Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sermon: Ad Te Levavi - 2021


28 November 2021

Text: Matt 21:1-9 (Jer 23:5-8, Rom 13:8-14)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“Behold, your king is coming to you.”

Jesus came to us “humble, and mounted on a donkey, a beast of burden” when He came to Jerusalem to be enthroned on the cross “for us men and for our salvation,” an innocent Man who was perceived to be guilty.

But some three decades earlier, Jesus had come to us even humbler, mounted as a fertilized egg in a young woman, whose condition was a scandal – an innocent women who was perceived to be guilty.

Kings of the earth typically come into the world with men making great celebration: sons of the king.  But “your king is coming to you” with no earthly father, the descendant of a king of a thousand years earlier, whose country is now under the domination of the Romans, a King whose mother was unmarried at His conception, and whose birth necessitated His lying in a manger: a food trough for animals, for beasts of burden.

And yet, there was great celebration at this King’s birth, as shepherds and angels rejoiced at His coming.

He will come into Jerusalem some three decades later, riding a beast of burden, to the acclaim of men shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  But in five days, He would come as a convicted criminal, carrying His own cross, to the cursing of men who spat on Him, beating Him with their fists, and with a sign that condemned Him as “King of the Jews,” bearing the burden of the Scripture that says, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

Behold, your king is coming to you, lying in a manger, and lying in a tomb – worshiped by men and angels, scorned by men and demons. 

So how do you receive your king, dear brothers and sisters?

Your king comes to you in His Word, in Holy Absolution, in the preaching of the Gospel, in the bread and the wine of Holy Communion.  He comes the same way that He came to Bethlehem and to Jerusalem – humble, rejected by most people, and yet, coming as your Redeemer, your Savior.  He still comes again and again, coming to you with His nail-scarred hands, offering you mercy and eternal life – an offer bought by His blood – whether you receive Him and His gifts, or whether you scorn Him and reject His offer.

He comes to you not only in mercy, but in love: perfect love that sacrifices Himself for the sake of His beloved. 

We receive Him with Advent hymns and Christmas carols, with trees and ornaments, with changes in the liturgy.  But we also receive Him with an awareness of our sins, with confession and repentance and with the church’s ongoing prayer of “Lord have mercy upon us.  Christ have mercy upon us.  Lord, have mercy upon us.”

We receive Him as a distracted people, spending more time and energy focusing on the holiday rather than the Holy One, thinking more about buying gifts than receiving the Gift that comes to us without price and by God’s grace, concerning ourselves more with food and drink for parties than the food and drink that gives us eternal life by His command and by His promise.

So it is fitting that Advent, while a joyful time, is also a penitential time, with hymns that remind us of the “reason for the season,” to bring to the forefront of our minds that His coming is not about buying more stuff, nor of stuffing ourselves, nor of the hustle and bustle and frustrations of standing in line and spending money.  For Advent is about our Lord’s coming, and for remembering why He came to us “humble and mounted on a donkey,” and humbly “incarnate of the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

It is fitting that we call to mind the “Hosanna” of His coming to Jerusalem, and it is also fitting that we hold off on singing the “Gloria” of His coming to Bethlehem until we actually celebrate His birth in a few weeks. 

And it is fitting, dear brothers and sisters, that we receive Him yet again, in His flesh and blood, in the bread and wine, as He comes to us, humble, under these simple elements for us to eat and to drink.  For by receiving Him, we have eternal life as He has promised.  Let us remember the preaching of the prophet Jeremiah, who says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely.”

Let us “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” as St. Paul invites us, “and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.”

For just as our Lord came to us at Bethlehem in the manger, and just as He came to us in Jerusalem at the cross, and just as He comes to us here at our altar in the elements of Holy Communion, and even as He comes to us here from the pulpit in His Word, let us not forget that He is coming again.  St. Paul reminds us “that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”

“So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

This is indeed a time to repent, dear friends.  It is a time when we ponder our Lord’s coming – not only in the past, not only in the present, but also in the days to come.  We know neither the day nor the hour.  But we do know this: He is coming.  And next time, your King will not come to you humble, neither as a child, nor on the cross.  You will not receive Him as bread and wine, but rather in the fullness of His glory and His might.  He will return to the world to take vengeance upon those who rejected Him, upon those who oppressed His bride, the Church.  He will come to judge the world, but our judge will be merciful to those who receive Him, who repent, who are baptized, who believe.

And so we wait.  We wait like the prophet Jeremiah.  We wait like the Virgin Mary.  We wait like the early Christians who suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Jews and the Romans.  We wait amid our own struggles with sin, death, and the devil.  We wait still singing, “Hosanna” and crying out “Lord, have mercy.”  We wait hearing His Word, rejoicing in His forgiveness, and receiving Him in His body and blood.  We wait with joyful expectation, and we wait knowing that His coming is as inevitable as the coming of the day of Christmas, whether we are ready or not. 

And it is fitting that we wait, humble, knowing that we do not deserve His mercy, but knowing that He gives it to us anyway.  And we know that of all the gifts we give and the gifts we receive, the gift of Christ is the greatest gift of all: for in Him we have forgiveness, life, and salvation.

For we are guilty, but are to be perceived to be innocent.  And so we sing, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest!”

“Behold, your king is coming to you.”

Amen.

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

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Sermon: Last Sunday of the Church Year - 2021


21 November 2021

Text: Matt 25:1-13 (Isa 65:17-25, 1 Thess 5:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

There are a series of mottos for the military that have the Latin word “semper” in them.  The motto of the Marine Corps is “Semper fidelis” (always faithful).  The motto of the Coast Guard is “Semper paratus” (always prepared).  The motto of the Civil Air Patrol is “Semper vigilans” (always vigilant or always awake).

It’s easy to focus on the second word, that our military and first responders are faithful, prepared, and vigilant, but the first word is also of primary importance.  For what would our enemies want more than a Marine Corps that is “At times faithful”?  How helpful would a Coast Guard be that is “Occasionally prepared”?  How useful would a Civil Air Patrol be that is “Sometimes vigilant”?  For the enemy can attack at any time.  Disaster often strikes without warning.

The same is true of other first responders like the police and fire service.  They are ready at a moment’s notice, 24-7, to spring into action.  The wise policeman or fireman doesn’t procrastinate: “I’ll reassemble my pistol after I finish my nap.”  “I’ll gather my gear tomorrow.”  For when the call to action comes, there is no time for preparation.  The time is now.

The Christian life is the same way, dear friends.  We are called to be faithful, prepared, and vigilant – not just on Sundays, not just when we feel like it, not just when we aren’t busy with other things.  And that is what this Last Sunday of the Church Year is all about.  This is what our Gospel reading is all about.  This is what our Hymn of the Day: one of the most well-known and beloved Lutheran chorales – is all about.

For what makes first responders slow and flabby and ineffective is inactivity.  Peace is good, of course, but it can destroy the ability of warriors to fight and first responders to save.  That’s why such vocations are constantly training.  We Christians also grow flabby and slow, losing our edge, forgetting our training, lazy, and allowing the enemy to achieve small victories.

We often forget that we are at war with the enemy, that we must be prepared for eternity – whether our own deaths or whether the return of our Lord. We forget that faithfulness, preparedness, and vigilance are not of much value without the “semper.”  And Jesus calls us to the “semper” with His parable of the ten virgins.

It’s a simple story, dear friends.  Five wise girls and five foolish girls all in the same squadron, so to speak.  They are a unit, and they have a mission.  The five wise virgins are faithful, prepared, and vigilant.  They have what they need to be ready at a moment’s notice to fall in.  For when the call comes, there won’t be time to buy oil and prepare their lamps.  For the bridegroom is coming, and they were invited to the feast.  The time to prepare was yesterday.  The time to be ready is today. 

But the five foolish virgins are not ready.  They are not faithful, prepared, and vigilant.  Their equipment is not battle-ready, and they are sleeping instead of waiting in a state of readiness. 

And when the bridegroom is announced, when the time has come for action, the wise virgins carry out their vocations just as they have trained.  “Here is the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him.”  And the wise respond accordingly.

But the foolish virgins, being unready, now have to go and buy oil.  They have to prepare their lamps.  And so off they go to the dealers – carrying out tasks that should have been done before.  Their laziness and folly have caught up with them, and there is now no time to prepare.  And while they are away, the bridegroom comes.  “And those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.  Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’”

Jesus is not teaching us to be good Marines or Coasties or Volunteer Airmen, dear friends.  Jesus is teaching us how to be Christians, how to be prepared to die, how to be prepared for His return.  We do have a mission, dear brothers and sisters.  We were made for a purpose.  That purpose is not simply to amass as much wealth as we can, to have as much fun as we can, to sop up as much pleasure as we can.  We are always God’s children, created for the sake of service in the kingdom.  And eternity is waiting for us.  Eternity can begin at any moment.

The wise keep their lamps trimmed and full of oil.  As the Psalmist says about the Scriptures: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  To be prepared, we need to hear the Word of God, read the Word of God, and allow the Word of God to illuminate our lives.  Are you doing that?  Are you ready?  If not, stop messing around and get ready.  Are you praying regularly?  Are you confessing your sins and being absolved?  Are you in the battle by supplying the kingdom even as God supplies you with time, talent, and treasure?  If not, you know what to do.  The time to start is now, not after the first of the year.  Not when you get your house in order.  Not when things are more convenient.  That’s not how this works.  Are you regularly receiving the body and blood of the Lord to strengthen you for the battle?  If not, the time to start is now.  And don’t allow yourself to become unfaithful, unprepared, and unvigilant.  That is not an option for a first responder.  Remember the “semper.”

Being prepared means discipline.  That’s why followers of Jesus are called “disciples.”  That’s why the military and first responders are always training: improving their bodies, minds, and spirits to meet the enemy, or to perform tasks to save lives and property.  Always being faithful, prepared, and vigilant comes by making a commitment and keeping it.  The uniform is a reminder that we are not just like everyone else, but others are depending on us.  We are warriors.

And when I say “we” dear friends, I mean “we Christians.”  The uniform is not only my black shirt and vestments.  The uniform of the Christian is his or her baptismal garment.  You can’t see it, but it is there.  You have been baptized and received into the service of the Lord.  You have signed up for this warrior life when you took your vows, pledged your allegiance to the Holy Trinity and to the Church, when you renounced Satan, his works, and his ways.  You have accepted the burden of the “semper” in pursuit of the victory that has already been won by Christ at the cross.  You have been blessed to be a blessing to others.  You have been redeemed to see to it that others are redeemed. 

Warriors and first responders to not live the disciplined life of service for the money, dear friends.  They do it because it is just who they are.  It is their calling.  It is their duty.  But it is also their life.  It is their joy.  It’s who they are.  And the wise know what it means to be ready.  The foolish only weigh everyone else down and waste resources that could be used to save others.  We Christians are called to offer our lives to Him who offered His life for us. 

So as the days grow short, as the times become darker, as the moment of Christ’s return draws closer, let us be faithful, prepared, and vigilant.  Let’s have our reserves of oil stocked, our lamps trimmed, our guns loaded, our gear in its place, our planes maintained, our bodies, minds, and spirits ready to engage, our children well-catechized, our families praying and hearing the Word of God, and our church taken care of. 

Let us be ever-ready for the coming of the new heavens and the new earth, for “the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”  And “let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love.”  Let us be faithful, prepared, and vigilant – by God’s grace.  For He equips and outfits us for action. 

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us…. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”  Semper Christus.

Amen.

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

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Sermon: Wittenberg Academy – Oct 5

5 October 2021

Text: Matt 8:18-34

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Early in our reading, our Lord’s disciples are afraid that they will drown.  At the end of the reading, the demons enter into a herd of pigs who drown.  And this is a lesson on faith.

The disciples are in a boat, and when “there arose a great storm,” our Lord slept calmly through the turmoil.  The disciples “woke Him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’”  Our Lord calms the storm, puts everything aright, and asks the disciples, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”  The disciples are still trying to figure out who Jesus is: “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey Him?”  They still lack real knowledge of who Jesus is.

But the demons have no such deficit of knowledge of Jesus.  They know that He is there to “torment” them, knowing that the “time” of their destruction is coming.  Our Lord casts them out into a herd of pigs, and the pigs drown themselves.  Our Lord does not tell the demons that they have little faith.  For faith is not knowledge.  The demons have knowledge, but the disciples do not.  And yes, the disciples, in their fear, demonstrate a deficit of faith.  But the demons have no faith at all.  For faith is not merely believing in God, or even believing in Jesus.  Faith is believing the Word and promise of Jesus, that it applies to you.  That promise is forgiveness, reconciliation, communion with God, and everlasting life.

As James says, the demons believe – in the sense that they recognize Jesus – but they “shudder.”  To believe in the sense of faith means to not only know the facts, but to take them to heart, to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”  To have faith – the faith that saves – is to confess the truth of who Jesus is, and also to believe what He does!  And this faith often struggles against our senses and our reason – even as storms, literal and figurative, rage, as the world taunts, as the devil lies, and as our sinful nature betrays.  Through it all, faith clings to Christ, to His cross, to His word, and to His promise. 

And when the storms rage, even a little faith is by far greater than the sure knowledge and the kind of belief displayed by the demons.  Unlike the people of the town, let us not pray to Jesus to “Leave [our] region,” but rather, like the disciples of little faith, let us pray to Jesus to “Save us!”

Amen.

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

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Sermon: Trinity 18 - 2021

3 October 2021

Text: Matt 22:34-46

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

When Jesus was making His way about the countryside preaching, healing, casting out demons, and gathering disciples, there were two groups who were at one another’s throats: the liberals and the conservatives.

The liberals were called the Sadducees.  They were often temple priests.  They read the Scriptures, but didn’t really believe much of what was in them.  They didn’t believe in angels.  They didn’t believe in the afterlife.  They certainly didn’t believe in “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

Jesus told these liberals “You are wrong, because you neither know the Scriptures nor the power of God.”  He used the Word of God and reason to make them look foolish.

And so their rivals, the conservative Pharisees, “gathered together” after our Lord embarrassed the Sadducees.  They decided to take their shot at Jesus.  But the Pharisees, who did believe in angels and the afterlife, did not believe in God’s grace.  They had a made-up religion not based on Scripture, but rather on being rewarded for doing the rituals that they and their rabbis just made up.  Jesus went out of His way to ignore their artificial rules and to call them out for their hypocrisy.

Jesus did not side with either the liberal Sadducees or the conservative Pharisees.  Both of them were wrong, and both needed to hear the truth from Him who is “the way, the truth, and the life.”  Both were sinners in need of a Savior.

So when the Sadducees challenged Jesus, they did so based on the resurrection (that they denied).  When the Pharisees challenged Jesus, they did so based on the Law (that is, the Ten Commandments) – which they believed a man could keep and earn salvation for himself.  Of course, to pull this off, the Pharisees had to reinterpret the commandments in such a way so as to look like they were actually keeping it. 

And so when they heard that Jesus “had silenced the Sadducees,” they made their move and questioned Jesus about the Law.  In fact, one of them, a lawyer in fact, “asked Him a question to test Him.”  And when lawyers ask questions, they’re not really asking questions.

So the Pharisee lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  The lawyer probably had a refutation to throw at Jesus no matter what answer He gave.  But our Lord gave Him an answer that He didn’t expect.  He talked about love.

The greatest commandment of all is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Jesus quoted this from the Book of Deuteronomy.  And our Lord added, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  He quoted this from the Book of Leviticus.  Jesus is using the Books of Moses (that the Sadducees considered authoritative) to argue against the Pharisees, who themselves used tradition and the utterances of rabbis to argue their point.

And combining the two, that is, the command to love God and to love one’s neighbor, our Lord said, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” 

This was sheer genius.  For the Pharisees read the law in a loveless way, using the Ten Commandments to aggrandize themselves.  Jesus said that the point of the Ten Commandments is love – and love is directed outwardly.  So if you “love the Lord your God,” you will not have other gods before Him, misuse the name of the Lord your God, and you will indeed remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy – not just going through the motions like the loveless Pharisees.

And, dear friends, if you love your neighbor as yourself, you will honor your father and your mother, you won’t murder, or commit adultery, or steal.  You won’t give false testimony against your neighbor, covet your neighbor’s house, or covet your neighbor’s spouse or other people.  If you focus on love, you will keep the commandments.

And so our Lord has silenced both the liberal Sadducees and the conservative Pharisees, teaching both of them the truths that they deny.  And both groups were angry at Jesus, enough to conspire together – two hated enemies – who were willing even to collaborate with the hated Romans to ensnare Jesus, so that He could be silenced by being killed.

But once again, they are the ones who fell into the trap, for it was at the cross that our Lord purchased our resurrection denied by the Sadducees, and perfectly kept the Law unlike the hypocritical Pharisees who played lawyer’s games with words and only pretended to keep the Law. 

And Jesus did this all out of love.  He even died for every Sadducee and every Pharisee.

The Pharisees again fell into our Lord’s trap even as they tried to trap Him.  Our Lord asked them, “What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son is He?”  They knew the Scriptures well enough to answer correctly, “The Son of David.”  Unlike the liberal Sadducees, the conservative Pharisees did believe the Bible and its supernatural claims.  But our Lord makes the Pharisees ponder the mystery of the Messiah (and He does this as the very Messiah who is talking to them).  So now Jesus asks a question: since David refers to the Messiah as “Lord,” how can the Messiah be both David’s Son and David’s Lord?

The Pharisees were so wrapped up in using Scripture to justify themselves, to prop up their man-made religion, and to use the Bible as a weapon against their enemies, that they did not know how to apply the Scriptures to the Messiah.

And perhaps this is why they did not believe in Him, in spite of His miracles, His powerful preaching, and His fulfillment of prophecy.  They were blinded by their pride, and they could not see the Messiah with the very eyes of faith that Jesus longed to give them.

At any rate, the Pharisees were outsmarted.  But instead of humbly asking Jesus for an explanation, instead of praying for guidance, they, like the Sadducees, were simply silenced by Jesus.  They shut down.  For “from that day” nobody would “dare to ask Him any more questions.”

In fact, the Pharisees and the Sadducees plotted to silence Jesus, not by the Word of God and reason, but by a traitor, by lying witnesses, and by the brutality of the Roman cross. 

Even as our Lord taught them about love, they willingly perverted justice to torture an innocent man to death.  All the while the Pharisees boasted about how they kept the commandments, and the Sadducees boasted about how important they were to the now useless temple sacrifices.

Dear friends, let us know the Scriptures and let us know the power of God.  Let us know the love of Jesus by seeing in His life and ministry and death and resurrection the very things spoken of in the Old Testament – the Law and the Prophets. 

Let us be neither skeptical Sadducees nor hypocritical Pharisees.  Let us be humble and willing to learn.  Let us strive to love God and our neighbor – not for the praise of men, and not trying to impress God.  Let us love because we have first been loved: by the Triune God who created us, redeemed us, and called us, by the God who ransomed us by His blood, and who speaks to us even today in His Word.  Let us love our neighbors by telling them and showing them the love of Christ, who fulfills the Law and the Prophets by pure love, and whose love assures for us “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” 

Amen.

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

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Facebook and "Spam"

 

Zuckerberg and his neo-Nazi minions think we're stupid.  While running interference for his insect overlords, censors any posts at political odds with his masters.

But what's more, they come up with cockamamie cover stories. 

Take this link that I posted from a writer commenting on the well-known and documented change in policy in Norway regarding Covid.

It was removed by Facebook ostensibly - not because it was false information, dangerous, threatening, or even contrary to Facebook's political and social conventions - but because it was "spam."

How can a FB post on my own FB timeline be "spam."  "Spam" is when you send unwanted emails or posts to someone else's account.

There is no other conclusion to draw than the fact that Facebook is manned by political hacks and censors, but also blatant liars. seeking to suppress any truths that are inconvenient to their lords' and masters' agenda.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Sermon: Wittenberg Academy – Sept 28


Sermon: Wittenberg Academy – Sept 28

28 September 2021

Text: Matt 5:1-20

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The kingdom of God is counterintuitive.  Just look at the kinds of people the Lord says are “blessed”: the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the ones who lack righteousness (but desire it), the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted.  The world believes the exact opposite, desiring to be the opposite, and considering them to be the blessed ones: the rich, the happy, the strong, the ones who don’t care about righteousness, the ones who build themselves up, the winners who win by any means necessary, and the ones who do the persecuting; for it is better to be the hammer than the nail.

Our Lord’s hearers must have thought He was crazy.  Certainly there were people who did.  And they still do.

But listen carefully to our Lord’s words, dear friends.  Jesus is pointing out the brokenness of this world, but also the justice to come when the kingdom is fully realized.  The poor in spirit will inherit everything.  The mourners will be comforted.  The meek likewise become rich and powerful.  Those who seek after righteousness will receive their desire.  The merciful will be shown divine mercy.  The pure in heart will stand face to face with God.  The peacemakers will inherit the kingdom.  And those who are persecuted will receive justice and vindication, along with “the kingdom of heaven.”

Wrongs will be righted.  The oppressed will be made whole.  The ones who suffer will be comforted. 

And we believe this promise based on faith – that is, our confidence in the truthfulness of our Lord’s Words.  For His promises are true, and His Word is the truth.  This world is topsy-turvy, and Jesus has come to set it aright.  And so what the world believes is backwards.  They are the crazy ones.   Our Lord is the sane one.  And we can either receive His Word in faith, or dismiss it convinced that we know better than God Himself.

And so even in the midst of this “crooked and perverse generation,” even in the face of persecution, let us rejoice, dear brothers and sisters!  For we have the Word of God, the promise of Christ, and the hope of justice in the age to come!  Let us “rejoice and be glad” in this, our heartfelt belief, and let us invite others to join us in partaking of the hope of this Good News! 

Amen.

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

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Australian Resistance

Sermon: St. Michael and All Angels (transferred) - 2021

26 September 2021

Text: Rev 12:7-12

 In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

We don’t know a lot about the beginning of the war.

Most wars go on for a few years: maybe five, maybe thirty, maybe a hundred.  But this war has been going on for six thousand years.  One side has been beaten to the point of defeat, but refuses to surrender.  Its leader is mortally wounded, and the entire universe is waiting for the Victorious One to return and put an end to it once and for all.

This war is a rebellion.  For God created the universe, and gave life to the angels: non-material beings with a mind and a will.  But one angel refused to serve.  We know him as Lucifer (the angel of light who embraced the darkness), as Satan (“the accuser of our brothers”), the serpent, the dragon, the prince of this world, the devil.

And when God fashioned a material world and created mankind in His own image, Satan turned his attention to Adam and Eve, using Eve to get to Adam, deceiving her and allowing her to beguile her husband.  These first human beings were tricked into rebellion, and the world has been a mess ever since.

And although Satan has been conquered “by the blood of the Lamb,” we continue to feel the effects of our foolish rebellion: in our sinfulness, in the cruelty of the world, and most especially by the fact that we all die.  For this war has consequences and casualties.  We human beings have been caught in the merciless crossfire for six thousand years.

But when the war raged in heaven, the archangel Michael led his forces against the dragon and his forces.  What angelic warfare looks like, we don’t know.  But we do know that the “ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” was cast out of heaven and “thrown down to earth” with his evil angels (we call them demons today).  And as St. John points out, the heavens rejoice, “but woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short.”

We join the angels in this warfare, even here in earth.  And we resist the evil one when we push back against temptation, when we pray, when we hear Scripture read, when we arm ourselves by taking Holy Communion.  We do damage to the kingdom of evil when we hallow God’s name, when the kingdom comes among us, when we do God’s will here on earth as it is in heaven, when we thank God for daily bread, when we are forgiven and when we forgive, when we pray for deliverance from temptation and from the evil one himself.

Too often we forget that we are at war.  For live in the illusion that we are at peace.  We cannot see the devil.  We don’t typically see angels or demons.  We don’t hear gunfire or swords clashing.  We don’t hear the gallop of horses or the rumble of tanks.  For this is spiritual warfare.   But it is warfare just the same.  And the stakes are higher, dear friends.  For our eternal life hangs in the balance.

But thanks be to God that God Himself entered the fray: our Lord Jesus Christ.  He defeated the devil by deceiving the deceiver.  Satan’s strategy was to get Jesus to the cross – not realizing that this was God’s plan all along: His sacrificial death to pay for our sins by means of His blood, bearing our guilt so that we might bear His righteousness. 

For we who have been tormented and accused by Satan have joined in the Lord’s victory “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of [our] testimony.”  And we overcome death, dear friends, because we “love not our lives even unto death.”  Satan wished death upon us, but our willingness to die for the sake of truth, and our Lord’s willingness to die for the sake of our salvation because of His love – destroys both death and the one who wishes our death.

Satan did not count on our Lord’s death to atone for our sins, nor did he foresee the resurrection of Jesus: the enemy that he thought he had killed and conquered.  Now death has no dominion over our risen Lord.  And furthermore, dear friends, Satan did not foresee our resurrections to come.  For like the valley of dry bones that the prophet Ezekiel saw in his vision, we will all be restored to life, “an exceedingly great army.”  It is no accident that the Word of God describes these risen believers using military imagery.

We Christians are soldiers in this cosmic war.  While we are on this side of the grave, we are known as the church militant.  And as St. Paul says, our fight is not against flesh and blood.  We are part of this spiritual battle waging war “against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

For too often Christians and non-Christians alike completely miss the point of what it means to be a Christian.  We are engaged in battle.  We fight for our children and our parents, for our countrymen, and for our fellow Christians around the world, for people yet to be born, and for the honor of those who have gone before us.  We resist the work of the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion,” seeking someone to devour. 

But more importantly, our Lord fights for us.  And our Lord employs angels to defend us and fight by our side though we cannot see them.  We have no idea how many times disaster has been averted by these faithful unseen servants who do the Lord’s bidding.  How many times have we been saved from hell because an angel protected us? 

Let us give thanks to our victorious Lord, the conqueror of the devil, who has destroyed death and saved us from destruction, who commands legions of angels, including the holy archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the cherubim and seraphim, the watchers and the holy ones, the guardians of the children, and the messengers who bring Good News to mankind that our Lord has defeated the devil once and for all.

And when the war is finally ended, when peace comes never to be interrupted, when the dead in Christ are raised, when the new heaven and the new earth are brought to being – we will sing with the angels, praising God for all eternity: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come.”

Amen.

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

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Sermon: Wednesday of Trinity 16 - 2021

22 September 2021

Text: Luke 7:11-17

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

When our Lord “went to a town called Nain,” He encountered a funeral procession.  The deceased was lying in a kind of open casket called a “bier” and he was being carried to the grave.  His mother was burying her only son, and she was a widow.  Death took a heavy toll on her, leaving her all alone in this world.

Our Lord “had compassion on her” and said to her, “Do not weep.”

Notice that our Lord didn’t comfort her by saying that her son “was in a better place,” or that he was “in heaven with his father.” He didn’t console her with her memories, or with the fact that “he lives on in our hearts.”  He didn’t try to convince her that “heaven needed another angel” or any other such unchristian nonsense.  He didn’t tell her to look for stray pennies or cardinals, or that her son’s ghost was now soaring in the sky, or watching the weekly football game from the “best seats in the house.”

No indeed.  Jesus ordered the lifeless corpse to “arise.”  And then the unthinkable happened.  The body sucked air into its formerly lifeless lungs, and the boy’s spirit returned.  He “sat up and began to speak and Jesus gave him to his mother.”

This was a resurrection.

And this is what the Christian faith is all about, dear brothers and sisters.  We said it again in the Nicene  Creed: “I believe in… the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”  And between the words “life” and “everlasting,” we make the sign of the cross as a reminder that this is a promise given to us through Holy Baptism and won for us by the blood of our dear Lord shed upon the cross.  His death gives us life: not some kind of ghostly existence, but a bodily resurrection.  Like the one Jesus had on Easter Sunday.

Pagans believe in things like ridding oneself of the body and living as a spirit.  How sad that some Christians seem to think this is what our faith teaches, as if “It’s a Wonderful Life” were based on the Bible, or the old cartoons showing a person dying and then spouting wings and a halo were something taught by Jesus.

We have the promise of something far better.  Yes, dying and going to heaven will be wonderful, because we will be in the nearer presence of our Lord and of our loved ones who continue to wait for the return of Christ.  But what is yet to come is what we Christians truly await: “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”  Jesus goes to prepare a place for us.  There will be a new heaven and a new earth.  We will eat and drink and enjoy the physical existence of our loved ones, without aging, without aches and pains, without disease and infirmity, and without death.

The graves will be opened, and the dead in Christ will rise.  We will be judged not based on our own sins and imperfections, but by our Lord’s righteousness.  Our bones will be knit together, flesh and sinews will appear, and our breath will return – like Ezekiel’s army of dry bones, like the child whom Elijah raised from the dead by means of his prayers, and like the young man that our Lord raised from the dead by simply ordering it to happen.

How sad that many Christians do not understand or even know this, thinking that the Christian life is about trying to be good so that your spirit goes to heaven and not hell – instead of confessing what Scripture and the Creeds confess: a physical bodily resurrection based on the blood of Christ and the grace given to us when we were baptized, received by us through faith.  For just like these two resurrections in our readings, dear friends, the breath, that is to say, the spirit will be blown back into our flesh, and we will rise!

St. Paul blesses the Ephesian Christians with the prayer that God “may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being.”  In the Creed, we refer to the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, as “the Lord and giver of life.”  St. Paul also expresses the hope and the promise that we Christians “be filled with all the fullness of God.”

For considering the Word of God promised by the Father through the prophets, spoken by the Son (who is the Word Made Flesh), and breathed into us by the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life – how is it even possible for our bodies not to rise – even as we see in the historical examples of these two widows’ sons?

Our Lord did not rise spiritually, but bodily.  Our Lord doesn’t come to us spiritually in the Sacrament of the Altar, but bodily.  Our Lord did not make vague promises about the spirit of the widow’s son, but rather commanded the body to rise, and reunited this family broken by cruel death, which Jesus defeated and defanged.

We are not Pagans.  We do not learn our theology from movies or cartoons.  We do not comfort those who weep on account of death the way the unbelievers do.  Who cares about memories?  Who cares about floating around over the fifty yard line?  Who cares about myths about humans turning into angels?  When our loved ones die, we want them back: in the flesh.  When we face our own mortality, we want assurance that we will be restored to our bodily existence. 

And we have that promise, dear friends! 

That is why Jesus died, and why He rose.  That is why our Lord raised the widow’s son, the daughter of the synagogue ruler, and His friend Lazarus bodily from the dead.  He gave the widow back her son, He told the parents of the girl to give her something to eat, and He comforted Lazarus’s sister Martha who already confessed, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day,” to which our Lord replied, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet he shall live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

And our Lord asked Martha, “Do you believe this?”  And in the face of death, we confess the Creed with the church, and we confess our faith with St. Martha, saying, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”  We Christians live in full expectation that our Lord will awaken our loved ones and all of us from the slumber of death no differently than how we are awakened by the sun in the morning, our bodies refreshed, and the will of God calling us to rise and face a new day by His grace.

 This is why we Christians have sung these words of the beloved hymn for four centuries:


Teach me to live that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed. 
Teach me to die that so I may
Rise glorious at the awe-filled day.

Amen.

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Sermon: Wittenberg Academy – St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

21 September 2021

Text: 1 Tim 4:1-16

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

St. Matthew was formerly a despised tax collector for the Romans.  In an unlikely turn of events, our Lord called him to leave his tax booth and follow Him.  In time, Matthew would compile his Gospel, which has first place in the New Testament, whether because it was the first Gospel written, or because it was the Gospel of primary importance to the early church.

Nearly everything we know about Jesus comes from the Gospels, the divinely inspired “biographies” of our Lord: His words, deeds, narrative of His life, account of His death, and confession of His resurrection.  All of the churches accepted Matthew’s Gospel as true and inspired.

St. Paul instructs Timothy (and us) to “have nothing to do with irrelevant, silly myths.”  For we have the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, inspired by the Holy Spirit, confessing the truth of who Jesus is and what He does.  This proclamation has gone forth from the apostles and other pastors from age to age, and will continue until our Lord returns. 

One of St. Timothy’s pastoral duties is the “public reading of Scripture” – which is fitting for the ordained men, like Timothy, to do, along with “exhortation” and “preaching.”  For the pastor’s ordination is no empty ritual.  St. Paul reminds St. Timothy of his ordination, saying: “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you when the council of elders laid their hands on you.”  Elder in this case means pastors, as the Greek word is sometimes transliterated as “presbyters” in English.  To this day, pastors lay hands on other pastors at their pastoral  ordinations, giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to His disciples, authorizing them to forgive sins in His name.

And the pastoral office is one means by which God works to offer salvation to all who desire it: “Keep a close watch on yourself and the teaching.  Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 

By the ministry of Paul, Timothy, Matthew, the apostles, bishops, pastors, deacons, and other ministers of the church throughout the ages, through the laying on of hands and the divine calling of men to preach and teach, the Gospel is shared and eternal life is given as a free gift.  We thank God on this day especially for St. Matthew and his inspired Gospel which points us to Jesus, our Savior!

Amen.

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