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.


Christmas Emotions – Sermon for Christmas Eve Candlelight Service 2018

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Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Out of all the nights of the year, Christmas Eve is probably the most emotional and nostalgic. Outside is dark and cold, but inside is bright and warm. You have come to a cozy sanctuary that many of you have been attending for years.

Some of you have been right here, in this sanctuary (maybe even in the same seat), every December 24thof your life. You will probably leave here and have a nice meal and an enjoyable time with family and friends. You will spend the rest of your evening opening well-wrapped presents set under a tree filled with decorations you have had for longer than you can remember.

Everything about this evening feels cozy, quaint, and sentimental.

But, what happens if all the things that you have come to appreciate about this night were gone? What if there are no candles, no lights? What if the furnace here had stopped working and the sanctuary was 40 degrees?

What if, instead of lutefisk, meatballs, and lefse, you went home to peanut butter, jelly, and stale bread? What happens if there is no tree, no ornaments, no tinsel, no wrapping paper? How would this evening feel if your gifts were handed to you in a plastic grocery bag, or – heaven forbid – you had no presents at all?

If everything you associate with a perfect Christmas Eve was gone, would there still be reason to celebrate this night?

Yes. Yes, there would. None of the things we add to this night change the fact that Jesus was born. The fact of Christ’s birth, the fact that God has come in the flesh, is not based upon a mood or emotional feeling we get from the things we normally associate with this night.

Jesus was born at a real time in history, and that night was notfilled with the warmth and ambiance we associate with this evening.

David’s royal line had nearly vanished. The priests were barely more than puppets of the Roman empire. And most people had lost hope in God’s promises.

Mary and Joseph were away from the comforts of their home. An occupying military force was demanding more taxes, and the small-town carpenter had to travel a long distance to pay. Joseph’s extended family didn’t have room for him and his extremely pregnant wife in their homes.

That time in history was filled with uncertainty in the government, uncertainty in economy, uncertainty in health and safety, and even uncertainty in religion.

But there was no uncertainty with God. The time was perfect for Him. In the fullness of time, God sent Jesus, born in the flesh to be Emmanuel – God with us, God with you. God with you to redeem you. God with you to forgive you. God with you to give His everlasting love mercy to you.

For some of you, this will be the most memorable Christmas you have ever had, and you will cherish the memories of this night for the rest of your life. For that, praise God.

For some of you, however, this year the Christmas lights won’t be as bright, and the feelings will be less warm. Things have changed. Loved ones have died. Relationships have broken up. Kids have moved away and aren’t coming home for the holidays. For some of you, the absence of someone tonight will leave an emptiness.

But whether tonight is your best or most difficult Christmas, the fact doesn’t change – Jesus was born. Your Savior now lives as true God and true man forever.

Jesus’ birth was not the culmination of the Old Testament prophecies. It was the beginning. Jesus was born not to remain a baby, but to rescue all people from their sins by His sacrifice for you on the cross.

Jesus was never meant to stay in a manger, and you are not meant to stay in this world. The Light that dawns on you in Christ’s birth will be brought to perfect completion when you know the fullness of His forgiveness and joy in heaven.

Because Jesus was born, because He grew up, suffered, died, and rose again, it doesn’t matter what emotions you have or don’t have tonight. It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t have to adorn your celebrations.

Nothing matters except that you have a Savior. Unto you He is born. For you, He lived. For you, He died. For you, He rose again. For you, He lives evermore and evermore. Amen.

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

Repent, Rejoice, Repeat – Sermon on Romans 13:8-14 for the First Sunday in Advent

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Romans 13:8-14

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

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

Think about the opening words of this text for a moment: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.”

Beatles All You Need Is LoveAt first blush, this seems simple enough. Just follow Dave Ramsey’s advice for getting rid of your loans, car payments, and mortgage. Then live your life humming the Beatles, “All you need is love. All you need is love. All you need is love, love, love. Love is all you need.”

But before images of a debt-free, hippie-eyed, easy-peasy life fill your brain, realize what this actually means in light of what the Scriptures say love is. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast. Love is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love bears all things. Love hopes all things. Love endures all things. And remember, love never ends (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

So, when this text says to owe no one anything except love, it is saying that we owe one another absolutely everything because love fulfills the Law. All the Commandments, every last one of them, can be summed up with one little sentence, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

When you think about what that simple phrase, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other,” really means, those few opening words of our text should accuse and terrify us. To the sinner those words could just as easily be, “Go to hell.” So, sinner, repent.

But Paul doesn’t seem to be throwing down the hammer of the Law here. And, in fact, he isn’t. Paul isn’t writing these words to sinners – at least they aren’t only sinners. Paul is writing these words to sinners who are Christians. So, these words are for you who believe and are walking in the way of righteousness.

Christian, since you are loved unconditionally by Christ, love one another. But how do you do that? How can you love others perfectly as the Law demands? Trying harder, being more resolute, and making promises to do better haven’t worked in the past. And it won’t work in the future. So how can you keep the Law which you have never kept before?

The only way for sinners to keep the Law is to have the Law kept for us. God be praised, this is what Christ has done.

Christ has fulfilled the Law for you. He loved you as Himself. Just as Jesus came riding into Jerusalem to lay down His life on the cross for you, He also came and was born in Bethlehem to lay down His life while holding nothing back from you.

Clothed in ChristSo, as our text says, put on Christ. Clothe yourself in Him. Make His life, His obedience, His perfection your coat, your suit, your dress, your shirt, your shorts, your jeans, and your pajamas. How do you do that? Galatians 3:27 says, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

Dear Colt, today you are Baptized. Today, Christ has connected His Word and promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation to water. So, as that water poured on to you, it didn’t simply clean your head. Instead, God’s promise is that in your Baptism, He covered you with Christ.

Colt, today you are a Christian. So, today you begin the constant life of following Christ and loving your neighbor. And this command to love your neighbor as yourself is a command that you will fail to keep. But when you fail, confess that for the sin that it is, and believe. Believe in Christ’s forgiveness remembering that Scripture declares that you are loved perfectly by Christ. Rejoice in that love. And, go, love your neighbor.

Repent. Rejoice. Repeat. Again and again and again. And this is the case for all of you who have been Baptized.

But you say, “Pastor, I keep sinning. My fallen, sinful desires have gotten in the way. I keep failing to fulfill the command to love. There has to be something more.”

Baptism 2Well, there is something more, but it isn’t anything different. Repent again. Cast off the works of darkness again. Put on Christ again. Return to the promises God made when made you His child, when you were born again of Water and the Spirit (Jn. 3:5) in your Baptism.

Repent. Rejoice. Repeat. In other words, be a Christian. Amen.

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

From Commandment to Creed – Sermon on Matthew 22:34-46 for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

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Matthew 22:34-46

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying,“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

Psalm 110_1 Footstool44 “The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’?

45 “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

In the name Jesus. Amen.

This Gospel text drops us right into the middle of a conversation that Jesus had in the Temple on the Tuesday of Holy Week with the very people who want to destroy Him. The Pharisees and Sadducees are all trying to trap Jesus and entangle Him in His words. Their purpose is to make either the crowds or the authorities (they don’t care which) turn against Him so they can kill Him and be rid of Him and His preaching.

The first two questions they put to Jesus are about paying taxes and about the resurrection. Both of these questions are designed to take one part of God’s Word and make it contradict another part. And both questions appear to have no good answer. The leaders think that no matter how Jesus answers their question, they will have Him. But they are wrong. Jesus answers both questions leaving them dumbfounded.

Our text begins with the third question. One of the Pharisees, a lawyer, asked Jesus a question, again to test and to trap Jesus in His words.“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” The purpose of this question is to figure out which Commandment Jesus thinks is most important so that they can find a commandment set against it.

But again, this is absolutely foolish because Jesus knows there is no contradiction in the Law. He is the one who wrote the Law.

Jesus answers, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and prophets.”

Now, it is interesting in Mark’s account of this same event, the same questioning, that Jesus says there’s no other commandment (singular) greater than these (plural). Perfect love of God and perfect love of your neighbor go together. It is one commandment. The two are inseparably tied together. Love for God is demonstrated by love for the neighbor.

1 John 4_20-21 Love God and Neighbor

1 John 4:20 
says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”And Jesus says in Matthew 25(:40) that the acts of love that you do toward your neighbor you do toward God. “As you did to the least of these, you did also to Me.”In other words, when you love your neighbor, you are loving God.

So, think about that for a moment. When you are helping, supporting, encouraging your spouse, you are serving both God and your spouse. You are loving both God and neighbor. When you feed your kids, when you obey your parents, when you do your homework, you are serving your neighbor and thereby serving God. Telling the truth, living a caste life, returning a lost wallet or purse instead of stealing, being content with what you have instead of coveting – all of these actions are service to God and your neighbor. Whoever is your neighbor, whoever God puts in your life at any given moment, that is the one whom God wants you to love. And when you love that neighbor, whoever it may be, you are loving God.

While that is so very beautiful, if we stop to think about it, this command to love God and neighbor demands everything of us. And we realize how fallen and sinful we are. This command shows us our desperate need for God to come and rescue us.

With His answer, with His preaching of the Law to love both God and neighbor, Jesus cuts down these people who are trying to trap Him, and He cuts you and I down as well because our sin is exposed. We do not love enough. We never have, and we never will.

But notice Jesus doesn’t take the conversation in that direction. He doesn’t ask them, “How are you doing with loving God and your neighbor?” Jesus doesn’t continue to have a conversation about the Law.

Instead, Jesus moves away from questions about the Law to the Creed. The Law is good and important. It shows us the nature and will of God, but the Law always shows us our sin. The Law tells us what we must do, but it always tells us what we have failed to do.

But the Creed shows us how God is toward us. The Creed isn’t about what we must do, it is the Gospel. It is what God has done for us. In the Creed, we confess that God is the Father who created us sent His Son who redeemed us and gives us the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us and makes us holy.

So, Jesus moves away from the Law to the Creed. He asks them, “The Messiah, whose son is he?”And they were right when they say, “David’s son.”God had promised to send David a son who would sit on David’s throne forever (1 Sam. 7). But David also wrote in Psalm 110:1, which is the verse that Jesus quotes, that this Son is also David’s Lord. So, Jesus’ question is, “How can the Messiah, David’s son, also be David’s Lord?”because a father would never call his descendent, “Lord.”

Now stay with me here: The reason Jesus asks this is that He is teaching the Pharisees, the crowds, and you that the Messiah is both God and man.

Because the Messiah is both God and man, He has kept the Law for you. Jesus perfectly loved God and your neighbor for you. And through faith, Jesus declares that what He has done perfectly, you have done as well (2 Cor. 5:21).

The Law says, “Honor thy father and mother. Love them as yourself.” And you are left saying, “God, I haven’t done that. I need Your help.” If it weren’t for the Creed, if the Messiah weren’t man, God would have to say, “Well, I’m God. I don’t have a father or mother, so I can’t help you. You have to do that yourself.” But God did become a man. Jesus had a mom and a dad. He did love and honor them perfectly. So, He can and does help you. And you can apply this to each and every one of the Commandments.

But most importantly, when you hear the law and know that you have sinned, you know that you deserve death. You deserve the eternal wrath and judgment of God. So, you pray, “God I’m lost. I deserve only death, could You die for me?” Because God has taken up your nature, God says, “Sure. I already have.”

Communion Cross with JesusStop playing games with the Law, there is no contradiction in it. Instead, believe. Believe that Christ has come for you. He has given His life for you. God has purchased you with His own blood (Act. 20:28). He has removed the curse of the Law from you because He has perfectly kept the Law for you. And He gives you His perfection, His righteousness, His holiness.

And, now, He invites you to have your faith strengthened. He invites you to receive His perfect Body and His holy Blood in Bread and Wine. He invites you to come and taste that He is good. Amen.

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

The One Who Shows You Mercy – Sermon on Luke 10:23-37 for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

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Luke 10:23-37

23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. Jesus Good Samaritan Icon32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

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

This parable is arguably the most well-known parable Jesus ever told. That being said, it is also one of the most misinterpreted and misused parables. Today, may your eyes and ears be blessed as Jesus tells you what many prophets and kings desired to see and hear but did not. Holy Spirit, open our eyes and unplug our ears to Christ’s mercy.

This lawyer, this guy who knows the Old Testament forwards and backwards, asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This is a stupid question. You don’t do something to gain an inheritance.

All Scripture shows that God’s people do not inherit eternal life by doing something. As our Epistle Text (Gal. 3:15-22) said, the inheritance of eternal life has always and will always come through the promise of God.

The lawyer knew exactly what he must do to have eternal life. He must do the Law, and his understanding of the Law is correct. Love God perfectly; love your neighbor perfectly. It’s exactly how Jesus sums up the Law elsewhere (Mt. 22:34-40). Jesus tells the lawyer, “Bingo! Do this, and you will live.”But Jesus might just as well have said, “Yup. Go to hell.”

And the lawyer gets it. He is stuck in his own death. The Law has exposed him for the wretched sinner that he is. The Law has left him scared and confused because he doesn’t know the Gospel; it’s completely foreign to him. He wants an out and clamors for a loophole. He asks, “Well, who is my neighbor? Whom should I love?”

But every Sunday school student knows the answer. “Who is my neighbor?” Everyone. “Whom should I love?” Everyone and without fail. But Jesus doesn’t tell the parable to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells the parable to change the question to get the answer He wants. The point of the parable is not to teach us to love everyone. Scripture teaches that all over the place but not in this parable.

Instead, Jesus tells the parable because He wants to show the lawyer and you hope. Jesus wants to show you what God mercifully does for you. He wants your eyes to see and your ears to hear the Gospel.

With all that in mind, consider the parable: The road from Jerusalem to Jericho is downhill the whole way. The man in the parable is constantly going down. And as he goes down, he falls among thieves who rob, strip, beat, and leave him for dead.

A priest happens to come across him, but when he sees the poor sap, he moves to the other side of the road. A Levite spots him as well and does the same. They don’t bind up his wounds. They don’t offer to find someone else to help. They don’t even stand a safe distance and speak comforting words to him as he dies. Instead, the two most respected religious people in Jesus’ day are unwilling to give a second look to the wretch in the ditch.

They know God’s Word, but they are able to justify leaving the guy in the mud and blood. “If God allowed this to happen to him, it must have been for a reason.” Or, “He must have been hanging out with the wrong crowd.” Or, “If I help this guy, I’ll be unclean and won’t be able to perform my duties in the Temple and people won’t have their spiritual needs met.” They won’t let this looser distract them from their calling.

This beaten, bloodied man is despised and rejected by his own people who turn their faces from him (Is. 52:14; 53:2-4).

But then comes the hero – the man of the hour. But he is a Samaritan. He’s a looser and outcast just like the man in the ditch. And this looser ministers to his fellow looser.

He goes down into the ditch. He binds up the wounds. He puts ointment, oil, and wine on the lacerations. He hefts the guy onto his own animal, giving up his own comfort. He is delayed and intruded upon. Whatever appointment or meeting he was journeying to doesn’t matter anymore. The only thing that matters is the stripped, bleeding man.

The Samaritan brings the guy to a hotel and watches over him through the night. In the morning, he makes his way to the front desk and books the room indefinitely.

He tells the staff, “Bill everything to my room. That bloodied guy I brought in here last night, whatever he needs Is on my tab. If he needs doctors or nurses, I’ll cover it. If he needs a ride, get an Uber on me. If he consumes the mini bar fifteen times, I’m good for it. I’ll be back to pay for it all.”

The parable completed, Jesus looks at the lawyer and asks, “Who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Again, if this parable is teaching us to love everyone, then Jesus is a bad teacher and is asking the wrong question. “Who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Jesus is setting the lawyer up. Christ is not calling the lawyer to be like the Samaritan. Jesus wants the lawyer to see that he is the man in the ditch. Jesus wants the lawyer to desire the care, compassion, reckless love, and mercy that the Samaritan shows in the parable because that is exactly what Jesus has come to do for him and for you. Jesus is the one who shows mercy.

Good Samaritan Jesus IconChrist has come to find you. He has bound up your wounds. Jesus has poured out His healing, life-giving blood for you. Jesus nurses you in your brokenness. He has ascended into heaven and has promised to come back and pay for everything you need.

In order to be saved, you don’t need to be merciful; you need mercy. You don’t need to love your neighbor; you need to be loved. You need to receive the Jesus who has come to give you every last bit of His mercy.

That is what the parable means. Our text ends with Jesus saying, “You, go and do likewise.”And Jesus means that too. What Jesus has poured into you, let it spill out and bless others. Amen.

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

Remembrance – Sermon for Pentecost on John 14:23-31

Due to technical difficulties, no audio for today’s sermon.

John 14:23–31

23Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.26But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

27“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.28You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.29And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,31but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.”

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

Jesus says that the Holy Spirit’s job is, “to bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

What was the last thing you forgot? Now, there’s a scary question. If you can remember the last thing you forgot, then you’ve remembered. You maybe didn’t remember on time, but you did remember. The very question, “What was the last thing you forgot?” makes you wonder the dozens, or thousands, of things that you should remember but don’t.

We all have stories of entering the room with decision, purpose, and intent but we enter the room and ask ourselves, “What did I come here to do?” Some mornings, in the clamor of trying to get the kids to school, I frantically search for my keys wondering to myself, “Where in the world and I put them?” only to look down and find my misplaced keys in my hand.

Well, today is Pentecost. We are fifty days after Easter, and today we celebrate God sending His Holy Spirit. And, I hope you remember, three weeks ago Jesus said that the Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:5-15).

In case you don’t remember, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin to show us that we need a Savior, Jesus. The Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness to show us that Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross makes us righteous. And the Holy Spirit convicts us of judgment to remind us that Satan no longer has any claim on us because he is judged.

In other words, wherever the Gospel is preached, where Jesus’ death and resurrection are proclaimed, where Jesus is announced as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – there, the Holy Spirit is, without question, at work. Wherever the Word of God is being faithfully proclaimed, the Holy Spirit is doing His work calling, gathering, enlightening, sanctifying, and preserving the Christian Church.

In our Old Testament reading (Gen. 11:1-9), we heard how God dispersed the people after the Flood. They had plans to build a tower that would have its top in the heavens. Possibly, they were trying to protect themselves from another flood even though God had promised to never flood the earth again. They were sinfully rebelling against God’s command to fill the earth. However, God, in His mercy, came down to stop their sin and to disperse them by confusing their language – sort of a “we can do this the easy way or the hard way.” By this act of judgment, God nudges His creatures to do what He commanded them.

In our reading from Acts (2:1-21), we heard how God doesn’t remove the confusion of language He brought to Babel. Instead, God continues to be gracious. So the Gospel can be proclaimed in all creation, God gives the apostles the gift of speaking in tongues. They are enabled to preach the mighty works of God in all the human languages present that day of Pentecost.

We didn’t hear Peter’s whole sermon in our reading today. But in the next fifteen versus, he preaches Jesus. He doesn’t preach about the Holy Spirit; he preaches Jesus. And what happens in the crowd reveals the Holy Spirit’s work. They are convicted of sin.

They heard that Jesus, whom they crucified, was both Lord and Christ. And when they heard this, “they were cut to the heart,” and asked, “What shall we do?” And Peter continued to be the Holy Spirit’s instrument saying, “Repent.” Now, the people were already convicted, so Peter isn’t telling them to feel bad about their sin. Instead, the Holy Spirit through Peter is telling the people to trust Jesus’ forgiveness.

“Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. For this promise is for you and for your children and all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself” (Act. 2:38-39). That day, 3,000 souls were added to the Christian church by the working of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit continued to work in those believers’ hearts reminding them of Christ’s forgiveness.

The devil’s work is similar to the Holy Spirit’s work, but only at one point. The devil wants to do the first work of the Holy Spirit but leave you there. Like entering a room and not remembering why you are there, the devil wants to leave you in the fog and doubt of your sin.

Thank God for the Holy Spirit! He removes the fog. No matter how thick and dense your sin is, the Holy Spirit brings to your remembrance the truth that God has removed your every sin, transgression, and iniquity sin by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

And the Holy Spirit is about to do another work.

The only other time that Jesus uses this word, ‘remembrance,’ is when He institutes the Lord’s Supper. Jesus says to take and eat the bread which is His Body given unto death and to drink the wine which is His very Blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus says we are to do this ‘in remembrance’ of Him.

Through this Bread and Wine, the Holy Spirit is at work giving you Jesus. Believe Him that through this holy and blessed Sacrament, all your sins are completely forgiven. Then, rise and go from here remembering the comfort of your Savior’s mercy. Amen.

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

The Vineyard of Grace – Sermon for Septuagesima on Matthew 20:1-16

Listen here.

Matthew 20:1–16

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Hiring the Laborers in the VineyardIn the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Too often, we forget that Jesus lived in history. Just as we have well-known stories in our day that form and shape our understanding of the world, so did Jesus and the people of His day. Today, if someone says, “I have a Cinderella story to tell you…” you know how the story will go – rags to riches. Well, in Jesus’ day, there was a famous parable that is remarkably similar to this one before us. This parable had been told during the funeral sermon of a well-known rabbi who died when he was only twenty-eight years old. The parable went like this:

A king hired laborers to work in his vineyard. After watching the men work for a couple of hours, he noticed one had a lot more ability than the rest. So, the king invited that laborer to spend the rest of the day with him eating and relaxing while the rest continued to work. At the end of the day, the king lined everyone up to pay them. The one who only worked two of the twelve hours was paid the same as those who had worked all day. The others complained. But the king replied, “This man worked with so much skill that he accomplished as much in two hours as you did in twelve. So, don’t complain; I’m being fair.”

Santa's Nughty ListThe point of this parable at the twenty-eight-year-old’s funeral was that this famous rabbi had done enough good works to go to heaven early. In other words, be good, do good, and get rewarded. Santa Claus anyone?

Now, there is a kernel of truth to that parable. It is right, proper, and just to reward good works. If you tell your kids they cannot play outside until their rooms are clean and one gets it done more quickly, it is right to not make them wait until the other is finished. The same goes for everyday life. Rewarding good works is the expected thing. It is fair and right to pay according to work done. But there is no grace in that.

Jesus’ parable this morning stands that other parable on its head. Our Lord isn’t teaching about fair wages or justice. He is teaching us about grace. Jesus retells the well-known parable, and in Jesus’ version, a bunch of lazybones who show up just before the checks are written get paid as though they had worked all day.

This is how it is in the kingdom of God. In the kingdom of God, bums who don’t work get rewarded for the work of others. But too often, we complain about this just like those in the parable.

When others are happy or blessed, we grumble and complain. We get covetous and envious. When someone gets a shiny, new toy, we think of all the reasons they don’t deserve it. We murmur to ourselves and others that they must have cheated someone else or gotten it by some undeserving means.

Because of our sin, we like generosity and mercy when we benefit, but not when others do. In our pride, we can even become embarrassed when we receive a generous gift or a simple act of kindness. Think of the rabid feminists who believe that a man opening a door for a woman is an act of micro-aggression.

We are prideful people who are always measuring. We look at our lives and works and compare them against those of the people around us, and somehow, we always end up on top. We keep score and expect God to notice. But then, when things go wrong, when we recognize our failures, our pride causes us to swing into despair. But even in our despair, we keep measuring. We know that we don’t measure up. And our despair makes us wonder if God loves us. Repent.

Repent and see the comfort of this parable. It teaches us that the kingdom of God is not a kingdom of fairness or equal pay. If that were the case, if God’s kingdom was where people got what they deserved, we would all spend eternity in hell. God’s kingdom, God’s vineyard, is a vineyard of grace.

With the Gospel, there is no room for pride or boasting in what we do because there is no doing on our part. Everything has been done by Christ, and we simply benefit because of His work. We who were dead in our sins, enemies of God, and children of wrath are raised, pardoned, and transferred into God’s kingdom.

Rescued from DeathAnd, with the Gospel, there is no room for despair. God’s love has been poured out for you to save you. In Christ, God has won your salvation on the cross. On the cross, Jesus bore the heat of the day, the heat of God’s wrath. And you, believer, get His wages.

Rejoice. The kingdom of heaven is the opposite of the kingdoms of men. You don’t earn. You don’t pay. The goods are given for free. It would drive any man-made business into the ground, but God doesn’t care. God isn’t out to make a living. He is out to give away His kingdom.

In Christ’s kingdom, grace reigns, sins are forgiven, and wretched orphans are made to be beloved children. Amen.

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