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.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Meditation: Trinity 16 - 2021

 

Note: This meditation was read by Deacon Richard Iverson in my absence

19 September 2021

Text: Luke 7:11-17

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

During the course of our Lord’s ministry, He performed many miracles.  He changed water into wine, showing his mastery over nature.  He cured people of diseases, like leprosy and dropsy, showing that He is Lord over the illnesses of the flesh.  He cast out demons, showing His dominion over the spiritual realm.  He restored sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, showing His mastery over bodily disorders.

But His most remarkable miracles – the ones that His enemies were most frightened of – involved raising the dead.  For this shows that Jesus is God, with the power to give life even to the dead.  And since the fall in Eden, death has been our unconquerable enemy.  Death comes to everyone.  Even kings and emperors have no power to stave it off forever.  Doctors and medical researchers, technology and advanced medicine can only temporarily push it back a little.

But Jesus can, and does, actually cure it, roll it back, and defeat it.  Our Lord disarms death, and He conquers death by dying for us, eliminating the cause of death, which is sin.

In the town called Nain, our Lord catches a glimpse of a funeral procession.  The deceased was “the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.”  Jesus “had compassion on her.”  And with nothing more than His command: “Young man, I say to you, arise,” life is breathed back into the widow’s son.  He sits up, and begins to speak.

This is how Jesus ruins funerals.  This is how our Lord shows contempt for the devil and expresses His mastery over the wreckage of sin, and over all life itself.  And while the witnesses to this miracle were filled with fear, they nevertheless glorify God.  One can only imagine the joy of this mother, thanks to the compassion and the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, the victor over death and the grave. 

And this miracle is not just for this young man and his widowed mother.  For the promise is for all of us who believe and are baptized.  The last part of the Creed reads like this: “I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

We can confess this creed, saying, “I believe,” because indeed, “God has visited His people!”

Amen.

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Sermon: Wittenberg Academy – Holy Cross

14 September 2021

Text: Col 1:24-2:7

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Today is Holy Cross Day, one of the oldest feasts of the church.  It dates back to the fourth century when St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, went looking for a relic of the cross of Jesus, and was searching for the location of the crucifixion.  Constantine ordered a church to be built on the site.  And it is fitting, for what greater glory emanates from Golgotha than the true body and blood of Christ at the altar, the sacrificial Lamb Himself, being made manifest for us Christians and given to us to eat and to drink for our salvation?

St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, mentions “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to the saints.”  He also refers to this mystery as “the Word of God fully known.”  And this Word is Christ incarnate, dear friends.  But not merely Jesus in the flesh, but in His sacrificial flesh, offered for the life of the world! 

St. Paul also refers to “how great a struggle” that he endures in his ministry.  And indeed, all Christians in their vocations struggle in their Christian faith and life.  It is part and parcel of being a disciple.  For our Lord was blunt about it: to be a Christian is to bear the cross, to take up that cross, and to follow Him: the Crucified One.

The cross is the beating heart of our faith.  It is the intersection of the vertical and the horizontal, a symbol of man’s inhumanity and cruelty, of sin and death – but also the symbol of God’s love for us poor, miserable sinners, and His atoning sacrifice for His fallen creation – all by grace without any merit in us.  The cross is the site of the cosmic transaction, that “happy exchange” in which our sin was traded for His righteousness.  The cross is why the Friday before Easter is “good,” and why Easter Sunday was possible.  The cross is the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, when God told the devil that the Seed of the woman would crush his head.

And so let us joyfully take up our crosses, dear friends, knowing that in Christ, our burdens are light, and it is a labor of love to take what little we can upon our own shoulders for the sake of obedience and gratitude to our Lord, and in love for our neighbor. 

Let us continue to glory in the cross, joining with the poet who confessed:

 Faithful cross, true sign of triumph,
Be for all the noblest tree;
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thine equal be;
Symbol of the world’s redemption,
For the weight that hung on thee!

Amen.

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

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sermon: Trinity 15 - 2021


12 September 2021

Text: Matt 6:24-34

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord, in His Sermon on the Mount, links two things together: loving money, and worrying.

First, He warns us: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.”

And it’s very easy to assume that Jesus means “somebody else” needs to hear this lesson, certainly not us.  For we are not wealthy.  Surely, this advice is for Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, the people who are rich, who can light cigars with hundred dollar bills just for the fun of it.  We might think of Ebenezer Scrooge, who loved his money and hated his fellow man.  We might even assume that someone who is rich must love his money and therefore cannot serve God.

But our Lord takes this warning in a surprising direction.

He immediately says that we must not “be anxious about [our] life, what [we] will eat or what [we] will drink, nor about [our] body, what [we] will put on.”

Our Lord equates serving money with anxiety.  But who doesn’t have anxiety from time to time?  Doctors prescribe medication for it.  Some people have anxiety attacks.  Many of us have sleepless nights worrying about our family, our friends, our health, our career, and yes, money.  We worry about how we will pay for things.  We worry about our children’s future.  We worry about whether or not we will see inflation, or a collapse in the government, or war, or more pandemics.  We are anxious about many things, indeed.  And our Lord gently, but firmly, calls us to live instead by faith. 

But what does any of this have to do with serving money?

Well, we worry about food and clothing and drink, and shelter and career and investments – because it is our fallen nature to put our faith in such things.  Indeed, we want to be wise, and so we should.  We do well to think how to manage our money and be good stewards.  We should indeed plan and invest and save.  We ought to raise our children to do the same.  But when anxiety creeps in, it doesn’t indicate a money problem, but rather a faith problem.  This is why our Lord scolds us – though gently – by calling us “you of little faith.”

But our Lord doesn’t call us to blind faith.  He gives us examples to comfort us, to ease our anxiety, to lead us gently to where we can trust in Him instead of being crippled by worry.  “Look at the birds of the air,” says our Lord.  “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of much more value than they?”

How often we forget that God is our Creator, and He is also the One who sustains the ongoing life in this world according to His will and His mercy – and most of all, according to His love.

It is the Lord’s nature to provide for us – both naturally and supernaturally, in ways that make logical sense and in ways that can only be explained by divine providence.  And so faith gives us the ability to take a deep breath, to pray, and to carry on believing that the Lord God, the Creator of the universe, has not forgotten us nor forsaken us.  He certainly has things under control much more than we of little faith. 

And when we forget, let us look to the evidence all around us, things like birds.  For even nature itself is under our Lord’s care.  And as Jesus asks rhetorically, are you not of more value than they?  For you have been created in the image of God.  Our Lord took human form, not that of a bird.  And our Lord Jesus Christ died for you, forgave your sins, and gave you the free gift of everlasting life.  In His providence, He brought you to the baptismal font.  And He has brought you hear today, dear friends, to hear this specific Word.  This moment has been part of His plan before the foundation of the world.  He has it all under control.

And what good does worry do anyway?  Does it make you live even an hour longer? 

Our Lord also cautions us against getting too worked up about material possessions.  For “consider the lilies of the field,” says our Lord, “how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  In other words, look at the flowers.  God created them and they have been reproducing for thousands of years according to God’s plan, giving us beauty and color.  Not even the richest kings and barons of corporations are decked out as well as what you see in nature.  And these are just plants, dear friends, alive today, and tossed in the garbage tomorrow.

But you are of infinitely more value.  For God created you to live forever.  That’s why it was His will that you were baptized, why you are here to hear the Word of God, and why you were brought to this altar where the body and blood of Jesus are given to us as a free gift. 

So who is worth more?  The beautiful flowers, or each and every human being for whom Christ died?  For God clothes you with more than colorful petals or beautifully tailored clothing.  For Jesus arrays you with the robe of His righteousness, covering your sins, and welcoming you to eternal glory.

Yes, God has this all worked out.  It is all covered.  And no matter what happens in this fallen world, Jesus has already called you by name, already died in your place, already baptized you and promised that even in death, you will rise again in the flesh to live forever. 

And so our Lord encourages us not to be anxious, not to ask where the food and drink will come from, and where we get money to buy clothing and other necessities of life.  Our Lord says that it’s the unbelievers – like the worshippers of money instead of the disciples of Jesus – who “seek after all these things.”

For remember, “your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

Therefore, we Christians are to make our Christian life the highest priority, trusting that God will provide for us: “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  The Christian life is by grace.  So the things we need are not attributable to our own money, but rather are seen as gifts from the God who loves us.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” 

Amen.

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

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Sermon: Wittenberg Academy – Sept 7

7 September 2021

Text: Eph 6:1-24

 In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

 Dear friends, welcome to a new school year.  It is fitting that our Lord chose for us to open our year by reflecting on vocation, that is, upon our various callings.  St. Paul reminds us of our joyful obligations within family, society, and church. 

 In the family, the apostle exhorts us to be obedient as children, to honor our parents, and as fathers not to provoke our children to anger, but to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  In Society, St. Paul calls to mind our obligation to “obey [our] earthly masters as though we were “rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man.”  He also reminds masters not to threaten, for we are all servants of the Lord.

 And it is in our vocation as Christians that St. Paul calls us to the life of the warrior, the soldier.  And while the world espouses a twisted view of gender, Scripture does indeed teach a metaphorical gender that transcends biological sex.  For the Christian is part of the Church, and the Church is feminine: for she is the bride of Christ, obedient to her Lord, even as the Lord gives up everything for the sake of His bride.  But as individual baptized Christians, there is a masculine gender, as we are all “sons” – that is, heirs.  And we are also militant.  All Christians, men, women, boys, and girls are on the front lines of, in the words of the ancient Easter hymn: “that combat stupendous.”

 And so the apostle encourages us to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”  St. Paul teaches us that this struggle is not “against flesh and blood,” but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

We Christians are equipped with the “belt of truth,” the “breastplate of righteousness,” the shoes of the “readiness of the gospel of peace.”  We “take up the shield of faith,” the “helmet of salvation,” and the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

 And as we stand at our post, dear friends, we pray “at all times.”  And in so doing, we “keep alert.”  And this is all by God’s grace, for in Holy Baptism and in the Gospel, we are equipped for battle.  Let us begin this school year with God-given zeal for our vocations: in family, in society, and in the kingdom of God.  Let us be the joyful warriors that our Lord has called into divine service. And may the cross ever be before our eyes.  And as St. Paul greets us, let us receive the blessing: “Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Amen.

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

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Sermon: Trinity 14 - 2021



5 September 2021

Text: Luke 17:11-19

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Gospel reading is about one grateful man and nine ungrateful men. 

Gratitude is a big part of the Christian life.  We are grateful when someone has shown us a grace.  In fact, the words “grateful” and “grace” are related.  Grace is an undeserved kindness, a gift.  And the proper response to receiving a gift is gratitude. 

We are grateful because we recognize that someone has done something for us, something that was not obligatory, something that benefits us.  Our Gospel involves ten men who received grace from Jesus in the form of a miraculous healing.  For these ten men were “lepers” who sought our Jesus “from a distance.”  They kept their distance because their disease, called “leprosy,” was not only disfiguring and fatal, it was contagious.  And so lepers were shunned by society and forced to live as outcasts.

These ten lepers were not only gravely ill, they were probably poor beggars as well.  They were feared by everyone.  And leprosy had no medical treatment or cure.  It was painful, progressive, and fatal.

So imagine these ten lepers praying to Jesus in desperation, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  Jesus not only cures them, he gives them instructions as to how to be rehabilitated and restored to society.  “And as they went, they were cleansed.”  Can you just imagine?  This was a miracle, a new start in life given by nothing more than the Word of Jesus, which is, the Word of God.  In the blink of an eye, their lives changed for the better.  Not only were they cured, but they could go back home again, to be accepted and treated like everyone else.

Sadly, only one of the ten demonstrated gratitude, “when he saw that he was healed.”  Instead of going on his way without so much as a “thank you, Jesus,” like the others, this man, who incidentally was a Samaritan, that is, a hated foreigner, actually “turned back, praising God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks.”

“Giving Him thanks,” dear brothers and sisters.  The others left, but this Samaritan man came to Jesus, fell before Him in worship, and gave thanks.

This is the Christian life, dear friends.  Jesus also heals us – from the leprosy of sin and the death to which it leads.  Sin disfigures us and makes us ugly.  It causes us pain, and ultimately eats us up from the inside out.  Sin kills us and drags us to hell.  And so this is why we poor miserable sinners lift up our voices in the liturgy: “Lord, have mercy upon us.  Christ, have mercy upon us.  Lord, have mercy upon us.”  And Jesus hears our prayer, and He cleanses us with the water of Holy Baptism, and with His blood shed on the cross and given to us with His very body to eat and to drink.

And so we are like the ten lepers made whole by the Word of Jesus, which is, the Word of God.  But how often we take the Word of God for granted.  We act like we are entitled.  We don’t thank God for His mercy.  Instead, we seek out other things rather than God’s Word.  Instead of turning back to Jesus, we look to everything and everyone else to make us happy.  It might be money, entertainment, comfort, status, drugs, sexuality, popularity, or a thousand forms of idolatry.  We choose all sorts of things over the Word of God, not giving a thought to be grateful.  In fact, we can fall so far from grace that we may go weeks or months without ever lifting up our voices, saying, “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.”  Too often, we live like the nine instead of the one.

We have come today to this holy house to offer the sacrifice of praise to the one who has healed us by His Word.  For we have received grace: undeserved kindness from God Himself.  We gather here as baptized children of God, bearing His promise.  We come as people who have survived a horrific storm, and who are now faced with the challenges of the aftermath.  We should have learned to be grateful for good weather, commerce, food, water, and shelter, community, friends, family, people who love us, volunteers, those who provide for us in our time of need.  We should be grateful for electricity, air conditioning, telephones, and a host of other technologies that we take for granted every day.

We should be grateful that the Lord preserved our sanctuary from damage, and that he has provided people to come to our aid regarding the other parts of our property that were damaged.  We should be grateful to our district president and to those who serve in various relief agencies, those who serve in vocations that protect us and bring relief where needed.  We should be grateful for those who labor through the night to provide, restore, and maintain electrical power for us.

Indeed, we have much to be grateful for.  And of course, most of all, we are grateful for our Lord’s suffering and death by which we are redeemed and healed of the leprosy of sin and death. 

And one of the beautiful things about gratitude is that is takes our attention off of ourselves.  For ingratitude is a function of self-absorption, of thinking the whole world revolves around us.  Gratitude empowers us to serve others and not demand that others serve us.  Gratitude opens the heart, mind, and soul to the blessings that God offers to us, and also to be a blessing to others through whom God works.  Gratitude means recognizing the grace shown to us, acknowledging that it is unearned, and then receiving it with joy, giving thanks to Him for this mercy shown to us, mercy that we do not deserve.

We thank God by being here to sing praise to His name.  We thank God by serving our neighbor.  We thank God by giving back what He has first given us.  We thank God by acknowledging our sins and forgiving the sins of others.  We thank God by reading and hearing and meditating upon His Word. 

We thank God by confessing this truth from the Word of God, that is, the words of Jesus, saying, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Amen.

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