Monday, July 21, 2014

Pentecost 6 Sermon: "The Problem of Weeds"

+ Pentecost 6 – July 20th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A, Proper 11: Isaiah 44:6-8; Romans 8:18-27; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If you think about it, Jesus has some rather strange farming habits. Last week he tells us a parable about a reckless sower who scatters his seeds everywhere – hard-packed turf, rocky soil, weedy dirt, good topsoil – it doesn’t matter. Jesus treats the proclamation of his merciful, gracious word of forgiveness the same way too: spreading it with abundant, joyous abandon.

This week Jesus’ parable starts off the same way: the kingdom of heaven – in other words, the rule and reign of heaven, the gracious action of God in the world to save us through Jesus crucified – that kingdom of heaven; is compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
Then while the servants of the field were sleeping the enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. The shocking thing is that where we’d prefer to apply the Caddy Shack treatment and soak the entire field in pesticide, pull of all the weeds, and then nuke them with some radiation just to be sure those weeds are gone, Jesus simply replies: “Let both grow together until the time of the harvest.” 

But of course, Farmer Jesus has the whole field in view here. And though his farming methods may seem strange and backwards to us his gracious rule and reign, the kingdom of God in human flesh, works among us precisely by such strange and backwards methods: his incarnation, his humble life, his more humble death.
So, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, stop and think: what’s this parable all about? And don’t say: “Duh, pastor, Jesus gives us the explanation. Just read that.” True enough. But what’s Jesus teaching and declaring to us? How would you summarize this parable for someone else? What’s the parable primarily about: judgment or joy? God’s justice or mercy?

Now, before you jump up and raise your hands, be careful. Think about your answer to that last one.
And while you’re thinking about that question, let’s hear the parable again.

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.
Now, the sower of the good seed is the Son of Man, Jesus. The field is the world or literally the cosmos. The good seed is the sons of the kingdom – God’s children, heirs of Christ, who like Paul says in Romans 8 are adopted by grace and receive the Holy Spirit. The weeds are the sons of the evil one. And the enemy who sowed the weeds is the devil: he who was thrown down out of heaven and he who throws accusations and sin in our face.

In this parable, the good seed are doing just fine. It’s sown by the Son of Man and grows automatically. Faith and the fruits of faith follow wherever Jesus sows his Word.
But this is a tale of two sowers. The devil has also been busy planting weeds all over. And the weeds also seem to be thriving. We’ve all echoed the words of the Psalmist: “Why, O Lord, do the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper?”

This problem of the weeds is made all the more difficult by the fact that the weeds don’t have neon signs flashing: “Open for business!” They don’t stick out like a patch of dandelions on a perfectly manicured putting green. In fact, Jesus says the weeds look identical to the wheat until the harvest.
Weeds and wheat are only known by their fruit.

So it is with the Christian faith. The fruit of evil is parasitic, destructive, and deceitful, while the fruit of faith in Christ is mercy, forgiveness, and love – sown in abundance like the parable of the sower. As we sing in the great Reformation hymn “Salvation unto Us Has Come”:
            Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
            And rests on Him unceasing;
            And by its fruits true faith is known,
            With love and hope increasing.
            For faith alone can justify;
            Works serve the neighbor and supply
            The proof that faith is living. (LSB 555:9)

But that’s not what’s on the mind of the servants in Jesus’ parable.
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’

The devil sows corruption, confusion, and chaos. Reminds me of Alfred’s words to Bruce Wayne when talking about the Joker: “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
That’s why we join Paul and all creation in groaning with expectation for the revealing of the sons of God.

We groan as we see a world full of weeds; we groan in anguish at the abortionist’s instruments; we groan in sorrow when planes are shot out of the sky for no good reason; we groan in frustration at the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ; we groan at injustice and inhumanity spoiling God’s creation.
And groan we must. Truth be told, there’s a weed patch as deep as the grave in each of us, a weed patch is full of the hypocrisy of sin. It’s not just the weeds that look like wheat. We, God’s good seed, have a rather nasty habit of thinking, doing, and saying weed-like things. Sin wrecks everything.

Looking at the world around us it might be tempting to come to the same conclusion the master’s servants came to in the parable:
The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ That’s us alright. Impatient. Call in the weed wackers. Root em up. Pull em out. Exterminate. Like the disciples we want to call down fire. We want judgment. Thankfully we’re not the ones in charge of the field, otherwise there would be nothing left, not a single living plant left standing, we included.

‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest…
Jesus’ words are shocking. Let both grow together. Let it be. Permit it. Suffer it. Jesus reveals God’s very nature. Where we would call down judgment, Jesus calls for patience; long suffering is the word. The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Jesus’ words teach us how we live with others. God is patient and longsuffering towards us; therefore we are patient and longsuffering towards others. Or as C.S. Lewis once said, “We can forgive the unforgiveable in others because God has forgiven the unforgiveable in us.”
That’s Jesus’ answer to the problem of the weeds: “Let it be.” The Greek word is aphete and in many parts of the New Testament this word has another use. To release. To let go. To forgive. That’s right. Jesus’ answer to the problem of the weeds is forgiveness.

And this really is the only satisfying solution to the problem of evil. How does God deal with all the evil and weeds in the world? How does God deal with all the weeds and sin in man? In us?

God made him who knew no sin to become sin for us. Jesus became the weed for us. Jesus took all the seeds sown by the evil one and planted them into his body on the cross. Jesus took all your weeds, all your sin, and your death and he died for it. Jesus died for you, to make you his precious wheat, God’s own good seed, sown by Jesus and sown into Jesus, planted in his wounds.

For there on the cross God poured out both justice and mercy. The cross is both judgment and joy. Judgment of your sin. And joy because Jesus was judged in your place.
Above all, this is a parable of God’s patience. Yes, there’s judgment over sin. Jesus’ parable is a warning as well. The world will be set right. Indeed, all is right in the cross of Christ.

Fear not, then. The field of the world is his. Today the Lord of the harvest takes the seed of his word and spreads it to you his good seed. He takes the grain and grape and gives you his body and blood to eat and drink. Jesus takes the first fruits of his death and resurrection and washes you with them, feeds you with them, and forgives you all your sin. No more weeds.
You are the Lord’s good seed. And he will guard you until the harvest as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

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


Monday, July 14, 2014

Pentecost 5 Sermon: "Parable of the Sower"

+ 5th Sunday after Pentecost – July 13, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A: Isaiah 55:10-13; Romans 8:12-17; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

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

The Sower went out to sow. Obviously, Jesus is giving us something more than an agricultural lesson. He’s teaching in parables.

As the cliché goes, a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. But that’s way too sappy, not to mention a half-truth and unhelpful.

Parables are simply stories. Metaphor. Allegory. Jesus uses these stories to communicate many things about who He is and what He came to do - especially and most importantly – his death and resurrection for you and for the world.

If you’re reading the parable without that key - the crucified and risen Christ – then you better go about re-reading it again. So maybe it’s just best that we say parables are stories – earthly and heavenly.

I think it’s safe to say all of Jesus’ parables are surprising stories. There’s always a twist or an unexpected turn of events. Why? Because that’s the nature of the Gospel. That Christ gives outrageous forgiveness for us undeserving sinners. That God justifies the ungodly. That the Father throws a party for his lost son. That the shepherd leaves the 99 to seek the 1. That the sower is a reckless spend-thrift when it comes to sowing his grace and mercy.

 A man went out to sow seed and he scattered everywhere. It fell on four kinds of places – hard pavement, shallow rocky soil, weedy soil, and good, plowed under soil. After all, this is the only soil in which the seed produces anything, and it yields thirty, sixty, a hundred-fold what was sown. “He who has ears to hear, let him ear.”

Notice Jesus points to our ears, not our eyes. The eyes of faith are your ears, ears that are attentive to the voice of your Good Shepherd and not the eye-catching glamor of the world.

Thankfully, Jesus guides us and his disciples to the trailhead of this parable, like a legend or key on a map. The seed is the Gospel of the kingdom, in a word the seed is Jesus, the promised Seed. The soils are various conditions of the heart.

First there is the seed that falls on the hard pavement. This is the hardness and stubbornness of unbelief. The Gospel is heard, but it bounces off the pavement like a hailstone in a mountain thunderstorm. This is the tragedy that occurs when people hear the word of forgiveness but don’t think they have any need for it. We’ve probably all met or known someone like that. It’s a refusal to be forgiven. This is why we need to come to church weekly, not to fulfill some kind of obligation to God, but to receive what he’s giving us: free forgiveness that cracks the hardness of our sinful hearts.

Then there’s the seed that fell on rocky, shallow soil. This is the faith that mirrors its surroundings like a chameleon: a shallow faith based on feelings and emotions. And this is the largest growing religion in America, especially in Christianity. But faith based on feelings is faith without roots, a shallow faith unable to endure the heat of persecution, hardship, and testing. This is what happens when you use your heart as a barometer of God’s presence and the Spirit’s working. Instead, Jesus gives you a faith that is grounded outside of you: firmly rooted in Holy Baptism, planted in the Word, fed to you in the Holy Supper. These gifts of Jesus are objective and don’t change, no matter how you feel.

 Still, some seed fell among the weeds and thorns. The thorns are the cares and concerns of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. Anxieties about life, such as what will we eat, what will we wear. Houses, investments, portfolios, retirement.

Just how weedy is your soil? Ask yourself: what is it that keeps me from receiving the Word and Supper every time they’re available? What prevents you from hearing and gathering around Christ’s gifts? What cares and concerns are choking you of the life given in God’s holy Word and Sacraments? Thank God for the weed killer of his word and the seed of the Gospel which replants, replenishes, and recreates his mercy for us.

And then there’s the seed that falls upon good soil, soil that’s felt the plow blade.  Broken and turned under soil. It yields a harvest – one hundred, sixty, thirty. The best and fruitful soil is plowed. Dead soil.

 Think about that. Soil is dead. The life and vitalities and energies are not in the soil but in the seed. Seeds are embryonic life. Soil is dead. It’s made out of dead stuff. And out of death the seed springs to life, grows, and bears fruit. Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus is that seed, his own flesh cast into the earth. Dead. Buried. But out of death springs life. Resurrection. For you and for the world.

He’s done the same for you in Baptism. All sin in you is buried and dies and Jesus raises you to life. Jesus takes your hardened, rocky, weed-ridden heart; he plows it and then sows his own life, death and resurrection and makes you good soil.
The only soil in which the seed of Gospel, that is Jesus, is productive is dead soil. Plowed under soil. Broken down soil. Soil that can say, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Our hearts must be broken. Our hands emptied. Our minds cleared before the Gospel of Jesus can bear fruit.

Soil can’t plow itself. But wouldn’t that be great? Self-plowing soil. Gardening made easy. Of course, just ask any gardener you know what; it takes work: digging, turning, rototilling. Hard packed soil cannot turn itself into good soil. Rocks do not automatically clear themselves from a field. Weeds do not pluck themselves. Sinners, children of Adam and Adam’s sinful condition, cannot make themselves receptive to the saving Word of Jesus. They will not let Jesus in no matter how many times He knocks. We do not naturally and willingly repent. We must be driven to it.

The rototiller of God’s law must plow us under. We need to be broken, turned six feet under, crushed if the Word of Jesus is going to be fruitful in us.

“What will happen to that Word of Christ planted in you? Will it take root, abide, and bear fruit? Will it take root in a heart like yours, a heart that is always eager to do good…so long as it’s pleasant and profitable for you; a heart that is consistently rejecting temptations…so long as the temptations are to do things you don’t really enjoy anyway; a heart that loves others…so long as they are nice to you, compliment you, and do what you want. Will the seed of Christ, the seed of his grace and mercy, take root in a heart like yours, a heart that is as clean as a manure pile and fertile as a brick?

Repent. For the truth is that there is no good soil in us. We think that compared to the hearts of the really big sinners, ours is a beautiful English garden. We think that the Sower chose to sow his seed in us because we’re such good and fertile soil. But that’s the lie we love to believe for it is a lie that makes us feel good about ourselves. Repent and hear the truth.

The truth is that when the sower sowed his seed in you, it fell on rock-hard soil; and where there weren’t rocks there were weeds; and where there weren’t weeds there were birds of the air waiting to devour it. But the seed of God’s Word doesn’t look for good soil to fall into; it creates the soil for itself, no matter how rocky and weed-infested your heart may be.

Jesus doesn’t look for the right kind of people to believe. He doesn’t scout out the best planting ground for his word or take soil samples. He simply sows and lets his word do what he promises; and it does not return void or empty. His word transforms you. Christ, the Seed makes you alive.” (Chad Bird)

God doesn’t leave the plowed field to lie fallow. The sower sows the seed. Recklessly. All over the place. The word is preached whether men like it or like it not. Whether they listen or listen not. Whether they believe it or believe it not. The Divine Sower casts the word of Jesus into your heart and mind, the good news that in Jesus there is forgiveness, life, and salvation.

That in Jesus you are rooted in his death and resurrection by Baptism.  

That in Jesus you are nourished and fed in with his body and blood.

That in Jesus you are good soil of his own making.

You are firmly planted in Christ who has firmly planted himself in you by his Word.

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




Monday, June 30, 2014

Sermon for the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles: "Sent"

+ Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles - June 29th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Acts 15:1-12; Galatians 2:1-10; Matthew 16:13-19

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

 Today is the festival day of St. Peter and St. Paul. In the Scriptures a festival means joy, celebration, thanksgiving, and of course, a feast. A feast means forgiveness. A feast means joy. That’s why it’s called Divine Service: Christ serves us with his gifts, dishes up his own body and blood for our forgiveness, and we give thanks and praise.

 It’s no different today on the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. Today we rejoice, give thanks and praise to Christ, and gather for the Lamb’s high feast. Any why you might ask?

 All because of one little word: Apostle.

 It simply means sent, or sent one. As in St. Peter who was sent to preach the Gospel to the Jews, and St. Paul who was sent to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Jesus “apostle-ed” them, sent them, to declare and defend His death and resurrection to all the ends of the earth.

 Wait, you mean St. Peter, the same guy who told Jesus he'd die for Him and then at the first sign of trouble swore an oath he'd never heard of the guy? That Peter? Yup. Oh, and don’t forget about Paul. You know what he did before, right Jesus? Saul?! Remember him!? He killed Christians!

But you see, that’s the point of the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. It’s not really about the man Peter or Paul. By themselves they’re nothing. Paul repeatedly says as much in his letters. It’s not about the man, but the message.

 That’s the joy of Feast Days in the church where we remember saints, disciples, or apostles. The church isn’t built upon these men as men but upon them as apostles: those sent by Jesus to preach in His Name.

And what were they sent to preach? Not Peter and Paul, but Jesus! Jesus crucified and raised for sinners, like us. Jesus at the right-hand of the Father. Jesus by water and word and body and blood – for you. Peter and Paul point don’t point us to themselves, but to Jesus Crucified for you. Remember the word of the day: Apostle, sent.
Pastors are no different today. Pastors are sent, not to persuade you with their award winning personality. Not so you know all our hobbies, favorite foods or music. Not saying those are all bad, but that’s not the main thing. We’re not the big deal. What comes out of the pastor’s mouth is the big deal. That we preach what we are sent to preach: Jesus is the Son of God who came into the flesh, was crucified for your sins and rose again. And that this same Jesus delivers abundant forgiveness to you in water, word, and in Jesus' body and blood.

Thank God the Good News of the Gospel isn’t dependent upon the pastor’s charisma or good looks or sense of humor. Thank God Pastors aren’t like the secret sauce on the animal burgers at In N Out; we’re not the special ingredient that makes the Gospel work and keep people coming back to Church. No, God’s word is powerful enough to do exactly what he sent it out to do: heal, save, forgive, call, gather, enlighten, make us holy. Pastors are simply messengers. Mouthpieces. Megaphones of the Gospel. Instruments. Sent ones.
But there’s the temptation, to make it all about us. And believe me, that temptation is just as real, if not more intense at times, for pastors. It’s easy to think the church’s life and health are dependent upon you. Thank God it isn’t my church or your church. We’d make a mess of it in no time. Just look at what Adam and Eve did in the Garden. We’re no different: apostles of a false god, always sending ourselves to conduct our own little mission projects for our own little kingdoms. That’s why we were sent out of Eden in the first place. And that’s why the Lord promised to send a child born of a woman.

That’s why the Lord sent prophets to foretell this child’s birth in Bethlehem
That’s why angels sang as the Sent One, Jesus, was born to bring peace on earth and good news for all.

That’s why Jesus was sent to us. To bring us back from our eternal exile in sin, death, and hell. To lead us out and send us back to the Father. To send our sin to the cross, to send the devil running, and to send Death to its death.
Jesus sent Apostles like St. Peter and St. Paul to deliver that message to us in the Scriptures. That’s why Jesus sends pastors into the Church to deliver that message to you week after week after week.

Of course, it’s not about the man but the message. And yet the man is important, isn’t he? The message is the main thing, but the Lord ordains men to be pastors, he opens their mouths and fills it with his Word.

 Today we give thanks for both: the Good News that because Jesus died and rose, we have the forgiveness of sins. But we also give thanks for the actual men who carried that message to the ends of the earth and even suffered death to do so; Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified upside down. It's not that we glorify these men for their own sakes. After all, they are just men. Rather, we give thanks that they preached the Gospel and the Spirit worked faith in those who heard it.

But our Lord’ gracious apostling doesn’t end with Peter and Paul. The same Gospel they were witnesses of is proclaimed to you today. The same Sacraments are administered here for you today. This is no small deal. Makes you want to have a feast every Sunday! This is Good News: Jesus Christ has triumphed over your sin, death, the devil and hell. And it’s this Good News that sends the devil running away, that scoops up sinners into Christ's church and that displays the glory of God in the mercy of Jesus for all the world to see.

Every time we hear, confess, sing, rejoice in, and give thanks for the Gospel it’s an all-out assault on the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. The Gospel drop kicks Satan in the face every time it’s preached and confessed and sung and rejoiced in. That’s what Jesus means when he says the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against his church. The preaching of forgiveness of sins is God’s way of sending in the Navy SEALs to boot down the door of our sin, bind our old Adam, and rescue us from the gates of hell.
Rejoice. All of that is yours in Baptism where Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon you and sent the devil packing. For the Lord sent his Son to be Crucified for you. Sent his pastors to loose the chains of death and free you from slavery to sin. You’re forgiven.” You’re free. You belong to Christ.

 By ourselves, we’re nothing. But armed with Christ’s Word and body and blood upon our lips, all hell can’t stop us now. By ourselves we’re alone in our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. But in Christ, we are sent to serve and love our neighbor.

 Jesus sends us, he “apostles” you, in your various vocations to serve and love the neighbor, especially by speaking and declaring the Gospel when you have an opportunity to. Remember, Peter was a fisherman. Paul was a tent-maker.

How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news, who publish peace and bring good news of salvation.
How beautiful are the feet who walk next door to your neighbor and invite them to church. How beautiful are the feet who bring a devotional booklet to a friend in need. How beautiful are the feet who visit a sick family member or loved one in the hospital with the words of Jesus the Great Physician. How beautiful are the feet of parents who bring their children to preschool, or grandparents who take time to catechize their grandchildren, or the many helpers we had last week that walked 115 kids around VBS for five days. How beautiful are the feet of you who share the good news wherever Christ has sent you.
 Thanks be to God for all his sent ones, for Peter and Paul, for all pastors in the Church, for each of you in your vocations, and especially for One who was sent to deliver is from sin and death, even Christ our Lord.

 A blessed Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul to each of you…

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


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Funeral Sermon: "The Good Fight"

+ In Memoriam: Tom Brannon, October 18th, 1940 – June 17th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Isaiah 25:6-9; 1 Cor. 15:51-57; John 11:17-27

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

Anyone who knew Tom knew he was a fighter. Whether you knew him for a shorter time (like myself) or a longer time (like good friends and family). Now, Tom wasn’t the sort that picked the fights like a school yard bully. No, the Lord gave Tom a quiet, yet stubborn strength.

He fought hard for his education and working his way through the business world.

He fought hard at his daily work for the sake of his customers, fellow colleagues, and especially his beloved family.

He fought hard to protect and support his family; and really, what man with three daughters wouldn’t!

Later in life he fought health issues: two heart surgeries, rehab, hospitalization, medication, chemo, and lung surgery.

Throughout life he fought and wrestled – as we all do – with his old sinful nature. But he did so knowing the whole time that the outcome of that battle had already been decided long ago – first on the cross where Christ paid for all Tom’s sins and yours; and then again in the font of Holy Baptism, where Tom and all God’s people are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. Tom knew that his sin was dead and buried and washed away forever in the blood of Jesus, shed for him and for you.

Yes, Tom was a fighter all right. But to the outside, and unobservant eye, today it might appear that death has won, that Tom found a fight he couldn’t win. It appears that we’re no match for death. But the joke is on the world and the devil too. Yes, the sting of death is sin. But in Jesus, Death doesn’t get the last word. Death doesn’t win.

Jesus’ death destroyed death. Jesus’ death destroyed Tom’s death and yours. Jesus died for Tom, and for you, and for all – so that when the Last Enemy of death comes and stares us coldly in the face, each of us can look at Death in the eye and say, you lose. Jesus wins. And in Jesus, so do I. Death you cannot end my gladness; I am baptized into Christ.

O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting? You are weak, powerless, and empty. Jesus has died my death, Tom’s death, your death. And in Jesus’ death, death is swallowed up in victory. Mt. Calvary is the mountain Isaiah was talking about where Tom’s death and yours and mine, is swallowed up forever in Jesus’ cross.

Yes, Tom was a fighter. But it wasn’t Tom’s fighting that kept him alive throughout life’s battles. It was Christ who fought for Tom, fought to the death to redeem him. That’s why Tom would be the first to admit that his strength was not his own; it was a gift. For Tom knew that outside of Christ he had no strength. Tom knew that Jesus was the source and sustenance of his daily strength, in body and soul, at home, at work, with the family.

As good of a fighter as Tom was, he knew that there is One stronger. And he would want us to know that there is One whose strength is made perfect in weakness and suffering on the cross and whose strength is made perfect in the weakness and suffering of the crosses we bear. Jesus fought for Tom and He is stronger than any surgery or cancer, stronger than our heart which is so frail. Jesus is stronger even than death itself.

That’s the hope this day and on the day we die. Not that we fight, but that Christ has fought, is fighting daily, and will fight for us. Not in our strength, but in Christ’s, so that in death our comfort lies in him and in his promises:

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

Never die. Now, them’s fighting words. That’s the battle cry of the Christian faith. That was Tom’s confession. And may it be yours as well until that great day when our Lord calls forth the trumpets and the dead in Christ rise, Tom and all the saints.

God grant us strength and faith in Christ that we might confess with Paul and Tom and all who are in Christ: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.(2 Tim 4)
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sermon for Trinity Sunday: "Credo"

+ Trinity Sunday – June 15th, 2014 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A: Gen. 1:1 – 2:4; Acts 2:1-4, 22-36; Matthew 28:16-20
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us.
In mercy the Holy Trinity was, and continues to be, active in creation. And he who wonderfully created us yet more wonderfully redeemed us fallen creatures by becoming man

In mercy the Holy Trinity was active at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son to his disciples, to the Church, to you, to the font, to the Word, to the office of the keys. Breathed out to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify the whole Christian Church.
In mercy the Holy Trinity is active and revealed throughout Jesus’ ministry. Think of Jesus’ baptism. The Father speaks. The Spirit descends. The Son is baptized. Holy Baptism reveals the mystery of the Triune God. The Triune God present and active for us men and our salvation.
And so in mercy the Holy Trinity remains active in and for the life of the Church. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  And going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
You are baptized into God’s Holy, Triune Name. I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Three in one. One in Three. Or as we confess in the Athanasian Creed: And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.
And this same Triune God is present and active in your baptism. In Baptism you are given the Name of God, and to have His Name is to have God as your God. Holy Baptism is a marvelous give-away: God takes everything that belongs to him and gives it to you. Even those things we can only believe and not fully understand – such as the mystery of the Trinity – are yours in Baptism.
Out of all the words of Jesus in Matthew 28, perhaps that is the most important one: given.

Jesus is given from the Father, given to be born, to suffer, to die. He gives up his life for you on the cross. And Jesus gives as he receives. He gives his church and pastors the authority to forgive sin. He gives us the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son. He gives us that same Spirit in Baptism. He gives us his word, his promises, his very body and blood. And as we receive, so too, we give…to all nations. Teaching Jesus’ words – all of them. Baptizing in the Triune Name.
According to Jesus’ words Baptism and Teaching go together. Whether you’re baptized as an infant or an adult, it matters not; that’s the pattern: baptism and teaching or teaching leading up to baptism, and then more teaching. Baptism may be a one time event but it’s an eternal gift, a daily gift. Filled with the promise and presence of the Holy Trinity. God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – actively working for you.
This is why confirmation isn’t graduation from church. The Christian life is one of constant learning and teaching, constantly being a student, a catechumen of the Scriptures. Sorry to burst your bubble…confirmation is for life. As we heard last Sunday confession is our way of life as Christians. To confess the faith is to our life in Christ as breath is to our body.
And this is one of many reasons why Creeds – the Apostles’, the Nicene, and especially today as we confess the Athanasian - are important. The Creeds teach us. They summarize the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, but they also sustain and support us in the faith. Creeds are a confession. And everyone has a creed. The question is, what does it teach? What does it confess?
In reality, creeds are everywhere in our culture: Live and let live. That’s true for you, but not for me. Love is my religion. Imagine no religion. I’m spiritual, not religious. Don’t judge me. As long as it feels good it can’t be wrong. Deeds not creeds. No creed but the bible. Follow your heart. That’s just your interpretation. You only live once. Karma. Diversity. Tolerance. Have it your way. As long as you believe in something. It is what it is. Coexist. No right or wrong; no rules for me. I’m free. Let it go! Let it go!
Creeds are everywhere. Everyone has a creed. Anything after the words, “I believe_____” is a creed. And you know what, all of these creeds have (at least) one thing in common: they’re all statements of belief. They’re statements of belief and confession of our favorite god, ourselves. That’s the common thread here. Everyone believes in something or someone, even self-proclaimed atheists have creeds. Everyone has creeds. The point of a creed is who and what are you confessing, and is that who or what the God of the Scriptures, the Triune God of the apostles, Nicene and athanasian creed, the God who baptizes you, absolves you, feeds you with Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.

Creeds and days like Trinity Sunday are great because they take the attention off of ourselves and onto the saving work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Any other God besides that just won’t cut it, not on Trinity Sunday or any other day of the week that ends in Y. Soundbites from Oprah and pithy quotes printed on wall decorations from Ikea are simply not adequate creeds: not for confessing our faith in the Scriptures or the Triune God, not for believing and teaching Christ’s saving work on our behalf, not for hearing the good news that God justifies the ungodly in Christ’s death, not for declaring and defending the Christian faith with our neighbors, friend, families.
The stakes are simply too high to use creeds in the church which are anything but the historic, robust, faithful, and clear confession of what Christ gave to his disciples, to his church, to you.; the faith beautifully summarized in the Athanasian Creed:“And the catholic faith is this…” The confession of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church – in all times and places.
In this way we continue to live in the words of Jesus:
Teaching them to observe, keep, guard, and treasure all that I have commanded you.
The Christian Creeds are more than helpful tools. They’re vital. Necessary.
They’re an anchor and foundation, especially as we live in storm-tossed times of relativism and subjectivity.
They’re unifying, not dividing. Creeds give us Consensus. Doctrine unites. False teaching divides. Confessions of faith as found in the creeds bind us together.
It’s easy to be an unorthodox church. The way of false teaching is broad and easy. The way of the orthodox Christian confession is much harder. It is the narrow road and the needle’s eye of true and false – calling a thing what it is. This is the church’s calling. To confess as we are given. And to give as we receive. To be faithful. Faithful in our witnessing the Gospel to others. Faithful as stewards of the earthly treasures our Lord gives us. Faithful in the hymns we sing and the conduct of the divine service. Faithful in our instruction of the faith.

They’re transferrable: this is how we pass on the faith, from generation to generation.

They’re a defense, an apologetic – if we’re going to defend the faith we need to know what we believe and why.
They’re a witness – creeds are one of the greatest forms of evangelism you have. And the best part is you already have it memorized. So when someone asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you, you can start quoting the Creed. Maybe not verbatim, but use it as an outline. Let the Creeds of the church, let the language of the Scriptures shape your daily language.
This is what the church does. She confesses. Baptizes. Teaches. To all nations. And guess what. All nations are here in Huntington Beach. You don't even have to go around the world. The world is here at Golden West College, they come to the music academy, preschool, Hispanic outreach, VBS.
It's simple. It's not complicated. Speak. Care about your neighbor enough to tell them the most important news ever: Jesus died for you. Don't do it for the money or the glory or to feel good. Do it for your neighbor’s sake. What do you tell them? The creed: Athanasian, Apostles, Nicene. Use them all. Maybe even start with the creeds that are in the bible car Paul does in 1 Cor. 15:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us.
A blessed Trinity Sunday to each of you…
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.