Prayer for the Church in a Congregational Meeting

November 16, 2014 Leave a comment
  1. Prayer for the Church in a Congregational Meeting

(Israel’s Comfort and Joy, 1660)

 

Lord and God, indeed the number of Your saints has declined, and Your believers have become few on earth. It is to be feared that the godly might become so few that everywhere the godless will abound. Therefore up! Rouse Yourself, and help Your poor and miserable ones, that we, who now are sighing to You, may not be totally destroyed.

 

Let Your divine truth be confidently taught and confessed without hypocrisy before men. Spread Your Word, which is pure as refined and tested silver, far and wide. Protect us from the evil generation which professes and pushes unprofitable things, or would otherwise not allow religion to be a serious thing among us. Increase the little flock, that it stand firm against the great crowd of the godless and all the gates of hell might do nothing against it, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

According to what they have done–Second Last Sunday of the Church Year, 2014

November 16, 2014 1 comment

Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year (Trinity 26)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 25:31-46

November 16, 2014

“According to what they have done”

Iesu iuva

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

This Gospel tells about judgment day.

 

It tells us that Jesus will come again. And when He comes He will not appear with His glory and splendor hidden. He will come in the fullness of His divine splendor, majesty, and power.

 

Heaven and earth will flee from His presence (Revelation 20?). All the holy angels will be with Him as His entourage and He will take His seat on the majestic throne of God as the world’s king, ruler, and judge.

 

All the world, every person, great and small, from every nation to the end of the earth, will rise from their graves and come to stand before Jesus the King. And be judged.

 

We should remember this when we speak God’s Word. We are often timid, afraid of people’ s reaction if we say something in Christ’s name that offends them. But we should remember that every person on earth will have to give an account to Jesus on His glorious throne. We should not be afraid or ashamed of the words of this great king.

 

Scripture then says that Jesus, sitting on the throne of God, will separate the people from each other like a shepherd separating sheep from goats.

 

The world will be divided. On the right hand of Jesus will be those who inherit God’s kingdom and eternal life. At Jesus’ left hand will stand those who are to be cast out from His presence into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

 

And how will Jesus make this separation between the righteous and the wicked, the blessed and the cursed?

 

Will He separate people by age, sex, race, income, political orientation, musical preference?

 

No. He will divide them according to what they have done.

+++

 

The more you have been to this church and heard the word here, the stranger this will seem to you.

 

Because we are always saying that God counts a person righteous by faith in Jesus, without works.

 

But Jesus clearly says here that He will separate the sheep from the goats according to what they have done.

 

And this is something the bible teaches repeatedly, not just here.

 

In the 16th chapter of Matthew, Jesus says, “The Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matt. 16:27)

 

In John chapter 5, Jesus says: “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

 

The apostle Peter says: “If you call on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” (1 Peter 1:17)

 

And Paul writes in Romans chapter 2: “God will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, there will be wrath and fury.” (Romans 2:6-8)

 

On the last day Jesus will judge according to what we have done.

 

Does this cause you anxiety? It should.

 

“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’”

 

And then the goats will say, “Lord, when did we ever see you in need and not help you?” And the great and exalted king will say, “Whatever you didn’t do for the least of these my brothers, you didn’t do for me.”

 

So how about it? Have there ever been any sick Christians you could have visited, but didn’t? Any hungry or thirsty Christians you could have relieved, but didn’t? Any Christians in prison you could have visited or written a letter, but didn’t?

 

Who knows how many there have been who were Christians and needed help from us, but we never acquainted ourselves with their needs.

 

There are plenty of Christians suffering in prisons across the world, but few Christians who make the effort to find them and care for them.

 

There is no shortage of missionaries, pastors, and teachers to support. But we hardly provide for our own congregation’s needs for pastoral care and Christian education, much less for mission outside of our congregation.

 

But there are needy Christians who it costs nothing to show mercy. Sick, hospitalized, homebound members who need phone calls, prayers, an occasional visit, a card.

 

I remember one time a new member was surprised that so few members of the congregation attended the funeral of a certain member who had died. She had grown up in a congregation where everyone came to any member’s funeral. It was a way of showing love and compassion within the body of Christ.

 

What is the point of bringing these things up? Not to tell you you are not doing enough, but to ask the question: Can it really be that we have always been there for the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, even for the least of them? Or have we lacked compassion at times, neglected our brothers?

 

But even if it were only an occasional negligence, Jesus the great King says, “Whatever you didn’t do for the least of these my brothers, you didn’t do for me.”

 

How many times would you like to remember on judgment day that you saw Jesus hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, or in prison, and you did nothing for Him?

 

But surely, if we are to be judged by what we have done, Jesus will have to say that about us.

 

Surely if we turned away from Jesus only once that would be enough to condemn us.

 

But it hasn’t been only once. We are self-seeking. Our own happiness is so often our chief concern, not the glory of God and the needs of our neighbor. When we are focused on our own happiness we can’t help but often be ignorant of what our neighbor needs.

 

And in ignoring the needs of other Christians, Jesus says we ignore Him. We leave Him hungry, naked, alone, sick, or in prison, and do not feed Him, clothe Him, take Him in.

 

+++

But about those on His right hand, Jesus doesn’t say these things. He doesn’t say they have neglected Him. It is as if the sheep always cared for Him, always ministered to Him when He was in need.

 

Who are these people, whose works show them to be righteous in the eyes of the judge?

 

They are the heirs of God’s kingdom, the sons of God. And they are heirs because they have always done what is righteous in the eyes of Jesus.

 

They have done righteousness by faith.

 

Scripture says, “If the inheritance comes by the law, then it no longer comes by a promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.” (Galatians 3:17)

 

And in Romans 4:13: “The promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.”

 

Those who inherit the kingdom of God inherit it because they believe the promise that God gave to Abraham. God promised him that he would have an offspring in which all the nations on earth would be blessed and saved from the curse of eternal fire.

 

Abraham believed God, and Scripture says, “God counted it to him for righteousness.” That meant God accounted Abraham as having done good, nothing but good. Why did God count Abraham as having done nothing but good? He counted Abraham’s faith in the coming offspring as righteousness. Abraham believed God that his offspring, Jesus,would accomplish righteousness for all the nations on earth.

 

And Jesus, the coming King, has done this. He took upon Himself our transgressions against God, our failures to love our neighbor, our failure to love God. Jesus cleared away the record of our transgressions against God when He suffered the wrath of God and was forsaken for us on the cross. In its place He put the record of His righteousness. Jesus’ work ahs made it so that the human race stands before God as having fulfilled His righteous requirements.

 

By faith this record of righteousness becomes ours. By faith in Christ we are Jesus’ brothers. We are co-heirs with Him of God’s Kingdom; we are sons of God together with Him.

 

Because of what Christ did in the days of His humility on earth, God says about you and I who have turned our hearts from Him and our neighbor—“You are righteous. You have always done what is right. When I was hungry, you fed me, when I was thirsty, you gave me a drink. When I was naked, you clothed me. I was sick and in prison and you visited me. Always.”

 

God is not lying. Jesus says that what is done to the least of His brothers is done to Him. That is because Jesus has made Himself one flesh with us. Whoever does not believe in Jesus remains separate from Him and has his own works, his own guilt, his own death, and his own hell.

 

But whoever believes in Christ is one flesh with Him. He is a member of His body. And so Christ’s righteousness and holiness is yours, you who believe in Christ. His death for your sins is yours. His resurrection and life is yours. And His kingdom is yours. In Christ, all things are yours.

 

And those things that were ours in the flesh—our failure to show love, our denials of Jesus—those things are Christ’s. And He has put them away forever in the tomb. They have disappeared in His resurrection.

 

That’s why Jesus doesn’t mention the failures and sins of the sheep on judgment day. There will be no reading of your sins before the universe on the day of judgment. That is because they are gone. You don’t have them anymore. They are not remembered. They no longer exist. All that is remembered is Jesus’ blood. All that is remembered is His righteousness.

 

The only works that exist for the sheep on the day of judgment is the good works Christ does in them—to show mercy to the needy members of His body.

 

Now, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you are sorry for your sins and want to be free of them. You believe that Jesus suffered for your sins on the cross. Then you are a member of His body. All His is yours—His righteousness, His kingdom. Whatever mercy someone shows you, they are really showing to Jesus, so closely does Jesus unite Himself to us.

 

+++

 

See how highly Jesus esteems Christians? Let us esteem them this way also, as members of Christ’s own holy body.

 

The world does not regard Christians very highly, and neither even do we when we go by our reason and intellect. We don’t see any great glory attending the congregation of Christ.

 

What we see is weakness and poverty. Sometimes it is physical sickness and infirmity. But besides this there is often spiritual weakness and sickness in the members of Christ’s body. Sometimes they appear so sick and weak that it’s hard to see how they are united to Christ at all.

 

But how highly Christ exalts the ones who believe in Him! When He comes in glory, He says, “Whatever you did to the least of these brothers of mine you did to me.” He says this as He sits on the throne of His majesty, judging the earth. He says this knowing what weakness and infirmity is. Because He was also covered with weakness, pain, unsightly bruises and wounds in His passion. Spit and blood covered His face. Accusations and mockery smeared His reputation. Agony and spiritual torment engulfed His soul.

 

By this pain, weakness, and shame, He makes us stand before the judgment throne as those who have done nothing but good.

 

There is of course no way to pay back such goodness from our Lord. We cannot even begin to pay it.

 

But Jesus wants you to receive this gift of mercy from Him, and having received it, to be merciful to His weak and sick and suffering members. To look for ways of relieving their suffering as He was so zealous to relieve yours.

 

Jesus has made you who believe and are baptized members of His own body. He ministers to His body and cares for it. And as members of the body of Christ we minister to one another and mutually build one another up in Him. Joining with Jesus in caring for His body is part of the joy of His kingdom.

 

The peace of God, that passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Holding on to the Kingdom and Losing the World. 3rd Last Sunday of the Church Year 2014

November 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Third-Last Sunday of the Church Year (Trinity 25)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 24:14-28

November 9, 2014

“Holding on to the Kingdom and Losing the World”

 

Iesu iuva!

 

Beloved in Christ,

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The Gospel reading for today is preaching about what you hold on to, what you cling to. You can try to hold on to the things you already have in this world, and things will be easier for you—for a time.  But then they will suddenly be taken away, just like the temple was taken away from the Jews.

 

Or you can hold on to the Gospel. If you do that you will experience tribulation for a little while.  But you will have an eternal kingdom that can’t be taken away.  It is yours now during the tribulation and forever.

 

At the beginning of this Gospel, our Lord says, “This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world.” The Gospel of the Kingdom was what Jesus had been preaching for three years among the Jews.  He was saying that God’s kingdom had arrived on earth.  Soon the time would come when all sin and all sinners would be cast out of it and all that would be left would be the true God living among His people in righteousness, peace, joy.  But the kingdom was here now.  All that was necessary to be part of it was to believe the message.  That meant repenting of everything you had been and done up until then, and be baptized.  Then you were part of God’s kingdom on earth and would share its joy and glory when the kingdom was revealed.

 

You would think that everyone would have accepted this message with joy, especially with all the mighty wonders and signs that Jesus did as witnesses to His message. But as you know, the leaders of the Jews did not accept it?  Why?  Because they wanted to hang on to what they thought they already had.

 

The leaders of the Jews thought that they didn’t need to repent. They thought they were already prepared for God’s kingdom to come, they were already holy people.  They had God’s temple where He dwelt among them.  They kept up the services of His house, bringing the offerings at the appointed times.  And they strove to keep God’s law.

 

But Jesus, in preaching the good news of the kingdom, said, “No, no one is righteous.” He didn’t criticize the Jews for keeping the laws of God outwardly, but He said that it wasn’t enough.  It is necessary to be completely righteous to enter God’s kingdom.  A person’s inward heart, thoughts, and desires must also be clean.  And this was the righteousness God was giving in Baptism—the forgiveness of sins, so that even though one still had an unclean heart, his uncleanness was not counted to Him.  It was the same righteousness Jesus offered to the tax collectors and to the priests, to the harlots and to the teachers of the law.

 

Jesus knows that the Jews have already rejected Him in their hearts, hardening themselves against Him. It’s only a matter of time before they act out the thoughts of their hearts by putting Him to death.  They have rejected God’s righteousness and insisted on their own.  That’s why in the chapter just before this Jesus said, “You sons of the devil, how can you escape being condemned to hell?”  That’s not just harsh language on the part of Jesus.  That’s the truth of the matter.  When the Jews, or the world in our day, rejects the Gospel of the Kingdom, rejects Jesus as King and the righteousness He gives, wanting to hold on to the things they have in the world, they are acting out the will of the evil one.  When someone rejects Christ, he is a son of the devil and doing the devil’s wicked work.  That’s true even if he lives a moral life, even a religious life.

 

Jesus also knew that God would not stand idly by when the Jews rejected Jesus and God’s Kingdom and put His son to death. He would certainly pour out His wrath and punish them in His fury for this wickedness.  That’s why He told His disciples that the temple would be torn down—not one stone left on another.

 

That’s true today too. God punishes in this life for sin.  But if God is angry because of sexual immorality or greed or murder and will punish for those—and He does and will—it is nothing compared to His wrath when people refuse to listen to the word about His Son.

 

Jesus’ prophecy came true. About forty years after His crucifixion, the Romans came in and ravaged the whole land of Judea.  An ancient historian tells us that in the three months Jerusalem was besieged, one million, one hundred thousand Jews died—of starvation, plague, being cut down by soldiers, who showed no mercy.  The temple was set on fire and its golden adornments were taken away to Rome as spoils.  Hundreds of thousands more died in other battles.  Thousands were sold into slavery.  It was a time of great tribulation for the Jews, the likes of which the world has never seen.  Even in the Holocaust, so many were not killed in so short a span of time.

 

All this came from the Jews’ wanting to hold on to what they thought they had and not holding on to the kingdom of God.

 

Jesus said, “This Gospel of the Kingdom must be preached throughout the whole world as a witness to the Gentiles.” And this has happened.  Today Jesus preaches the Gospel of the Kingdom and says not only that the Kingdom has arrived but shows how it has come.

 

It has come in Jesus.

 

Today He proclaims that God’s kingdom and righteousness appeared and arrived on earth in His birth as He lived under the law and fulfilled it for sinners. He proclaims that He established righteousness for all who believe in His death on the cross.  Because as the Jews handed Jesus over to Pilate and his soldiers to be beaten, mocked, and crucified, the Father ordained that Jesus, the Son of God, should bear His wrath and fury against sin.  So it was not that Jesus was being killed by His enemies.  He was willingly, together with His Father, making His life the sacrifice that would establish the kingdom of God, that would provide the forgiveness of our sins and enable us, who are still sinners, to live in the kingdom of God.

 

And the Gospel of the kingdom proclaims more. It tells us that God raised up Jesus from the dead and seated Him at His right hand to reign.  He has shown in His resurrection that He is the king of kings, who has an everlasting kingdom that cannot be shaken or perish.  And He has shown in His resurrection that hIs suffering and death is the payment, accepted by God, that allows us to be washed of our sins in Baptism and enter the kingdom of God, participating in the reign and kingdom of Jesus through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

Finally, the Gospel of the Kingdom that has been proclaimed to every nation declares that this Jesus who suffered and died in weakness on the cross will come again with power and glory to judge the living and the dead and to glorify those who have held on to the good news of His kingdom.

 

We have been placed into this kingdom that is going to be revealed in the last time through no doing of our own. God placed you into the kingdom of Christ through proclaiming the good news of Jesus as our Savior-King and having you baptized into Him.  He has kept you in His kingdom through preaching the gospel of Jesus the king and savior of sinners into your ears.  No preparation and no works got us in.  We were dead in our trespasses and sins, with unclean hearts—even if our lives on the outside were upright and moral.  And He transferred us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son through faith in this king and Savior alone.

 

So you who are baptized in your king Jesus do not have to fear that God your Father is storing up wrath for you, like He does for those who reject His Son. Your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.

 

But here is where the tribulation sets in for us. Believing in Jesus and holding on to His kingdom means losing and letting go of other things pertaining to this life.  When we hold on to the Gospel, we hold on to Jesus, and we have His eternal kingdom, even though we don’t see it.  But as we hold onto Jesus, god through various trials makes us lose the things of this life.  Sometimes it’s through persecution, and then we lose honor and reputation, maybe even wealth for not denying Christ.  Other times it is through calamities that happen to us—the loss of loved ones.  The loss of our possesions through accident.  The loss of jobs.  Financial hardship.  Sickness or ongoing health problems.  Gradually all of us are losing our most precious possession in this world—our body and life.  We are getting older and every year closer to leaving this world.

 

None of these things can change the fact that you have Christ’s eternal kingdom. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall fire, or tribulation, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long.  We are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us…For I am persuaded that neither life nor death..nor things present nor things to come..nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  So says St. Paul in Romans 8.  If we have Christ our Savior and King, nothing can separate us from His kingdom and from Him—no tragedy, no hardship, no loss.  We can lose earthly things—even our lives—and we are still more than conquerors.  Or as we sing around this time of the year:

 

And take they our life,

Goods, fame, child, and wife

Though these all be gone

Our victory has been won

The Kingdom ours remaineth.

 

But the tribulation for us is that we are tempted to turn back. Either to refuse to let go the things that we think we have in this world, or to turn to false messiahs and false prophets who claim that we did not believe in the right king, and they will show us another who will really provide salvation.

 

Yes, pay attention to this—we think when we are suffering and we lose things in this life, when we suffer tragedy, calamity, tribulation—we are tempted then to think that we must not really have Christ and His kingdom either.

 

That’s why Jesus so urgently warned His disciples not to be deceived by false prophets and false Christ, even though they might work great miracles.

 

The same temptation is there for you and me. We aren’t, it’s true, seeing our city burned to the ground, and a million people killed in the space of a few months.

 

Yet we live in the last times. The love of most has grown cold.  Most of our society has rejected the good news of the kingdom of God.  Churches are closing up.  There are only the beginnings of anything like persecution of Christians in our country, yet we feel the rising antagonism of many toward the church.

 

We can only expect things to get worse as rejection of the Gospel results in God’s punishment.

 

But already many of us feel taxed, tired, weary, wondering how much more God thinks we are able to bear.

 

This is when the tribulation comes—the temptation to look to a different Christ or a different Gospel.

 

Many have already done that. They looked at the difficulties and weaknesses we experienced at St. Peter and they went and joined a church with a different doctrine.

 

Or pressures inside the church or in their own lives drove them to just top coming to hear Jesus and receive Him in the sacrament of His body and blood.

 

But even when we are still here, haven’t we often grown weary or susceptible to voices that are not Christ’s because we have not been willing to flee this world and lose things on earth in order to hang on to the kingdom of God, which is given to us in the Gospel of Christ?

 

Let us return to our king and savior, who does not reject us for our unbelief, unfaithfulness, for the hardness of our heart. He tells us, “Don’t be deceived by false Christs.  When the Son of Man appears it will be like the lightning that starts at one end of the sky and lightens all the way to the other side.”

 

Our Lord Jesus’ appearing in glory will be glorious, majestic. There will be no question about who the true Christ is then.  Every 3eye will see Him.  Every tongue will confess Him Lord.  Every knee will bow to Him, even those who had rejected Him.

 

But then our Lord with a word will summon the dead to life and gather all flesh to judgment.

 

And then those who believed in Him who was crucified and raised will be glorified before all the world—before all those who denied Christ, before the devil and his angels who tempted and accused us.

 

Then Jesus will summon us and those who went down into death believing in Him. He will honor us and show that we possessed His kingdom on earth when we were weak and suffered tribulation.

 

He will show that we are declared righteous by God and that His suffering, death, and weakness were for us and our justification. Because of His great love for us.

 

It looks like we are holding on to something weak when we hold to the Gospel of Christ our Savior. The world looks at us like we’re holding on to children’s fables and old wives’ tales.

 

My beloved, you are holding on to the word of the living God. You are holding on to the great and exalted King Himself, and to the riches of the glory of His Kingdom.

 

It is that glorious Lord Jesus who speaks to us from His exalted throne in His Word and declares us righteous and free from accusation before all the watching angels.

 

It is this glorious Lord Jesus who comes among us and give us His own body to eat and His blood to drink that we may not perish in our spiritual trials.

 

Something greater than the temple is here. Something greater than all the wealth and honor of the world, all the praise of men.

 

It is Jesus. He tells us we have His eternal kingdom, even if they take our life, goods, fame, child, and wife.

 

We have His kingdom and the love and favor of His Father through His blood alone.

 

He predestined us to share in His glory, and He will not allow any suffering or cross to separate us from God the Father’s love.

 

O Lord Jesus, establish and strengthen our faith in You, that we may regard only Your word and Your cross. When we suffer tribulation, cause us to see the eternal love of God which has covered us through Your death for our sins, so that we may not regard the sufferings of this present time, but only the glory to be revealed to us and in us when you return to claim all who are baptized and believe in Your name.  Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Io sto con Putin

November 7, 2014 Leave a comment
Categories: Death of the West Tags: ,

The Long, Slow Collapse

November 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Salvation in the Blood. All Saints 2014.

November 3, 2014 Leave a comment

All Saints’ Sunday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Revelation 7:9-17

November 2, 2014

“Salvation in the Blood”

 

Iesu iuva!

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Let us pray:

 

Nothing have I, Christ, to offer,

You alone my highest good.

Nothing have I, Christ, to proffer,

But Your crimson-colored blood.

Your death on the cross has death wholly defeated

And thereby my righteousness fully completed.

Salvation’s white raiments I there did obtain

And in them in glory with You I shall reign. (LSB 536 st. 4)

 

Hear the text for today’s sermon a second time:

 

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God saying, “Amen!  Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.”  Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”  I said to him, “Sir, you know.”  And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple.  And He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence.  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  Revelation 7:9-17

 

The first thing I draw your attention to in this word of God is the cry of this great multitude dressed in white robes and carrying palm branches in their hands, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” This great multitude is the congregation of those who are saved.  They are holy.  That is what their white garments mean.  And if they are holy, then they are saints, because that is what “saint” means—it means a holy one, one who is set apart for God.

 

But to what does this company of saints attribute their victory over devil, world, and sin, over death and hell itself? They don’t credit their works or their suffering.  They say “Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb!”  Salvation does not belong to the saints, as though they had done it.  It is completely the work and gift of God the Father, who sits on the throne, and God the Son, the Lamb, co-equal with the Father and sharing His throne, and the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and Son together and equal with them in majesty and glory.

 

Salvation belongs to God and the Lamb. That is the song of the saints in heaven.  And to this shout of praise all the angels add their “Amen”!

 

Salvation is not partly the work of men and their free will. It is all entirely the work of God and the Lamb.  And the saints, who are priests who serve God day and night in His temple, bring no other offering than praise and thanksgiving to God who has given this free gift of salvation that is His alone to give.

 

They wave the palm branches, the symbols of victory, only to their victorious king who has saved them and given them the victory.

 

Salvation belongs to God and to the Lamb alone. That is the first point.  It is all His work.

 

The second point is: how does this salvation, this victory, come to a sinner and make them a saint? One of the elders preaches this to John and to us. He catechizes.  First he asks a question: “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”  John says, “Sir, you know.”  And the elder in his catechesis answers his own question,”These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.”

 

What is the salvation of God that makes sinners saints? How does it come?

 

The salvation is the blood of the Lamb. The saints have washed their robes in the blood of Jesus.  And instead of coming out crimson they have come out bright white, without any spot.  Clean and pure and holy.

 

That is what makes a saint—the blood of the Lamb, Jesus, God the Son. His suffering and death alone, His blood, purifies from all sin.

 

This is why the babies who are brought to baptism come out of the water clean. The blood of the Lamb is poured over them and wipes out the stain of sin.

 

Sin is a stain so deep that there is no amount of scrubbing and not detergent that can get it out. We cannot scrub ourselves clean by our works and efforts.  And there is no cleansing agent that can remove it except for the blood of the Son of God.

 

This is a strange way to become victorious. Usually in Jesus’ day they called a king “Savior” when he led the people to victory, and that mean that he shed the blood of enemies.  His followers would come through the battle stained with blood too, but it would be the blood of the enemies that would cover their clothes and speckle their skin.

 

But this is a different Savior. He leads us out of captivity to the devil, sin, and death.  His victory has been won not by charging into battle on a warhorse and cutting down enemies with a sword.  His victory was won by being stripped and beaten with stripes, nailed to a cross as a criminal and hung up to die.  His blood flowed freely until the spear pierced His heart and ended the battle—in His victory.

 

The saints receive His victory by washing their clothes in the blood of their Savior and King.

 

You were plunged into His blood in your baptism. And you wash your clothes in His blood every time you confess your sins and Jesus breathes forgiveness upon you in the absolution.

 

You come to the altar and eat His body and drink His blood. And the blood that cleanses your garments and your flesh from all defilement also cleanses your heart and conscience and makes them clean.  You have no sin anymore.  You are holy.

 

The third and final point this morning. The first point was that salvation belongs to God and the Lamb.  The second; salvation is in the blood of Jesus that has been shed for you.  But when does salvation apply to you?  Under what circumstances do you have it?  It applies to you now, during what the text calls “the great tribulation.”

 

We can’t see the shining blood of Christ in which our robes have been dipped and been made white. We can’t see the glory of God resting on us like a canopy, sheltering us from the heat of the sun.  We also can’t see the Lamb shepherding us from His throne to springs of living water, or the hand of God wiping every tear from our eyes.

 

What we can see around us and in us is sin, death, corruption. We see the ungodly desires and thoughts of our hearts still raging, overflowing even at times into words and actions.  We see the trouble that lies heavy on us.  We feel and look like sheep to be slaughtered.  We feel the sting of tears in our eyes and do not feel any mighty hand wiping them away.

 

But the salvation of Jesus which makes us saints does not wait until the last day and the glory of heaven to be applied to us. It applies to us now in the great tribulation.  Already, now, your robes are washed in the blood of the lamb.

 

Already, now, Jesus has shed His blood for you, blotted out the stain of your sin, cleansed your robes, won the victory.

 

Already He washes your filthy garments of sin with His blood in Holy Baptism.

 

Already He satisfies the hunger and thirst of your soul by giving you His body to eat—the bread of life—and His blood to drink—true, thirst-quenching, life-restoring drink.

 

Already now you are a saint through Christ’s victory. And so, although we do not yet see the rest that His saints have, we join in their praises, singing of glory and salvation not only to come, but accomplished by the victory that Jesus the Lamb won for us in His death.  We sing, “Glory to God in the Highest,” “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.”

 

And He who is called the Lamb certainly knows how to shepherd His sheep who share His flesh and blood in meekness to springs of living water where there thirst will be quenched forever, where the glory of the eternal God will stretch over His holy ones like a canopy to shield them from the burning heat, where the Lord God will wipe away every tear from the faces of His saints with His own fatherly hand.

 

Lord, when Your glory I shall see

And taste Your kingdom’s pleasure

Your blood my royal robe shall be

My joy beyond all measure.

When I appear before Your throne

Your righteousness will be my crown:

In these I need not hide me.

And there in garments richly wrought

As Your own bride shall we be brought

To stand in joy beside You. (LSB 438 st. 4)

 

The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

The Gift-Giving God. Catechetical Sermon–First Article of the Creed

October 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Wednesday Matins Chapel

St. Peter Lutheran School

1st Article of the Creed

October 29, 2014

“The Gift-Giving God”

Psalm 98, Job 38, LSB 726 “Evening and Morning”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Let’s say the first article of the creed. What does this mean?

 

On October 31st, Friday, we celebrate something.  What?

Besides Halloween, in the church we celebrate the Reformation.

 

What was the Reformation?

Martin Luther reformed the church; or better, God reformed the church through him.

 

Luther taught that God justifies us by faith in Christ alone without the works of the law. That means salvation is a gift.  But Luther did more than just teach people about the way to heaven.  He also reformed the teaching of the church about God’s commandments, so that people would know what pleases God and what are good works in His sight.

 

He also taught people to know God rightly. And that meant teaching the Apostle’s creed in a simple way so that children could understand it.

 

One of the things He taught about God is that He is the gift-giving God. He doesn’t just give us salvation, but He also gives us our lives and everything we need for our lives in this world as a free gift.

 

He gives us our lives and everything we have in this world by grace. How many of you are going trick-or-treating on Friday?

 

When you go trick-or-treating, do you have to do anything to earn the candy? No, you just put your bag or plastic jack-o-lantern out and wait for them to drop in that sweet, sweet candy.

 

That’s a lot like what we learn in the first article of the creed. Let’s say it again: what is the first article of the creed?  I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

 

What do we have to do to get God to make us and give us life? Nothing?  Even less than you have to do while trick-or-treating.  God just made you.  And after He made you He gives you all kinds of other gifts, not because you earned it, but just out of mercy and kindness.  Out of grace.

  Read more…

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