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You are Not a Hypocrite When You Call Jesus Your King. Palm Sunday 2018

jesus palm sundayPalm Sunday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

John 12:12-19

March 25, 2018

You are Not a Hypocrite when You Call Jesus Your King

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey, and there is a celebration.  A multitude goes out to meet Him.  They acclaim Him as the King of Israel, the long-awaited Messiah.  John tells us they carried palm branches.  Matthew tells us in his gospel that they laid their outer garments on the ground for Him to ride on—a costly sacrifice when most people owned one set of handmade clothes.  This is the first time Jesus allowed Himself to be honored in public as the King of the Jews.  It was a day of joy, when His disciples and the crowd expected the world to change.

 

And why did the crowd come out to meet Jesus?  Because a little while before in a small town a short distance from Jerusalem, Jesus said to a man who had been lying in a tomb for four days, “Lazarus, come out!”  And Lazarus came out.

 

In a desert land, the ever-green branches of the palm tree signify life in the midst of death.  And because palm trees live for centuries, the people regarded them as symbols of immortality.  The crowd carried them and waved them before Jesus because they rightly believed that He was the King who had come to give them life.

 

But only a few days later a crowd in Jerusalem is shouting and crying out for the King of Life to die hanging on a cross.

 

How quickly it all changes when people praise Jesus as their King.  When I was a child they put palm branches in our hands in the narthex and we all marched into church happily singing, “Hosanna, hosanna, the little children sang!”  But within a short space of years all of us were gone, and as Jesus looks down from heaven into pews on this Palm Sunday, no doubt He sees that very few of those children who once called Him King have come back.

 

And in a slightly earlier time, this Sunday not only saw Sunday School children in a crowd singing, but children on the cusp of adulthood making vows, confessing their faith in the Triune God and promising to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the faith they had been taught by their pastors.  But most of them have not kept their promises either.

 

And as we sit here, we reflect on how we have watched and prayed since Ash Wednesday, whether we have spent this season of Lent fruitfully, whether we have been renewed in our struggle against sin and the evil one, pressed forward to take hold of the crown of life, or whether we have remained unchanged, treaded water, been carried downstream a little further.

 

There is a reason why the crowd that shouts “Hosanna!” becomes the mob crying “Crucify!”  Why the twelve who say they will die before they deny Jesus are all gone on Good Friday when He is hung from a tree; why the newly confirmed in white robes forget their promises to their King.

 

It is because the King of Life leads us into death.  It is because the Son of the Most High does not lead us to a throne to be waited on and glorified, but to the slave’s quarters, to wait on others.  He does not lead us to the halls of power except as prisoners who are to undergo trial and condemnation.  He leads us with Him to Golgotha.  Only through that way do we come, at last, to glory.

 

And though by now we know this and heard it many times, we still choke on it.  Every day we have to learn it again.  Every year on the first Sunday of Advent Jesus begins to teach it to us again, as the Gospel of His triumphal procession is read to begin the new church year.

 

He is the King of humility and patience.  The epistle for today reads, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a bondservant, being born in the likeness of men.  Phil. 2:5-7

 

The One who shared the glory and nature of God the Father shared our nature too.  He was born a man subject to death, like us in every way, to serve us.  God the Son was born to serve lowly, lost slaves, by giving His life for us.  He calls us to become what He is.  And He is making those who believe in Him what He is—making us like Him in giving up our lives in service to others, making us like Him in immortality and glory.

 

And because He was willing to make Himself nothing and serve you, He does not give up on you when you prove to be like the crowd and the disciples—fickle, unsteady, quick to return to the old ways of seeking to keep your life instead of giving it up.  He does not give up on you when you think He will or should and discover about yourself what Peter did when he denied his Lord, or what Paul did when He wrote: For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  Rom. 7:18-19

 

He is not surprised and does not shy away from you in your wretchedness because He who was in the form of God made Himself nothing and emptied Himself to serve you, to take your place under God’s judgment.

 

And that is why you are not a hypocrite when you praise Him as your King and shout “Hosanna!” with the Palm Sunday crowds.  Hosanna means “All hail!”  It is praise to our King.  But it also means “Grant salvation; save now!”  It comes from Psalm 118, which was sung by the priests of the Jews as the Passover lamb was led into the temple to be slaughtered.  Save us we pray, O Lord!  O Lord, grant us success!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  We bless you from the house of the Lord!  The Lord is God, and He has made His light to shine upon us.  Bind the festal sacrifice with cords up to the horns of the altar.  Ps. 118:25-27

 

“Bind the festal sacrifice with cords” means “prepare your animals for sacrifice.”  Our Passover lamb is Jesus.  When He rode the donkey’s colt to Jerusalem He prepared Himself to be sacrificed to make us free, to redeem us from slavery to death and our sins.  But He had been preparing Himself long before—when He was conceived as a man, when He emptied Himself of glory and majesty and took our form, joining Himself to us in the lowest place where we were captive to the power of sin, in bondage to the devil, doomed to an eternity of God’s punishment.

He does not balk at serving you there.  He comes willingly and gives Himself to be slaughtered so that His blood may mark you as one to whom death has already come.  His blood marks you as free from sin and judgment.

 

And He comes to serve you with that blood, to mark you with it again, to mark you free, to mark you as one belonging to God and life.

 

So do not be afraid to call Him your king.  Don’t be afraid to come out to meet Him and to start down the road with Him to Jerusalem.  Don’t be afraid that what you start you won’t be able to finish.

 

He knows you.  He knows your depths because He descended into the depths of your sin and its punishment.  He was bound as a sacrifice to the altar of the cross, bound to you and the full punishment of your sins.  He knows you, what you are capable of, what your weakness is like.  And He carried it all.

 

So acclaim Him as He comes to serve you.  Eat His body, drink His blood in memory of Him, in praise of His patient love toward you.  Glorify Him by calling upon Him to save you with the depths of your failings and believing that He does not turn away from you there, but that He, who was in the form of God, made Himself nothing for you.

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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What We Deserve. Wed. After Judica, 2018

Wednesday after Judica

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Passion History: Calvary

March 21, 2018

“What We Deserve”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

They lead Jesus away to Golgotha, the place of the skull, the place where they crucify Jerusalem’s criminals.  Even on this occasion a great crowd follows Him.  And is usually the case with the people who follow Jesus, they do not understand Him.  The crowd of women who follow Jesus and the North African visitor to Jerusalem, Simon, who has been made to drag Jesus’ cross, weeps.  Jesus turns His face toward them, bruised by fists, cut by thorns, and says to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but for yourselves and your children…for if they do these things with a green tree, what will happen with a dry one?”

 

If they do these things to the Son of God, green with everlasting life, what will happen to you, who are by nature dry wood, dead in trespasses and sins?

 

Jesus did not come so we could feel sorry for Him.  He did not come for our pity.  He came to save us from what we deserve.

 

And so, about nine in the morning, they arrive at the place of execution.  They give Him wine mixed with gall, which is a poison, which perhaps deadens the pain of what comes next.  Another evangelist tells us that there was also myrrh in the cup, which is a painkiller.  Long ago David foretold this, though the passion history does not quote him: I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.  They also gave me poison for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.  (Ps. 69: 20-21) Whether it was meant in mercy or malice, Jesus refuses the drink.

 

And they crucify Him.  As the nails are driven through His hands and feet, Jesus prays to His Father to forgive the ones who pierce Him.

 

In case we are forgetting why this is all happening, the enemies of Jesus, standing beneath His cross and mocking Him, remind us.

 

The people say, “Aha!  You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!”

 

Then the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees: “He saved others; He cannot save Himself!”

 

And the soldiers: “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 

 

And finally, at the bottom of the barrel, one of the two criminals crucified with Jesus: “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”

 

Saving is on everyone’s mind at the death of Jesus.  The four groups of people all tell Jesus, “Save yourself!  Then we will see that you are the Son of God and the King of the Jews!  Then you will be worthy of our allegiance!  Then our opposition toward you will change into admiration.  We will cast our vote for you.”

 

Jesus is taunted because all they believe that if Jesus really is the Son of God, worth loving and trusting, He should show it by saving Himself from the cross.  And the criminal adds that Jesus should also save him from the consequences of his deeds.

 

The world’s mind hasn’t changed at all in two thousand years.  Jesus isn’t worthy of our attention—unless He can provide us with a path to bliss and power right now in this world order.  Unless He can save us from dying, or pain, or the feeling of insignificance, poverty, and emptiness that still gnaws at us who live in the greatest material comfort history has ever known.

 

You can be so close and yet so far away.  It is right when people expect Jesus to save, especially here, at Golgotha.  Jesus is here to save.  He is here to save us from our sins.  And because that is why He is here, He cannot save Himself from the cross.

 

The other criminal grasps this as he hangs on the cross near Jesus.  Imagine hanging from your pierced hands and your pierced feet, dying slowly, in agony, like this man does.  What realization are you likely to come to then?  At that time people have a hard time thinking or concentrating on anything.  But this man realizes what most people never realize—We are getting what we deserve for what we have done.

 

He tells the other criminal, hanging mangled and pierced from the other tree: Look at us.  Look at where we are.  You and I are here because this is what we deserve for our lives.  We deserve to have this be the final verdict on us and all we have done in this world.  Don’t you fear God?  We’re here because we deserve this. But Jesus has done nothing wrong.  He is innocent, and suffers the same death as we do.

 

Can you imagine experiencing the pain and shame this criminal did and saying, This is what I deserve?  Is that what we here from parents and relatives when a kid murders classmates or shoots a cop?  No.  They say: “He was a good boy.”  And we probably would too if it were our kid.  Because we love them and cannot bear to face that the one we loved is evil.

 

Is it what we say when people criticize us, suggest we have failed, suggest we have done wrong?  I am getting what my deeds deserve?  No.

 

Of course, the criminal on the cross next to Jesus had probably beaten people, robbed them.  Left them lying bloody in a ditch.  Perhaps he murdered someone.  Probably none of us have done those things.

 

But we have stolen from God.  We have wasted the heartbeats and breaths he has given us to gather for ourselves, to hoard for ourselves gifts He gave to be used in thankfulness and trust in Him.  We have demanded that people treat us with honor and respect that we have no right to claim when all our lives we have thought and done what we know God has declared is worthy of death.

 

This is what we have deserved for our lives too.  This is how our lives ought to be summed up.  Not that we die looking back with pride and contentment.  But that we die condemned, in pain, in shame, in regret.  And after that, to be forsaken by God forever.

 

Otherwise, why is God’s Son, who has done nothing wrong, experiencing this agony?  Is God so unjust that He would allow this to happen to His Son, who never once displeased Him?  That He would even forsake His Son while He died cursed and mocked by men?  After His only Son had lived a life of perfect obedience to Him?  We don’t deal with our children this way even when they have turned out to be no good by human standards.  Would God deal this way with His faithful, ever-obedient Son?

 

No.  This man who has done nothing wrong, who is truly the Son of God, is dying to save us from what we have deserved for our deeds.

 

He isn’t dying to save the criminal or us from the pain with which God corrects us.  The pain of God’s correction is to spare us everlasting pain.  He lays His rod on us so that having been chastened, we become better.  So that we turn from our ways of straying like an errant sheep and direct our steps to walk with Him and His flock in the way of eternal joy.

 

No, He has come to save us from eternal pain, eternal shame, from an eternity of being abandoned.  From a condemnation that does not end.

 

This is the saving we need.  And that is what Jesus is accomplishing.  When you see Jesus’ agony and shame, you see your own.

 

He was right in what He prayed while these sinners pounded nails through His innocent hands: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

 

When the people, the priests, the soldiers, the criminals all said, “Save yourself, and we will believe you are the Messiah”—and when the world demands that Jesus prove Himself, and we also demand it—they, we, do not know what we are saying.  We think that if Jesus saved Himself from the cross, He would prove that He was the Christ, the Son of God.

 

But if He had saved Himself, He would not have saved you.  He would have been no Christ at all if He had saved Himself.  He would have done a miracle that would leave us unsaved, still in our sins.

 

We too have pounded in the nails in Jesus’ body.  We have spoken and thought what we wanted, without considering the consequences, like Jesus told Peter: When you were young, you dressed youself and went where you wanted.  But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will lead you where you do not want to go.  We went where we wanted.  We injured and insulted and hated the people Jesus bore on His own body.  And then we demanded, “Save yourself and us!  Get down from the cross and get us down too!”

 

Jesus did not save Himself from our hands.  He gave Himself into our hands, and while we did what we wanted, He went where we did not want to go.  He was numbered with the transgressors and died as one of the guilty, though He had done nothing wrong.

 

So when you come to Jesus with your life that can only come to this, to the place the criminals found themselves—rightly under God’s condemnation—and you dare to ask, “Remember me, Jesus, when you come into your kingdom,”—when you come to this church the next time asking, “Be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being,” Jesus says to you, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 

It is a bold thing this criminal asked the man he knew was dying on a cross though He had done nothing wrong, when he himself had lived a life even other mere men condemned as evil.  “Let your innocent suffering benefit me.  Let my stealing and murder be at your expense.”  But that is what we say when we ask Jesus to forgive our sins.

 

And in response He says, “All my suffering is for you.”

 

“Today I save you by not saving myself.”

 

“And by the price I payed for you on Golgotha when I was forsaken by God, I declare the grace of God to you, and forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

To You A Savior Has Been Born. Christmas Midnight 2017

December 24, 2017 Leave a comment

baby_jesus_touches_lamb_The Nativity of our Lord—Christmas Midnight

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 2:1-14

December 24, 2017

To You The Savior and Lord Is Born

 

Jesus

 

It had been a long time since there had been any kings in David’s house.

 

King David lived a thousand years before Joseph.  Joseph didn’t even have any family left in the ancestral hometown of Bethlehem.  When he went to be registered, he had to stay at an inn, like a tourist.  And there wasn’t even room in the inn for him and his pregnant, not-yet-wife Mary.

 

So when Joseph’s son—or to be precise, when his step-son—was born in a cave, or a stable, a place probably filled with the smell of animals, in which there was the manger where Jesus slept His first night on earth, no one imagined that this baby was a king.

 

The circumstances of Jesus’ birth didn’t arouse confidence that this child was a king or a Savior.  Do you think Mary and Joseph were upset when she had to give birth to her firstborn son among goats or sheep or cows or donkeys, where they not only “were feeding” but also relieving themselves, neighing and grunting?  Did Mary cry to have to go into labor here for the first time?

 

Even if a firstborn son was just a normal child, you would be sorry if he came into the world among animals instead of people.  But a Savior and a King being born like this?  And not just any king, but the promised One of God, who is not merely anointed a King and Savior but is Himself “the Lord”, as the angel said?  Who would kneel before a king whose life begins like this?  How could a king like this save others?  How will he rule others?  A child without even a hotel roof over his head, pushed out to be born with animals.  He looks to us like He needs to be saved, not like He will save us.  He looks like the kind of child we collect coats and mittens for in the winter.  What kind of king will He be, who is helpless, meek, with no place to lay His head even when He comes into the world?

 

The kind of King who is crowned with thorns, whom the crowds acclaim by shouting “Crucify!”

 

That has always been the objection to Jesus the Christ, the stumbling block to the world.  There have always been those who mocked Jesus openly as weak and foolish.  There have also been those who dishonor Him more quietly, who claim Him as Lord, and yet practically do not believe Jesus will or can do much.

 

But Christians are also offended at Jesus’ apparent weakness.  His own disciples simply cannot believe that if He is the Christ and the Son of God that He will be mocked and killed by those who hate Him.  When it happens they abandon Him.

 

And Jesus’ disciples today, the baptized, even those who are baptized and truly believe that He is their King, their Savior, their Lord—still stumble at how Jesus’ Kingdom appears to our eyes weak or non-existent.  We stumble at the apparent weakness of the things He uses to extend the borders of His Kingdom.  He does not conquer with swords or guns, with powerful speech, with skillful manipulation of emotions or appealing to what the world thinks it needs.  His Kingdom advances through the foolishness of preaching (1 Corinthians 1:21).  He comes and conquers through preaching, robs the devil of men’s souls with humble water joined to His Word, and preserves what He has taken with bread and wine joined with His Word.  That is the Lord Jesus’ way; those means are the means He chose to have His reign spread and to save souls.

 

It has been a long time since the days of the apostles, when they went out with only those things of the Lord, and faith in Christ spread across the entire Roman world until the pagan emperor’s knee bowed at the name of Jesus.

 

It has been a long time, 500 years, since the Reformation, when Martin Luther did nothing else that proclaim the good news of a Savior born to us, and the kingdom of the antichrist was torn open.  It was a long time ago.  Times have changed.  I wish you could have heard people say this to you as many times as all sorts of different people have said it to me.

 

The foolishness of preaching Christ might have been enough in Paul’s time (although Paul says it was regarded as foolishness by people then).  It might have been enough in Luther’s time (although Luther complained that people did not listen to the Word in his day either.)  But today everything is different.  Our kids need more than just the preaching of Jesus, the baptism of Jesus, the body and blood of Jesus; just Jesus isn’t enough to save my kids and make them holy, so that they love God and listen to His Word.  And the empty pews, and the vacant Sunday School seems to say, “Amen.”

 

I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people; for to you has been born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  So preached the angel on the first Christmas Eve.  But today almost every mouth says, “Maybe that good news is enough to save your soul by itself, but it isn’t enough to save our churches.”  The baby in the manger is weak, despised—in Bethlehem, in this stable or cave here, in the manger in which He lies today—the pulpit, the altar.  Who will worship Him and believe He is a Savior and a King when He lies in the manger of preaching and sacraments, surrounded by the dishonorable aroma of weak and sinful people and the braying of boring preachers instead of the ornaments by which we recognize kings and winners?  Who will worship a king who insists on being found in a stable?

 

According to the Gospel we heard tonight, the army of heaven will.  The angels will worship the Lord in a stable, and a little number of people on whom God’s favor rests.  They will come like the shepherds to the manger in which Christ lies among His people who believe in Him.  They will not be turned away by the fact that He lies in “mean estate where ox and ass are feeding,” by the small number who come to see Him, while most of Bethlehem sleeps by their fires in the inn or their homes.  They will come to the Church, to the manger in which the Lord, the promised King, the Savior, lies.

 

How sad it is on this Christmas Eve to think how many of us—not just the world outside—let ourselves be turned away from the infant Lord who wants to be found among us!  Many of us do not come to the place where He is found.  We stay away from His Church and do not come to see the Lord who has been born for us.

 

And others of us do come.  But we ourselves doubt that what is here in church is the Lord the angels worship.  The stable is not full. The handful here are lowly shepherds. He must not be much of a King.  Really He needs a Savior, we say, if He wants His Kingdom to grow in our day.  He needs salvation from church consultants and extra-talented pastors and church workers.

 

He does not need their help, beloved.  The baby we heard about, wrapped in swaddling clothes, comforted by His mother’s lullabies, causes the armies of angels to kneel and the demons to beg.  The angels see Jesus among the smelly animals and they suddenly erupt in praise, in joy.  And this Lord is with us.  He had become flesh, and in humility He lies in the manger of the words preached here, the straw of this bread that we eat, so that we may take Him as our own.

 

The world does not flock to His manger because it is a world in great darkness.  It is a world in which people do not have good will toward God.  Unless His favor rests on us we can’t see His light.

 

But listen to the angel speak to you: Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  For to you has been born this day in the city of David a Savior, Christ the Lord.

 

To you has the Savior been born.  He has not been born for us to save Him; He has been born to save us.  To save us, who decline to come where He is adore Him.  To save us, who do come, but doubt the power, wisdom, and majesty of this baby who comes to us at this altar.

 

To you this Savior was born.  For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder.  While He lies in the manger, all things in the world exist through Him, hold together in Him, exist for Him.  This baby who needs to be swaddled by His mother speaks and the sea is still and the howling storm is quiet.  Creation obeys Him as it did at the beginning.

 

He reigns in His Church.  The burden of the government of the Kingdom of God is on His shoulder.  He dispenses justice.  He bears on His shoulder the burden of punishing the guilty and justifying the righteous.  The burden of His government is the cross laid on His shoulder.  You were born in deep darkness, not knowing the Lord who made you.   But He justifies you of this crime; He pronounces you righteousness.  To do this He joins you in wretchedness and helplessness; He is born among the animals and later carries the heavy beam of God’s curse away from the city called by God’s name.  He is pierced and affixed to it and from it He bestows righteousness.  He reigns in our midst by proclaiming the forgiveness of sins to us who are unable to free ourselves from it.  He gives His blood to us to drink and His flesh to be our food; He gives Himself to be our life.

 

To you is born a Savior who is not only King, but Lord—I AM, the God of Israel.

 

It is not that He is weak.  He is mighty beyond our comprehension.  If He showed this we would run away.  He comes as a baby with no majesty so that sinners will not be afraid.  So that no one who is poor, or born in low estate, or made low through whatever sin, will think he is too lowly to come to this Lord.

 

His almighty power is hidden but is for us.  In His weak appearance, He takes on what we are far too weak to even struggle against—the power of sin and death.  If you have struggled against sin and lost, that is why the Lord of the world is swaddled and lying in the manger.  Born without sin, He becomes like us who sin and death wraps up.  And He will go on to bring sin and death to an end by His death on the cross.  The omnipotent power of the eternal Word is hidden under the appearance of weakness like ours so that He might keep the promise of God to Eve at the beginning of the world and crush the head of the serpent.

 

The days of the apostles was long ago.  So was the reformation.  But Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.  The mighty Lord who shared the weakness of our infancy is the same Lord who comes in the foolishness of human preaching and saves you individually and His whole Church.  His mighty word brings His holy birth and victory over sin to you and makes it your own.  It releases you from the devil’s power by forgiving your sins.  Through Him who is preached we, His Church, bruise the serpent’s head.  We conquer with Him; we will reign with Him.  Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.

 

And through the humility of the Lord Jesus, who put Himself lower than us, we are coaxed to come near to the Almighty, to fear not, and receive the free gift of this child who has been born to us.  Our Lord and God, our Savior, and our own flesh and blood.

 

Hither come, ye poor and wretched,

Know His will/ Is to fill

Every hand outstretched.

Here are riches without measure;

Here forget/ all regret

Fill your hearts with treasure.  WH 20, st. 11

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

The Captain of the Ship. Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany 2017. Matthew 8:23-27

January 30, 2017 Leave a comment

jesus sleeping in the storm eugene delacroiz.jpgFourth Sunday after the Epiphany

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 8:23-27

January 29, 2017

“The Captain of the Ship”

Iesu Iuva

 

Jesus gets into a boat, and his disciples follow.  Then a great storm arises.  It must have been a really great storm.  At least four of Jesus’ disciples are men who fished on this sea six days a week for years.  They were familiar with the weather.  They have been through storms before, and I’m certain that, being men who made a living with their hands and their back, they were not the type of men to show fear easily.  But when they come to wake Jesus up, they cry like terrified children, they humiliate themselves: Lord, save us!  We’re dying!

 

I’ve known Christian men who were dying.  Men don’t want to admit fear of death and God’s judgment in front of another man even when death is imminent.  Yet these fishermen in the boat cry out to Jesus in terror.

 

This must have been an incredible storm.

 

I am sure that you have had storms like this throughout your life, whether you are listening on the radio or here today.  You may very well be in one right now.  It may be that the doctor told you how many months he thinks you have left; it may be that the doctor isn’t sure what to tell you.  Or it may not be a storm that threatens you with literal death, but it’s bad enough that it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning, or it’s hard to bring yourself through the doors of the church.

 

Then there’s the storms the Church goes through, which is really what this story is getting at.  The boat that holds Jesus and the disciples is a picture of the Church.  Look up there, at the ceiling; it kind of looks like the bottom of a boat.  That’s why the Latin word for the part of the church on your side of the altar rail is called the nave; it comes from the navis, which means “ship”, which is also where we get the word “navy”.  The Church of Jesus is a little boat or an ark.  It sails through the rough waters of this world, the storms of persecution, the flood of God’s judgment, the depths of death and hell, and lets those inside out on the dry land of the new creation.  And Jesus is in this boat with us.  We aren’t sailing ourselves to heaven.  He is the Captain of the ark of the Holy Christian Church.

 

But the whole way on this voyage the boat is hit by storms.  And throughout the 2000 years since Jesus ascended to the Father, the Church has cried out in desperation, feeling like the ship was sure to sink, and the Christians inside would perish.

 

Anyone who’s a member of this congregation and cares about it at all, for whatever reason, knows this feeling.  This Gospel reading today is your story, isn’t it?

 

And if the Church sinks, it’s far worse than when storms hit us individually.  We come to the Divine Service, to other Christians, to the pastor, to find help when the storms hit us privately.  We rely on the Church to be there when our child is going astray, when we are laid low with illness—to tell us what God says; to correct us when we live or believe contrary to His Word, and above all to proclaim to us the forgiveness of sins in His name.  We come to the Church when our father or mother, husband or wife has died.  We bring the bodies of the people we love most so that the Church—or rather Jesus through the Church—will preach to us that our loved one will rise again.

 

But if the Church goes under, destroyed by persecution or twisted and mutated so that it no longer proclaims God’s Word—who will bring us the Gospel of Christ crucified?  Who will tell us that it applies to us too?  Who will forgive our sins in Jesus’ name?  Who will baptize our children?  Who will give us the body and blood of Jesus?  And not only us: if the Church goes under the waves, who will proclaim the coming judgment of God and the forgiveness of sins through Jesus to the world that falsely believes it has God already, without Christ?

 

+Our storms at St. Peter are not unique or new

 

–when all of Europe was supposedly Christian, a false gospel of salvation by human effort made the true Gospel for all intents and purposes unknown, until 500 years ago God worked through Martin Luther to restore it

 

–Since then the devil has worked to almost extinguish the pure Gospel again through luxury and wealth, through doctrinal indifference.

 

+Yet very few Christians realized that this was a storm that threatened to destroy the Church; very few even realize it today.  We are only starting to realize in our Church that true faith in Christ was being eaten away for a long time; we started to realize it because this congregation is almost underwater.

 

We aren’t the whole Church; but what is happening here is happening all around us.

 

+So we go to Jesus, like disciples:

And notice: when the disciples wake Jesus up, they don’t have quiet confidence, fearlessness.  That’s what firm faith brings.  Instead they have terror and fear that Jesus is just going to sleep while they drown.

 

Their prayer comes from fear more than from faith.  It seems to express anger at Jesus—“How can you not care that we are going to die?  What are you doing, still sleeping?”

 

When a ship has no captain, or the sailors don’t trust the captain and they think the ship is going to sink, all hell breaks loose.  Sailors stop working together and letting the captain direct; they all start trying to save the ship as individuals, which is absolutely not going to work, or maybe they try to mutiny and set up a new captain.  And when all these things become hopeless, people start grabbing something that floats and taking their chances in the sea.  When no one listens to the captain anymore, the ship is doomed.

 

But Jesus is the captain of the ship of the Church; He will safely bring it through all storms into the eternal calm and peace of eternal life.

 

When Jesus gets up from sleeping, notice who He speaks to first—not the wind and the waves.  Not to the thing the disciples think is the danger.

 

He speaks to them first, because the danger is not the storm.  In our day, the danger is not the declining numbers in the Church, or declining bank accounts, declining prestige in our society.

 

The danger is within us—unbelief.  That instead of Jesus, we trust in what we see and feel, in our own thoughts, in the wisdom of the world and the false religion pushed by the devil and the world.

 

Unbelief is the danger because it is idolatry:  we think the storm is more powerful than God; we fear it more than God.  The first commandment: You shall have no other gods—We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.  The storm is more powerful than God, and we know better than God’s Word what is necessary to save ourselves or the Church.

 

So Jesus speaks first to the disciples, rebuking the storm in their hearts, the storm of unbelief and the cowardice that comes from it.

Why are you so cowardly, you of little faith?

 

Jesus understands why they are afraid.  What He is telling them and us is that we don’t have anything to fear.  Not if we have Him.

 

+Really?  We have nothing to fear?  Nothing.  How can you say that, if the boat is about to sink and the disciples are going to perish?

 

Because Jesus rebukes the winds and the sea and there was a great calm.  Not only does Jesus know how to steer the ship safely.  He simply speaks and nature obeys.  Who does that?

 

The answer is, only God does that.  God was with the disciples in the boat, living with them, sharing their bread, sharing their storms, sharing their sins.

 

The prophet Jonah brought a great calm when he was thrown into the sea.  The storm came because of Jonah’s rebellion against God, when Jonah ran away from the presence of God.  It went away when the sailors handed over Jonah to certain death.

 

But God rescued Jonah from his rebellion and its punishment; from certain death, sending the fish, who vomited him onto dry land.

 

Jesus also brought great calm that lasts forever; He took on our rebellion against God as His own; He willingly was thrown into the boiling, angry flood of God’s wrath, making our sins His own and being nailed to the cross.  Then He stepped out of the belly of death into the land of the living, having put our sins away forever.  Now there is a great calm; peace with God.

 

That great peace comes rolling across the storms of this world to us from the eternal God in our flesh; not a temporary calm, like the one in Matthew 8, but an eternal one.

 

Jesus is the captain of the ship of the Church.  He can be trusted to lead us safely through the storms of death and hell, because He has already gone through them and destroyed them.

 

Jesus will not fail to bring His church safely to land.

 

His Church includes the weak in faith.

 

But those who reject Jesus’ word are not Jesus’ Church; they are not in the boat where He is.  They are mixed with the saints around the Word, but they don’t believe in Him.  When storms come, they mutiny against Jesus, don’t listen to His Word.  They try to take over the boat from Him, or jump overboard because they think it’s doomed.

 

Brothers, we are weak; we do this in spite of ourselves.  But let us be comforted and listen to Jesus.  He is worthy to be trusted.  He isn’t a fool or a con artist.  He tells us, “You have me in the boat in my preaching, in my pure doctrine, and my Sacraments.  Hold on to me; you have nothing to fear.”

 

We have many sins, but He doesn’t cast away sinners who trust in Him, the Savior of sinners, the sin-bearer.

 

He will not let the floods overwhelm us or let His Church sink.  Our traditions will perish, our will that contradicts the will of God will not be done.  But Christ’s Church is more than that—it is the whole company of saints throughout the world, through time and eternity, who cling to Jesus alone.

 

It will never perish, and neither will those who trust Him.  He cannot perish; He died, and He lives forevermore.  And we who are baptized into Him have been joined with Him who joined Himself to us—we also have died and risen.  The new creation that will appear on the last day has already begun in all who believe.

 

Amen

 

SDG

 

The Church’s Lord. Trinity 17 2016. Revelation 1:9-20

January 11, 2017 Leave a comment

revelation-117th Sunday after Trinity (First Sunday of Fall Series)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Revelation 1:9-20

September 18, 2016

“What the Spirit Says to the Churches about the Lord of the Church”

 

Iesu Iuva

Six things—Divine Service.  Scripture.  Prayer.  Giving.  Serving.  Witnessing.  A person who is growing in faith in Christ through His pure Word also grows in these six things.  That’s why for the last nine years I’ve taught about those six things every fall, and urged you to work to grow in them.

 

And so we can easily evaluate right here this morning, in the quiet of our hearts, whether we can say of ourselves that we have grown in these six things in the past nine years.  Whether we have made a serious effort to do so.  Not in order to make ourselves feel guilty—or proud—but realizing that whether or not I am growing in faith is a serious thing for which I will one day give an account to God; realizing that our growth or decline in faith and its fruits has consequences not only for ourselves, but for this congregation’s health.

 

Those six things—attending Divine Service, reading Scripture, praying, giving, serving, witnessing—are all gifts from God.  And yet a person could easily look at them and think that they are all things that we have to do. 

 

But there is one other thing in the fall series that is not something we do in any respect.  It is something we can only receive from God.  And without it our efforts to grow in the other six will be in vain.  We can only rightly do and grow in them if we first receive this first thing.

 

That thing is Christ.

That is so basic that it may seem insulting for me to mention Him.  Of course we’ve received Christ!  We’ve been coming to church for decades!

 

And I’m certainly not disputing that you have received Christ.  I’m a Lutheran pastor, not a Baptist.  So I preach and believe that when you as a little baby were baptized you received Christ—or He received you.

 

Yet many people receive Christ and then lose Him again.  It’s easy for the real Christ to be replaced by a false Christ in the preaching of the Church and even in the hearts of Christians.  Again, if I was a Baptist or a Calvinist pastor I would deny that it’s possible for a true Christian to ever lose Christ.  If you lost Him, they say, you never really had Him to begin with.  But Scripture teaches: “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for awhile, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately he falls away.”  (Matthew 13:20-21)

 

Christians are led away to false Christs.  In the Catholic Church the Jesus who atoned for our sins with His death and gives us the forgiveness of sins freely, only through faith, is replaced with a Jesus who came to give us a new law to fulfill.  But for many Christians the false Jesus that replaces the true one is a “tame” Jesus.  It is a Jesus who is gracious and forgives us and may even help us when we die.  He makes few demands on us and He is kind.  He makes us feel comfortable and peaceful when we are able to get away from all the irritations and stresses we have to deal with in this life.  He certainly doesn’t do anything that scares us or terrifies us or causes conflict.  And people usually divorce this Jesus from the suffering in our lives. He doesn’t have anything to do with that, because He loves us and doesn’t want us to feel pain.

 

The problem with this false Jesus is that He is impotent.  He comforts you when you die and any time you happen to really feel guilty about your sins.  But since He has nothing to do with pain and suffering, when we experience pain and suffering we are, in essence, dealing with something beyond Jesus’ control.  He doesn’t want us to suffer, and yet we do—all of us—and some of us a lot.  He never does anything that makes us uncomfortable or afraid, and so—in spite of ourselves—we sometimes get bored with Jesus.  We know what He’s going to say before we walk in the doors of the church.

 

This may be a little bit of a caricature, but isn’t it at least a partially accurate description of the way people think about Jesus?

 

That is the problem with idols, though—they are often boring.  They’re boring because we have them under control.  They can’t hurt us or scare us.  But they can’t help us either.  Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.  They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.  They have ears, but do not hear…feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat.  Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.  (Psalm 115:4-8)  Idols are perfectly safe—but boring.  And if we worship an idol we will probably be boring also.

 

However the safe, tame picture of Jesus that interferes with faith in the real Jesus and that sometimes replaces it is not the Jesus who stands before us in the reading from Revelation.  Spiritual health begins with receiving Jesus—the true Jesus.  Not just one facet of His character or person isolated from the rest of Him.  If we want Jesus, we have to receive also the beautiful yet terrible Christ who appeared to St. John.  But this Christ many of us have forgotten.  He is not merely the friend of the church, but the church’s Lord.

 

In the reading, St. John is on Patmos, a small island off the coast of modern-day Turkey.  He has been imprisoned there for preaching the word of God, bearing witness that Jesus is Lord.  And one “Lord’s Day”, one Sunday, the Holy Spirit comes upon him, and he has a vision.  He hears a voice behind him that sounds like a trumpet blast, telling him to write down what he sees in a book and to send it to seven churches on the mainland of modern-day Turkey.

 

Imagine if someone came up behind you and blew a trumpet, how startling that would be!  So when John turns around to “see the voice”, he suddenly sees seven golden lampstands, “and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man (Rev. 1:13).”  And this person who is “like a son of man” has hair as white as snow, eyes like a flame of fire, feet that gleam like burnished bronze.  His voice is like the roar of many waters.  He holds seven stars in His right hand.  Out of His mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword, and his face is like staring into the sun.

 

The phrase “son of man” we recognize, because it’s what Jesus always called Himself.  But the rest is alien to us.  We’re used to thinking of Jesus’ voice as a comforting sound, like the sound of a shepherd’s voice is to a sheep—but here it sounds like the roar of an ocean; and the word that comes out of His mouth is not a collection of comforting truths but a weapon of war.  His eyes are a flame—suggesting zeal and passion or jealousy and anger.  The light that shines from His face is like the sun shining in full strength, threatening to burn our eyes.

 

We know that people outside the church today have false ideas about who Jesus is.  Some people claim that He is a myth, a person who never existed.  Others say that He was simply a man who thought He was the Messiah and was proved not to be when He died on a cross.  Many others think Jesus was a prophet, a great religious teacher who taught the same thing as all the other so-called great teachers, like Buddha or Muhammad.

 

But what about us?  Haven’t we forgotten this side of Jesus? That in Him all the fullness of God dwells bodily (Col. 2)?  That He is the first and the last (Rev. 1:17), the Creator of the World, and also the one who will end it—its judge?  Have we forgotten the flame of His eyes, His jealousy that hates sin with a passion more hot than any human love?  Have we forgotten the power of His voice, roaring like the ocean, that swept the world into being in the beginning and will sweep it away in the end?  That His Word, His doctrine, is not a safe, tame philosophy that we can master in a few months or years, but a divine weapon that maims those who handle it clumsily, and that He uses to kill His enemies?

 

When we are dealing with Jesus, we are dealing with the eternal God in human flesh, to whom all glory belongs, who is coming to judge the living and the dead.  He is not a god that we have made and that we can control.  He startles John in this reading and causes him to fall down at His feet as though dead.  Jesus is the Lord of the world and most especially the Lord of the Church.  He doesn’t exist to fit into our lives the way that we think He should.  The church answers to Him. We exist for Him.

 

And we have forgotten where the Lord Jesus is.  We would expect that when John sees this vision of Jesus’ glory that he had been transported to heaven.  But Jesus is in the midst of the lampstands (Rev. 1:13).  Jesus is in the midst of the churches.  He is not somewhere else, far away, in His power and glory.  He is here, in the midst of the congregation of people who bear His name.

 

Which means that His omnipotent power is in the midst of us.  Yet so often Christians behave and talk as if Jesus has left us to build the church and govern the church.  And when a church becomes weak or is dying we say, “What can we do when the society we live in no longer is interested in church, and nobody wants to come to the neighborhood we’re in, and we don’t offer the types of programs that attract new people to the church?”  The creator of the world stands in the midst of the churches with omnipotent power, and we say, “Yeah, that’s nice, but without a better zip code, how can we make it?”

 

We have forgotten what our Lord has.  He says, I am the first and the last, and the living one.  I died, and behold I am alive for eternity of eternities, and I have the keys of Death and hell. (Rev. 1:18)  He has all of history under His control—He is the first and last.  He was there before we existed and He knows how all things will end—for you individually, for this church, for the whole world. For him it is not a question waiting to be answered; it is done, and He knows the ending.  He has everlasting life, into endless eternities.  Death and destruction have no power over Him.  And He also holds the keys to death and hell.  He has the power to unlock its prisoners, and the power to keep them bound.

 

To receive Christ means first of all to receive the Lord of all the earth.  But our flesh cannot bear to face Him in His glory.  When we see Him, we see the God we have rejected and despised since our childhood.  Every time we inwardly groaned at the thought of listening to a sermon or going to Sunday School we were despising Him.  Every time we declined to serve in the church or put less than our best into serving the church, we turned our back on the one who spoke to John.  Whenever we have neglected to learn and continue to grow in His Word we pushed the Lord of the Church into the background, tried to steal His church and remake it according to human wisdom, as though it was ours.

 

The first part of receiving Christ is receiving Him as our judge.  And to do that is to die, like John fell at his feet as though dead.  (Rev. 1: 17)

 

Only then do we receive Christ as our Savior.  Because He comes to those who are dead and lays His right hand on them, the hand of His power, and says, “Do not be afraid.”  That’s what He says to all of us this morning who realize that we have not borne the fruit of those whose faith in Him is growing and increasing.  The voice like the roar of many waters tells you not to fear Him; and His right hand of power raises you up to live not by your own strength, but His.

 

He is the first and the last.  Long before you were created He knew you and He knew this church.  And He is the One who will bring about the end of your story.  The end of our story is in front of His eyes of flame as though it has already happened.  Yet He says, Do not be afraid.

 

It is not the ending we fear or that we deserve; our ending is tied to the end of His story.  I am the first and the last, and the living one.  I died, and behold, I am alive for eternity of eternities, and I have the keys of Death and hell.  He is the living One.  He is the life, and endless life was in Him before the world began.  Yet the living One died.  He entered our flesh, our nature.  He suffered the curse that had come upon us.  The living one died, bearing the penalty of sin; He was forsaken by God.  The mighty judge was judged as having committed Adam’s sin and all its offspring—all the sins that flowered in His children.  Yet behold, He lives for endless eternities;  He was stronger than sin and death.  He passed through them like a spider’s web.  And the end that He sees for you, terrified sinner is life to eternity of eternities in Him.

 

And He doesn’t have life merely for Himself.  When He died He took the keys to Death and hell.  And now the Lord who is in the midst of the lampstands is here to use those keys.  He does what no human power could dream of doing.  He unlocks the door of Death and hell and lets its prisoners out.

 

That is what is happening when He sends His messenger, His angel, to say, “I forgive you all your sins in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ.”  Death and hell is opened, no matter how many times you seem to have gone back to your cell.

 

It’s what happens when the word of Christ is proclaimed.  It’s not merely that a man is talking.  The key of death and hell in the Lord Christ’s hand is inserted into the lock of your cell, and the lock clicks open, that you may enter into endless life and freedom—that you may enter into Jesus by faith.

 

Only when this happens do the other six things—divine service, scripture, prayer, giving, serving, witnessing—become possible.  Until then they are just ways that we are trying to escape from the prison of death and hell.  But for one set free they are the new life of freedom, an endless life.

 

Write therefore Jesus tells John.  Because I have raised you by my power and freed you from death and hell, bear witness to me.  Not to by your own power, to build your own church, bearing witness to me, the Lord of the Church.  I build it.  I wish to speak to the Church and to the world that I purchased with my blood.  Your calling is merely to testify to me with your words and your life.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

The Regime of the King of Peace–Advent 4 Midweek Vespers 2016

December 21, 2016 Leave a comment

jesse-tree-ingeborg-psalterAdvent 4 Midweek (Vespers)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Isaiah 11:1-10

December 21, 2016

The Regime of the King of Peace—adapted from Stoeckhardt’s Adventspredigten, “Siebzehnte Predigt”

 

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Jesus is a King.  That is what His name means: “Christ”—anointed one.  King.

 

But where is Jesus’ kingdom?  Do you know?  Even those who can tell you the right answer are often embarrassed to say it, because it seems so impossible.

 

Yet there is nothing greater that a person could desire than the Kingdom of Jesus.  Isaiah just pictured Jesus’ kingdom for us in the reading—as Paradise.  And that is what it is to be part of Jesus’ Kingdom—Paradise.  To be in Jesus’ Kingdom is to be in God’s gracious presence; and it is to have—peace.

 

But the problem with Jesus’ kingdom is that we can’t see it.  He said this a long time ago to some fools who thought it was impossible that the Kingdom of God could come without them seeing it a long way off.  The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you—or perhaps within you (Luke 17:20-21). 

 

The Kingdom of God can only be seen through the Word of God.  Otherwise we will see it and despise it.  Isaiah prophesied 700 years before Jesus about this Kingdom and its King.  He describes Jesus as the King of Peace and Jesus’ Kingdom as a Reign of Peace.

 +++

 

Unless a person has eyes to see, he will laugh at Jesus’ Kingdom..  Isaiah foretold that this is how it would be.  Jesus’ Kingdom looks like nothing in our eyes because its king looks like nothing in our eyes.

 

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Isaiah wrote: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.  Jesse was King David’s father.  David became the King of Israel, and God promised that one of David’s descendants would sit on his throne and reign forever.  Yet Isaiah says that David’s house would be torn down and left desolate, like a stump in the ground.

 

Imagine a big, five-hundred year old oak tree.  It’s beautiful.  Its branches spread far and wide; it give shade in the summertime.  Someone ties a rope to a branch with a tire on the other end.  Kids swing on it and laugh.  When they get thirsty they run to the porch and their mom gives them a Dixie cup of Kool-Ade.

 

Then one dark day the family gets evicted and someone comes with a chainsaw and cuts that big tree down.  What is left?  Only a stump.  Now when you go out to see that big old tree that you loved all that’s left is the stump.  If it ever grows back, it won’t be in your lifetime.  That tree is gone, along with the tire swing, the Kool-Ade, and the happy memories.

 

That is what happened to David’s house.  The house of David was a big beautiful tree that had been cut down.  And the Son of David that brings peace never came.

 

But Isaiah says: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.  A little branch came up from the stump of David’s house.  If you came out to see the tree that had been there before, you wouldn’t even look at it.  You’d say, “If only we could have the old oak tree whose shade we played in as children.”  You wouldn’t even see the twig sprouting from its roots.

 

That little twig was Jesus.  His mother Mary and his stepfather Joseph were from the house of David.  They weren’t kings and queens anymore.  The glory of David’s house was a thing in the history books; nobody remembered.  Nobody cared.

When they went to Bethlehem to be taxed by a foreign king there wasn’t even a place for them to stay.  Mary gave birth to Jesus in a barn or maybe a cave where they kept animals.  Jesus was just a little twig growing from the stump of a once great tree.

 

But Isaiah prophesied that this branch from Jesse’s roots shall bear fruit.  And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  (Is. 11:1-2)  Jesus would “bear fruit” because He had something that the great branches of David’s house that had been before Him did not have.  The Spirit of the Lord rested on Him.  The same Spirit that hovered over the empty waters at creation, in which there was no life, the same Spirit who caused order to come out of the chaos and life to spring forth out of barren darkness—rested on this little branch.

Though He was small and unimpressive as humans see things, in this little shoot was all the glory and power of God.  “In Him all the fullness of [God] dwells bodily”, St. Paul wrote in the epistle to the Colossians [2:9].  “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created through Him and in Him all things hold together…” [Col 1:15-17]. 

 

This twig is the living God in our flesh, the God of abundant life in the body of a newborn.  And so this little branch that seemed like nothing bore fruit that the great tree of the house of David, with all its grandeur, had not been able to bear.

 

The fruit Jesus bore was a life of complete obedience to God, of utter purity, a life that earned God’s seal of approval, His honor.  And this priceless gem, never before seen by the world—a human life lived in unity with God—Jesus gave away.  He offered up this precious life on behalf of those who had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  He offered it in exchange for the lives of all who had rebelled against God, of whatever stripe… He laid that life aside as though it were not His, and took up the guilty verdict that belonged to all of His brothers, and was condemned for our unfaithfulness.  He endured the agony of body and the anguish of soul that was the just reward for the lives we have lived.  In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether in earth or heaven, making peace through the blood of His cross. (Col. 1:19-20)

 

That is how Jesus is the king of Peace.  He made peace for us with God.  It is a perfect peace that cannot be added to or undone by you or me.  Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed, Isaiah prophesied in a later chapter [Is. 53:5].

 

If you’ve lived long enough, I am sure that there has been a time when you longed for peace—when your heart was full of anger or anguish or fear.  Many of us have repeatedly cried out to God for peace.  And some of you have probably had the experience of longing to feel that you were at peace with God.

 

That longing need no longer gnaw at you.  This King, this little shoot from the stump of Jesse, has made peace with God for all people.

 

Your sentence has been served in full by this strange king of peace, when He was forsaken by God for your sins, and when He shouted in victory “It is finished.” [John 19:30]  God is reconciled to you by this King, and desires you to no longer hide from Him, flinch at His presence—but be reconciled and enter back into Paradise through the gift of His Son.

 

++

 

That is how Jesus won His Kingdom of Peace.  After He conquered in the battle with Satan, He ascended to His Father’s throne and began to reign.

 

But of course we don’t see Jesus reigning.  What we see is those who refuse to accept Him as King behaving as though the world was theirs.  How is Jesus reigning?

 

Isaiah says: He shall not judge by what His eyes see, or decide by what His ears hear, but with righteousness He shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips He shall kill the wicked. [Is. 11:3-4]

 

In paintings a king often holds a scepter or a staff in his hand.  It symbolizes the power by which a king maintains justice, defending the innocent and punishing those who oppress the weak.

 

Jesus does not hold a staff in His hand.  His scepter comes from His mouth.  The rod of His mouth by which He reigns in justice is His Word.

 

That sounds like a joke to the world and even to our own flesh.  We know very well that evil is not restrained with words—it takes guns, tanks, missiles, armies.

 

But the rod of [Jesus’] mouth and the breath of His lips are not like everyone else’s words.  With the rod of His mouth He laid the foundations of the earth; by the breath of His lips He stretched out the heavens.  By the breath of His mouth He breathed into Adam’s nostrils and the man of dust became a living being.  He speaks and it comes to be.  His Words spoken in time are reality now and forever.  Whether people listen or refuse to hear, the judgment Jesus pronounces through the Scriptures, through His preachers, will endure until it becomes visible on judgment day.  The one who rejects me and does not receive My Words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day, he said in the gospel of John [12:48].

 

Jesus reigns.  When He condemns the evil one, the demons, false teachers, unbelievers, it is not just an opinion.  He slays the wicked with the breath of His mouth; the reality of His judgment will appear on the last day,  In the same way, He gives justice to the poor by the rod of His mouth.  Poor sinners who come desire relief from the oppression of sin and the devil receive a favorable decision from the King of Peace.  He finds in their favor.  He declares them innocent of all Satan’s accusation, free from condemnation and sin. From heaven Jesus extends the scepter of His Word and justifies us, the ungodly.  When you hear this happening, you can be sure that you are in the presence of the King of Peace as He reigns.  And when you believe His judgment, you know that you are in His Kingdom.  And though His Word seems insubstantial to our eyes, be sure that it is more powerful and more real than the barrel of a gun, than an open grave.  This Word is the power of the living God.  What it declares, happens.  When it justifies you and says you have peace, rejoice!  It is more sure than the ground beneath your feet.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

How to Participate in the Saving, Joyous Birth of Christ. Heshusius

December 23, 2014 Leave a comment

hesshusiusWie wir uns der heilsamen und froehlichen Geburt Jesu Christi sollen theilhafftig machen.

(Tilemann Heshusius, Sermon for Christmas, Postilla)

 

Der Allmechtige und Gutige Gott/ hat nicht allein der gantzen Welt seinen Son geschencket/ und verehret zu dem reichen Trost/ wie wir jetzt gehoeret haben/ sondern auch geleret/ wie wir seiner moegen geniessen/ Und alle der Gueter theilhafftig werden.  Er begeret zwar nicht von uns grosse Schetze oder Bezahlung/ das wir im solche Gueter abkeuffen muesten/ Oder das wir uns zubesorgen hetten/ Unsere Armuth were zu gros/ Wir koendten zu solcher Herrligkeit nicht kommen/ Er fordert auch nicht von uns schwere harte Dienste/ damit wirs muesten verdienen/ Sondern alles wil Er aus gnaden schencken.   Eines fordert er nur/ das wir solche thewre Gaben mit Glauben annehmen/ An dem Newgebornen Kindlein alle unsern Trost und frewde haben/ unnd durch in von Suend und Todt uns helffen lassen/  Gott spricht selber/ Jesa. 55/ Wolan/ alle die ir duerstig seid/ kompt her zum Wasser/ Un die ir nicht Gelt habt kompt her keuffet/ und Esset/ Kompt her/ Keuffet one Geld und sunst/ Wein und Milch.  Das ist One alle Vergeltung wil uns Gott solche thewre Gaben widerfaren lassen/ Das wir durch seinen Son den Himmel und die Seligkeit erlangen moegen.

 

How we Should Make Ourselves Participants in the Saving and Joyful Birth of Jesus Christ.

Tilemann Heshusius, Sermon for Christmas, Postilla

 

The Almighty and Kind God has not only given the whole world His Son, and set Him forward to give rich comfort, as we have now heard.  But instead He also teaches how we might enjoy what is His and become participants in all His good things.  He does not at all require of us great treasures or payment, that we must buy such great good things from Him, or provide ourselves with them.  Our poverty is too great.  We could never come to such glory.  He also does not demand hard service of us with which we must merit these good things, but instead He wants to give them all out of grace.  He only requires that we receive such precious gifts with faith, that we have all our comfort and joy in this newborn child, and let Him help us from sin and death.  God Himself says in Isaiah 55, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come here to the waters; and he who has no money, come here, buy and eat.  Come here, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  That is, God wants to let these gifts come to us without any payment, that we might receive through His Son heaven and blessedness.

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