Posts Tagged ‘Sermons’

And Sinners Will Return to You. Wed. after Oculi.

jesus caiphas frangipaneWednesday after Oculi—Vespers

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Passion History—Trial Before Caiaphas

March 7, 2018

And Sinners Will Return to You


Iesu Iuva

In the Name of Jesus.


There is a fire in the courtyard.  Simon is trying to keep warm and trying to keep his head down.  He is also trying to keep an eye on Jesus across the courtyard without anyone noticing.  Jesus has His hands tied.  Around Him are the scribes, the elders of Israel, members of the ruling council called the Sanhedrin, and the chief priests.  Jesus is on trial.


And as Peter listens, he hears his Lord give His testimony.  You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God’s power and coming with the clouds of heaven.  And the high priest tears his robes.  Jesus has just referenced the seventh chapter of Daniel’s prophecy and applied it to Himself.  He says that He is the Christ, anointed by God as king over all the peoples of the earth.  That He will return as God’s judge of the men assembled in this night court.


And the assembled dignitaries of Israel give their decision—Jesus must be put to death for blasphemy.


The chief priests and the elders of the people were wrong to condemn Jesus, of course.  He had not taught people to worship a false god or prophesied falsely in God’s name.  The man standing before them was the God of Israel.


But Jesus did not deny that they had the responsibility and the right to judge.  They were God’s representatives.  It was their duty to try and condemn blasphemers and false prophets.


What was true of the chief priests and Sanhedrin is also true of this church named after the apostle who fell so badly that night.  You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that apostle later wrote despite his great sin.  All who are baptized into Christ and believe in Him are, like Peter, priests, and share with Jesus the authority to forgive and retain sins.  To judge, despite the fact that we, like Peter, have ourselves sinned and denied Jesus.  Jesus has entrusted us with the office of the keys, that special authority that Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.


St. Paul writes about this, “It is actually reported among you that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant!  Ought you not rather to mourn?  Let him who has done this be removed from you…  When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”  (1 Cor. 5:1-5)


Paul means that the Church in Corinth is supposed to remove the unrepentant sinner from fellowship; pronounce that his sins are not forgiven, just as after confession the Church pronounces the forgiveness of sins by the authority of Jesus.  This is not putting him to death physically.  It is pronouncing God’s judgment that He will speak on the last day.


Paul says to do this “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”  By speaking it now, the unrepentant may turn and be delivered.


Most of us here relate with Peter.  We know that we are not pure.  We have denied Jesus ourselves, and so we are very hesitant to ever speak words of judgment to anyone else in the name of God.


We should be hesitant to ever judge or condemn anyone in our own name.  When we judge people on our own authority, we condemn ourselves.  But when we hold back Christ’s judgment from unrepentant sinners, we are not really showing them mercy.  We are going easy on ourselves, because we are afraid of being condemned by unbelievers as harsh and unloving.


Jesus preached, Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:19-20)  About that Jesus we are saying, “I do not know Him.”

He proclaims that our righteousness must be perfect to enter the kingdom of heaven.  For that He was condemned to die on the cross as a blasphemer—for confessing that He would return with the clouds in divine majesty to judge the living and the dead.  The priests tore their robes and called it blasphemy and handed Him over to Pontius Pilate.


We do not want to stand with Jesus and proclaim His judgment.  We do not want to be His Church that proclaims His judgment and His forgiveness because we are afraid.  “I do not know Him,” we say, with Peter.




Before us is Jesus, the Son of the Blessed.  He is the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.  (Rev. 3:7)


He preaches the judgment of God on us and through us, His Church, so that the world may be saved from eternal death.  The times have changed, people say.  The times have changed; the hour is late.  Judgment is very soon.  But the judgment of God has not changed.  The torment of hell will never change.


Jesus preaches the judgment of God so that the lost may be brought to repentance and saved from eternal death.


When the priest questioned Him, He confessed the truth—that He is the Christ, anointed by God to be king over human beings and to be priest for human beings.  He alone will rule over human beings, as their Redeemer and Savior, or as their judge.  He alone is able to reconcile God to us.  Our leniency toward sinners cannot take away their sins or our own.  Our leniency has no more validity before God than our self-righteous judgment, our unjust judgment, like the unjust judgment of the priests that Jesus was a blasphemer.


Only God’s mercy makes sin go away, and only His condemnation makes us truly guilty and condemned.


It was God who condemned Jesus as a blasphemer, and a denier.  It was His mercy that permitted His only Son to take up our sins as His own; it was His mercy that allowed Him to be condemned for them instead of us.


Only those who know that they are condemned by God are able to come to Jesus and receive God’s mercy.


Jesus was silent before the accusations they made against Him to the high priest because He was willing to bear every charge against us and the whole world and be condemned for them..  He was willing to shed His righteous blood so that we would be acquitted by God.


He was willing to be Christ for us, to be anointed as our king and priest.  He was willing to be our King and be led into hell to rescue us.


He was willing to be our priest, and to offer up Himself as the sacrifice that brought the wrath of God against us to an end.


This is why you are no longer the one who has denied Jesus countless times.  This is why you are no longer the hypocrite who has no right to speak His Word to anyone.  The judgment and the forgiveness that you speak and that I speak in His name are not spoken on our own authority, but in the authority of the Son of the Blessed One, the Christ, anointed by God, the rightful King who judges the living and the dead.  What He says, and what He authorizes and calls us to say, is not for the destruction of our family, neighbors, brothers.  It is for their salvation.  It comes from the mouth of Him who was silent as He was tried and condemned for the sins we try and fail to deal with ourselves.


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


Soli Deo Gloria









The Lord of the Flies. Oculi, 2018. Luke 11.14-28

jesus legion.PNGOculi, The Third Sunday in Lent

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 11:14-28

March 4, 2018

“The Lord of the Flies”

Iesu Iuva


In the Name of Jesus.


Think of flies, that terrible noise they make when they buzz past your ear, the sound of a whole lot of flies buzzing in a swarm.  Where do you hear this noise?  Usually you hear it when you are near something that stinks.  Public latrines with no plumbing, dog parks, the rotting corpse of an animal in the sun.  Wherever something is decaying, rotting, wherever there is excrement and filth and stench—that’s where you hear flies buzzing.


“Beelzebul” was the name of a Philistine idol.  The Jews changed one letter of his name and called him “Beelzebub” which means “lord of the flies”.  They meant that Beelzebul was the lord of excrement and the stink of decay, the lord of uncleannesss and death.  And since the Old Testament prophets associated false gods and demons, they said that Beelzebub was really the prince and lord of demons.


This is a fitting name for the devil.  Just like flies have a party and make a great buzzing whenever they find something dead and stinking, the devil and his demons delight in death and the pollution of God’s good creation.  And since human beings are the crown of God’s creation, they find no greater pleasure than when they have polluted us, degraded us, and watched us die, physically and spiritually.


But while the devil is evil, he isn’t dumb.  Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, the Bible tells us (2 Cor. 11: 14).  He doesn’t tell us that he wants to pollute us and murder us.  He convinces us that he is not the devil at all.  He convinces people that he is their best friend and God’s word is not to be trusted, that it will harm them.


Most of us can smell the reek of moral rot around us.  But it’s hard to smell yourself.  The smell of death is on us too, because we too are “by nature sinful and unclean.”  In the epistle, Paul said Be imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:1).


To God, all sin stinks.  Even the slightest putrid whiff He cannot tolerate in His nostrils.  But sexual immorality and all impurity and covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Let there be no foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 


The demon who possessed the man in the Gospel reading took away the man’s speech.  Even to allow a useless word to pass our lips is a misuse of the power of speech.  God gave us the power of speech to speak what is true to His glory.  Even to speak idle, foolish words is a degradation for us who were created in the image of God.  It is decay and corruption.  It also is the work of the lord of the flies, along with impure thoughts and covetousness, anything less than the love that made Jesus a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God for us..


We think we can live with the foul odor that is in us, because it’s less (we think) than what we smell in others.  But we really can’t.  Meat that is only partly rotten right now is meat that will be completely rotten.  For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.  James 2:10


Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil—not to destroy the things he does that we think are really terrible, and leave the rest of it.  We live under His grace while we are not perfect, but He does not intend to let us remain imperfect.  If we have no interest in becoming perfectly holy, we have no interest in Jesus.  We are not yet done with worshipping the lord of the flies.


Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Luke 11: 23).  You cannot be with Jesus unless you are an enemy not only of the uncleanness outside of you, but all of it within you.


But hating the uncleanness in us is not the same as being clean.  The more intensely we pursue life and holiness, cleanness and honor, the more death and decay seems to arise in us.  We find that our hearts are not united.  Satan’s kingdom is.  Satan doesn’t drive out Satan.  But in us there appear to be two wills opposed to one another.  We sometimes wonder if we are sincere in what we say: I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them.  I renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways.  And if we are not sincere, how can we make ourselves?  Job asked, Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?  (Job 14:4)  We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  (Is. 64:6) 


There is another one who is not divided against Himself.  Jesus has one purpose.  The devil’s purpose is to dehumanize and bring death.  Jesus’ purpose is to restore and make people whole.  To make us alive; to make us holy as God is holy, perfect as His heavenly Father is perfect.  So that we are clean, in perfect health, sound, morally, mentally, spiritually whole.



Since Satan will not let anyone he controls go, he has to be beaten in combat.  And then, Jesus says, his armor has to be taken away, so that he can’t try to oppress people again and take back what he lost.


The devil’s armor is the fear of death.  We fear death because it is the sentence for sin.  Because of our sin we face God’s condemnation.  This is Satan’s armor that he uses to keep human beings in slavery.  Nobody can take this armor away from him unless they can take away our debt of sin.


So take to heart the good news that Jesus preaches in this Gospel.  You have heard it before, but hear it again, and keep it in your heart.


The demons obey Jesus because He is the Lord.  But He is also one of us.  He shares our flesh and blood.  But unlike us the devil has nothing to blackmail Jesus with.  There is no uncleanness, no decay or corruption in Him.  He was conceived in holiness.  He did no sin.  It couldn’t even be named of Him.  He had no unclean words, no unclean thoughts, no hatred, lust, no fear, love, or trust of anyone before God.


In this pure flesh Jesus overcame Satan and disarmed him.  He took the decay of your sinful nature, your broken and corrupted body, mind, and soul, into His own body.  The record of your debt of sin was inscribed on His body.  And it was torn up and put away.


Surely, our sicknesses He hath borne, and our pains, He hath carried them…And He is pierced for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace is on Him, and by His bruise there is healing to us.  (Is. 53:4-5, YLT)


This is a strange sort of victory.  But the laceration of Jesus’ body, the anguish of His soul, and His death were His victory over Satan, where he tore away the devil’s armor and weapons.  When He was bound to the cross with nails and bound up in the grave clothes and laid in the tomb, He bound Satan.  He took away Satan’s blackmail against us, because He was condemned for us.  And His death is the healing of the uncleanness of our flesh.  Our gangrene was cured in His wounds and death.  And the cure is now at work in us who believe.  We are like people with an infection who have just begun taking an antibiotic.  He destroyed sin in His body.  As we eat His body and drink His blood by faith, His cure of sin begins to cure our flesh of its corruption.  We are not yet fully cured in ourselves, but the medicine we receive ensures that we will be.


So by faith we laugh at the devil when he tries to keep us in slavery, in filth, with the flies buzzing around us. There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (Rom. 8:1)


This is why Jesus says, Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.  Blessed are those who go on hearing this word of the Gospel, and who keep it when the devil knocks on the door.  The

word of Jesus’ death is your armor.  When he tempts with false appearances and the promise of life and freedom in sin, the death of Jesus is our armor, showing us what sin really is.  It is death.  It shows us who Jesus really is.  He is the one who loved us and gave Himself as a fragrant sacrifice to God to cover the stench of our sins and make us pleasing.


When the devil reminds you of your sins and uncleanness and tempts you to believe that you are not really Christ’s, Jesus’ passion is your armor.  You keep the word of God.  You say, “I am Christ’s not because I have no sicknesses, but because Jesus carried my sickness on the cross and healed it by his wounds, even the sickness still in me.”


This is what makes a saint—not doing great things, like Mary, who bore Jesus in her womb and nursed Him.  But hearing the word of God and keeping it.  Hearing that Jesus made us clean with His suffering and crucifixion, believing it.  Not resting our faith on the healing we see in us, but on the healing that God accomplished for us in Jesus’ wounds and blood.


This is why you must keep hearing this word, why you must keep eating this bread and drinking this cup, why you must keep being absolved by the minister as by God Himself.  This is how Jesus makes you whole and clean.  This is what keeps the flies away.


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


Soli Deo Gloria

The War in Heaven and the War on Earth. St. Michael and All Angels, 2017

October 16, 2017 Leave a comment

st michaelSt. Michael and All Angels

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Revelation 12:7-12 (Matthew 18:-10)

September 29, 2017

“The War in Heaven and the War on Earth”


The terrifying picture of the devil as the dragon


There is a war going on around us that we cannot see.  All three readings tell us about it.  An angel came to speak to Daniel, but he was delayed because “the prince of Persia” held him up until Michael the archangel came to his aid in the battle.  Our Lord Jesus tells his disciples to be careful not to cause children who believe in Him to fall into sin, because “their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven”—which is to say that God has assigned angels to protect and guard little children—implying that the kingdom of darkness desires especially to harm children.


And in the reading from Revelation we see Satan depicted as a dragon with an army engaged in battle with Michael and the angels of heaven.  He wants to stay in heaven so that he can continue to accuse Christians before God “day and night.”  But he and his angels are defeated and thrown down to earth.  And St. John hears a voice that says ominously to us, Woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!  (Rev. 12:12)


We aren’t scared of dragons, because they don’t exist.  But if they did, you would be horrified.  Dragons are huge.  They are smart.  They can usually fly and breathe flames and incinerate whole towns.  It is basically impossible for human beings to kill them.


Those kind of mythical beasts don’t exist, but the devil does exist.  And he is a dragon.  He is malevolent and enjoys killing people.  He takes great pleasure in murdering us.  That is what he did in the very beginning when he spoke to the woman in the form of a serpent.  He’s not content just to kill a person here and a person there, the way a human murderer does.  He opposes God’s order in creation that sustains life.  He manipulates women and incites them to murder their children.  He opposes God’s order in creating us male and female so that children are not even born, and when they are, their parents don’t care for them properly.  He causes disorder in the state so that people die through misgovernment, crime, and war.  He causes disorder in the Church so that God’s Word is not preached and inflicts spiritual death.  He wants us all exterminated, and he wants us dead not just in this world but in a death that lasts forever in the lake of fire.  And he has a great number of powerful angels under his command to carry out his war.


This dragon, the devil, is at war with God and his kingdom.  That means he is at war with the Holy Christian Church—with us who are baptized and believe in Christ.  Since we don’t see him, we are often asleep as this war rages around us.


Can you imagine being in a war with guns and bombs?  How vigilant would you be if you knew that when you let your guard down you might be picked off by a bullet from an enemy hidden somewhere you couldn’t see?  And yet this war, which is far more dangerous, rages around us.  We are never free from it as long as we are in this world.  Yet how many days go by where we are unconscious of it, and unarmed.  Not wearing the body armor of our baptism.  Not armed with our weapons, the Word of God and prayer.


In the text from Revelation, we see that this dragon, who is invincible as far as human beings are concerned, once carried out his warfare in heaven.  He no doubt carried out attacks on Christians on earth like he does now—attacking our health, property, good name, as well as our faith in Christ and His Word.  But he had an additional front.  He used to accuse us before God day and night.  In the book of Job, Satan appears before God and accuses Job; he says, the reason why Job loves and trusts you is that you protect him from me.  Take away his protection and let me destroy his property, his children, his health, and he will curse You to Your face.


Satan used to be able to accuse us before God.  He would remind God of our violations of His law, how we had not loved and trusted Him above all things, how we had failed to treat His Word as sacred, how we had not honored our parents, how we were angry and vengeful toward our neighbor, how we were unchaste, how we stole, wasted, were greedy and negligent, and harmed our neighbors’s reputation.  He would remind God of how we had earned His anger and punishment.  He would demand that God turn us over to him.


But Revelation tells us that Satan is no longer able to wage war against us in this way.  He has been cast down from heaven.  St. Michael and the angelic armies forcibly removed Satan from heaven.  He is not allowed in to proclaim our sins before God.


That is because God has been reconciled to us once and for all by the blood of the Lamb.  When Jesus was led like a sheep to be slaughtered, when His veins were opened by Roman whips and nails, and His heart was pierced by the spear in death, out with His blood drained God’s wrath against all of the seemingly bottomless evil that humans have done and that remains in our hearts.  He can no longer be stirred up to wrath against us because He is reconciled to us.  And the devil is no longer permitted to accuse us to God.  Those accusations are no longer permitted in the presence of God, because those sins have been done away by Jesus.  To bring them into God’s presence would be to deny the worth of Jesus’ suffering, and this God will not allow.


This is wonderful news!  The bad news, however, is that the devil has been cast down to the earth.  And he is very angry.  He is like a cornered animal.  He knows that it is only a very short time before he is cast forever into the lake of fire.  And since he cannot take his hatred and anger out on God, he vents it on God’s creation, and specifically on us—on human beings, the head of God’s creation, and particularly on the Christian Church, the people God has taken as His own out of the world.


The angels who defend us


The dragon has come down to the earth, and in a rage, seeks to have us dead, seeks above all to claim those whom God has claimed as His own in Baptism and pull them down with their white robes into the filth, shame them, hook them with his claws and carry them down into the fire forever with him.  And we can see around us the great fury with which the devil has worked to destroy the Christian Church.  We see around us a great falling away.  Worse than the empty pews, however, is the way that so many churches in which the pure word of God was once heard are now the haunts of owls and jackals.  They are ruins.  They are thrones for evil spirits.  And in many other churches the devil has not succeeded in establishing control, but his demons have a voice in the church.  His sulfurous breath competes in the air with the incense of God’s temple.  The holy angels cannot enter these churches unmolested.  They have to come in with their swords drawn.


With such a powerful, humanly speaking invincible enemy, we are foolish to be asleep.  But even if we were wide awake, what would we do?  We are not strong enough to kill dragons.


But God still sends His angels out into the world, and by their mighty power they uphold and defend God’s creation.  They uphold government so that there is peace and so that life can continue on earth.  They protect children and promote peace in the household.  And they defend the Church against the attacks of Satan so that he is not able to wipe us out like he would like to do.  With their swords drawn they carry out God’s will and deliver our lives from destruction.  They protect our property and good name, which Satan would like to destroy.  And they stay with us and guard us as we live in faith in Christ so that Satan is not allowed to harm us beyond what God allows for our growth in faith and godliness.


+God can do this without angels; but He uses them.  So we thank Him for them


+We live in our calling in faith and the angels stay with us instead of leaving us.


The devil is always defeated when he wars against Christians

+He is ejected from heaven and his ceaseless accusation by the blood of the lamb.  God does not permit us to be accused before Him because we have been justified by the blood of Christ.  If God permitted charges to be leveled against us, it would be to deny that our Lord Christ has “blotted out the handwriting against us” with His blood (Colossians 2).  It would be to deny that Jesus’ death had taken away our sins once and for all.  For God to accept charges against us would be to deny His Son.  This the Father will never do.  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”  (Rom. 8:1, 33-34) And so, our justification is certain.  Satan is overcome and defeated by Jesus’ blood.  The saints trample him underfoot through faith in the blood of the Lamb.

+We overcome him here by the blood of the lamb, received by faith, and confessed with our  lips.

+The angels serve us here; and at our end they gather us with all the saints to rest in Christ until He returns to raise us up.

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

Soli Deo Gloria

He Died For All, That Those Who Live Might No Longer Live For Themselves. Quinquagesima 2017. St. Luke 18:31-43

February 27, 2017 Leave a comment

jesus heals blind beggar jericho melanchthon luke 18 quinquagesima.jpgQuinquagesima

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 18:31-43 (1 Cor. 13)

February 26, 2017

“He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves”


Iesu iuva!


For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  2 Corinthians 5: 14-15


For whom do you live your life?  For yourself?  Or for Jesus?


There was a grandmother who had a grandson that she loved.  When he was little, his parents would bring him over to her house on Christmas and at his birthday and other important days.  The grandmother had very little money, but she always gave him the best present she could on Christmas and his birthday, because she loved him.  When he was little, he would open his present and say, “Thank you, grandma!” and give her a hug.


When he got to be a teenager and started to grow up into a man, he didn’t have much time for his grandma.  She still saved up to give him gifts at his birthday and Christmas, and his parents still brought him over, even though he usually looked like he wanted to be somewhere else.  And when he opened the card with money in it, he still said, “Thanks, grandma,” and gave her a hug.  But except for those occasions when he came over, she never heard from him.


Later he went to college and then got a job in another city, far away.  His grandmother still loved him, and still sent him gifts.  And sometimes he would call her on the phone and say “Thanks, grandma” when he got them.  Other times he wouldn’t.


Soon she went into a nursing home.  The family had all moved away.  She seldom got visitors.  Her grandson called very little.  He was busy with work and his family.  The grandmother didn’t feel any bitterness toward him.  She loved him.  She never sent him those gifts because she wanted to buy his affection; she just loved him.


When she died, and her grandson came to her funeral, he didn’t have any flash of insight where he realized he had been ungrateful.  He went home and went on with his life, never realizing how he had been loved.


Has anyone here ever seen this story happen in real life?  I have not only seen it; I have been the grandson—so wrapped up in my own desires and problems that I did not recognize when love was being shown to me.  So I did not receive it.  I did not respond to it.  I appreciated the gifts, but did not receive the love of the person that motivated the gifts.  How tragic.

But not only tragic for me.  Not only tragic for the people in your life who have treated you or others you know in the same way.  Tragic for you as well!  Because the way the grandson responded to his grandmother’s love is the way that you—often, maybe always—respond to the love of God.

Today is Quinquagesima, which means “fiftieth”, because it is roughly 50 days before Easter.  On this Sunday the Gospel reading records how Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and how, near the city of Jericho, a blind man heard the crowd that was going with Jesus travelling through.  He cried out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  We heard how even though the crowd told him to stop making a scene he kept shouting this, and how Jesus stopped, called the man over to Him, and restored his sight.  Then, St. Luke records, “He immediately recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God.”


The formerly blind man immediately begins to follow Jesus. Where is Jesus going, and what will happen to Him there?  The formerly blind man doesn’t ask; he doesn’t care.  He follows Jesus without worrying about what will come from following him.  He loves Jesus and wants to be with Him.  He loves Jesus because he has received not only his sight, but Jesus’ love.


You might think, “Of course he followed Jesus after Jesus did such a great miracle for him!”  But it’s not obvious at all that he would do this.  A chapter before this in Luke’s gospel Jesus healed 10 men with leprosy, and only one came back to give thanks to the Lord.


No.  Many times Jesus does wonderful things for people, and they are like the grandson in the story I told you.  “Thanks, Jesus,” they say.  “Now I can get back to my life—to my job, my family, my friends, my cell phone.”  In fact, that is how people normally respond to Jesus’ gifts. Even more often, people don’t even acknowledge that Jesus has given them a gift.


They go on living for themselves.


When it is pointed out to us that this is what we are doing, we frequently get mad.  Look, we say, what do you expect from me?  Don’t you know I have to pay my bills?  Don’t you understand that it is impossible to follow Jesus the way the world is now without being an outcast, without suffering financially?  Don’t you understand people are already doing all they can without you demanding more?  And are we not supposed to have any enjoyment and pleasure in life?  You’re telling me Jesus doesn’t want us to be happy?


What I’m saying is that the first commandment of God is this: You shall have no other gods—which means, We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  God is always commanding His servants in the Bible to do things that seem impossible to do without risking their happiness, their good name, even their lives.  We heard it in the Old Testament reading.  The Lord said to Samuel…Fill your horn with oil, and go.  I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.  And Samuel said, “How can I go?  If Saul hears it, he will kill me.  And the Lord said…I will show you what you shall do.  And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.  (1 Sam. 16:1-3)  And Samuel goes and does what God commands, because he loves the Lord, and he trusts the Lord even though he doesn’t understand.

Yes, God commands us to love Him, fear Him, trust Him above all things.  Those who don’t love God above all things are sinners.  They provoke Him to anger, real and serious wrath that will burn for eternity.  Those who don’t love and trust God above all things are as wicked in His sight as men who dishonor their bodies with other men, as women who murder their infants in their wombs, as those who defraud and rob and steal.  We do not become good in God’s sight because we refrain from the grave sins others do.  Lack of love for God in your heart means you love someone or something else more than God.  When we devise excuses for this in the Church—and we do it so easily, both me and you—we become just what the world accuses us of being: Pharisees.


No, let us admit the painful reality.  Just like the world, we don’t love God above all things.  When we look at the blind man, who out of love jumps up and follows Jesus, not caring where Jesus is going or what will happen if he follows Jesus, we see in the mirror of his example that we are the grandson who doesn’t respond to the love of his grandmother.


Jesus has done more for each one of us than He did for that blind man.  He healed not only our eyes but our entire body and soul.  He joined our bodies of dust and ashes to His resurrected, immortal bodies, and renewed our souls when He baptized us.  Yet we often say, “Thanks, Jesus!  See you in heaven when I get done living my life for myself.”


When we are challenged on this and asked, “Shouldn’t you follow Jesus?  Shouldn’t you run to hear His Word when it is offered?  Shouldn’t you gladly serve Him in His Church?  Shouldn’t you give Him Your life, and follow Him in giving it up for the people He wants you to serve?  Shouldn’t you give Him the firstfruits of your wealth so that others can hear the joyful news of salvation?  Shouldn’t you use all your strength to see the gospel of Jesus given to other people?”  Then we say, “But Jesus is going to be mocked, treated shamefully, to be spit on, to be flogged and nailed to a cross!”


Even if we agree, to our shame, that we should follow Jesus with joy like this man who had been blind, we find that we cannot do so.  We look ahead of Jesus and see the cross and suffering.  The fear overwhelms our joy.


And the more we are told that we should follow Jesus, that we should do it out of love and not out of compulsion, the more we find that we can’t.  Those who are annoyed to be told this become more annoyed and resistant.  Those who agree but are afraid become more afraid and less joyful.


This is the terrible reality of original sin.  We are born not loving God, and we cannot will ourselves into loving Him.  The love of God must come to us from outside into our hearts, and once it has begun to come in, it must continue, and we cannot make this happen.


The grandson who didn’t respond to his grandmother’s love needed not to force himself to act like he loved her.  He needed to receive the love that was already there from his grandma.  That is the way it is with us and God.


Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to be mocked, treated shamefully, spat upon, flogged with whips, crucified.  He told his disciples this not to scare them, but to cause them to see when it happened that this was no accident.  God foretold it centuries before through the prophets. In eternity He planned it, before the world began.  It was His will that Jesus should suffer all these things.  It was Jesus’ will also.  As He pulled His disciples aside and explained it to them again, now for the third time, He saw it coming clearly.  He could have avoided it and said, “We’ll go up to Jerusalem next year.”  He didn’t do it.  He saw it clearly and unmistakeably, and journeyed toward it.


Those were Jesus’ actions, motivated by His will, by the engine of His heart.  What powered that engine was this—love.  Love for human beings who do not love Him.  Love for His enemies, love for His disciples, love for you, love for me.  In love He saw us with a clear eye.  He saw that our love of ourselves had to be punished by a just God with shame, mockery, physical suffering, with endless spiritual torment.


So He journeyed to Jerusalem to receive it for us—to be treated with contempt.  To be mocked and spit on.  To have His flesh opened with stripes from the whips.  To have His hands and feet pierced and pinned to the cross and be lifted up from the earth as a curse.  To cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”  To bring to an end God’s anger against us, His righteous condemnation for the lives we have lived for ourselves, spurning His love.  And then on the third day to rise again, God declaring our sin paid for in full, God announcing that Jesus and we are no longer in bondage to our sins. He no longer counts them.


Consider the love behind this gift.  Meditate on it.


You are not able to stop living for yourself.  But Jesus has blotted out the life you live in the flesh.  He lived His life on earth in love toward His Father and in love toward you.  For His sake the Father’s anger against your life of self-love has ended.  For His sake, the Father counts you and all who believe in Jesus not only as if they lived their life following Jesus, for Jesus, but as if you lived Jesus’ life.


As you receive this love of Jesus, which is given to you when His Gospel is preached, when the Scripture is taught, when you read the Bible at home, when you receive the body and blood of Jesus in the Sacrament—as you receive His love in these ways, His love is born in you.  The death He died for all becomes active in your life.  Just as the grandson would have loved his grandmother if he had paid attention and received the love that was behind her gifts, so as you hear the word of the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus’ gift of His life for you, His love will enter your heart and do what it did in the man He healed of blindness.  It will cause you to forget yourself and follow Jesus, not out of compulsion, but out of love, with joy.


On Wednesday the season of Lent begins, with its call to baptized Christians to renew the fight against our flesh, with its constant desire to live for ourselves.  This fight, in which we exercise our will, is necessary.  No one can be a Christian without it.  We have to daily drown in Jesus’ death, in which we died in Baptism, the desires, thoughts, and impulses of our flesh that want us to live the old way—for ourselves, in sin, with our hearts denying Jesus’ love, closed to it.


We have to fight.  But our fighting, our willing to no longer live for ourselves doesn’t create love.  Love comes from seeing the love Jesus has in His heart for you—the love revealed in His joyful willingness to go to Jerusalem, to be treated with contempt, to be spit on, whipped, pierced with nails, and forsaken by God.


In that love we are secure, now and forever.  That love has destroyed the life you lived for yourself.


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




Soli Deo Gloria




Your Sorrow Turns to Joy. Jubilate 2014. St. John 16:16-21

May 14, 2014 1 comment

ImageJubilate (4th Sunday of Easter)+ St. Peter Lutheran Church, Joliet + St. John 16:16-21 + May 11, 2014 (Mothers’ Day)+ “Your Sorrow Becomes Joy”


Iesu Iuva!


The disciples didn’t know what Jesus was talking about.  “What is this that He’s telling us—‘A little while and you will not behold me, and again a little while and you will see me,” and “because I am going to the Father’?  What is this ‘little while’ He keeps talking about?  We don’t know what He is saying.”


Jesus had already told them what He was talking about.  But they didn’t understand because they hadn’t experienced it yet and they didn’t yet have the Holy Spirit.


In the same way Jesus has already told us what we are going to experience in His Church after His ascension, but we don’t understand apart from the Holy Spirit granting us faith through His Word.  Apart from the Spirit, relying on our own experience and reasoning, everything is dark. 


What He has told us is that in this world we will experience distress and sorrow, but that our sorrow becomes joy.


And to make this easier for the disciples and us to understand our Lord uses a picture that is very fitting for Mothers’ Day.


A woman when she is giving birth has distress, because her hour has come, but when the child is born she no longer remembers the sorrow because of joy that a human being has been born into the world.


Not that there is no distress and sorrow for mothers after childbirth.  Being a mother is full of distresses and sorrows.  It’s not only the near-death experience of giving birth.  Then it’s waking up in the middle of the night to feed and change diapers and years of caring for a little life that needs constant attention.  Then they become teenagers and need attention for other reasons but don’t want it.  And these days moms also often have to do most of the work of providing for her child, because Dad isn’t around.


It’s a lot of work that is demanding but not highly regarded, despite all the money that we spend on Mothers’ day.  How many people with a smart and talented daughter would be happy to hear her say, “I want to be a mother when I grow up”—if she didn’t also say—“and a doctor, or a CEO, or president…”


But Jesus said, “What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”  (Luke 16:15)  We are impressed when men build cities and name them after themselves, when they build companies or nations, when they make themselves wealthy and famous, when they create art and literature.  But God calls it an abomination when one works to make a name for himself and instead of working and living for the honor of God’s name.  it’s what the people of the world did after the flood—they tried to build a tower to the heavens and make for themselves a name. 


It is supposed to be progress now when women have the freedom to pursue this same kind of idolatry that goes by the name “career”.

Work doesn’t exist to make ourselves a name or make ourselves rich.  It is a calling from God, a gift, through which He wants to work through us to give life to others. 


That’s why motherhood is highly esteemed by God and despised by the world.  Mothers who do what they are called to do trusting in Christ to work through them, who do what they are called to do in obedience to His Word—they are pleasing to God.  They do great works and get no praise from men.  Changing diapers and spending your attention and energy on little children isn’t building the Eiffel tower.  It’s more important.  Mothers bear life into the world for God and then nurture that life. 


Those kinds of works, done in faith in Christ, are not regarded as great by the world.  But God has regard for them.  He looks on works that are done not for the praise of men but out of faith in His Son, works that actually help our neighbor—help to give and sustain his life.  Things like towers and music and athletic ability can bless people, but mothers do the work that makes it possible to enjoy these other things.  They face death to bring a child into the world and they give up their youth and freedom to care for it. 


But you don’t hear mothers, usually, describing being a mother with the words “distress” and “anguish.”  That’s because the sorrows of motherhood God turns into joy, as He does with the sorrows of all callings He has ordained.  


The agony of giving birth and the difficulties of raising a child don’t remain agony and difficulty and distress.  They become joy.


The excruciating pain of labor becomes the joy of the mom holding her newborn, and the joy these two experience is greater than most joys ever experienced on earth.  Dads can only stand and watch it with amazement and gladness for them.


The hassles of raising kids becomes the joy and pride of seeing them go out into the world as adults to walk with God the way to life.  And even when they stray there is joy for a Christian mother, because she can turn to her Father in heaven for comfort and with confidence that He will care for her child just as He cared for her.  Jesus says that the experience of His disciples will be like the experience of a mother in labor.  They will have anguish, but the anguish itself becomes joy.  The sorrows of Christians don’t go away and then joy comes.  No, the sorrows and pains themselves become joy.  Believing this, Christians begin to rejoice in the sufferings themselves.


The Scriptures say this in many places.  Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:  So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison…” (2 Cor. 4:16-17)


And Hebrews 12 says: For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  (Heb. 12:11)


When the disciples didn’t see Jesus for a little while, all they could do was lock themselves in a house and weep.  He was shut up in the tomb; they were shut up in the house.  It was unthinkable.  They had seen Jesus calm the sea with a word, seen Him cure lepers and paralyzed people and raise the dead with a word.  Then He had died in apparent weakness on the cross.  Given up His Spirit.  Blood and water poured from a spear thrust to His heart.  He was dead.


Anguish seized the disciples.  How could this have happened?  They must have been abandoned by God.  And for a person abandoned by God there is nowhere to run.


That very anguish of Jesus’ death and burial did not go away.  It was transformed into joy, like the water at Cana didn’t go away but became wine.


So the disciples’ anguish turned into exceedingly great joy when Jesus appeared to them.  But He really appeared to them before He came into the room and showed them His hands and side.  He appeared to them when the women came and first proclaimed to them the message of the angel: “He is risen!”


That’s also how He appears to us. 


He appears to us in the Scriptures, risen from the dead.  HE appears to us in the preaching of His resurrection.  And in those Scriptures and in that preaching the Holy Spirit is given to us so that we see Him and share the apostles’ joy.


After seeing Jesus risen, do you think the apostles were ever unhappy or scared or in anguish again?  You might think they never were.  But you would be wrong.


Paul says: We [apostles] are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh.  2 Cor. 4:8, 10-11


The apostles still had pain, confusion, great suffering even after seeing Jesus raised.  In the same way mothers have plenty of distresses after the great distress of childbirth is over.  There may be some distresses that equal the pain of childbirth later.  But mothers almost never refer to motherhood as “anguish”.  Why?  Because just as the anguish of labor became joy, so the pains that come after childbirth become joy.


The biggest anguish for us in the Church is over.  Christ Jesus suffered, was forsaken by God, died and was raised from the dead. 


The pain He suffered became the joy that He has now in justifying us while we are yet sinners. 


Because He was laid in the grave not for His own sins but ours.  He bore the wrath of God not against His sins, but ours. 


Out of the anguish of His soul came the joy for Him of our reconciliation with God.  Now nothing stands between us and God, not even for the chief of sinners.  His suffering became the joy of clothing us with righteousness in Holy Baptism, of feeding us the righteousness of God in His body and blood given and shed for us.


And out of the anguish of the apostles’ souls came the joy of their message.  The three days He was gone from us, they say, meant the reconciliation of the world to God.  He atoned for our sins and rose and showed the new life that is ours, which will be ours in fullness when we are raised from the dead.


And it is the same with your sorrows and pains.  You see Jesus.  Your pain does not disappear.


It becomes joy, just as these bodies of sin and death in which we live will be raised up and transformed into the likeness of His glorious body.


You see Jesus forsaken by God for you and raised from the dead in the Gospel.  He comes and preaches it to you.  For you I was forsaken by God and for you I am raised, He says, and for you I reign at the right hand of God.  For you I will return on the last day.


The anguish we feel over our sins becomes joy, because it is that pain which He uses to keep drawing us to see Him and hear His voice.


He does not change the face He shows us or change His message.  He says, “I forgive you all your sins.”  Though they be as dark as death and as deep as hell, I endured the darkness for you and I have come from the depths and pronounce your sins forgiven.”


No one can take this joy away from us, because Jesus is present in His church to the end of the world.  Whenever His word is read or spoken; whenever someone is baptized in the name of the Trinity, and whenever His body and blood is distributed as He instituted, Jesus is with us.  He is the very one in whom all our sins and agonies were transformed into righteousness and joy.  Look at Jesus’ head crowned with thorns.  Look at His hands pierced, crying, “My God, why have you forsaken Me?”


That is our sin and agony.  And it has become righteousness and joy.  The same Lord is risen and proclaims the forgiveness of our sins.  He bursts their chains—their legacy of guilt, sadness, and death.  In place He declares you righteous, free, alive.  And with this true liberating word comes joy—even though it may only be a kernel just starting to grow.


Indeed, all our sorrows will become joy.  We too are given over to death for Jesus’ sake so that His life may be revealed in these jars of clay.


Joy lightens our face when we look at Jesus—that is to say, when we listen to His Word.  When we see Jesus we are seeing the one on whom our guilt and our despair were placed.  And He descended into the depths of God’s wrath with that real and heavy weight.  But He has risen and proclaims our guilt finished and our pain turned into joy.


The pain of childbirth becomes joy—great joy.


Are you experiencing some great anxiety or pain?  Over yourself?  Someone you love?


Do things look like they are closing in on you?  It’s all too obvious that we feel that way in the church.  And many of you have felt that burden for many years.


Jesus promises that just as labor pains become the joy of a child, our labor pains, your labor pains, will not be stillborn.  They will become joy, and no one will take your joy from you.


Indeed, Jesus has already turned them into joy.  He has borne them and the eternal wrath of God and risen again with the keys of death with which He sets you free.


And today He invites you to sit down and receive the testament that your sorrow has been changed into joy—the sacrament of His body and blood, which pledge that His agony has ransomed us and purchased us for everlasting joy.


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




Palm Sunday 2014. At the Name of Jesus Every Knee Shall Bow. St. Matthew 21. 1-11

April 13, 2014 1 comment

palm sundayPalm Sunday + St. Peter Lutheran Church, Joliet, Illinois + St. Matthew 21:1-11 + April 13, 2014
“At the Name of Jesus Every Knee Shall Bow”

Iesu iuva!

Jesus is king. He gives an unmistakeable sign that He is king of the Jews when He sends His disciples to fetch the donkey and rides it into Jerusalem. And when the crowds respond to Him as the Christ, the anointed One, the promised King, He does not refuse their praise. He allows them to lay down their cloaks on the road in front of Him with leafy branches of trees as a royal carpet. He doesn’t stop them when they cry out “Hosanna!” Save us! “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” The Lord has appointed you to rule in His Name!

The crowd reads Jesus’ actions as proclaiming that He is the King. And even the people of Jerusalem pay attention, the citizens of the city the Lord chose for His dwelling place, the temple. Living in such a holy place, the people of Jerusalem aren’t easily impressed by people claiming to be prophets. But today, on Palm Sunday, when the crowds of Passover pilgrims raise the festal shout of salvation, they ask, “Who is this?” (21:10) And the answer comes back, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” (21:11)

Everything seems to be going so well. Jesus makes signs that He is the King, the Messiah. The people greet Him as their King. So what if Jesus has a few enemies? What are they going to do when the people are laying their cloaks on the road in front of Him? God seems to be making Jesus’ way straight before Him straight to the throne of the King of Israel, and from there Lord and King to the very ends of the earth, over all the nations.

The donkey Jesus needs is right where He says it would be, and its owner sends it just as Jesus said he would. Jesus goes into the temple and throws out the money changers, and no one does anything to Him. He comes back on Monday and Tuesday and silences and rebukes the priests and scribes with their false, godless teaching. God seems to be preparing everything.

And then everything changes. Doesn’t it? Was God really making His way straight before Him? Was He really being made King when He was flogged to the point of barely looking human (Isa. 52-53), clothed with a scarlet robe and crowned with a wreath of spiny thorns? Was He really being made king when the soldiers knelt down in front of Him and spit in His bloody face? Had God really prepared His way to the throne when Pilate brought Him out in front of the crowd, dressed up in this royal apparel, and said, “Behold the man,”? Had God made Jesus king then when the crowd roared “Crucify, crucify Him”?



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Familiar Chains. Wednesday after Oculi, 2014.

False Witnesses Before CaiaphasWednesday after Oculi + St. Peter Lutheran Church + What sins should we confess? [Small Catechism] (Passion History Part III) + March 26, 2014 +  Familiar Chains


Iesu iuva!

What sins should we confess?  Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer.  But before the pastor we should confess only those sins that we know and feel in our hearts.



If you get away from God, you’ll have freedom. Absolute freedom. You won’t have to worry about doing what He says and you won’t have to worry about dying.


Get away from God or get rid of Him; then you’ll be free. Unlimited freedom.



But really, chains.

Adam hides. That’s his freedom.


Peter hides and he won’t come back because he’s trying to escape chains and death. But he gets a different kind of chain. He has to keep lying and stay away from God in order to maintain his freedom.


Jesus doesn’t look like He’s free to us, but He is.

He confesses the true God. He confesses Himself.

He knows full well what this means; the people will want to kill Him.

He also knows that it is the Father’s will.

It seems to us that denying His Father (and Himself) would make Him free and that doing the Father’s will has made Him a slave.


Sin is a chain.

It gets you away from God. It cuts you off.

But to turn back to God is to turn back to punishment; the wages of sin is death.

To confess your sins to God is not like a get out of jail free card. Confessing your sins does not earn you freedom. Confessing your sins is like turning yourself in to the police.


It is to agree with God’s law that you deserve death.


It doesn’t make you not a sinner anymore. It’s like if Jeffrey Dahmer turns himself in to the police or pleads guilty. He isn’t now good and fit for life in normal society. He’s still worthy of punishment. He still would do unspeakable things if you let him out on the street again.


It’s not confessing that makes us free from the chains of sin.

It’s Jesus receiving our penalty of death and hell for us.

Then rising from the dead with our new life.



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