St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 3:1-17
June 15, 2014 (Fathers’ Day)
Isaiah was a priest. The day he saw the Lord in the temple he was probably on duty.
When he saw the Lord, all the confidence you might expect a priest to have before God went up in smoke. “Woe to me! I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the Lord.”
What made Isaiah’s lips filthy? Did he swear a lot? Tell dirty jokes?
That’s enough to make your lips unclean and filthy in God’s sight.
But there are other unclean things that can pass through the lips that are even more unclean. Especially the lips of a priest.
The lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and the people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts, said the prophet Malachi to the priests of his day (2:7-8). But you have caused many to stumble by your instruction.
This is the worst kind of uncleanness to pass from the lips of a priest. To speak false things about God. To set up or strengthen the worship of idols.
And likewise it is the worst kind of uncleanness that can be in the heart to worship idols. To believe false things about God.
This kind of uncleanness was in the heart and mouth of Nicodemus. He didn’t know the first things about how we come to God, and yet he was a teacher of God’s people. Jesus exclaimed, “You are the teacher of Israel, and you don’t know these things?”
Very basic things about who the true God is and how we come to Him. Nicodemus thought the way the flesh always thinks. He knew what the pagans know—there is a God, He is powerful and righteous. So you find God where there is power and other good things that we like. And you please God by doing right things and rejecting immoral things.
Jesus says, “No.” You don’t find God where the flesh expects to find Him. No, you don’t draw near to God by doing good works. “Flesh gives birth to flesh and Spirit to spirit.” You cannot even see God’s kingdom unless you are born again. And you cannot enter it unless you are born of water and the Spirit.
Nicodemus found this impossible to accept. He rejected this testimony of Jesus. How could it be that all of his theological training and all of his moral striving left him with nothing, that he knew God just as little as the Gentiles and the sinners?
Nicodemus was a churchgoing, bible-reading idolater. He didn’t know who God is. God stood in front of Him, and Nicodemus recognized His power, but thought that God must be somewhere else. Because God doesn’t come in such humble clothing. God doesn’t come in poverty, in rejection, with only a few disciples, with the holy and great people of the world rejecting Him.
Does it sound familiar, Nicodemus’ thinking? Because it is the same thinking that you have in the flesh.
In the flesh you expect to find God in power and glory and earthly good things. When those things are missing you also think God must be somewhere else. This uncleanness is constantly cropping up in our hearts. We don’t recognize the true God visiting us in lowliness, weakness, and suffering and we despise Him in favor of the gods of success, power, prestige, comfort.
And then you too expect to stand before God on the basis of your moral life. You can’t believe that your attempts to be good count for nothing in God’s sight in the question of your justification before Him.
This is the worst kind of uncleanness to be on one’s lips or in one’s heart. The uncleanness of lifting up our souls to a false god. And this is what we do in the flesh. We believe that we can know who God is by our own reason and senses. Then we try to please God with our works and win His favor. We refuse to believe that our nature is so corrupt that neither we nor anyone else can know the true God or enter His kingdom unless we are reborn, born again.
But thanks be to God! You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but imperishable. Not by the will of man, but born of God. Not of the flesh, but of the Holy Spirit.
For all of you who have been baptized have received “the washing of rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3) You have been born of water and the Spirit. It wasn’t your will that accomplished this, but Christ’s, who instituted Baptism, commanding His disciples to make disciples “baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” It is Jesus who “loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). It is Jesus who made baptism the means by which “we were buried with him…in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
Even though most of us were little children when we were baptized, without understanding, Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven belongs” to little children and insists that we allow the little children and infants to be brought to Him, because “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall never enter it.”
How do little children receive the kingdom of God? Those who deny that infants should be baptized say little children do not receive the kingdom of God. But Jesus says they do. And how do they receive it? Passively. They don’t bring themselves to Jesus; they are brought, carried. They don’t use their reason to come to Jesus. Jesus comes to them and opens their eyes so that they see and enter the kingdom of God through baptism into Him.
In the same way our reason and understanding leads us astray. We look for God in the things the flesh trusts in—comfort, wealth, beauty, power, fame. We will not find God there. God is only found in Christ. And Christ is only found in His word and Sacraments, not with earthly splendor, but proclaimed as crucified in weakness and raised by the glory of God.
The Holy Spirit has opened your eyes and caused you to see what the flesh can never see. Jesus is God. The One who was crucified and who comes to us in His flesh and blood under the bread and wine is the Lord of the Universe, the Son begotten of the Father from eternity.
The only-begotten Son of the Father, who was with the Father in the beginning, came in our flesh and blood, in the image of our weakness, fallenness, corruption. He came down to us. We did not rise to Him. And because there was in us no power to make ourselves pleasing to God, since everything in us was corrupt, the eternal Son fulfilled the commandments of God perfectly in your place. And then the Father allowed His Son to be offered up for your sins, and lifted up on the cross and the preaching of the cross so that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life.
There are many religions in the world and many people claiming that they believe in one God. But no one has the Father unless he believes in the Son, because the Son is the radiance of the glory of the Father, the exact imprint of His nature (Hebrews 1:3). The Son is begotten of the Father, distinct from Him, yet equal in glory, of one substance with the Father.
And no one has the Son unless he has been born again of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is equal to the Father and the Son, one substance with them. But the Holy Spirit is not the Father nor the Son. He proceeds from the Father and the Son.
And through the Word He opens our eyes so that we see the Son lifted up for us on the cross. And there we learn to recognize God and His kingdom.
We see that God is not only omnipotent and righteous and glorious, but that He is the God who justifies the ungodly and has mercy on the lost and helpless. Because the Son is the exact image of the Father, and He suffers for us on the cross. Through the Son we come to know the Father, that the righteous God is also the Father of all mercies, who gave up His Son to save those who were bound to perish.
It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to the Son. We would never come to Him on our own. We would be like Nicodemus—so close, yet so far away. Still clinging to our own righteousness.
The Holy Spirit shows us our complete uncleanness and idolatry; He also shows us the Son of Man made an unclean thing for all the uncleanness of our hearts.
Today is Father’s Day. Your Father in heaven has given you every good and perfect gift in Christ. One of his gifts to you in Christ is your earthly father.
Many of us may not feel like our earthly fathers were good gifts from God. Others have fathers who are gone from their sight. But others have fathers on earth that they thank God for.
Whatever your situation is, be sure to thank your Father in heaven for your father on earth. It’s your Father in heaven who gave the commandment “Honor your father and your mother.” Your father on earth is not a good gift of God because he seems like a good father to you, but because God the Father honors him with his commandment and by letting him have the title “Father.” And if God gave you a father you think is good, how much more honor and thanks do you owe to him and to your Father in heaven?
Fathers, look at the love shown by the heavenly Father toward sinners. You will never be able to equal His patience and kindness. But receive the kindness of your Father in heaven toward you. Receive painful experiences as the loving chastisements of the heavenly Father. Receive His Son, whom He gave up to adopt you as His child and heir. Receive Him in the Word, in your Baptism, in His body and blood. And as you receive His Son He will form you into the image of His Son, who is the exact imprint of His being, and you will become a father who is a witness to the heavenly Father.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Soli Deo Gloria
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 3:1-17
May 26, 2013
Exalted to the lowest place
A happy ending? God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world?
Here comes one of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus—a ruler of the Jews. A Pharisee. What the disciples hoped would happen seems to be happening. Sure, Jesus was opposed and they had some hard times. But everything will turn out right in the end. It has to be, because He’s the Messiah, the King of the Jews. So the rulers hate him now, but look, they’re already starting to come around.
Nicodemus says, “We know you are a teacher from God. Otherwise how could you do all these miraculous signs, unless God was with you?”
Who would be more likely to know whether someone was from God than the students of Scripture, the teachers of God’s Word among the people called by God’s name?
Jesus didn’t deny that the Jews were the people called by God’s name. Gentiles worshipped idols.
We also don’t look for God everywhere. He can’t be found apart from His Word other than as a God of wrath. So all other religions are not the same.
But despite being a teacher of the people of God and a student of the Word of God, Nicodemus didn’t know God at all.
“We know you are a teacher from God…” To say that is not enough to know Jesus.
To say that is not enough to know God either.
Muslims say that Jesus was a teacher from God, that HE ascended to heaven, etc. They believe in one God, and as they will tell you, they believe in Jesus and they love Him.
Most Americans are not atheists. They believe in God. Most of them probably believe that Jesus is God.
But they still do not know God nor Jesus.
No one is able to recognize or perceive God’s kingdom, His reign which is here and which is coming, in which sin and death are destroyed, unless he is born again or born from above.
If Jesus had simply come to have people “accept” Him in the sense of recognizing that God sent Him, or His teaching was true, that He should be obeyed, Nicodemus would have already “accepted Him.”
But recognizing Jesus as a prophet or one with God’s authority is not enough. It is useless.
And no one can perceive God’s salvation and enter into it unless he is reborn from on high, from God.
It doesn’t matter how wise you are, how knowledgeable of Scripture, how pious you are, how long you’ve gone to church or how much you’ve served there.
Nicodemus was the teacher of God’s people. But He didn’t know God and could not recognize God’s kingdom of salvation even though it had come.
Israel’s teachers did not know God and could not see His kingdom because they thought they already knew God and were part of His kingdom.
They had the Scriptures, didn’t they?
They had God’s promise, didn’t they?
God had taken them as His people and dwelt in the midst of them in the temple, didn’t He?
They had circumcision, which marked them as people of the promise.
But without being born from on High or reborn by the water and the Spirit, these things profited nothing. They did not understand the Scriptures or believe them; they did not recognize the Lord who dwelt in the temple when He came in a new house—human flesh. They did not believe in the one who was promised to them in circumcision—Abraham’s offspring.
Nicodemus thought that he was already holy, and now this teacher from God would unfold heavenly wisdom to him—add to what he already had.
You are just like Nicodemus and most of the people of Israel.
You have the Scriptures.
The Lord is present with you in His body and blood.
You are baptized—NT circumcision.
But like Nicodemus and most of the people of Israel, we think that we can come to God without being reborn—dying and rising again.
No. You must be born from above, or you cannot recognize the kingdom of God coming to you and you cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Like Moses we want to see God’s glory. But no one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven.
Only through Him can we know God. He alone knows the Father, and whoever He chooses to reveal the Father.
He reveals God not by being exalted and lifted up on a throne, in majesty.
You see how that affected Isaiah!
You see Him and know God when you see Him exalted and lifted up on the cross of shame the way that Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness.
That is what Baptism is
It is coming as a sinner who is unable to know God by nature or see or enter His kingdom
God’s mighty Spirit is poured out on you, brings you into the kingdom of God.
You see Jesus as the one who became sin and is held up before our eyes to save us from deadly poison of sin.
To live in Baptism is to come to God this way—not as someone who knows something and is already holy, but as one who has nothing, knows nothing, except sin and death.
We are baptized into Him who is all-glorious but descended into the depths of sin for us and cancelled it.
All of the church year leads to today, the feast of the Trinity.
The only God who shows mercy like this is the Trinity.
He gives all of Christ to us in Baptism, all that we’ve heard about during the festival portion of the year.
The world does not know where you come from or where you are going. But you are born of the Spirit, which means you are united to Jesus the Son, who came from God and returned to Him.
That is the glory that fills St. Peter now for 156 years—not our own knowledge, wisdom, holiness, but that God lifts up His Son in our midst like the snake on the pole and baptizes us into Him, and He adds another to us today. Let us give thanks for Anthony who today is born again of water and the Spirit.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Wednesday after Reminiscere
St. Peter Lutheran Church
Small Catechism: What benefits does Baptism give?
February 27, 2013
“The Secret Place of the Most High”
In the Holy Name of Jesus.
Last week we heard the first thing that it is necessary for us to know about Baptism in order to defend our consciences against the lies of the devil when he wants to rob us of the comfort of Baptism. When we are suffering or dying, or when we are depressed, afraid, and everything we do seems to fail, God baptized us so that we can say, “The Lord is with me. He loves me. He will turn all sorrow into joy. Nothing can separate me from Him.”
And when the devil or our flesh or believers in false teaching say, “You think you are saved just because you are baptized? Lots of people are baptized, but they aren’t saved”—the first thing you have to learn to say to them (or yourself) is—“Baptism is not to be taken lightly. It is not just water; it is divine water, God’s water. Not because the water itself is unique, but because this water is caught up in God’s command. Even more, He has joined His holy name to the water. So now God’s power and glory and honor are joined to Baptism. So I am not trusting in a human work or an idol when I say ‘I am baptized.’ Baptism is not man’s work. Baptism is God’s work.”
This week we hear what the benefit of Baptism is, which is sweet Gospel and comfort from God. Why did God command baptism and put His name on it? Why put so much power and majesty into Baptism? It’s as if the United States went to war and mobilized every possible plane, tank, helicopter, missile, and soldier—every last bit of its military might. But God put all of His power (which is unlimited)—into Baptism when He joined His name to it. Why so much?
For one purpose—to save.
There is so much power in Baptism—even the name of the most Holy Trinity—so that we may be saved and be confident and certain of our salvation.
The Small Catechism mentions three benefits of Holy Baptism. It works or does something; it rescues or delivers from something; and it gives something. For the sake of simplicity we will stay with those three things mentioned by the catechism: what Baptism works, what it rescues from, and what it gives. And we will look briefly at where these benefits are shown in the Scripture in addition to the verse from Mark in the catechism, so that whenever a question arises about the benefits of Baptism, you will at least have heard that Baptism has these benefits not because I said so, or even because the catechism says so, but because God says so in His Word, the Holy Scriptures.
First of all, Baptism works. What does it work? “It works forgiveness of sins.”
http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/3644.htm (I thought the video was on here when I published this post! Sorry. )
O Zionists, we love death for the sake of Allah just as much as you love life for the sake of Satan. We long for martyrdom for the sake of Allah just as much as you hate death, O enemies of Allah….I am just a small child, but nevertheless…If it were up to me, I would come to you [Palestinians] and I would fight alongside you in the battlefield. –Wee Egyptian TV preacher Ibrahim Adham
I heard a Lutheran 6 year old preach a sermon in response to this video. Unfortunately I didn’t record it. But below is the transcript.
“O Turks, why do you protest so loudly that you love death? That is not something to brag about. By saying this you show that you are Satan’s children, since he is a liar and a murderer from the beginning.
O Mohammedans, the true God does not love death. Idols love death, especially the death of children. The Jews who did not know their God sacrificed their children to Moloch, and you, O Mohammedans, are the spiritual children of those unfaithful Jews who offered up their children to a bloodthirsty god.
O Saracens, the true God loves life and blesses little children. This God Whom you do not know said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall never enter it.’
O prisoners of the bloodthirsty idol Allah, the living and true God said, ‘Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain upon the just and the unjust.’
O you who have been ensnared by the false prophet Muhammad! The true God became man and died on the cross–not because He loves death, but because He loves human beings who are made slaves through the fear of death. O deceived ones! You may love death, but you are still slaves to its fear. That the dead will rise is certain, but whether God will raise you to paradise or the fires of hell you do not know. O false ones! Your conscience does not let you rest. You run toward death and push your children ahead of you because you seek to atone for your sins with your own blood!
O you who submit to the devil’s yoke! O you among the Mohammedans whose consciences are not yet completely seared! Your heart condemns you that you have done evil deeds which God must surely bring to justice. Let the pain of your conscience remain as a witness to the truth that Islam cannot deliver you from your sins. Do not believe the false hope that death for Allah will result in certain salvation for you. If Allah could take away sins he would have done so for you already.
O you whom Christians should pity, even while you rape their daughters, bear false witness against their husbands, and steal their property! The only Muslims who have relief from the accusations of their consciences are those who have destroyed their consciences and have lost the ability to see that ablutions and prayers and special diets do not erase sin or give the conscience rest. Or else they are those who are convinced that “martyrdom” is an assured path to salvation. But when a Mohammedan’s body falls to the ground while waging jihad, his soul is carried away by angels not to paradise but to the laughing mouth of Satan, who says, “Well done, my faithful martyr!”
O Moors, Turks, and Saracens! Christian martyrs die willingly for Christ because they have already died with Him. O idolaters! Christians wear crosses not because we love death and execution, but because by the true God’s death on the cross, death’s power and fear is taken away.
O blind, most miserable Muslims, who intend to die for God but do not know Him! The true God was crucified, dead, and buried, and rose again on the third day, and destroyed death. O lost ones! For Christians death is no longer death. Christians have been born a second time. They are sons of God, not His slaves.
O Mohammedans! the true God was born a human being to live in the midst of His enemies.
O you lovers of violence! The true God died for His enemies. Because all men were His enemies–Jews, Christians, Mohammedans. But He had compassion on all the sons of Adam and gave Himself as a burnt offering to take away their sins.
O murderers of Christians, oppressors of the helpless! You have blasphemed the true God and shed the blood of His saints! Yet He seeks your salvation. His believers with whose blood you paint church walls seek your salvation. They pray for you. Even though you have made your children preachers of murder and worshippers of death, the living God suffered for you to rescue you from the eternal fire.
O Janissaries and Assasins, do not believe that God will receive you into Paradise when you embrace death for the sake of Allah and when you murder in the name of Allah.
O you who desire to be martyrs! The true God only receives those who embrace His death in their place. His true martyrs suffer or die not to earn something but because they have already been given everything in Jesus Christ crucified.
O Mohammedans, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and will come to judge the living and the dead. This Jesus is the true God, and no one can know God unless they know Him.
O Muslims! If you would submit to God, you must know who He is. He makes Himself known through the cross. Through Jesus the true God is known–the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are not three gods, but one God; not one person but three.
O Mohammedans, do not think that you can philosophize with God. Do not think that you will be able to present yourselves before God without shame for your sins on judgment day. O Mohammedans! God does not judge like men. He will not overlook sin or take a bribe, or accept suicide and murder as a ransom. He will not accept your arguments that “God cannot have a son.” God knows far better than you what He can and cannot do.
O blind-hearted Muslims, like all Adam’s race blind to God because of self-love! The Trinity, the God you do not know, is love. He loves you, O Arabs, O Mohammedans, and He seeks your blessing. Wearing the scars from nails which pierced Him He loves you, even now. Even though you have burned churches and blown His believers apart in the countries where they pay you tribute, Jesus the Lord God still loves you and wants you to live. So he allows you to kill His people so that they may bear witness to you that He died to save the whole world. He allows you to display your remarkable zeal for your idol and your false prophet by slaughtering Christians like lambs, spilling and spattering their blood on your streets and walls, thinking that in doing this you do God service. He hears their blood crying out to Him, and yet He delays your punishment.
Oh Mohammedans, listen to the true God. You love death, but He loves you. He wants you and your children to live.
‘So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in an dout and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.” ‘ (John 10:7-12, 14-18)
‘At this time Jesus declared, ‘”I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealeed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Fahter, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”‘ (Matthew 11:25-30)”
- The Prophet Jesus (pbuh) is not Allah, but a manifestation of Allah (islamolife.wordpress.com)
- Muslims do not respect Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and Adam as claimed – only Mohammad (ofthehighest.wordpress.com)
- This Pleases God…Who Desires All Men to Be Saved. Thanksgiving Sermon (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Childhood dreams, the Mohammed way: “I am 14 years old, I will blow myself up among Jews” (themuslimissue.wordpress.com)
- Hamas: Killing Jews Is Worship That Draws Us Close To Allah (midnightwatcher.wordpress.com)
- The Jewish view of Islam (onefilm911.wordpress.com)
97. Prayer on Trinity Sunday or the Feast of the Holy Trinity
from Evangelische-Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz (Concordia, 1881)http://books.google.com/books/about/Evangelisch_Lutherischer_Gebets_Schatz.html?id=cZARAQAAMAAJO Almighty, Eternal God, God Father, God Son, God Holy Spirit! You bestowed Your grace upon us men and let Your mercy be seen in abundance, in that first, Eternal Father, You created us men. And You, eternal Son of God, for us became man, and paid for our sins on the cross. And You, eternal Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son in eternity, through the holy Gospel have made us believers and sanctified us. We pray You, O One, Eternal, Almighty God, God Father! God Son! God Holy Spirit! Keep us in Your grace until the end, and make us eternally blessed. Amen. (Johann Eichhorn: 1518-1564)