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Who Receives this Sacrament Worthily? Wednesday after Laetare, 2015

Wednesday after Laetare

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Catechism: “Who receives this sacrament worthily?”

March 18, 2015

Iesu Iuva

“When they had bound Jesus, they led Him from Caiaphas to the hall of judgment and gave Him over to Pontius Pilate, the governor. It was early. They themselves did not go into the judgment hall, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.”

See how the Jews took such care to be clean when they ate the holy meal of the passover? This was because the Law commanded that all the Jews not have any yeast in their homes during the time of the Passover, which is also called the feast of unleavened bread. So they didn’t want to go into the dwelling of a Gentile, for fear that there might be some yeast there which would make them unclean. It seems, too, that Jews avoided contact with Gentiles in general, maybe because they thought that the Gentiles’ contact with idols and other unlawful practices would make them unclean. The Jews were very concerned about being pure, because if they were ritually unclean, the Law said they were not allowed to go near to God in the temple or around other holy people or near holy things like the Passover meal.

Now if the Jews had a reason to be concerned about being pure when the Passover lamb they ate was only symbolic of Christ, how much more should we be concerned about being clean before receiving the sacrament of the altar? That is, we should be prepared to receive the Sacrament worthily. Because we are not just approaching symbols when we approach the Lord’s Supper. We are coming to receive the very body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This is the holiest of all holy things. We are coming near to receive the body of Jesus, about whom God said, “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased!” How terrible it would be to draw near and receive the body and blood of the Son in whom God is well-pleased only to defile and misuse it! St. Paul warns us against this in 1st Corinthians chapter 11: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” That means blaspheming against the body and blood of the Lord, desecrating it. He goes on, “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” What is Paul saying? When we come to the sacrament of Jesus’ body and blood unworthily, not recognizing it as the body and blood of Christ, we receive judgment from God instead of blessing. Paul says that many of the Corinthians had gotten sick or weak because they were eating and drinking without recognizing that it was Jesus’ body and blood. Some had even died.

This is part of the reason why our church practices “closed communion,” which means that those who have not been instructed and confessed the faith together with us are not allowed to receive Christ’s body and blood together with us. The first reason for this is because it would be wrong and harmful for us to give people the body and blood who may not be ready to receive it worthily. Those who eat Christ’s body unworthily, not recognizing the body of Jesus, receive judgment from God. They could become sick or die. And we would be helping them to profane the body and blood of Jesus if we knowingly gave them the holy gifts.

So it’s necessary that we know how to receive the Lord’s body and blood reverently and worthily. This is no child’s play. A hymn says: Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand; ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in His hand, Christ our God to earth descending, Comes our homage to demand.

 

So how do we receive Christ’s body and blood worthily? How do we approach the holy gifts in cleanness? The Catechism says: “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training.” Some people might think that to prepare for the Sacrament of the Altar we should fast or do other things to get ourselves into a devout and reverent frame of mind, where we recognize our sins and are sorry for them and intend to live a new life. Luther doesn’t say such efforts are worthless. Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. It’s good to discipline our flesh to make it pay attention to the holy things we are about to receive. In the Roman Catholic church you are supposed to not eat or drink anything for an hour before receiving holy communion. In the Greek orthodox church you are also supposed to refrain from eating or drinking or chewing gum also for a period of time after receiving holy communion. Are these worthless practices? No, they can be, certainly, fine outward training in that they restrain our flesh and force it to pay attention to the gifts Christ is giving. In the same way we used to have the practice of “dressing up” to go to church in order to show reverence for God’s Word and Sacraments. We kneel to receive the body and blood of Christ. That also is fine outward training. In the old days (but not that long ago) you had to announce your intention to go to holy communion to the pastor on the weekend before. Such practices were intended to make us stop and reflect on what we are doing when we go to communion. In the same way it is a good practice to pray before receiving the Lord’s Supper and ask for a heart that will receive the body of Christ worthily. It’s good to examine yourself and make confession of your sins to God and ask for His help to live a holy life, and receive absolution before going to Holy Communion. Prayer and absolution are not bodily preparation, exactly, but like bodily preparation such as fasting they are also not what makes you worthy to receive Jesus’ body and blood.

Preparing to receive the Lord’s Supper and to be in a devout frame of mind when receiving it is a good thing. But these efforts are not the thing that makes us truly worthy to eat and drink the body and blood of Christ. The Catechism goes on: “but that person is truly worthy and well-prepared who has faith in these words, ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words, ‘For you,’ require all hearts to believe.” What makes us worthy and clean to receive the body and blood of Christ? Believing His words with which He instituted the Sacrament: “This is my body given for you, this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Why is that what makes us clean and prepared to receive the Sacrament? Because we cannot make ourselves clean to enter the presence of God and His holiness. No matter how sorry we are for our sins, no matter how many tears we shed, no matter how long we fast, how much money we give to the church or to the poor, no matter how seriously we intend and commit to changing our lives, we can’t make ourselves clean and worthy to come near to Christ and receive His salvation. What makes us worthy is that Jesus wants to give His life for us, freely. We get to come because He has decided to give His body and blood for our salvation. He invites us to come receive these most holy things.

What makes you clean and worthy to receive Jesus’ body and blood? Only believing that He gave them into death for you. That means you believe that when Jesus was on trial before Pilate, and the chief priests and elders were bringing charge after charge against Him, Jesus was silent and gave no reply because He wanted to be put to death for you, for your sins in particular. When Jesus allowed Himself to be handed over by Pilate and the whole cohort of soldiers surrounded Him to lash Him with whips, Jesus suffered that agony to make atonement for your sins. When He was clothed with a scarlet robe over His bloody back and crowned with a crown of thorns, and the soldiers knelt before Him to mock His claim to be a king, Jesus wanted to endure that for you so that you would not endure eternal mockery for trying to be like God. When Jesus was led humiliated before the crowd, you believe that He endured it for you so that you would not be led before all creation in shame on judgment day. When the crowds chanted for Jesus to be crucified and for Barabbas to be released, it was for you, so that you might not be cast away into eternal torment on the day of judgment.

This is what believing in the words “for you” means. It means that when the innocent son of God was hit in the face and spit on, when He bled from His flogging and His blood stained the ground, when He was condemned and put to shame as an evildoer, it was for you, out of love, that He was doing it. Your many and great sins which make you unclean in His sight, for those sins the only Son of God made payment with the suffering and death of His body and the shedding of His blood. All that is contained in those little words, “for you.”

Now if we reflect on this we see that this is very difficult for us to believe. Why would God give so much to save me from the very sins by which I have offended Him? Why would Jesus allow Himself to be rejected and beaten and mocked, not only by men but by God, for Peter who denied Him out of shame and fear at His approaching death? Why would Jesus shed His blood to atone for the sin of the crowds who were chanting for it, for His brutal death, for His body to be broken on the cross?

It’s Jesus own words that give us the confidence to believe this. They not only invite and encourage but also command us to believe that Jesus has done all this to deliver us from our sins and God’s punishment. He says, “This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” It is Jesus’ body and blood. It is His life to do with as He wills and as the Father wills. And His will and the Father’s will is to give His body and blood to ransom you from your sin.

So even though our own sinfulness would make us want to hide and not draw near to the Lord’s table, His words invite, encourage, console, and summon us to receive His body and blood precisely because we are such sinners that have such need. He invites and summons us in the assurance that He has made us worthy by His Words that say, “This is given and shed for you.” As our hymn today said:

Christ says: “Come all you that labor,

And receive my grace and favor;

Those who fell no pain or ill

Need no physician’s help or skill.

 

“For what purpose was My dying

If not for your justifying?

And what use this precious food

If you yourself were pure and good?”

 

It is just because we are not pure and good, because we are so in need of forgiveness and help, that Jesus summons us to receive this powerful, cleansing medicine. He wants us to come and receive the help of His bitter suffering and death. He wanted to give Himself for us and He wants us to come and receive His crucified body and shed blood that we might be healed. That is what His Words say, and believing these words, we are worthy to receive these most holy gifts, because we are the poor miserable ones to whom He says “This is for you.”

Amen. Soli Deo Gloria

How Can Bodily Eating and Drinking Do Such Great Things? Wednesday after Oculi, 2015

Wednesday after Oculi

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Catechism: “How can eating and drinking do such great things?”

March 11, 2015

Iesu iuva!

The Passion History for today recounts Jesus’ trial before the high priest. Jesus’ trial is not a fair one. The priests and elders have already decided what they want the outcome of the trial to be. They want Jesus condemned to death. So they bring in false witnesses to testify against Him. But they don’t realize that in their efforts to kill Jesus they are bringing about the fulfillment of the very word and teaching that so offended them.

Jesus preached the forgiveness of sins. He proclaimed forgiveness of sins to the sinners the leaders of the Jews had written off—the lowest of the low, the tax collectors and prostitutes. By handing Jesus over to death the leaders were causing Jesus’ word to come true. By His death and the shedding of His blood on the cross Jesus would bring about forgiveness and justification for the lowest of the low, the chief of sinners. Even for Peter who denied Him and Judas who betrayed Him. By His death Jesus would earn forgiveness for the whole human race. The forgiveness He preached would be sealed by His blood.

Forgiveness of sins was the substance of Jesus’ preaching. He didn’t come to earth to proclaim a new set of laws, rules, or regulations for people to fulfill. He came to proclaim that God was freely forgiving sins. It was not an incidental part of His preaching but the very heart and center of it.

Forgiveness of sins is at the heart of Jesus’ preaching and it is the reason why we can’t allow the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper to be lost or denied. Jesus instituted His supper so that we might have the forgiveness of sins. When people deny that the Lord’s Supper is Jesus’ true body and blood, they take away a means through which Jesus grants the forgiveness of sins to poor, miserable sinners.

That’s what is at stake in today’s question from the catechism: “How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?” The question is a perfectly rational one from a certain perspective. We have said that when a person eats and drinks the bread and wine of the Sacrament with faith in the words of Jesus, that person receives forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. But skeptics ask, “How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? How can an earthly, bodily function like eating and drinking give the spiritual and eternal blessing of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life?” Deniers of the Sacrament criticize us, saying that we are claiming that we earn forgiveness and eternal life by an earthly work—eating and drinking.

But of course, as the catechism answers, we don’t say that. “Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words written here, ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: ‘forgiveness of sins.’”

In other words it is not the physical eating and drinking that does the forgiveness of sins. It is the words of Jesus Chris that attach the forgiveness of sins to the bread and wine of the Sacrament. For His words declare the bread to be not merely bread, but His body, given for us, and the wine to be His blood, shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. It’s not the bodily eating and drinking that works the forgiveness of sins. The bodily eating and drinking done in faith in Jesus’ words receives what Jesus promises in the Sacrament. It’s Jesus words that make the bread and wine His body and blood and attach to them the forgiveness of sins. Our faith, worked by the Holy Spirit, simply receives Jesus’ promise. We eat and drink with our mouths what is given, but our souls at the same time receive and eat the words of Jesus that say, “This is for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Our mouths eat the body and blood of Jesus and at the same time our souls receive life from His words: “This body and blood is for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus won forgiveness for us by His death on the cross. That’s where forgiveness of sins was accomplished. But Jesus’ cross is not where we go to receive the forgiveness of sins. We can’t go back and touch the cross where Jesus died. Even if we could that wouldn’t give us the forgiveness of sins. What gives us the forgiveness of sins is the proclamation that Jesus died for us and our sins are forgiven. We receive the forgiveness of sins when we believe that Word of God.

That word of God is exactly the Word that He proclaims to us in the Sacrament of the Altar. He says, “This is my body, which is given for you; this is my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” By His word He takes what was given and shed for us on the cross and puts it into the bread and wine and distributes it to us.

If you could go back to the cross where Jesus died and thrust Your hand into His pierced side or let His warm blood drip on you, this would not give you the forgiveness of sins. But when Jesus proclaims His death for the forgiveness of your sins, that does give the forgiveness of sins. And when Jesus puts His very body and blood into your mouth, saying, “Take, eat; take, drink”—that gives the forgiveness of sins. We have the Lord’s own words declaring it in the institution of the Supper.

So when someone asks you, “How can bread and wine save you?” or “How can you believe you’re saved just because you ate and drank some bread and wine,” you answer: it’s not eating and drinking that saves me, but Jesus’ word. His words declare that this bread and cup are not ordinary bread and wine, but His body and blood. His words declare that they were given and shed for me for the forgiveness of my sins. So I know I am saved not because of my work of eating and drinking, but because of His Word that tells me this is His body and blood for my forgiveness.

The Sacrament gives us great joy and confidence that our sins are forgiven. For we receive in it not mere reminders of Christ’s body and blood given and shed long ago, but the very body and blood of Jesus, together with His Word promising that when we eat and drink them we receive the forgiveness of sins.

For Your consoling supper, Lord,

Be praised throughout all ages!

Preserve it, for in ev’ry place

The world against it rages.

Grant that this sacrament may be

A blessed comfort unto me

When living and when dying. (LSB 622 st. 8)

 

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

Soli Deo Gloria

What is the Benefit of This Eating and Drinking? Wednesday after Reminiscere, 2015

The_Lords_SupperWednesday after Reminiscere

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Catechism: “What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?”

March 4, 2015

Iesu iuva

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed fervently on the night He had instituted the Sacrament of the Altar. He told His disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow, to the point of death,” and He asked them to stay awake and watch and pray with Him. As He prayed, His sweat poured on the ground mixed with blood and He was in agony. What was Jesus so afraid of? He prayed, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” What was the cup Jesus’ Father had given Him to drink?

It was the cup of God’s wrath and judgment against all the sins of the world. The Father in heaven did not merely forget about all the sins of the world—Adam’s sin, yours and mine. He forgave it. But the forgiveness of our sins came at a cost. If we are not to be punished for our sins, someone else must pay the penalty for us. And that is what Jesus had begun to do. That was the cup He had begun to drink—the cup of God’s just judgment against all the sins of the world. It was the cup you and I had earned the right to drink. But Jesus received this cup and drank from it all the sufferings that followed—from His anguish in Gethsemane to His betrayal by Judas, from His false condemnation by the priests to His being handed over to Pilate, from His mockery, flogging, and crown of thorns to His crucifixion and death.

But Jesus has not given us this cup to drink, the cup of God’s judgment. He has given us a different cup. “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Last week we talked about what we receive in the bread and cup of the Lord; we receive from Him not simply bread and wine but the true body of Christ which was crucified and His true blood which was shed on the cross. This week we deal with the second question of the catechism on the sacrament of the altar: “What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?”

What benefit, what blessing, do we get from eating the body of Christ and drinking His blood? Jesus tells us in the same words with which He instituted the sacrament: “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” The benefit of eating the body of Christ and drinking His blood is that we receive the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus is saying that in all that happened in His passion He was giving Himself utterly for us, handing Himself over for us, to earn for us the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins was neither easy nor cheap. It cost the body and blood of the innocent and righteous One. He gave Himself over when He agonized in Gethsemane. He gave Himself utterly, knowing His body would be bruised and torn and spit on and that his blood would be poured out for us. He knew all that was coming for Him. He knew that Judas the betrayer would soon come with his false kiss and that He would be led bound before the chief priests and elders. He knew that they would sentence Him to death. He knew that while He was being accused Peter would deny Him. He knew that the priests would hand Him over to the Roman governor Pilate. Pilate would have Him flogged with whips by His soldiers and then they would mock Him, putting a purple robe over His bloody shoulders and pressing down a wreath of thorns onto His head. Bloodied and put to shame He would be led out in front of the people and they would scream, “Crucify! Crucify!” Then Pilate would give Him over to their will. He would stumble with the weight of the cross on His lacerated back out to the hill of Calvary. Then they would stretch out His hands and feet on the timber and drive nails through them into the wood. They would lift Him up to hang naked, to bleed and to thirst between two highwaymen until He breathed His last and His heart was pierced with a spear.

All this Jesus knew when He said, “Take, eat, this is my body, which is given for you.” And the benefit of this eating of Christ’s body and drinking His blood is that we receive what He was earning by His suffering—the forgiveness of sins. He had no sin of His own for which to make atonement. By His suffering He was paying the debt of our sins.

So when we eat Jesus’ body and drink His blood we receive forgiveness of sins. It’s not that we don’t have forgiveness of sins apart from the Lord’s Supper. We have forgiveness through Jesus’ body and blood constantly by faith in Him. We spiritually eat His body and drink His blood by faith at all times. But in the Sacrament He gives us His body and blood as a pledge that we can see and taste that we have the forgiveness of our sins.

Forgiveness of sins means that our sins are remitted. They are no longer reckoned to us. They are taken away. Instead of sin we have righteousness and purity before God. Instead of His wrath we have His good pleasure and friendship. This is what Jesus’ suffering and death brought about for us. This is what the shedding of His blood got for us—not further anger, but God’s satisfaction. Our sins—all of them—were paid for before God. This is what Christ pledges to us when He gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink. It is a pledge of God’s favor, a pledge of peace with God.

“Forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” Along with forgiveness of sins comes life and salvation. Jesus gives us life with His body and blood. Where sins are forgiven, there is no more death. In our sins, we are captives to death. We are sentenced to death by God. But in giving His body into pain and death and His blood to be spilled, Jesus removed the sentence of death from us. For us death is no longer the beginning of eternal death but the end of death and the entry into eternal life.

Life is given us in the sacrament; not only the pledge that we will have everlasting life when we die, but life itself is given to us now. The eternal life that Jesus died to give us is ours now. Baptized into Him our old Adam was crucified with Him and a new man—Christ in us—was born. That new man lives before God in righteousness and purity forever and begins to live now in this world doing the works of the Father, which are works of love according to the ten commandments. The body and blood of Jesus in the Sacrament gives us the forgiveness of sins and at the same time strengthens the new life of Christ in us so that we become stronger in faith and more active in love.

Yes, Jesus gives us life in body as well as in soul in His body and blood. For where the soul is helped, the body is helped also. We should never look at the Sacrament as a poison from which we should run away, says Luther in the Large Catechism, but as a precious remedy that heals us in both soul and body. That’s why it is silly to worry about germs in receiving the Lord’s Supper. Jesus isn’t giving out disease and death in His body and blood, but rather the remedy for death and all its symptoms. He is giving us eternal life.

Finally, the benefit of eating and drinking Christ’s body and blood is salvation. The body and blood of Jesus saves us from the devil’s kingdom and from eternal death. Every evil that could harm us is stripped of its power by Jesus’ body and blood. The devil only has power to harm and condemn through sin. But through Jesus’ body and blood sin is taken out of the way. When we eat Jesus’ body and drink His blood we eat and drink not mere bread and wine but salvation from our sins and from Satan’s power to hurt us. No harm can come to us. Jesus pledges and gives this to us in His body and blood. The only pain that will come to us is that which the Lord who suffered for us deems profitable for our salvation. Those pains that drive us to repentance and to Jesus do not harm us but work for our good, because they strip away the old Adam that was crucified with Jesus in Baptism and help us to put on the new man, the glorious image of Christ that we will wear forever in heaven.

Forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us as a free gift in the Sacrament of the Altar as we eat Jesus’ true body and drink His true blood. All of this is for you, Jesus says—my body and my blood, all I am and all I have. How could God have decided to show us such mercy?

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

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

The God We Know. Catechetical Sermon, February 2015

Most Holy TrinityCatechetical Vespers

St. Peter Lutheran Church

The Apostles’ Creed (Matthew 3)

February 27, 2015

“The God We Know”

Iesu Iuva

Most people, if you ask them, believe in some kind of a god, even today. But if you ask them who their God is and what he is like, their answers become sketchy. Ask them what his name is, and they probably won’t know.

It’s not that way for you, because you are a Christian. You know God’s Name. He has made Himself known to you in the teaching of the Scriptures, in your catechesis into the mysteries of the Christian faith. You know what He requires of you, because you have learned His Ten Commandments. And you know who God is and what He does, because He teaches you in the Creed.

In the Ten Commandments you learned what God wants you to do, how He wants you to live. In the Creed He teaches you to know Him and what He has done. He has given you life and protected you. He has redeemed you from your sins. And He has made you holy and continues to make you holy.

Who is God? You can answer out loud.

The Apostles’ Creed confesses faith in one God who is three distinct persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These are not three Gods, but one. But they are not one person, but three.

This is a great mystery that is beyond our ability to understand. But we believe it—that God is triune—three persons in one eternal God. People outside the church don’t know or believe this. They know there is some kind of a god, but they don’t know who He is. We know God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

What does the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do? He creates, redeems, and sanctifies us. He makes us, saves us from our sins, and makes us holy.

The first article of the Creed teaches us about God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. The Father created us and all the universe out of nothing. He not only created the world a long time ago, but He continues to preserve the world so that the sun shine and the earth gives food. He provides us everything we need for this body and life. We don’t see Him doing it. We see the farmer grow the food and the sun shine on the plants to make them grow. But God is the maker of the sun, the food, and the farmer. And by His command the sun, the food, and the farmer continue to carry out their work and be the instruments through which the Father feeds us our daily bread. He also watches over and protects us so that we are shielded from many dangers and troubles we would otherwise experience. We can put the 1st article of the Creed to work in our daily lives by thanking God every time we are provided with what we need for life, by thanking Him whenever we are shielded from danger, and by calling on Him for help in every need we have in earthly life. God the Father cares about our bodies, our physical and emotional needs, because He made them and gave them to us, and He takes care of them.

Just for this alone, that God the Father made us, provides for us, defends us and watches over us—for this alone we owe Him all thanks and praise and to serve and obey Him with our whole heart.

But as you have learned from the Ten Commandments, we do not serve and thank God with our whole hearts. In fact, every day we sin much and really deserve nothing but punishment.   Our hearts are always desiring to do what is against God’s commandments. This is something that people outside the Holy Christian Church don’t know. They think we are not perfect, but as long as we try pretty hard to do what’s right God is satisfied.

They don’t know that to be righteous in God’s eyes we must keep His commandments and love Him with all our heart and soul. And they don’t know or believe that we are unable to do it because we were born sinful and unclean, by nature dead spiritually and enemies of God.

Because we are this way and could not make ourselves righteous, God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, redeemed us. He paid for us to be regarded or counted righteous. He justified us. How? God the Son was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, was born for us, lived under the commandments of God, fulfilled them for us, and then suffered and died on the cross to make atonement for our sins, to pay their penalty. He became a human being like us and offered Himself as the substitute for the whole human race. God’s anger and punishment for all our sins and failure to serve Him fell on Jesus, and Jesus took it out of the way. He redeemed us, bought us back from sin, death, and the devil. He paid for all our sins in full so that we no longer have any sin to pay for. We are regarded as righteous because of Him.

And He rose from the dead on the third day, showing that our sins have been forgiven and that we no longer belong to death but to life, because He has freed human beings from death. He ascended into heaven, where He prays to the Father on our behalf, rules the universe for our good, and preaches His saving Word and gives His body and blood through the ministers He sends. And on the last day God the Son will return to judge the living and the dead, to give eternal life to us and all believers in Christ and to condemn to eternal death those who do not believe in Him.

But we could never believe in what God the Son had done for us unless God worked in our hearts, because we are by nature sinful and enemies of God. So the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, does His work of sanctification, or making holy. He proclaims what Jesus has done to take away our sins through the preaching of the Gospel. He says, “Jesus has died for your sins, and all by Himself, without any help from you, has made you right with God.” He says that when the Word is preached. He also says it in Baptism—“What Jesus did on the cross is for you.” He also says it in the absolution through the pastor after we confess our sins: “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And the Holy Spirit speaks and tells us that Jesus’ death on the cross is for us in the Sacrament of the Altar, when the pastor says Jesus’ words—“This is my body which is given for you…This is my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

And through these things, the Word and Sacraments, the Holy Spirit not only tells us our sins are forgiven through Jesus. He also works in our hearts so that we believe it and say, “Jesus died for me too, so my sins are surely forgiven.” No one can believe this on their own. When you believe it is because God the Holy Spirit has worked on you and in you to make you holy.

And when He brings us to faith in Jesus so that we are justified, counted righteous, He also begins to work in us so that we do the righteous works that please God. We begin to hate our sins and want to be forgiven and freed of them. We begin to want to do what pleases God. And we begin to keep His commandments out of thankfulness to the Father who made us and the Son who redeemed us.

The Holy Spirit sanctifies us, makes us holy. He creates faith in Jesus in us and a new man who begins to do the good works that please God. And the Holy Spirit does this for the whole Holy Christian Church. He gathers the believers in Christ together into one body, one communion, where we all share together in the forgiveness of sins. He keeps us together in the one true faith. He preserves our faith until we die, and then on the last day He will raise us and all the dead and give eternal life to all believers in Christ.

This is how the Creed teaches us to know our God. We are not in the dark about God. We are His people—created and fed by Him, redeemed by Him, made holy by Him and growing in holiness. We are called by His name because we have been baptized in the name of this one true God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we know Him. He is the God who made us, who saved us with His blood, who declares us Holy and is making us holy.

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.

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Catechetical Sermon: 6th commandment. Oct. 1, 2014

the-arnolfini-marriage-jan-van-eyckWednesday Matins, St. Peter Lutheran School

St. Peter Lutheran Church

6th commandment (Genesis 2:18-25)

October 1, 2014

 

Iesu Iuva

 

What is the 6th commandment?  You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

 

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.  The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.  But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.  So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

 

Does anyone know: can anyone tell me: what did God create marriage for?

 

A big reason is for the creation of children. That’s one of the reasons why marriage is so important to God and pleasing to God, because God wants human life to continue on earth.

 

But in the reading from Genesis God didn’t say anything about children. He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

 

Even when people like to be alone, no one can be completely alone. We need other people.

 

There are a few people that God has given a gift that they can not get married and still be chaste or pure sexually. But most people don’t have this gift.

 

That’s part of why God created marriage. When you get older and start liking people of the opposite sex, you know it’s probably a sign that God created you for marriage.  But then you wait for God to give you a wife or husband.  Not that you wait for them to drop out of the sky, but you get to know people of the opposite sex and are friends with them.

 

But you reserve physical intimacy until God gives a person to you in marriage, where you and your spouse are made one flesh.

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“Whoever Does Not Receive the Kingdom of God Like a Child Will Never Enter it”. Sermon on Infant Baptism, Wed. after Judica 2013

March 21, 2013 7 comments

 

cranach let the little children 1Wednesday after Judica (Vespers)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 18:9-17/ Passion History/ Small Catechism: What does such baptizing with water indicate?

March 20, 2013

“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall never enter it”

Jesu juva!

INI

 

Jesus died for you.  You are saved.  That is a short and sweet rendition of the article of justification.  Lutherans have always said that the Christian Church stands or falls on the article of justification.  If you keep that front and center, it will save people; God will build His church on it.  When it is kept straight the conscience is comforted, and all the other articles of the Christian faith will be preserved.  But without it all of the teaching of the Church is corrupted.  Without it there will not be harmony in the Church.

 

That sounds good.  But in practice it doesn’t look true.  Jesus died for you, you are saved.  That’s enough for salvation?  That’s enough to keep the Churchpastor with black eye alive and together?  Have we found that to be true?  No, it looks to us like either the Lutheran reformers were wrong or it hasn’t been taught clearly here lately.  Because the churches that have other things to boast about besides the article of justification do well and we feel like, to quote the Psalms, “A sparrow alone on a housetop, like an owl in the ruins.”

 

Once a catechumen told me, respectfully and honestly, “That seems too easy.”  He had a lot of Roman Catholic family, so it was understandable.  But it’s not just the pope’s church.  If a Baptist asks you, “Are you saved,” tell them yes, and then if they say, “How do you know,” say, “Because Jesus died for me on the cross.”  What will many of them say?  “Yes, that’s true, but did you accept him into your heart, really and truly?  Do you have a relationship with Him?”

 

And it’s not just them either.  A lot of times it seems too easy to Lutherans, to Lutheran pastors.  Jesus died for me, so I’m saved.  But I’d like to see some evidence.  Holiness, victory over sin, any kind of victory.  What good is it if I preach Jesus died for us, and then everyone is just as angry and anxious as they were before?  Sometimes I ask that of myself, and sometimes you do too.

 

But there are some Lutherans, and not just little kids, either, who know in the time of trial, that the article of justification is their refuge.  Jesus died for me, so I’m saved.  It’s not easy to comfort yourself with that when the mountains are removed and tumble into the heart of the sea, when it looks like you are going to die or maybe your congregation is, and maybe it’s your fault, at least partly.  Can I get an Amen?

 

But there are some Lutherans who God has enabled to do it.  That’s the difficult art that Christians are taught by the Holy Spirit—to say, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus’ word will never pass away, and His Word says that He saved me from my sins by His death on the cross.”

 

crucifixion thief on the crossBut there are even fewer who know how to comfort themselves with their Baptism, who can sing the hymn we just sang tonight and find comfort in it when Satan attacks or when death is near:

I am baptized in Jesus’ blood;

this is my pearl, my highest good,

which calms my soul in all distress

against the devil, hell, and death. 

 

Or as the old hymn in the Lutheran Service Book teaches us to sing:

Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!

 I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice. 

Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me

in a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

 

If saying “Jesus died for me on the cross, so I’m saved” seems too easy to us, saying “I am baptized” seems even worse.  Especially if you were baptized as a baby.  A man who plays the piano at one of the nursing home services was raised at Messiah Luth. Church.  But now he’s a Baptist or a Nazarene.  He always really likes my preaching, except when I talk about Baptism.  One time he said, again, honestly and respectfully—“If all you have to do is be baptized as an infant to be saved, why don’t Lutherans just baptize babies as often as possible, even when their parents aren’t looking?”

 

But the baptism of infants is possibly the clearest picture we have of what it means when we say that salvation is by grace alone.  That is what Jesus is getting at when He says “let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (St. Luke 18:16-17).”

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