already doing and is always doing everywhere throughout the entire world – providing food. The only difference in this instance is that Jesus does it in a way that is not normal. This is not to undermine the miraculous nature of what Jesus does here. Feeding this massive crowd with five loaves and two fish is, absolutely, a miracle and reveals that Jesus is God in the flesh. But don’t lose sight of the fact that the food you ate yesterday was also a gracious gift of God miraculously provided for you. You have just grown used to God delivering your food to you through your paycheck or your parents, then through a restaurant or grocery store, your fridge, and your stove.

Jesus multiplies the snack of a boy and feeds the masses. Everyone in the crowd reclined (v. 10 ἀναπίπτω means ‘to recline at table’ not just ‘sit’) like kings and emperors on the grass in the wilderness. They had as much food as they wanted set before them by their servers, the disciples. Even the gluttons had their fill, and there is still more leftover. God’s gracious and miraculous provision at work through Jesus is certainly the main focus of this event.

Now, I’ve preached on Jesus feeding the 5,000 eight times since I’ve been your pastor – this is the ninth. And there are two aspects of this event that I normally don’t spend too much time on for certain reasons. But the two are, I think, related. And today is the day to focus some time on them. The two aspects are the generosity of the boy and the twelve baskets leftover.

The text doesn’t spell it out for us, but I think there is no question that this boy offers his food, his five loaves and two small fish – everything he has – to Jesus and the disciples. When the Gospels show how Jesus interacted with children, there is almost no question that Jesus would have rebuked the disciples for taking this boy’s snack. And Jesus has set this whole situation up. Remember, Jesus first asks Phillip where they would buy bread for the crowds, but it was a test, “[Jesus] knew what He would do” (v. 6).

Jesus and a ChildImagine a husband and wife are discussing their serious financial troubles and debt – the car needs expensive repairs, they are behind on their mortgage, and their credit cards are already maxed. They discuss all of this privately in whispers so they don’t scare their children. But suddenly, they are startled to see their young daughter in the room. The daughter holds out a handful of coins from her piggy bank and offers it to them saying, “Here, I want to help.” That handful of change, of course, won’t put a dent in their debt. That daughter doesn’t understand the complexities of the problem, so she imagines that her parents’ problem is easily fixed by her small offering. But it is moments like this that show a beautiful childlike faith which Jesus often praises, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mk. 10:15).

Again, Jesus asked Phillip about how to get bread as a test. Phillip scoffs at the thought of buying enough bread for everyone to get a little. And this boy offers his snack to Andrew who mentions the food to Jesus, but even Andrew balks at the idea that it will suffice. But the boy’s offer is genuine. He is no less trusting than the widow who gives her last two pennies in the Temple (Lk. 21:1-4). This boy gives not knowing what Jesus will do with his gift, but trusting that Jesus will use it for good. And, of course, Jesus does.

As the crowd unbuckles their belts, Jesus sends the disciples out once again saying, “Gather up the leftover fragments.”Christ here is not worried about waste. If He was worried about waste, Jesus wouldn’t have even given as much as everyone wanted. He could have provided only what was needed. But Jesus says, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may perish.”Our translation only says ‘lost,’ but it is the same word Jesus uses in John 3:16. In God’s infinite love, He sent His only-begotten so that whoever believes in Him should not perish(same word) but have everlasting life. In other words, every last bit of this boy’s gift, multiplied by Jesus is useful for Jesus’ sake in Christ’s kingdom. Nothing of the boy’s gift and Jesus’ multiplication of it perishes.

Dear saints, here is the point today. Don’t think that what you do is ever lost or left to perish. God has called you to good works, and those works are holy and useful for the furthering of God’s kingdom. Christian, God has given each of you different vocations, different callings. I use the term ‘vocation’ frequently, but it is good to have a quick summary of this term again.

Your vocation is not simply your job or career. Instead, your vocation is your God-given calling in every situation according to God’s ordering of the world. You have vocations in your family – father, mother, son, daughter, sibling, cousin, etc. You have vocations in the state – citizen, voter, neighbor, driver, doctor, patient, fellow grocery shopper, etc. And you have vocations in the church – member, deacon, trustee, president of the congregation, listener, etc.

It is good and right to be asking yourself, “Who has God put in my life right now to serve, and how am I to serve that person in light of the Ten Commandments?” Right now, I, as your pastor, have been called by God to preach, and you have been called by God to listen. The service will end, and you will be called by God to be a fellow Christian and have opportunities to pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ. You will go out to your vehicles, and you will have the vocation to be a good driver or good passenger. You will go have lunch and there will be vocations there – good cook, good eater, good customer, etc. In each of these instances, God is calling you to good works that serve your neighbor.

And do not think that any of those works you do is unimportant. God places you in each situation with a unique relationship to your neighbor to be God’s hands and feet to serve your neighbor. In each of these vocations, God is calling you to holy work. Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Jesus takes what you offer in each of those vocations and uses it for the furthering of God’s kingdom. We are always tempted to minimize what we do in our vocations as though it doesn’t matter is insignificant. “Well, I’m just changing a diaper.” “God doesn’t care how I empty the dishwasher and fold the laundry.” “What I put in the offering plate doesn’t help as much as what so-and-so puts in because they can put in a lot more.” No, everything you do is used by God, and Jesus makes sure none of your works perish, Christian. God takes what you do, multiplies it, and uses it for the good of your neighbor and for God’s kingdom. Nothing you do, Christian, will ever perish because it is holy work rendered to your neighbor in service to God.

The disciples failed Jesus’ test here. They were left staring at their lack while this boy puts them to shame as he offers what he had. Yet, there is no recorded rebuke of Phillip or Andrew. Their lack of faith is forgiven and covered by Christ’s mercy just as your sins are covered. Cross and CommunionRemember, Jesus came to seek and to save you, the lost (lit.‘perishing’ Lk. 19:10), again, the same word in Jn. 3:16and v. 12. Jesus saves you, body and soul. And Jesus saves your works. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus provides more than we could imagine.

And now, to strengthen you for service in His kingdom, Christ feeds you with His Body and gives you to drink His Blood so that you are satisfied and ready to go from here to serve God by serving your neighbor. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The Fourth & Fifth Commandments: Order & Life

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In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

To recap the first three Commandments: God has told us to have no other gods than Himself, to not misuse His name, and to keep the Sabbath holy. In those Commandments, God has given and protected for us the gift of Himself as our God, the gift of His name to use in prayer, and the gift of His holy Word which gives us rest in His mercy.

Tonight, we move to the second table of the Law which has to do with love for our neighbor. But before we dive into the Fourth Commandment, it is good for us to briefly consider the order God has given in these Commandments because it is no accident. Turn in your hymnal to p. 23 because it might be helpful for you to see these Commands since I won’t quote them verbatim. Notice, the order: #4 – Honor your parents. #5 – Don’t murder. #6 – Don’t commit adultery. #7 – Don’t steal. #8 – Don’t harm your neighbor’s name or reputation. And for tonight, I’m going to skip over #9 and #10 both for the sake of time and for the fact that the 9thand 10thCommandments bring us back to the 1stCommandment according to Colossians 3:5.

Again, these Commandments, this second table of the Law, have to do with love for our neighbor. If it were up to us to order the Commandments, we might think the most important Commandment about loving our neighbor is to not murder because that is the most unlovingthing we can think of, but God puts the honor of parents as the first Command when it comes to loving our neighbor. Here is why: The 4thCommandment is about setting up and protecting order in creation. Without the gift of order, life is filled with only chaos and anarchy, so the 4thCommandment comes first. The 4thCommandment is the link between our love for God and our love for our neighbor (more on that in a minute). Now, on to…

The 4th Commandment

Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not despise our parents and superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love, and respect them.

This Commandment is unique. Of all the Commandments, only two are positive Commands. By ‘positive’ here, I don’t mean that it makes us feel good or something. Instead, this Command is telling us, “Do this,” just like the 3rdCommand told us, “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” All the others are negative, “Don’t do this.” But the main way this Command is unique is that it is the first Command with a promise (Eph. 6:2), “that your days may be long…” The first three Commands don’t contain a stated promise and blessing, but the 4thdoes.

And notice that God does not command that we love our parents; He commands that we honorthem. To honor someone is a higher command than to love because honor includes love but it also includes service, obedience or submission (more on that word in a minute), and respect. In the 4thCommandment, God puts parents right next to Himself as the most important thing in all creation because parents are a manifestation of God on earth.

Think about it this way: Where does your life come from? It comes from God; He is the Author and Giver of life (Act. 3:15; Ps. 139). But through whom does God give you life? Through your parents – through the role, the office, the vocation of father and mother. In that office and vocation, God has hidden Himself.

When you are (or were) a child God gives you protection, food, clothing, shelter, and education, but He did all of that through your parents. When you grow up (or now that you have grown up), God continues to give you all of those things through your boss and through the authorities over you. No one is ever free from being under authority. Even if both of your parents have died, you are still not free from the requirements of this Commandment because there are still parent figures over you either in your workplace or in the government.Romans 13:1connects the civil authorities to the 4thCommandment when it clearly states that everyone is to be subject to the authorities over us because there is no authority except what God has established.

The home is the foundation of all order in all society. Unfortunately, today we have largely lost sight of this, and cultures around the world are suffering because of that. It is from the home that other institutions get their authority. Parents, God gave your children to you, and your children are your responsibility. It is your responsibility as parents to raise your children in the faith, to educate them, to feed and clothe them, etc. There are times when it is good and right to delegate those responsibilities to someone else. But do not think that because you have delegated those responsibilities that you are free from them either. The further you delegate your responsibilities, the more likely it is that those responsibilities will not be carried out well. I don’t want to get too political here, but this is why socialism will never work. Socialism upends the way God created because it tries to replace the government as the source of order and authority instead of father and mother as the source of order and authority.

So, kids listen up, you are to honor your parents simply because they are your parents. It doesn’t matter if they are good parents or not. Their role or vocation as parents demands honor because God has given you life through them. So, if you want to show love for God, listen to God when He says, “Honor your father and mother.” And parents, listen up. You are to serve in your office as a parent in an honorable way because you are the visible, tangible, manifestation of God for your children to protect and enrich their lives which brings us to…

The 5th Commandment

Thou shalt not kill.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do our neighbor no bodily harm nor cause him any suffering, but help and befriend him in every need.

God has given you a body and life, and in this Command God protects that body and life because after the order that God established in the 4thCommandment, your body and life are the most important gift God has given you.

I’m going to be brief on this one because I spent so much time on the 4thCommandment (and I could have gone on for hours on the 4thCommandment). The devil has done a very good job of diminishing God’s gift of life in our society. From abortion to euthanasia and assisted suicide in between, the sanctity of life has been lowered.

Because God created human life by joining body and soul to make a living being, all life from womb to tomb is sacred – period. Jesus tells us how serious God is in this Commandment by saying that anger toward another is the same as murder (Mt. 5:21-22).

With regard to both of these Commandments, we see how we have not lived up to God’s requirements of us. We have not honored our parents and the other authorities over us as we should. We have not helped our neighbor when we have had the opportunity to do so. Repent.

Repent and remember that is why the Son of God became flesh. Jesus had parents and was submissive to them (Lk. 2:51). Jesus loved you perfectly by taking on a body just like yours. In that body, Jesus perfectly loved you by taking all your sin into Himself as He suffered the wrath of God against your sin on the cross. Christ has given you His obedience and taken all your sin. Because of His righteousness and His self-sacrifice, you are made right with God. And know that when He returns, He raise up you and all the dead. And He will grant everlasting life – body and soul joined perfectly together – to you and to all who believe in Him. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The Last State – Sermon on Luke 11:14-28 for the Third Sunday in Lent

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[Apologies for the poor quality of this recording, we had some known technical issues.]

Luke 11:14-28

14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

These first few Sundays in Lent have a strong focus on spiritual warfare. And here Jesus is teaching us very pointedly that there is no neutral ground spiritually – there is no spiritual Switzerland. Christ says, “Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.”In other words, if you are not in league with Jesus and fighting againstthe devil, you are fighting with the devil.

To strengthen and encourage us in the battle, Jesus tells two short parables in this text. The first parable (in v. 21-22) describes the new reality in this world. And we have to understand this first parable because it lets us know the playing field. Jesus says, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides the spoil.”

We heard about the Fall a few weeks ago. Adam and Eve brought sin into the world by rebelling against God and believing the devil rather than their Creator. When Adam and Eve fell, the devil entered his palace and the kingdom of darkness began. Satan now owned them and everyone who would be born from them – that is all of us. The armor of the devil that Jesus talks about is our sin, our guilt, and our shame. And, according to Jesus, the devil trusts in that armor. Satan thinks that because your sin and guilt is so great that he is immune from invasion and attack. He thinks his palace is impenetrable and that you are safely in his possession forever.

But Satan is wrong. Jesus, the stronger man, has stormed the devil’s castle. Christ attacked him and overcome him. Your Savior has taken away the armor that the devil thought protected him, what the devil trusted, what he thought would always be there – this is the most important part of the parable. Jesus has removed your sin, guilt, and shame which was the devil’s armor. And the devil is now weak and extremely vulnerable.

But the spiritual battle is still ongoing. The demons are defeated but they still fight against us even though they have no power and no armor. And this is what Jesus addresses in the second parable (v. 24-26). Jesus says that when a demon has gone out of a person – in other words, when someone becomes a Christian, when a person is Baptized, when they are given the gift of faith in Christ and have the Holy Spirit – that demon passes through waterless places seeking rest because it has been expelled. The demon doesn’t like that. The demon would rather be connected to that person.

Now, I need to make a quick distinction between demon possession and demon oppression. In the Gospels, we often see people who are actually possessed by demons. In cases of demonic possession, demons live inside that person and can make them mute (like in this text), throw people into fires (Mk. 9:22), or cut themselves and make them live among the tombs (Mk. 5:2-5). That is demonic possession. But just because someone isn’t possessed by a demon does not mean that they are not influenced or oppressed by demons. The main point is that you are either going to be influenced by a demon or the Holy Spirit.

So, most of you became Christians when you were baptized. The Holy Spirit came and removed the demons and their oppression from you. And those demons wander around seeking rest, but they find none. So, they come back to you, the house from which they were cast out. If that demon finds you swept and put in order, it will come back and bring seven more demons even more evil than itself and the last state is worse than the first.

So, here is the picture Jesus gives, Christian. When you came to faith, Christ drove the demons away from you, but those demons have had their eye on you ever since. They have been watching you to seek reentry. If the demon comes back and finds your house clean and (as Jesus says in the same context in Mt. 12:44) empty, it moves back in and throws an evil, sinister party, and again the last state is worse than the first.

Remember, you are either with Jesus or with the devil and demons. There is no neutral ground. Christian, as you live out your faith and devote yourself to God’s Word, Satan and the demons have no power over you. Jesus, the stronger man is with you. The Holy Spirit has filled you and the demons cannot stand the presence of His holiness. But, if you stop filling yourself with God’s Word, if you neglect the work of the Holy Spirit, you can evict Him. You can fall away. Beware and repent.

The most effective strategy, in fact the only strategy, the devil has against you is to make you think that you don’t need Jesus and His blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins. And the way that the devil does this is to harden your conscience against God’s Word. So, guard your conscience, and actively work to soften your conscience so that when you hear God’s Word, you are driven to your Savior’s mercy and grace.

Let me give you an analogy to make this point. The last few weeks, we’ve finally had temperatures above freezing. Compared to the temperatures that we had in January and February what were in the -20’s, it feels really nice. So now, when the thermometer hits 38°, our bodies are ready go out without coats, or at least much lighter coats. In the Spring 38° is glorious. But when August comes and we are used to the heat of summer, 38° makes bodies feel bitterly cold. Your conscience is similar.

Imagine each of the Commandments as a thermometer, and for this example, let’s take the 5thCommandment, “Thou shalt not murder.” Instead of numbers marking the side of the 5thCommandment thermometer, there are different sins that all fall under the 5thCommandment. Way up at the top you have a mark for genocide. A little blow that is a mark for mass murder. A little below that you have a mark for murder, then punching. And because Jesus teaches us that hatred for our neighbor is the same as murder (Mt. 5:21-22) you have a mark for that way down toward the bottom. You get the idea?

Now, all of those sins – from genocide all the way down to anger – all of them make us guilty before God. We need the shed blood of Jesus to cover all of those sins, and know, Christian, that you have that. But you still have to fight against your sinful nature in this life.

So, just think with me here, where does your conscience register on the 5thCommandment thermometer? Maybe, you are somewhere between the marks of punching and anger. The devil and the demons are at work tempting you to harden your conscience. But they don’t tempt you straight to commit genocide. Instead, they tempt you just a little higher than you already are. They tempt you to more anger. They tempt you to punching and violence. And once they have you there, they tempt you to harden yourself a little more, to go up another little step. And they do this with all the Commandments – with adultery and lust, with stealing, and lying.

But you, Christian, you need to be constantly working to soften your conscience. Let me switch to the 3rdCommandment about keeping the Sabbath holy. You’re a Christian, so going to church is simply what you do each Sunday morning. The devil isn’t going to come straight at you and say that going to church isn’t important at all. Instead, the devil will work like this:

Let’s say that one Sunday you were very legitimately sick, so you don’t go to church, but you feel bad about it in your conscience. The devil is right there telling you, “You don’t need to feel bad. You were sick, and it’s better to not risk getting other people sick. So, don’t feel bad. You listened to the sermon later, and it was boring anyway.” And so, you decide to put that little feeling of guilt and loss away. The devil has just hardened you a little bit. So, when a couple of months go by, and you wake up with a headache – something that isn’t going to get passed around to anyone else – the devil will tempt you to skip church again. A little more hardened. Then, you have that family reunion and nothing bad happened when you skipped church because of your headache – God didn’t send a bolt of lightning to smite you. And the Bible says that family is important, so you skip for that. Hardened again. The devil’s goal is to make going to church seem like one option among many options so that being in God’s house becomes nothing more than a matter of choice so that your last state is worse than the first.

Repent. Now, I do have to say that it’s not as though you should carry around guilt for missing church when you have the flu and try to do penance or something like that. No. Jesus loves you. He has disarmed the devil. He has removed your guilt, and Christ forgives you all of your sin. He remembers your sin no more. What I am saying is this: don’t give the devil a foothold. Resist his temptations to harden your conscience.

You do that by memorizing the Ten Commandments and meditating on them. Consider each of them and what Jesus says about them in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7). In this way, your house, which is your heart, does not remain empty. Rather you are filled with the Holy Spirit through the study, consideration, and meditation of God’s Word. In this way, may your last state be better than the first. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The Second & Third Commandments: God’s Name and Word

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In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Last week, we began our journey through the Ten Commandments with the 1stCommandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” It is important for us to remember there that God is giving us the gift of Himself as our God. He wants us to fear, love, and trust Him above all things. He wants us to let Him, and Him alone, be our God because He has promised and given us His steadfast love and mercy.

Tonight, we consider the 2nd and 3rd Commandments which completes what is usually called the “first table” of the Law.

Before I get into the 2nd and 3rd Commandments, I want to mention something about how the Ten Commandments are numbered. Scripture gives us the Commandments twice (Ex. 20:1-17and Dt. 5:6-21). If you simply took all the things that God said in those texts, you would probably come up with at least eleven commandments (if not twelve commandments). But in Exodus 34:18and a couple other verses (Dt. 4:13& 10:4), you see that God calls them the Ten Commandments (lit. ‘Ten Words’). When God gives the Commandments in Deuteronomy, the commandments about coveting – house; wife, workers, cattle, etc. – are reversed, so we know that the way we number them doesn’t matter too much.

The most important thing is to have ten of them and make sure all God’s words are included. The way we Lutherans have them ordered works nice because the first three deal with our love for God and the last seven deal with our love for our neighbor.

One more thing before we get into the 2ndCommandment: When we think of sin, we think some sins are greater than others. Our conscience (which is good, but we have to remember that our conscience is fallen and doesn’t always work the way it should), our conscience will tell us lying isn’t as bad as stealing which isn’t as bad as murdering. A lot of times, our conscience doesn’t even register sins against the first three Commandments – even though it should. Hopefully, this sermon will convict us and help us to be more mindful of our sins against God so that we cry out to Him for His mercy and forgiveness won for us by Jesus on the cross. And I pray that this sermon will show us what great gifts we are given in the 2ndand 3rdCommandments.

The 2nd Commandment
Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, conjure, lie, or deceive by His Name, but call upon Him in every time of need and worship Him with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.

In the 2ndCommandment, God gives us the gift of His name to use in prayer.

God does not want us to misuse His name this is very true. The Jews were so careful about God’s name that they wouldn’t even speak His name. And too often we think that if we don’t go around saying, “Oh my God,” all the time that we have kept this Commandment. We are wrong.

God does not want us to misuse His name, but He does, in fact, want us to use His name properly.

When I was in Bible school, I somehow got the responsibility of keeping the pop machine in the men’s dorm stocked. The year was coming to a close, and I was asked to teach another student how to do it so he could take over the following year after I graduated. The pop was stored in a closet that was locked and had a sliding door. As I was showing him the process, we went to get more pop, but the door had gotten jammed in the tracks. I hefted and jerked and pulled, but I couldn’t get the door to open. I was getting really frustrated.

This little guy (he was from a foreign country) stepped in between me and the door and said, “In the name of Jesus,” right before he yanked on the handle. I remember thinking to myself, “This poor guy. God doesn’t care about a door that is guarding pop.” But do you know what? The door opened. And I was convicted. Here was a need, minor as it was, and his little prayer was answered.

Here’s the point. God wants you to use His name. God wants you to call on Him whenever you face trouble, and He wants you to use His name to praise Him whenever you have joy.

I would encourage you to make it a habit that when you have a need – no matter how big or small it is – to at least pray, “Lord, have mercy.” God hears that prayer and answers it. And whenever something good happens, pray, “Thanks be to God.” Both of these help you use God’s name correctly.

The 3rd Commandment
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not despise His Word and the preaching of the same, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it.

In the 3rdCommandment, God gives us the gift of His Word which makes us holy.

Sabbath means ‘rest.’ That is why that day is called the Sabbath because God rested from His work in creation. And holy means ‘set apart.’

The main word, the main focus, in this Commandment is ‘holy.’ If simply resting was the main thing in this Command, then taking a nap makes you holy or sleeping in on Sundays and missing church would be a good work. Some Christians will take this Commandment to mean that you shouldn’t put gas in your car on Sunday so businesses will stay closed, or some will say that you should not mow your lawn on Sunday because you are doing work. But resting and not working is not the point of this Commandment. If it is, pastors are constantly breaking this Commandment because, of course, they only work on Sundays.

The main point of this Commandment is rather to set apart a day for holy things. As Christians, we keep this Commandment on Sundays instead of Saturdays (when it originally was) because we weekly celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus.

The most holy thing we have is God’s Word. 1 Timothy 4:4-5says that everything is made holy by the Word of God and prayer. So in this Commandment, God wants you to set apart, to make holy, a day where He makes you holy through His Word.

Jesus did many miracles on the Sabbath day because He came to restore what sin has broken in this world. He made people holy and whole by a simple Word from His mouth. Jesus still does this today. He invites you to come here and hear His Word which makes you holy.

As His people, may we repent of our lack of prayer and our indifference toward His Word. And may we honor His name by receiving what He freely gives us – His mercy and forgiveness won on the cross. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Yes, Lord – Sermon on Matthew 15:21-28 for the Second Sunday in Lent

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Matthew 15:21-28

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I told you at the beginning of the service, but do you remember what this Sunday is called? Yes, Remember Sunday (in Latin it is called ‘Reminiscere’). In the Call to Worship (Introit) we asked God to remember His mercy and His steadfast love (Ps. 25:6), and we asked God to not remember our past sins (Ps. 25:7). This is the form and shape of prayer. We ask God to remember His good and gracious promises to us, and we ask God to not remember our sins so that He will not be angry with us and reject our prayers. As an example of prayer, we have before us this Canaanite woman.

The woman is not part of the people of God. She was a Canaanite, a pagan who was involved in occult worship, and this is likely why her daughter was severely demonized. James 4[:7], says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It isn’t stretching the text at all to connect this woman’s Canaanite identity to her daughter’s terrible, horrific situation. Canaanites weren’t resisting the devil; they were dabbling in demonic stuff.

This woman knows that the demon oppressing her daughter is evil and that Jesus can help her. So, she prays. Jesus and the Syrophoenician WomanShe prays because she remembers that the God of Israel promised to deliver His people from the devil, which is why she addresses Jesus as the Son of David – to remind Him of His promises. And she remembers that she doesn’t deserve Jesus’ help because of her sins, so her prayer is, “Have mercy on me.”

She comes to Jesus in prayer, and what does your Savior do? He ignores her. He doesn’t answer her a word. But does she go away? Does she stop praying? No! She persists because she knows her trouble. She walks by faith and not by sight. She keeps praying because she knows that Jesus is the one who answers prayer. She prays so fervently that the disciples pray against her, “Send her away.”

So, Jesus answers the disciples, not this woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Now, at least this woman knows two things: First, she knows that Jesus has heard her prayer. And second, she knows that Jesus knows who she is – a Canaanite and not an Israelite, not part of God’s people. She continues to persist in prayer. She kneels down before Jesus and says, “Lord, help me.” And finally, she gets her own word from Jesus, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”Yes, Jesus called her a dog.

This looks to us like a terrible insult. It looks horrible, racist, and sexist. If you did this today, it would go ‘viral,’ and your reputation would likely be ruined. But in faith, this woman takes the insult. She says, “Yes, Lord.” In other words, “If You, Jesus, Son of David and Messiah, if You call me a dog, I’ll take it. I’ll be a dog. Go ahead and treat me like a dog. Just give me what the dogs get. I’m a dog, but dogs get crumbs. And a crumb is enough. Yes, Lord.”

Now, Jesus praises her faith. “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Here’s the thing. God insults you as well. The Bible calls you worse than a dog. God in His Word calls you a sinner. He says that you deserve His wrath and anger. God says that you don’t deserve anything good from Him because you have rebelled against Him and hate Him. But here is what faith does. Faith believes that word from God. Faith clings to God’s declaration that says you are a sinner.

Faith says, “Yes. Yes, Lord. I am a sinner.” But faith doesn’t stop there either. Faith says, “Yes, Lord. I am a sinner. But, Jesus, You have said, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Mt. 9:13). Faith says, “Lord, treat me like you treat sinners.” In other words, “Remember Your mercy and steadfast love. Don’t remember my sin.”

Boone, today you are Baptized. Boone, though you were a sinner, Christ has died for you and risen for you. Today in your Baptism, Jesus has clothed you with Himself (Gal. 3:27). Christ connected His Word to water and washed you clean making you His child and heir (Gal. 3:7, 9). So, Boone, Jesus has given you a word to remember, a word to cling to. Always cling to that Word. Remember His love and mercy for you. When you sin, have the boldness to ask Jesus to be what He says He is, the Savior of sinners.

The Table of GodBoone, and all of you, be bold in your prayers. Even when it seems that God is distant and ignoring you, He hears you. He loves you. Jesus has died and risen for you and is even now interceding for you before His Father in heaven (1 Jn. 2:1).

Know also that Jesus doesn’t only let you have the crumbs that fall from His table. He has given you a seat at His table. He invites you now to come to His table to receive the Bread of Life from heaven – His very Body. Come and receive His Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The First Commandment: Your God

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In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The First Commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” What does this mean? “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

Everyone has a god. The pagans surrounding and living in Israel worshipped Baal, Moloch, and others. The Greeks had many gods – Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, etc. Today, Hindus worship Vishnu, and Muslims worship Allah. These pagan religions all give names to the false gods they worship, but even people who are atheists, people who believe there is only stuff, have a god. Their god just happens to be stuff; Ro. 1:[24-25] says they worship the created rather than the Creator. Atheists give god-like attributes to matter – they say it has always existed and controls everything. And Paul concludes in Php. 3:[19], “Their god is their belly.” When the true God is not worshipped or recognized, something – an idol, or another false god – always fills that void.

Idolatry is what sinners do. And even as Christians, we need to be aware that our hearts quickly turn to idols. We heard how quickly God’s people turned to idols in our Old Testament lesson (Ex. 32:1-35). Just like them, we grow impatient with God and doubt His promises. Rather than trusting God to provide for us, we trust our money. Rather than trusting God’s mercy and faithfulness, we trust our good works. An idol isn’t only a statue that you bow down to, an idol is anything you fear, love, or trust more than God which is why the explanation to the 1stCommandment is an extremely helpful tool to diagnose ourselves. Anything you fear, love, or trust more than God is your idol.

So, let’s consider each of these.

First, fear. We are to fear God above all things. Too often, we think that fearing God is an outdated notion. But Jesus says in Mt. 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both the soul and body in hell.” The punishment for ignoring and breaking God’s commands is eternity in hell. But fearing God does not mean that we forget the rest of the Bible – especially the Gospel. We remember that Christ suffered the wrath and punishment of God that we deserve when He died on the cross.

Here is a helpful analogy about fearing God: Imagine that you are driving along in your car, and you worried about your finances, worried about your marriage, and worried about the huge drifts on the roof of your house. All these thoughts are swirling around in your head while you are stopped at a light. Suddenly, someone jumps into the passenger seat holding a gun and says, “Drive now! I’ll tell you where to go.” You frantically follow their directions fearing for your life. You are shaking, crying, and terrified, but you follow those directions to the letter. All the things you were worried about are suddenly gone, and you aren’t worried about anything except this lunatic in your passenger seat. After a few frantic minutes, you muster up the courage to ask, “What do you want with me? I’ll give you anything.” And the passenger says, “I don’t want anything from you. There’s an assassin after you, and I’m here to protect you.” Now, you aren’t afraid of anything, you are simply relieved. When you fear nothing but God, who alone is to be feared, the Gospel tells you that He is the God who has come to save you.

We are to fear God, and we are to love God above all things. Love of God does not come naturally to us. Instead, we love ourselves. We seek our own good, desire our own honor, and pursue our own interests. If you want to identify your idols, just think about the things that have kept you from being at a worship service, reading the Scriptures, or praying – those are your idols. Repent.

Repent and remember that God Himself is love, and He demonstrates His love in that while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you (Ro. 5:8). It is this love of God for us that motivates our love for Him and for our neighbor. If you want to be more loving, bask yourself in God’s love for you.

Finally, trust. We are to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. When you are sick, do you trust your doctor to give you good treatment? When you are cold, do you trust your furnace to keep your house warm? When you are hungry, do you trust that you have enough money, and do you trust the grocery store to have food? That’s good. You should.

But you should also look behind your doctor, your furnace, your money, and the store to the God who has provided all of those things. Always remember that God is your heavenly Father who has promised to care for all of your needs – body and soul. He feeds the birds and clothes the grass, and He has fed and clothed you spiritually as well because of what Christ has done. From God alone, you receive all good things, and He has delivered you from all evil. So, trust Him remembering that He has given you a reason to trust Him.

Before God gave the first of these Ten Commandments, He said something important that we too often forget. All the Commandments are prefaced with this statement by God, “I am the Lordyour God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Now, you haven’t been enslaved in Egypt – at least, I don’t think any of you have been. But you have been delivered by God in a more important way.

The Lordyour God is the God who delivered you out of this sinful world. He has brought you out of your slavery to sin. He has already proven Himself to be a faithful, loving, gracious, merciful God by sending His only begotten Son to die for your sins. When He tells you, “Have no other gods before Me,” He is saying, “Let Me be your God, and Me alone. Don’t fear anything else; fear Me. Don’t love anything above Me because I’m behind all good things. Trust Me because I will never fail you and never forsake you.” He is inviting you to let Him alone be your God. He is, in fact, giving you Himself.

So, fear Him alone who has delivered you. Love Him alone who loves you more deeply than you can possibly imagine. Trust Him alone who is trustworthy. And you will never be disappointed (Ro. 10:11). Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Caught – Sermon on Genesis 3:1-21 for the First Sunday in Lent

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Genesis 3:1-21

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LordGod among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this, Updated Crushing the Serpent's Head Cross
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;

on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.

Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree

of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’

cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,

till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;

for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

And, in this way, sin entered the world. Now, instead of running from the devil, Adam and Eve run from God. To really get at this text we need to see how faith is attacked, lost, and restored.

Scripture is clear, “the righteous shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4), and, “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Ro. 14:23). Adam and the woman had faith in God before the Fall. The faith that they had was created by the promise of God. This is may be a little bit difficult for us to grasp, but, when God created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and commanded Adam and the woman to not eat of it, He was giving them a promise to believe. God didn’t put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden so Adam and the woman could choose God or reject God. God put that tree in the garden as a promise. Basically, that tree was God acknowledging that there was evil, and by commanding them to not eat of it was God saying, “There is evil, but I don’t want you to experience or even know what evil is. If you know evil, it’s not going to go well for you. In fact, you are going to die.”

Temptation in the Garden of EdenBut Satan comes along and puts a question into the mind of the woman. “Did God actually say?” This is the one attack of the devil. He always is trying to get us to doubt the Word and promise of God. “Did God actually say, you should not eat of any tree in the garden?” And notice that the woman adds to God’s promise. She says, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, neither shall you touch it, less you die.’” God had never said anything about not touching the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (at least, it isn’t recorded for us). Satan is attacking God’s Word, but Adam and the woman have not fallen yet. The serpent sees his opening and tells an outright lie, “You will not surely die! For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Now, remember that God had created Adam and the woman in His image – they were already like God, and God declared that they were good. But Satan put before the woman the possibility of becoming more like God and better than they had already been created. It was an outright lie. So, when the woman sees that the tree is good for food, a delight to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise, she is seeing something that is not true. The devil’s lie has already taken root. In this way Adam and the woman’s faith is attacked.

Now, that faith is lost. The woman looked at the tree and saw that it was to be desired to make one wise. That phrase, right there, is so important as you go about your daily life. To tempt us into sin, the devil gets us to think that God is somehow holding out on us, that He hasn’t given or won’t give us everything we need to live and be happy. It’s a downright, blatant, brazen, barefaced lie. The devil wants us to ignore God’s Word and think that God is holding out on us and limiting our fun by giving us commands. Whenever we fall into sin, it is because we don’t trust that God is good and will give us all good things at the right time. Don’t listen to the devil’s lies.

Unfortunately, the woman does. She takes the fruit, eats it, gives some to her husband who is with her, and he eats. The eyes of both are opened. They had become something more. Now, they knew evil, but it was not better. What had been good, their nakedness, was no longer good. They sew fig leaves together to make themselves loincloths. Their faith is lost.

But now, we will see how beautifully God restores faith. Adam and the woman hear the sound of God walking in the garden, but they hide. They figured that God was coming in order to punish them. But the God who had created the heavens and the earth, the God who had created all the birds of the air, all the fish of the sea, and all the animals of the land didn’t need to come and find them in order to punish them. If God was going to punish them, there is no need to drag this whole thing out. God is not showing up in this text now to punish Adam and the woman. He’s coming to restore what was lost. He is coming to restore faith.

Adam and Eve hide from God.jpgBut even as God does this, we will see the horrific consequences that sin and evil has brought into God’s good creation. God calls to Adam, “Where are you?” God still wants to have fellowship with Adam and the woman even though they have sinned, broken His commandment, and lost their faith. But rather than confessing and repenting of his sin, Adam dodges the opportunity saying, “I hid from You because I was naked and afraid.” So, God gives Adam a second chance to repent, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

But sin has so marred Adam that he dodges this second opportunity. He blames the woman, but ultimately, notice that he blames God, “The woman, whom You gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.“ God gives the woman a chance to repent and asks her, “What is this you have done?“ But the woman doesn’t do much better than Adam, she says “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

The terrible, horrific consequences of sin are already evident. Adam and the woman pass blame, they don’t protect or care for each other, the whole thing is an absolute mess. They are caught and they don’t return to God in faith asking for His mercy.

Adam and the woman will hear God tell them about the mess they have brought to creation – pain in childbirth, pain in eating, and death. But first things first. God’s first response isn’t to lay into Adam and the woman. The first thing God does is deal with Satan. God doesn’t have a conversation with the devil like He did with Adam and the woman. There, in the Garden, God told Satan that He was coming for him. God would send the Seed of the woman to crush the serpent’s head. And Adam and the woman believe this because, notice, at the end of this text, she is no longer called ‘woman.’ Adam 1 Corinthians 13 7 - Love Bears All Thingsgives her the name Eve. She wasn’t called this at any point before in Scripture. Adam gives her the name ‘Eve’ which means ‘life-giver.’ Here’s how we know faith is restored. Eve was already going to be the mother of everyone who would be born. But Adam, the father of faith, changes her name to Eve because she is the mother of all who would believe in the promised Seed who would crush the serpent’s head.

God promised that He would free Adam, the woman, you, and me from the clutches of sin and death. And, today, we have seen Jesus doing this very thing. Opposed to Adam and the woman, who had no lack – they weren’t hungry – Jesus defeats the devil’s temptations in the wilderness when He was starving after fasting for forty days. Jesus will leave the wilderness and cast out the demons. He will heal, restore, forgive, and resurrect those who sit under the curse. But most importantly, He will suffer God’s wrath against all sin – your sin, my sin, the sin of the whole world – on the cross. He does this because though you are caught in sin, your God is merciful and gracious. He wants you to be caught in His loving arms for all eternity, safe and secure from all evil.

Repent. Believe. Live. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Even Now – Sermon for Ash Wednesday

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The texts for this evening were Joel 2:12-19 and Matthew 6:16-21.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In our Old Testament lesson, God called to His people (v. 12-13), “Yet even now, return to me with all your heart with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster.”

Let’s break this down. “Yet even now.” Those are such beautiful words of Gospel. “Even now.” After everything you have done and left undone. After failing again and again into the same sin over and over. After refusing again and again to do the good God put you there to do for your neighbor. After you have broken trust, broken relationships, broken the hearts of those you should mend, even now, return to the one, true, holy, God.

But repeatedly in Scripture, God’s holy presence is the last place that sinners want to be. Adam and Eve hid from God’s holy presence after they had sinned and realized their nakedness. Standing in God’s holy presence, Isaiah said, “Woe to me, for I am undone.” Jonah fled from God’s holy presence when God called him to preach to Nineveh. Peter asked the holy Son of God to depart from him because he was a sinful man.

Holiness and sin cannot coexist. Just as light destroys the darkness, the brightness of holiness destroys the darkness of sin. But if we think that our sin has forever separated us from God, we are defying the very words of God in this text, “Yet even now, return to Me,” says your Holy God. This returning is repentance.

Return and repent with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Return and repent because the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Repentance has us saying, “Amen,” to God twice. “Amen” simply means yes, truly, absolutely, correct, right. We say “Amen” when God’s Law tells us that we are guilty of sin, when the Scriptures tell us that we deserve God’s wrath and punishment for our sins now, in this moment, and for all eternity. But repentance doesn’t stop there either.

Repentance says, “Amen,” when God speaks His Gospel over us, when God says that we are forgiven for Christ’s sake. That the suffering and death of Jesus has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west.

The first “Amen” is not easy to say. We don’t like to admit our failures and sins. We don’t like to admit that the wages our sin has earned is the bitterness, sickness, and hardships we face in this life. Instead, we blame others for the burdens we bear.

But the second “Amen” isn’t really any easier than the first. The devil and the world scream at us that the sacrifice of Jesus isn’t really enough. Our own flesh even says, “Well, it can’t be so easy as simply believing in Jesus.” But dear saints, that is when we need to say, “Shut up,” to the devil, the world, and our own flesh.

Just as God means it when He speaks the Law to say that your sins harm you and your neighbor, and more importantly that your sins separate you from Him, God also means it when He says that for the sake of Jesus He has forgiven you and blotted out your sins.

Through this Lenten season, we are going to be considering the Ten Commandments, and this will give us ample reasons to weep, lament, mourn, and rend our hearts because of our sin. However, we will also see the great gifts God is giving to us in each Commandment as well. But most importantly, we will see how Jesus has delivered us and calls us, “Even now, return to Me. Return to Me for I am gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”

Your God has no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. Instead He would have you repent. Say, “Amen,” to His Law and to His Gospel. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Love Bears All Things – Sermon on 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 for Quinquagesima.

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If you’re like me, you’re looking for ways to do things more efficiently and make life easier. You’re searching for ways to lessen your burdens. A better system for your workflow. A quicker route from here to there. Ways to make dinner faster. Every mom I know is ready to get out from the burden of folding laundry. Well, a machine called the FoldiMate is for you; it doesn’t come out until late this year, and it’ll cost you about $1,000. We’re always looking for ways to make life easier, be more productive, and most of all to lessen our burdens. While a lot of good has come from technology and machines and processes that lessen our burdens, there are some things that we just have to deal with because some burdens cannot be lessened.

This chapter of Scripture tells us about one area of our lives that will always be hard – loving others. Love isn’t easy. Love is, in fact, work. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy or boast. Love is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love is not irritable or resentful. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love never ends. These clear words of Scripture obliterate much of what our society calls ‘love’ today.

1 Corinthians 13 7 - Love Bears All ThingsBut today, I want to focus on one phrase from this text about love; it is the first phrase from v. 7, “Love bears all things.” Remember, that the second great commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:39). Paul writes in Gal. 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” One aspect of love is to bear another’s burdens. And there is no way to make bearing others’ burdens less burdensome.

I remember when I was in seminary things were pretty hectic during my second year. I had four hours of class every morning, and to keep our finances in order, I worked each afternoon. Sarah and I had been married for about a year and a half, so I was still adjusting to being a husband who wanted to provide for his wife (even though she was the main bread-winner). I would come home tired, have dinner, study my Greek and Hebrew, and write papers. Sarah was pregnant with Elijah, and I knew that, after he was born, I would have to cut back on my hours at work in order to take care of him and keep up with my studies. But I didn’t know how we would make everything work. The stress of it all was weighing down on me. So, one day, I went to one of my professors and I spent the better part of an hour unloading all my worries on him. And do you know what he did? He listened.

He didn’t say much. When he did speak, it was to let me know that he was hearing what I said as I continued to spew about my situation. When I was done, he didn’t give me extra time to turn in homework for his classes. He didn’t tell me about how he went through a similar time in his life. And he didn’t give me advice about how to manage my time better. He didn’t really do anything but hear me out.

So, when I left his office, nothing had changed. In fact, things should have probably been worse because I had taken a precious hour that I could have used for studying. But I left his office feeling better. You know why? Because, in a real sense, he was now carrying some of my burden. He loved me and allowed me to transfer my stress to him.

Maybe, you have had a similar experience – either unloading your own or listening to someone else’s burdens. Maybe you have come away from a conversation with someone who is facing all sorts of difficulties in their life, you come away from that conversation and you feel tired – not physically, but emotionally or spiritually. You feel tired because you are sharing that person’s burdens. This is an act of love that has cost you something, but it has truly helped the other person.

Stress.jpgWhich brings me back to where we started about looking for ways to make life easier. Too often, we try to make our own lives easier by avoiding the Scriptural command to bear one another’s burdens. But this is unloving, and it is, in fact, sinful. I can think of three tricks we commonly use to avoid bearing the burdens of others, but I am sure there are more (if you know more, let me know after the service).

The first trick is to simply avoid being around people. We don’t let people have access to us. And I’m not only talking about avoiding certain people who seem to always be unloading on us. We often go farther and avoid meaningful interactions with others as much as possible. We have schedules that are so full that we are running from one thing to the next. Even though you may be around people every waking moment, there is not really time or occasion for others to have a real conversation with you. So, the first trick is avoidance.

The second trick is, when other people start to tell us their troubles, we may listen for a bit, but then we start telling them our troubles. We interrupt and tell them how bad things are for us. It can almost become a contest about who has the most stress. And this trick is simply building a wall between us and their problems. I’ll talk about myself and my problems so I don’t have to deal with you and your problems. So, the second trick is putting a barrier between us and others’ burdens.

The third trick is the most dangerous because we think it is pious or virtuous. We give advice. We listen for a bit, and then we say, “Have you considered doing this?” Or even worse, we tell them what to think. “You should look at this as an opportunity for God to teach you something.” That may be right and correct and our advice might be really good – which is why we think it is so pious. But don’t miss the point, it deflects their burden from us back on to them. It can leave the person more deflated and more burdened, and we leave the conversation thinking we’ve done something good and loving. But we aren’t bearing their burden. And remember, if they wanted your advice… they would’ve asked for it.

Avoidance, barriers, and advice – all tricks we use to avoid bearing another’s burdens.

Jesus Heals BartimeausWe heard about love in action in our Gospel lesson (Lk. 18:31-43). Jesus encountered blind Bartimeaus (Mk. 10:46). Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me!” Jesus pauses on His important trek up to Jerusalem, where He is going to save the whole world. He stops to listen to Bartimeaus asking him, “What do you want me to do for you?”Bartimeaus says that he wants to receive his sight. And Jesus doesn’t start talking about Himself and the problems He is about to face even though Jesus’ burden is going to be much more than blindness. And Jesus doesn’t give advice – and if anyone is in a position to give advice it’s Jesus. Jesus simply says, “Receive your sight, your faith has made you well.”By doing this, please note, Jesus recognizes that Bartimaeus’ blindness is bad.

Now, at this point, insert whatever problem you have, or the problems of people who are unloading their burdens on you – high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, fatigue, depression, being bullied – these things are not natural and are a product of the devil. Unlike Jesus, we can’t simply say the word and make things better. But we can, like Jesus recognize and acknowledge the brokenness in people’s lives and say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’re going through this.” Another way to show love to those who share their burdens with us is to simply listen. Listen, and ask, “How can I pray for you?” Then, pray for them then and there. Pray for them and say, “May Jesus bless you.”

Jesus not only healed Bartimaeus’ blindness, Jesus bears his burden completely. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem where He would bear all mankind’s burdens, all your sins and iniquities. He would suffer all the consequences of sin in this world as He hung in darkness on the cross. And He carried all those burdens, every last one, to the grave. But He wouldn’t stay there. Because of that, because we await the Resurrection, we know that whatever we suffer in this world is temporary. So whatever burdens you bear – whether they are yours or others’ – they will disappear when our Lord returns.

You see, the love of Jesus has already and continues to bear all things – all your sins, all your iniquities, all your transgressions, all your griefs, all your cares, all your sorrows. And this becomes our focus for the next six weeks. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.