Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent Midweek Sermon: "Children of Promise"

+ 1st Advent Midweek Service – November 30th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Isaiah 9:1-7; Luke 1:26-38

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We often think of the Bible as one book, and in many ways, it is. And yet this one book is also full of many books, with numerous authors, in a variety of genres, delivered to God’s people through prophets and apostles. In many and various ways God spoke to his people of old by the prophets, but now in these Last Days, he has spoken to us by his Son.

Like the cords that hold together the pages and spine of a well-crafted book, God binds Holy Scripture with one little word: promise.

This Advent we’ll spend the midweek services hearing God’s promises to us in Christ from his prophet Isaiah. The book of Isaiah is often called the fifth Gospel because of the gracious, comforting, and life-giving promises declared by Isaiah and fulfilled in Jesus’ birth for you.

But this is no abstract, vague, or empty promise. No, when God promises you something, he keeps it; and more than that, God’s promises for you are tangible and visible. God wraps his promises to you in the stuff of his creation. Your ears hear the good news that you are forgiven all your sins. You are washed with water and the Word in Holy Baptism. Jesus feeds you his body and blood for the remission of all your sins in simple bread and wine.

Throughout Scripture, God makes his promise visible in the form of a child.

In Genesis 3, God promised Adam and Eve that a son would be born who would crush the devil’s head. In Genesis 4, Eve thought she gave birth to this promised son. But instead of crushing the serpent’s head, Cain chose to crush his brother Abel. And though Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground, it was in vengeance, not the redemption. God’s promised Son was yet to come.

In Genesis 17, God promised Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age. Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. God kept his promise. Isaac was born. And after him, Jacob; and after Jacob, 12 sons; and Israel grew as God promised. But neither Isaac, nor Jacob, nor his sons after him would be Abraham’s offspring born to bless all nations. God’s promised Son was yet to come.

In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah prays to God in despair for a son. Through his servant, Eli the priest, God promised Hannah a son. Samuel grew up in the Lord’s Temple, in the presence of the Lord and dwelled there as a priest, declaring the Lord’s promises to the people of Israel. And though Samuel was a faithful priest, who served the Lord in his holy house, he was not the promised Son who would be the great high priest and make atonement for the sins of the world.

In the blood of Abel innocently shed, in Isaac through whom God’s promise to Abraham continued, and in Samuel the priest who served in God’s presence, we see a glimpse of God’s promised child, Jesus. The prophet Isaiah points us to God’s promised Son, Jesus.

For unto us a child is born,
    unto us a son is given.

Our promises are full of conditions, limits, and skepticism. “If you do this…I’ll promise to do that” or, “I promise…just let me do this first.” But not God’s promises. God’s promises are pure gift. No strings attached. No conditions, limits, or fine print. Jesus is born for you. Given for you. The Promised Son for you.

God’s promises are different from ours because he sends us a Son that is, at least in one way, far different from us. Unlike us and Cain, he had no murderous thoughts against his neighbor, but sacrificed his life for ours. Unlike Abraham and Sarah and us, he did not laugh or doubt God’s promises; he was and is a faithful Son for you. Unlike Samuel he did not need to make atonement for his own sin; but this great High Priest became the sacrifice for you.

God sent his promised Son to be born for you and me and for all because apart from God’s Son, we are not children of promise. We were dead in trespasses and sin. We lived in the passion of our flesh. We chase our sinful desires. We were by nature children of God’s wrath, enslaved to sin. We were not sons or heirs; we were outside the family inheritance.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 

God sends his only begotten Son to you, so that in Jesus’ cross, you are declared his own dear child. God became man so that man might become sons of God.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
The Virgin Mary marveled: how can this be since I am a virgin?

We too find ourselves marveling at this mighty wonder. How can this be since I am a poor miserable sinner? What wondrous love is this? Why would God send his only begotten Son for such an impossibly stubborn and unworthy child of Adam like me?

Sounds impossible from our perspective and Mary’s. But nothing is impossible with God. Jesus’ incarnation is one small step for God and one giant leap for mankind. God becomes man to deliver man. God takes on human flesh to redeem you, make you holy, and take you home with him as sons, heirs, and God’s own children.

It is the blood of God’s Son, Jesus, that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. You are forgiven. Your sin atoned for. Jesus is truly your brothers keeper. Always.

Abraham’s greatest son, Jesus is the child of promise, born to be an everlasting King with you as his beloved citizens. And of the increase of his peace there is no end.

Hannah’s prayer for a son is fulfilled in the birth of God’s Son, Jesus. He is your great High Priest. Jesus intercedes for you. Jesus is the sacrifice for sin for you.

In this holy child, we who have walked in darkness see the light of his manger and cross where he was laid for you. In this holy child, all of us who dwell in the deep darkness of this fallen world receive Jesus who is the Light of the world, the light no darkness, no sin of ours, not even the thick darkness of death can overcome. In this holy child, you are all sons of God through faith. For God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, by whom we cry out, “Our Father”. You are God’s children of promise.

And the same Holy Spirit that worked faith in the heart of Adam and Eve, the same Spirit that pointed Abraham and Sarah to Christ, the same Spirit of the Lord who called Samuel and overshadowed Mary with the power of the Most High, is sent to you to point you to Jesus, to prepare your heart and mind to receive this infant King this Advent and every day until our Lord returns.

Let it be to us, according to your Word, O Lord.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Funeral Sermon for Carol Sheehan: "At Home in the Cross"

+ In Memoriam: Carol Sheehan – November 9th, 1942 – September 24th 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Isaiah 40:1-11; Revelation 7:9-17; John 6:27-51

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“There’s no place like home,” Dorothy reminds us in the Wizard of OZ. “Home is where the rump rests,” so says the jovial Whinnie the Pooh. “The ache for home lives in us all”, wrote Maya Angelou.

Home was important to Carol. And as I got to know Carol I discovered that she had three homes.

There was her home in Connecticut, which you can see from the bulletin cover is beautiful, Edenic even. Looking out over the lake you catch a glimpse of the new heavens and the new earth and the resurrection light on the Eastern horizon. She made a home there with her husband David. God blessed their home with the birth of their daughter, Karen.

There was also her home at Prince of Peace Lutheran in Coventry. As she sang in choir, rejoiced in worship, served in many ways, and received the Lord’s Supper, she joined Jacob in declaring: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it…How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17).

Even when she moved from away from home in Connecticut to California, the house of the Lord remained Carol’s home. Not a conversation went by where she didn’t echo the words of the Psalm: I was glad when they said unto me, let us go up to the house of the Lord (Psalm 122:1).

If the sparrows and swallows find a nest and home at the altar of the Lord, how much more then, does he give us a home at the altar where Jesus feeds, nourishes, and strengthens us in our journey to our heavenly home with his very body and blood for us. Here is where Jesus dwelled with Carol and for her, just as he dwells with us and for us. In forgiveness. In Mercy. In peace. In his steadfast love for Carol and for you.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
   Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
   for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
   for the living God.
Better is one day in your courts
   than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
   than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Today we join the Psalmist in yearning and longing for the house of the Lord. According to God’s promise we are waiting for the new heavens and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13).

And while we rejoice that Carol now rests from her labors, we also mourn because our earthly homes are anything but Edenic. Along with the rest of creation, we groan in expectation of what is to be revealed. We feel the foul breath of the serpent breathing his poisonous lies into our hearts and minds. We see our fallen earthly tents wasting away. Change and decay in all around I see, Come, friend of sinners, thus abide with me.

That’s what Jesus does best. Jesus came to make his home with sinners like Matthew, Zaccheus, Carol, you, and me – so that we will have an eternal home with him. For while we were still sinners, Christ died for Carol, for you, and for all.

And here’s where we find Carol’s third home, in the cross of Jesus. The birds of the air have nests, foxes have holes in the ground, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head, save the cross and the tomb…all for you. In Jesus Crucified and risen, Carol you and me God gives us the inheritance, the sure and certain promise of the new heavens and the new earth where all of the former things – disease, darkness, despair, sin and death – will be no more. God will wipe them from our eyes as quickly and as surely as he said, “Let there be Light.” And it was so.

As beautiful as Carol’s home in rural Connecticut was, it is only a glimpse of a far better home in a far more glorious and joyous country. In Holy Baptism, Jesus washed Carol’s sins away, clothed her in Christ’s righteousness, and adopted her as the Father’s own dear child. God does the same for you in Holy Baptism, where he makes his home with us that we might have a home with him forever. Holy Baptism is our cross-shaped entrance into the Lord’s House, just as it was for Carol. In Holy Absolution we continually hear the Father’s welcome home: You are forgiven all your sins. In the Lord’s Supper we are brought to the banqueting table to celebrate the marriage supper of the Lamb – not as tourists or visitors, but as family, whose names are written, along with Carol on the family tree, the Lamb’s book of life.

This is what Jesus does best for Carol and for you. He dwells with sinners. After all, his Name is Emmanuel – God with us. God who is one of us. God who is for us in the cross. That’s what we sing as the season of Advent begins.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Jesus is Carol’s Emmanuel and yours. God with us in our earthly home, all so that he will raise you up on the Last Day, along with Carol and all the faithful departed, and bring us to our heavenly home.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sermon for Thanksgiving Day: "Thanks be to God"

+ Day of Thanksgiving – November 24th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Deuteronomy 8:1-10; Philippians 4:6-20; Luke 17:11-19

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! Psa. 118:29
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psa. 100:4
Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
the upright shall dwell in your presence. Psa. 140:13
All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you! Psa. 145:10
“Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted. Is. 12:4
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! Psa. 118:29
God’s people have been giving thanks long before Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation or Congress declared a national day of thanksgiving. Scripture is full of thanksgiving: Adam gave thanks and praised for God’s gift of Eve; Noah gave thanks and praised God for rescue from the flood; Abraham thanked and praised God for Isaac, his heir and the child who would bear the promise.

We hear a similar theme in today’s readings.

Moses instructed Israel to give thanks by remembering all that the Lord had done for them in the Exodus, the wilderness, in their journey to the Promised Land. While writing in prison, Paul rejoices that he is content in all circumstances through Christ. And the Samaritan leper returns to Jesus, falls on his feet, and gives thanks.

When we were young our parents and grandparents taught us to say thank you when we received a gift. And this is more than social niceties or good manners. Saying thank you acknowledges the giver of the gift.

To give thanks is what faith does. God gives you life and salvation in Baptism; faith receives and rejoices. God gives you healing, pardon, and peace in the Lord’s Supper; faith gives thanks and praise. God gives us his steadfast love and mercy; we give to others. If you think about it that way, every day is thanksgiving, though perhaps without the turkey, gravy, and potatoes.
God has made us a “eucharistic people.” Eucharist is one of many names for the Lord’s Supper – the greatest thanksgiving meal around. Eucharist means to give thanks. It is truly good, right, and salutary, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Saying thank you simply goes with faith. Like the one faithful leper who returned to give thanks at the feet of Jesus.
But if giving thanks is so good, and a part of who we are, why do we have a day to remember to give thanks?
I’m going to do a dangerous thing here, and assume a few things. Perhaps you’re like me and when you hear Moses’ words to Israel you are both encouraged to remember God’s goodness and yet despair the fact that you have not.
“Take care lest you when you have eaten and are full and have built houses and live in them and when your silver and gold is multiplied then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
Like Israel, we’re very good at grumbling and thanking ourselves, but we forget the Lord.
Or perhaps you’re like me and when you hear Jesus’ words to the Samaritan you rejoice that this foreigner is healed and returns and gives thanks at Jesus’ feet, and yet you despair over all the times you have failed to do so.
“Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Perhaps you’re like me and you’re grateful that Paul had the Philippians to help him in his trouble; you rejoice with him; and yet we wonder, “Who will help me in my prison of anxiety, doubt, and fear?” What if I don’t “rejoice in the Lord always”? Like the Philippians, we are anxious and troubled over many things.
You see, there’s a danger looking to ourselves and our giving thanks – whether it’s on Thanksgiving Day, or any other day. Thankfully, it’s not our giving thanks that saves us. It’s not our remembering the Lord that brings about our rescue. It’s not our rejoicing or our anything that causes the Lord to give us his peace that surpasses all understanding. It’s not our thanking the Lord for his healing that heals us.

Who was it that delivered Moses and Israel from slavery? Who was it that healed all 10 lepers? Who was it that strengthened Paul in his weakness and in prison? It was not Moses, the Samaritan leper, or Paul. It was Jesus.
Moses, St. Paul, the Samaritan, all point us to the place of true thanksgiving…Jesus Crucified for you; to an altar adorned with the Holy Eucharist; to the Lord and Giver of all good things.
Jesus, who led Israel out of slavery in Egypt in the pillar of fire and smoke, has led you out of bondage to sin and death by the glory of his cross.
Jesus, who healed all 10 lepers without any prerequisite thanks, heals you from the leprosy of your sin and declares that you are holy, clean, and made well.
Jesus, who was with Paul in prison strengthening him in his weakness, is with you in whatever dark prison cell you find yourself trapped in. The peace of Jesus crucified and risen surpasses all our understanding – even when it’s full of fear, doubt, anxiety, and despair. God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
The Samaritan leper had it right; thanksgiving takes place at the feet of Jesus Crucified for you. In Christ Crucified, God forgets all your sins and remembers his promise to you forever. In Christ Crucified, God bears all your pain, hurt, disease, worry, doubt, fear, anxiety, and in return gives you healing by his wounds. In Christ Crucified, God has made him unclean to cleanse you and clothe you in his righteousness forever.

Thanksgiving begins and ends in the cross. Our restless hearts are content only in Christ, and only in Christ does thanksgiving flow to God. That one leper out of the ten who believed, who was faithful, returned to the feet of Jesus to give thanks and praise to God. Faith drove him, as it drives us, to the feet of Jesus. And it’s from Jesus that we hear: “Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.”

This is how we join Paul in giving thanks in all circumstances. We do so through Jesus Christ, who though He had no place to lay His head, trusted His Father and lived the perfect life of thanksgiving for you.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; and his steadfast love endures forever.

A blessed Thanksgiving Day to each of you…
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Sermon for Pentecost 26: "Come Quickly, Lord Jesus"

+ 26th Sunday after Pentecost – November 13th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Malachi 4; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-13; Luke 21:5-28

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” we pray. And maybe you’re like me and you’ve been praying that prayer a lot these past few weeks, or several times a day even. We long for Jesus’ return. We look for the new heavens and the new earth. And so we wait, watch, and pray.

There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 

Add some shocking pictures, the gruesome headlines from the nightly news, and a few viral videos on YouTube, and Jesus could have just as easily spoken those words in the 21st century as he did in the 1st century.

The fact is, all is not right with this world; never was, and never will be until Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. That’s what Jesus prepares us for in today’s Gospel reading. The Last Day. The signs are all around us. Wars and rumors of war. Earthquakes. Persecution. Violence. Famine.

Some have tried to cut the tension by joking that the Lord’s return is imminent because the Cubs have finally won the world series. They’re right about this at least. Christ’s return is imminent. Today we’re one day closer. And yet, it seems that some days Christ’s return can’t come soon enough.

We’ve just witnessed one of the ugliest election cycles in recent memory. But whatever your feelings about the election results may be – happy, sad, or indifferent – know that your hope does not rest in political platforms, party loyalty, or earthly rulers, but in Christ Crucified and risen for you. Kings and kingdoms come and go; but the Word of our Lord endures forever.

So hopefully, you didn’t come here this morning to listen to listen to more election news, but rather to hear good news Jesus gives to you. You are forgiven all your sins. Yes, the world is fallen, broken, and in need of rescue. That’s exactly why he came and why he’ll come again. In this world you will have trouble, Jesus said, but fear not I have overcome the world.
But do not fear. Do not despair. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Jesus came to redeem us from this horrible mess that we’ve made of his creation. And one day Jesus will return to rescue us and make the new heavens and the new earth we long to see.

When you see these things take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

In these Last Days, God calls us to live as those who are baptized into the Body of Christ and have put on Christ. We live a life no longer controlled by the lusts and compulsions of our sinful nature.

In these Last Days, we stand on holy ground; we eat a holy meal; you are washed with holy water; you hear holy words. The church has faced numerous challenges before, endured far dark days. Chaotic, tumultuous times are nothing new. In apostolic times Christians faced a pagan world far worse and more hostile than ours with courage and glad hope. So, in these grey and latter days we take up their same mission yet again, emboldened by Christ’s eternal promise: “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

In these Last Days, fix your eyes on Jesus Christ who is the Light of the World, the Light no darkness can overcome. Jesus is with you as surely as he was with his disciples, teaching us and preparing us for his return.

See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.

Perhaps we’re tempted to join Peter in declaring “Even though they all will fall away; I will not.” And yet we do. All we like sheep have gone astray, each to our own way. Our most dangerous enemies are not political. They’re spiritual. “Devil, world, and flesh, as the catechism teaches us. We’re always looking for someone else to blame for sin in the world or our own. But as the great author G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “What’s wrong with the world? I am.” What then shall we do? Deny yourselves, take up the cross, and follow me, Jesus says.

This is what gives us hope in a fallen world, hope in the face of the devil’s temptations and lies, hope in spite of our sinful flesh. Christianity has the cross at the center – Jesus Christ and Him Crucifed.

We are baptized under the sign of the cross. We are forgiven under the sign of the cross. We are fed the Body and Blood under the sign of the cross. We arise and go to sleep and do everything in between under the sign of the cross. Christianity isn’t so much a way of life as it is a way of death. It is to die with Jesus in order to be raised with Him. It is to live as dead to Sin and Self but alive to God in Christ who took up his cross and denied himself for you.
But of course, living under cross, living as God’s baptized children, also means we’ll stick out in our culture. The disciples and early Christians did. They were persecuted, imprisoned, brought before kings and governors, handed over by family and friends, and many were put to death.
It’s a sober reminder that these Last Days are also days to boldly confess our faith; not with the latest fads and trends, but with the faith once and for all delivered to the saints; and not with lukewarm platitudes, but with 200 proof Gospel: Jesus Crucified for you for the forgiveness of all your sin.
This will be your opportunity to bear witness, Jesus says. Thankfully, we’re not called to convert the culture, but to speak the Gospel to people who live within our communities, neighborhoods, and families – with those people in your life whom you know need to hear the Gospel. This mission begins anew every day as we die to sin and no longer live for ourselves, but for Christ who for our sake, died and was raised again. In Jesus, you cannot fail; His light shines in the encroaching darkness. He is the Light no darkness can overcome. And He has promised to be with you as he was with the disciples:
I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. What is that mouth and wisdom? Your mouth filled with Jesus’ body and blood. Jesus’ word filling your ears, hearts, and minds, and then your lips that declare his praise. It is the wisdom of the cross: Jesus Crucified for you.
We hope in and we long for Christ’s return; we endure these Last Days under the cross, where Jesus endured everything for us. Your faith in Christ may be mocked. You may suffer persecution, hostility or death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.
And yet, hear Jesus’ promise in the face of all that…
But not a hair of your head will perish. Oh yes, some of his disciples were crucified, beheaded or fed to the lions, but not a hair on their head will perish. We face the fallen world, the devil’s temptations and our own sinful flesh…but not a hair on your head will perish. “Whoever believes in me lives even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will not die forever.”

That’s the hidden comfort in these last Sundays of the church year and the end of the world as we know it. The end is also the beginning. For you, the baptized, for us who fear the name of the Lord, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” The destruction of the old brings the revelation of the new. “Behold, I make all things new,” Jesus says. And he says it for you.
Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Wedding Sermon for David Byler and Teryne Bell: "Two Become One"

+ The Rite of Holy Matrimony – November 1st, 2016 +
David Byler and Teryne Bell
Genesis 2:7, 18-25; Ephesians 5:15, 21-33; Matthew 19:4-6

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In Genesis it is written: A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

St. Paul agrees: A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

And St. Paul learned his theology of marriage from Jesus who declares: So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.

The two become one. This is the constant theme for God’s gift of marriage, for the marriage of David and Teryne’s today, and it’s also a declaration of the Church’s marriage to Christ: we are his bride; he is the bridegroom.

The two become one. It may sound like some fuzzy arithmetic, like Big Brother’s accounting: 2+2=5. But this is not double speak; it’s the truth. Marriage is God’s gift of divine mathematics. Two become one. It was not good that man should be alone. So as God gave Eve to Adam and Adam to Eve, today he gives Teryne to David and David to Teryne.

But of course we know marriage takes work. Adam and Eve fell for the devil’s doublespeak and the perfect union they had with each other, the perfect communion they had with God, was divided. Not long after the great marriage of Genesis 2 came the great divorce of Genesis 3. Husband and wife divided in sin. Creation divided in sin. Each of us divided by our sin. We fight against the maggot sack of our sinful flesh, as Martin Luther once called it.

But we do not fight alone. David and Teryne are not alone. And neither are you. As good as it is that God is joining this man and this woman together today, it is even greater that God has united us Jesus’ death and resurrection in Baptism. As good as the union of man and woman is, it is even greater that God unites himself in our humanity to remove the dividing wall of sin from us forever. As good as the marriage feast and celebration will be here today, the eternal joy and mirth of the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven, and the Lord’s Supper here on earth are far greater.

You see, Moses, Paul, Jesus were right. The two become one. It’s true in God’s gift of marriage. And it’s true of Christ’s death and resurrection for you. On the cross Jesus divided you from your sin forever. Jesus became one with your death. And Jesus has made you one with him in his resurrection.

That’s what St. Paul means when he says that God’s gift of marriage is a great mystery. The one-ness of husband and wife in marriage is a reflection of the one-ness given to us in Christ Crucified. He’s the bridegroom; we’re his bride.

Jesus became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh to save you. Jesus saw that it was not good for us to be alone in our sin, so he took it upon himself for you. Jesus gave himself up for us, to make us holy, to cleanse us, to wash us with water and word, to present us without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. In the cross of Jesus, the two become one.

It is this grand, yet gracious mystery of our one-ness in Christ Crucified that will sustain David and Teryne as they are made one in marriage. For try as they will not to, they will still sin against one another. And life will not always feel like heaven on earth. But none of that can divide them, or you, from Christ our bridegroom. For in Christ, David and Teryne, and all of us, are one with in the flesh of Jesus Crucified for you.

So, whether it’s God’s gift of marriage here today, or the marriage supper of the Lamb, the two become one in Christ who has become one with us.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sermon for Reformation Sunday: "Free Indeed"

+ Reformation Sunday - October 30th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Revelation 14:6-7; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Free shipping from Amazon. Buy one beer get another free at happy hour. Free gifts for the kids on game day at Angels’ Stadium.

I think it’s fair to say that most of us love the idea of something free, something for nothing. No matter the product or place, attaching that little word “free” onto an advertisement gets most people excited…unless of course it’s all the junk mail and political ads freely distributed to our mailboxes.

Problem is, there’s always a catch. Free shipping…but only on orders over $35. “Buy one get one free” might be a good deal, but it’s not really free; you still have to buy something. And free giveaways at sporting events are fun, but they could run out or it might just be a stuffed rally monkey for the kids.

Like our grandmothers used to tell us. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. There’s always the fine print. There are terms, limits, or conditions.

Not so in Christianity. The Gospel is the exception to the no-free-lunch rule. All other world religions tell you to achieve, ascend, be worthy, obey, submit, follow the rules, and so on. and only then do you earn, merit, or deserve salvation. Not so in Christianity. Christianity is free. Jesus justifies the ungodly. Jesus who knew no sin became sin for us. In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting our trespasses against us. Jesus gives you a righteousness and justifies you apart from works of the Law. If the Son sets you free you are free indeed.

That’s what the Reformation was about. What it’s still about and why we still celebrate it: Jesus crucified for you.

Your freedom from sin, death, and the devil is not found in gold or silver, nor it is found in indulgences or anything we do or feel.  

To be sure, our salvation cost something… But we didn’t and can’t pay it. Jesus paid that price for you. Jesus redeemed you and sets you free by his death for you.

 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

This is the freedom Martin Luther longed for. Before the Reformation, Luther saw Jesus not as a gracious liberator, but a fearful judge. Jesus was not a merciful Redeemer, but a merciless example to follow. Luther was captive to an endless merry-go-round of indulgences, works, and man-made traditions – each one promising freedom from sin, but only further tightening the chains of slavery.

True freedom – Luther discovered – is found in Jesus Crucified who sets us free. True freedom isn’t found by looking at what we say, do, think, or feel, but what Christ has done and still does for us in his death and resurrection. True freedom isn’t found in our righteousness, but in his redemption that declares you righteous.

This is the freedom Jesus teaches us in John 8.

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

To be free in Jesus…to be Jesus’ disciple is to abide in Jesus’ Word. All other words promise freedom but fail to deliver. Abide in Jesus’ Word. Be connected to Jesus by hearing His Word, by taking the time each day to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest his Word. Abide in Jesus’ Word where he promises to abide with you, here in the Word made flesh of the Lord’s Supper. Abide in the Word and Water of your Baptism that sets you free. Abide in the Word of Absolution that declare: you are forgiven. You are free.

Jesus uses that little same word “abide” when he declares that we are the branches and he is the Vine. We the branches abide in the Vine; our life and health and growth flow from Jesus the Vine to us his branches. Cut us off from the Vine and we are fruitless and dead branches. Cut off from Jesus’ Word, we become fruitless and dead too.

More than that, when we don’t abide in Jesus’ Word we will find other words to abide in.
Like Israel, we rebel against God’s Word and fashion golden calves for ourselves. Our sinful flesh is an idol factory with a full-time assembly line running through our thoughts, words, and deeds.

Like Israel, sin blinds us to our captivity. We’re offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Like Israel, we are slaves to sin, unable to free ourselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

Truth is, we are slaves to sin. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
But that’s not the only truth that Luther set free in the Reformation.

The truth is, Jesus sets us free. Jesus dwells with us sinners. Jesus, the Son of God becomes the Son of Mary, so that we can become children of God. And that is who you are.
Yes, all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God…but you are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Yes, the wages of sin is death…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Yes, we were slaves to sin…but Jesus sets you free from your captivity. Jesus became a slave to all our sin to set you free. Jesus entered our captivity to rescue you. Jesus was bound in death’s chains to release you from death. And if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.

Therefore, Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (1 Peter 2)

You are no longer slaves to sin, but God’s free children. You have a place in his house, a seat at his table, and the victory feast is ready. Come, eat and drink the free forgiveness in Jesus’ body and blood.

Now to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.