Monday, September 26, 2016

Sermon for St. Michael and All Angels: "With Angels and Archangels"

+ St. Michael and All Angels - September 25th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Daniel 10:10-14; Revelation 12:7-12; Matthew 18:1-11

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

We read and hear about angels throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament they were sent into battle ahead of Israel’s army, they surround God’s throne room and sing His praise in Isaiah 6.

In the New Testament an angel announces Jesus’ birth to Mary and Joseph, John the Baptist’s birth to Zechariah, and a whole heavenly host appeared to the Shepherds by night to proclaim the birth of a Savior for them and for you. And later, at Jesus’ resurrection, an angel sat on the stone and declared Good News: He is not here; he is risen!

Do you see a pattern there? Angels are God’s messengers. Angels are God’s servants. Angels point God’s people to Jesus. Angels speak, sing, and proclaim Jesus.

And so…today the church is not celebrating “Touched by an Angel” day, nor are we celebrating “Angels in the Outfield” day, or even “Charlie’s Angels” day. It is the lesser known and perhaps even lesser celebrated festival of St. Michael and All Angels.

Admittedly, it’s a bit of an unfamiliar church festival. St Michael isn’t one of the disciples, though he does our Lord’s bidding. He isn’t an evangelist, though he is a messenger of the Good News. And he’s not like the saints of old who were martyred for the faith, though he is a witness to Christ all the same. St. Michael is an angel.

Every Sunday we confess God’s creation of the angels in the Creed. God is the make of all things visible and invisible. And that includes the angels.

And just so we’re clear, angels are nothing like the cute, cuddly pictures we see on Hallmark cards or TV. Isaiah didn’t run up and pinch the cherub’s cheeks and St. John would never have dreamed of giving a noogy to the seraphim. No, angels are not the romanticized creatures we see in most paintings or cartoons. They’re really a bit more like Jedi Knights, or the elves and good wizards of Middle-Earth, or perhaps the Army Rangers or Navy SEALs. They evoke a sense of fear and reverence, awe and holiness whenever they appear.

That’s why the first thing out of their mouths is almost always: “Do not be afraid.”
And the next thing they have to say is some kind of message. After all, that’s their job. Angels waste no time talking about themselves. They have a message to deliver. Angels want no worship or attention focused on them, only that we hear the message.

Like Zechariah who heard the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth. Or Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds who heard the good news that a Jesus was born to save us from our sins.
And so, just like every other major or minor festival day of the church year, today really isn’t a day to celebrate St. Michael just for St. Michael’s sake; it’s about Jesus. There’s a ranking. Michael and all angels understood that, Satan did not. Jesus is the Lord God of Sabaoth, the commander in chief of the heavenly armies. Jesus gives the orders and the angels do his bidding. That’s their job. They’ve no action apart from God’s bidding. God sends. The angels speak. Their task is simple: declare the gospel, and defend God’s people.

Sound familiar? It should. That’s why God calls and ordains pastors to serve his church. God sends and we speak. We’re his messengers sent to do his bidding. Declare his Gospel. Defend the faith. Jesus is our captain and we are his foot soldiers. And our orders are simple: we preach Christ crucified.

But of course, angels and pastors aren’t the only ones called to be messengers of the Good News. As the Apostle Peter writes, we are always being to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).

So, God sends you to your neighbor, friend, or family and you speak. In your callings – your various vocations – God sends you to do his bidding, to declare the Gospel. Defend the faith. To love others as he has loved you in Christ. To forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. To be messengers of God’s mercy in word and deed. Jesus is the Captain, and you are his soldiers. He is the head and you are the body. He is the bridegroom and we are his bride. O Lord, open our lips and our mouths will declare your praise.

After all, we cannot and do not slay the dragon. Jesus has already done that for you. The devil may scowl fierce as he will; he may fool you into thinking you’re alone on the battlefield, that you’re not the good Christian you promised to be at your confirmation, that you’re better off like Elijah hiding in a cave or Moses stuttering away in fear, or that when God’s Word is declared nothing is happening. But he’s wrong, dead wrong. And besides all that, Satan is still an angel…and a liar…and he’s defeated.

Michael fought Satan and won because Jesus is the boy the devil had feared ever since the Garden of Eden.

We too fight – not against flesh and blood – but against the rulers and authorities of this present darkness. We fight against the devil’s cunning as he sends wave after wave of false teaching. We fight against the devil’s assault on marriage, human life, male and female, and a host of other battlefields. We fight against the devil’s insurgence in our pews, our homes, and his attempts to capture the throne room of our hearts.

But this is St. Michael and All Angels day. And that means you are not alone in the foxhole.
For… the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.

Satan is conquered. Your sin is defeated. Death is destroyed. And you are victorious, just like Michael was…all because of Jesus.

And so the closer we are to Jesus, the closer we are to his angels. That’s what we sing every Sunday too, isn’t it…with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven…
You want to see angels? Go to the Lord’s Supper. Search the scriptures. Hear the absolution. Receive the forgiveness of sins. Remember and live in your Baptism. For there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than a thousand who need no repentance.

Today we rejoice in God’s gift of angels. And we rejoice all the more in the message they bear: Jesus born for you. Jesus crucified and risen for you. Jesus ascended for you. Jesus living and reigning as the Lamb who was slain and lives for you. Today really is about Jesus, the one to whom all angels, all pastors, and all people look to as Lord, Savior, and Redeemer.

Do not be afraid. Behold I bring you good tidings of a great joy that will be for all people. For unto us is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus the crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, just as he said.

A Blessed Feast of St. Michael and All Angels to each of you…

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

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sermon for Pentecost 17: "For the Love of Losers"

+ 17th Sunday after Pentecost – September 11th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C, Proper 19: Ezekiel 34:11-24; 1 Timothy 1:5-11, 12-17; Luke 15:1-10

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

We don’t like losing. Oh, sure, we’ll be polite and say things like “It’s only a game”, “better luck next time,” or “at least you had fun”. But deep down we don’t like to lose: not a card game with friends, not a rivalry game with our favorite sports team, and especially not when we lose something a bit more important like a job opportunity or an important client.

And then there’s all those times we lose our car keys and search the house in frustration, or can’t find your phone, or worst of all, your child’s favorite toy or blanket is missing and pandemonium sets in until it’s found.

No. We don’t like to lose.

And the whole of Luke 15 - all three parables - is about lost things: one lost sheep, one lost coin, two lost sons.

These three parables are stories of grace through and through. Not a word of earning or merit, not even a breath about rewarding good behavior or self-improvement. Not even the slightest hint of being a Christian super-hero and or positive thinking. There is only the outrageous, gracious, saving determination of the shepherd and the woman and the father – all figures of God - who raises us from the dead, finds us in our lostness, and gives us victory though we were losers.

St. Paul says it this way in 1 Timothy: The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

And this is precisely what upsets the Pharisees so much at the start of Luke 15.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

The Pharisees were the A-listers. The celebrity pastors of their day. Respected. Revered. Religious. And…they also didn’t like to lose. And they certainly didn’t like a guy running around claiming to be the Messiah who happened to make a regular habit of eating and drinking with losers, outcasts, sinners, and lawbreakers. They were healthy. They were the righteous ones. They were the winners. Or so they thought.

But we’re not all that different. The prophet Ezekiel was right about us. We muddy the clear water of God’s Word with all kinds of dirt – from our thoughts and feelings. We push with side and shoulder against one another till we get our way. We butt heads with our horns against the weak – no perhaps not physically but certainly in the way we treat one another, and definitely in how we think about others around us. Like the Pharisees, we don’t like losers, and we consider ourselves to be big-shot winners. Don’t think so? Seems like that’s all the more evidence that we are.

This is why when we confess our sin we aren’t admitting our mistakes and promising to be on our best behavior. Church isn’t a rehabilitation facility for sinners. It’s a hospital where Christ heals us in his body and blood and, a rescue center where the lost are found, the dead are brought to life.

Thankfully, we have a God who loves losing; and loves losers, sinners, and outcasts like us even to the point heading straightway to a losing, outcast, cursed death on the cross for you.
It may sound strange, and it may be the opposite how we think. But that’s how God works – opposite of what we expect, deserve, or think.

God specializes in rescuing the lost. In raising the dead. In snatching victory from the jaws of death. All for you.

Think about it in the context of the Luke 15 parables. The lost sheep would be considered dead. A lost coin is a dead asset. And a lost son is a deadbeat son who wanted his father dead. Lostness and deadness go together in these parables.

That means that the entire rescue operation for you – just it was in both stories for the sheep and the coin – is found in the determination and work of the shepherd and the woman to find the lost. Jesus seeks, finds, and rescues you.

What do we contribute to our rescue? Our lostness, deadness, and sin. Jesus does it all, accomplishes all, completes, fulfills, and makes it all happen for you.

And to make his point even clearer to the Pharisees and us, Jesus tells a parable:
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.

Notice that the sheep didn’t do a blessed thing other than being lost. And more importantly, the shepherd does everything. Finds the sheep. Rescues the sheep. Carries the sheep home. And throws a party. So it is for us. All we do is lose, sin, find ourselves in need of rescue. And along comes Good Shepherd Jesus. He finds you in your lostness. Rescues you from sin. Carries you home. And throws you a party. The angels rejoice in heaven. And we rejoice with them.

But there’s something unexpected about this shepherd. If you’re looking at this parable as a how-to guide for running a successful sheep-ranching business, you’re missing the point. Think about it: 1 sheep out of 99. What’s so important about the one sheep? He has 99 others. Most fishermen would call that dead loss. Why leave the 99 in the open country where they could run off too? One lost sheep is no big deal. But it is to Good Shepherd Jesus. It’s personal. You matter.

 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Again, the saving, rescuing, and finding is personal to Jesus. One sheep. One coin.
1 coin out of 10? What’s so important about that one coin? It’s not like it was her last mite. She had 9 others. Even us who don’t like to lose would consider that an acceptable profit loss. But not Jesus.

You matter enough for him to come and rescue you himself. You matter enough that he refused to write you off as dead loss or a dead asset, but instead makes you the object of his seeking, saving, and life-giving love. God turned over every rug, looked under every pillow, sofa cushion, and turned over his grave stone to find you in your lostness. Your value is not in how you see yourself or even how other see you. Your value is not in whether you are a winner or a loser, but in Christ Crucified, in the cross where Jesus finds you. Seeks you out. Rescues you. Delivers you. And carries you home.

These are parables of 200 proof, radical, outrageous Good News for undeserving sinners like us. We might even call the Gospel here absurd. Not absurd in a silly, Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory kind of way. But absurd as in the unexpected; the opposite of what we think.

It’s the happy ending of a story you didn’t see coming. It’s getting an A when we deserved an F. It’s the prodigal/lost son who gets the shoes, the signet ring, the family robe, the inheritance, and a party on top of it all.

It’s Jesus, the Shepherd, who lays down his life to rescue us lost sheep.

It’s Jesus who loses his life to find you.

It’s Jesus the rich one who becomes poor so that by his poverty you are made rich.

It’s the God who loves you with an all-consuming love that drove him to the cross to save you.

And so today the angels rejoice as we rejoice in losing – losing our sin, losing our life, losing our death – and being found by Jesus. We rejoice that the Pharisees were right about this: Jesus eats and drinks with sinners. We rejoice in the God who loves losers enough to become one for us.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sermon for Pentecost 15: "The Feast"

+ Pentecost 15 – August 28th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C, Proper 17: Proverbs 25:2-10; Hebrews 13:1-17; Luke 14:1-14

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

Whether it’s a Superbowl party, a Star Wars marathon, a church potluck, or even a smaller dinner with friends – say something like dinner for 8 here at Redeemer - we love a good opportunity to gather around the table or tailgate or the TV with friends and, of course, a feast. Feed them and they’ll come is more accurate!

God hard-wired us this way: to live in communion and fellowship with one another, and most of all with him. Think about his promise to Adam and Eve before the fall into sin:

 “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 

And though our gatherings can also be places of stress, conflict, pain, and sin against one another – at least this side of Eden – the simple truth remains. God loves a feast. God loves to give and loves when we receive his gifts. He loves to give us daily bread at our kitchen tables and especially at his table.

No wonder, “the Feast” is a recurring picture of heaven throughout Scripture.

 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
From Genesis to Revelation, from our tables at home to the Lord’s Table at church, God is the host and we’re his guests.

Many of Jesus’ parables end the same way. When the lost sheep is found – there’s a joyous party. When the woman finds her lost coin – there’s joy and a party. When the lost (or prodigal) son returns, the father kills the fatten calf – you guessed it – there’s a joyous party.

After his death and resurrection, Jesus tells us he is known in the breaking of the bread – one of many New Testament ways of saying Jesus is present for you in the Lord’s Supper.

And recall how the Pharisees wag their fingers at Jesus: He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners. And thank God for that.

Jesus’ words in Luke 14 today follow this similar pattern.

Jesus is dining at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. On the Sabbath. And just as everyone is enjoying the appetizers and drinks in walks a man with dropsy – or edema in today’s medical terminology, swelling caused by fluid in the body.

Now we might think that the proper table etiquette in this event would be to have this poor fellow moved outside. Wouldn’t want anyone to lose their lamb over it. Then Jesus could’ve healed him without making a scene. And from the Pharisees perspective, that’s exactly what Jesus does.
Is it lawful to heal a man on the Sabbath, or not?

Jesus’ question would’ve thrown the Pharisees into a legal mind-storm. Let’s see…there’s 613 dos and don’ts. 32 kinds of work to be avoided on the Sabbath. Is this one of those things? Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

You can just imagine the ruler of the Pharisees swiftly grabbing his scroll of the Talmud, checking the table of contents under “healing” to see what the rabbis have said. All the while, the internal hamster wheel of the Law is hard at work: “Is it work or not? Well, it depends who did it, I suppose. If I do it, then it’s work. If God does it, then it isn’t work. But if God does it through someone, well…. hmm….not so sure about that. Best not say anything at all. That would be safest.”

And that’s exactly how they responded. Twice. They remained silent.

That’s what the Law does. It stops our mouths. It shuts us up. Yes, the Law serves as damage control, a diagnosis or mirror of our sin; it shows us God’s way of discipline. But the Law cannot heal. The Law cannot give life. The Law will not make you a better person. The Law will not get us an invitation to the wedding feast.

So, Jesus pushes the table conversation into super-awkward mode.

Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?

What do you do? Ignore the man and you break the 5th commandment. Heal him and you break the 3rd commandment. That’s life under the Law: caught between the rock of the 10 Commandments and the hard place of Sinai.

It’s easy to point our fingers in accusation at the Pharisees. But the truth is, there’s a little Pharisee in each of us. A larger than life hypocrite who – like the Pharisees – is dead silent when it comes to God’s Word, and yet who sings like a song-bird when it comes to the good in ourselves, and better still, all the bad in someone else.

There’s a little Pharisee in each of us that wants to be the ruler of the Law and pick and choose how to follow and listen to God’s Word like we choose our favorite dishes in a buffet line.

There’s a little Pharisee in each of us that’s so afraid on the one hand to proclaim the Gospel to our neighbor because it might offend them or be awkward, and yet on the other hand remain silent because we’re worried about saying the wrong thing. When it comes to the Christian faith, silence is not golden.

And that’s how the law works, it’s a trap…there’s no winning – we’re all losers according to the Law. We are guilty of all sins in thought, word, and deed.

All of our accusations and excuses are stopped, our mouth is closed, left gaping wide open. We have lived as if God did not matter and as if we mattered most.

There’s no healing their – only a mirror that reveals our brokeneness. Our prayers and worship have faltered…and our love for others has failed.

We know what the Pharisees did. But what do we do? The only thing we can do. Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.

And this is precisely where Jesus wants us. This is exactly how we get to the table – not by our own invitation, but his. We’ve come at last to the main course.
Jesus healed the man.

Jesus heals you. And not just one day a week. But every day. You are baptized, like Simon this morning. That means you’re God’s own child. You’re part of the family. You’ve a seat at the table. You’re washed, fed, and nourished by the fruit of the cross in Jesus’ words, water, body and blood. Jesus still loves to eat and drink with sinners.

Jesus calls, rescues, and heals sinners, losers, and outcasts like us. Jesus gathers us to his banqueting table where your name is written in the only guest book that truly matters: the Lamb’s book of life.
Jesus takes us, broken, dead, and sinful though we are, and becomes for you the broken, dead, and sinful one on the cross. All to heal you.

Jesus takes our mouths, that were shut up by the Law, opens them, and fills them with heavenly food, the bread of life, the medicine of immortality. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

Jesus calls to each of us from the head of the table: Friend, move up higher. “In my humility you are exalted. In wounds you are healed. In my suffering and death you receive joy and life. Come, the banquet table is ready. It’s time for the feast!”

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
This isn’t Jesus’ party planning advice. It’s good news of a great reversal. A joyous exchange. A marvelous flipping of the tables in your favor. Jesus is humbled and you are exalted. Jesus is brought wounded so you are healed. Jesus frees you from the Law by taking the curse of the Law upon himself. And now you are free from sin and death. Free to love others.

That’s what humility means after all, not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less (C.S. Lewis). Which is exactly what Jesus has done for you in his death on the cross.

Jesus is free. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and the Lord of creation for you. He brings healing like no other healer can for his cross is the Source of all healing. What He did for that man with dropsy, He does for you by His dying and rising, by his body and blood, by your baptism. He bears our infirmities, our sicknesses, all the ways that Sin has ravaged our lives. He became our Sin. Our sickness too. “By His wounds we are healed.” Washed. And ready for the feast.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sermon for Pentecost 13: "Fire and Baptism, Peace and Division"

+ 13th Sunday after Pentecost – August 14th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C, Proper 15: Jeremiah 23:16-29; Hebrews 11:17-31; Luke 12:49-56

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

There are a lot of things in life that divide us. Even simple, every-day things like Star Wars or Star Trek. American or National League. Pepperoni or Hawaiian pizza. Country or Rock. 8 or 11 service. Or here in Southern California: USC or UCLA.

But Jesus’ words here sound altogether more serious than that.

A baptism by fire? Not peace, but divisions? What’s he talking about? It all sounds so un-Jesus like. This isn’t just one of Jesus’ hard sayings. It sounds contradictory. How can Jesus be the Prince of Peace and say, “I’ve not come to bring peace on earth but division?”

All our questions about the second half of this reading – peace and division – can be answered by looking closer at the first half – fire and baptism.

We must remember that what Jesus says in today’s Gospel he says on the way to the cross. If we lose sight of Jesus’ cross, we’ll miss the point of today’s readings.

And the closer Jesus gets to Jerusalem, the more tension grows, conflict and rejection increases, and the Pharisees are increasingly anxious to kill him.

Jesus is anxious too...“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled. I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!

Jesus’ love for you consumes him. He longs to finish, accomplish, and complete his saving work for you. Jesus gives you a glimpse of the shuddering agony of Gethsemane. Jesus knows what it will cost, and he goes toward it. “Who for the joy set before him endured the cross scorning its shame…”

“The hell coming to us for our sin He goes to, bearing your sin. He is forsaken by God in your place, and the fire of hell does not destroy him. Instead of that fire for us he kindles another. Hidden under the hard wood of the cross, the fire is kindled. From the ashes of Calvary, Jesus’ risen body has the light of Easter, and the fire is given out at Pentecost to burn in his witnesses” (Nagel). Fire and Baptism and the cross.

Jesus’ ministry ends the same way it began - baptism. In the Jordan, Jesus was baptized and anointed for death. It was a baptism for sinners. And yet Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for you. Jesus stood in solidarity with us – one with our humanity, and one with our sin. In the Jordan river, Jesus received a baptism by water. On the cross, Jesus received a baptism by blood and fire. Jesus is baptized in our judgment, sin, and death. Baptism bookends his life and work, from the Jordan to Jerusalem.

At Jesus’ baptism and his death - the cross is the great divide of your sin. Recall the old catechism definition of sin: our sin separates us from God. Sin divides. Sin cuts off. To depart from God is to die forever.

Jesus’ death ends the divide between God the Father and us his children. Jesus’ cross divides us from our sin and reconciles you to God.

And we know that the Christ’s cross brings another kind of division as well.

For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.

Jesus taught his disciples about the division that would take place as a result of his death and resurrection.  The cross brings division, offense, and scandal.

Today, in the 21st century, Christ’s church lives and ministers the Gospel in a time that parallels the 1st century. Rampant paganism. Hostility and antagonism towards the Church. Christ crucified is hated and mocked as foolish or mythical. Increased opposition to God’s gift of family, marriage, and sexuality. Persecution. Martyrdom. Division.

We may be tempted to call down fire and judgment on society. But just as in the days of Noah, God’s patience and long suffering remain. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God is patient that more might come to repentance and faith in Christ.

And that’s how we live in these Last Days. Eternal judgment is God’s job (thankfully) – and the world has already been judged on the cross. That’s where we point people - to the cross. Judgment poured out for you. Atonement made for you. We live not in fear of eternal judgment but by faith in Christ.

Christ Crucified is the great divide. There’s no neutrality when it comes to Jesus. There is faith or unbelief – like the Pharisees. Trust or rejection. That’s why we struggle and wrestle daily – why we are in an all-out war with ourselves – between our old unbelieving Adam and our new having-faith-in-Christ-nature. We live the same way Abraham and the saints of old lived – by faith in Christ Crucified. That’s really just another way of saying Christ’s life is your life. Christ lived for you, died for you, rose for you and now in baptism lives in you.

Of course, living this way – by the Gospel, receiving the sacraments and studying the Scriptures –will cause division in your life if it hasn’t already. Ask any Muslim who’s converted to Christianity. Or look at the lives of those martyred for the faith across the world.

Jesus teaches us about the division – the kind that happens among his people precisely because of his cross, as a direct result of his teaching. Our Christian lives will reflect that to one degree or another. Jesus’ words of division strike a chord with us. Maybe it’s that friend at school or a co-worker who won’t look at you when you walk by or ignores your phone calls or emails…they don’t say why but you know it’s because you’re a Christian; you don’t flaunt it, but you don’t hide it either.

Even our families are divided. Division over basic parts of Christian teaching. Division over whether or not our children or grandchildren should be baptized and taught the Christian faith. Division over worldviews.

These divisions and struggles are real. They come as a result of the Gospel. All the more reason to know that good theology is the most practical thing you can have (Rosenbladt).

And know also that you’re not alone. Amidst the Anxiety, worry, despair, fear, and frustration. Do not be afraid. You’re a member of Christ’s body, the church. Christ has joined himself to you in Baptism. Christ suffers with you. And therefore, we share these struggles with one another. Let your brothers and sisters in Christ bear your burdens with you.

God has also given you a pastor and a vicar who will visit with you, pray with you and for you, read the Scriptures and study Lutheran confessions together with you, administer the sacraments to you.
Whatever the division is in your life, you’re not alone. Christ knows each and every one of your struggles. He endured and lived them all for you. Consider him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you may not grow weary. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 

Christ is with you and for you. You’re not alone. He prays for us. And we pray for others. Pray for open ears and opportunities to open the Scriptures and proclaim the Gospel to those with whom we’re in conflict. Look for ways to speak the truth in love about why Redeemer strives to be faithful to Christ’s Word and Sacraments; or about why Baptism is the best gift we can give our children, about why we can believe that Jesus was dead and raised based on trustworthy historical evidence, or about why we support and encourage family, marriage, and life according to God’s gift and design.

Yet we do this with gentleness and humility counting others more significant than ourselves.  We know things that make for peace – Jesus’ Supper, baptism, absolution. Jesus’ Words. And so, we have an opportunity in our vocations – wherever God has placed us – to speak a word, not of division, but of peace.  The same peace you receive here.

For we who suffer these divisions – and we all do in some way – whether at home, school, work or church – Jesus brings words of peace to you. Jesus is united with you in peace – the same peace he gives you with his body and blood. His peace unites you with his death and resurrection in Baptism. His Peace kindles the work of the Holy Spirit in each of you.

Christ is with each of you in your divisions. For he has made all of your divisions his own in his death. You are reconciled. You are at peace in Jesus’ crucified. And you will never be divided from him.

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

Monday, August 8, 2016

Sermon for Pentecost 12: "The Giver"

+ 12th Sunday after Pentecost - August 7th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Genesis 15:1-6; Hebrews 11:1-16; Luke 12:22-34

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Martin Luther once described sinful humanity like a drunk man walking down a hallway, bouncing from one wall to the next. That’s pretty descriptive of our sinful flesh. We’re always staggering back and forth from one error to the other.
It’s no different when Jesus starts talking about money, earthly possessions, or mammon as Jesus calls it – you know, our stuff (that’s the scientific word for it). As it turns out, Jesus talks about money and possessions quite a bit. We might want him to stick to talking about spiritual things: holiness, righteousness, fruits of the spirit and all that. But not Jesus. He creates us - body and soul, redeems us – body and soul, and calls us to live each day in him in body and soul. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that he has something to say about earthly possessions and money.
Last week we heard Jesus’ parable of the rich fool – notice it’s called the parable of the rich fool, not the rich man; there’s a difference. Today, Jesus continues his teaching on possessions, money, and everything he gives us as daily bread.
But whenever Jesus starts talking about money and possessions we tend to turn into the drunk man in Luther’s analogy, stumbling from one side of the hallway to the other.
We disregard God’s earthly gifts or we idolize them.
We treat money and possessions as unimportant or of the highest importance in life.
We disbelieve God will provide for us what we need or we believe that what is provided is our god.
We close our ears and think Jesus isn’t talking about our money or our possessions but rather someone else, or we make the text all about us: how much we give or don’t give the church. What kinds of possessions and income we have or don’t have; whether we have big or small worries, anxiety or no anxiety. And so on.
How easily we ignore the Giver and look only at the gifts. How quickly we thank God for his good gifts of money and possessions, and the next moment turn them into idols. Thank you, Lord for your daily bread. Now, give me more. Yes, Lord, you’re the giver…and now it’s mine, mine, mine.
There are plenty of traps, ditches, and pitfalls our sinful flesh falls into when reading this text. Another is to think it’s all Law. To be sure, there’s Law in Jesus’ teaching about money.
Our sinful flesh is just as content to make an idol out the stuff we want that we don’t have (that’s coveting), as it is to make an idol out of the stuff we already have (that’s greed); and of course, our old Adam is a craftsman at mixing our worries and anxieties into a beautiful distraction that takes our eyes off of the Giver of all gifts, and turns our hearts inward. Jesus warns us all – whether we have great possessions and money or little; whether we’re white collar, blue collar, or clerical collar – that the love of earthly things will lead us away from the greatest treasure of Jesus crucified for you.
So Jesus calls us to repent of our greed and coveting. Repent of our worrying and doubt.
Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? O you of little faith.
Yes, Jesus teaching is sobering…but it’s also refreshing.
You see, Jesus isn’t giving you a command to follow and then become his disciple. Rather, he’s telling us that we have no need to be anxious or doubt or worry, or even to be greedy because we belong to him. His words are full of promise. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 
In this life we’ll doubt, covet, and sin. All the more reason to hear Jesus’ promises: Do not fear. Your Father knows you need these things. And he gives them as freely as he gave his Son to die for you. All so that those sins are covered too.
Jesus’ promises outweigh, overcome, and outlast our doubt, our sin, and our worry. This is not Jesus teaching you what you must do or give to become a better Christian disciple, but what he’s done for you and gives you. That’s who God is the gracious giver of all things to you.
That’s what Jesus means when he calls us to be rich toward God. To be rich toward God means to receive Christ and his gifts. To receive his promises in Word and Absolution. To receive the best clothing of all in holy Baptism. To receive your daily bread in Jesus’ body and blood.
And if you have these things – no matter how many or how little possessions you have – you have all you need.
For if God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? He has. He does. He will. All for you.
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you.
Fear not. You are of more value than birds and flowers. God values you enough to send his son, not to become a bird or a lily, but man. How much more has he clothed you in his suffering and death. He knows your needs and well provides them. It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you his kingdom that comes from the cross to you in word, water, body and blood.
What then do we do with our possessions and income? Don’t hold on to them like Gollum and the precious ring…but rather with the dead hand of faith that is open as the Lord gives and takes away.
When it comes to our earthly possessions, consider the words of Thorin Oakenshield to Bilbo Baggins: If more of us valued food and good cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
So, whether we have great possessions and money or little – give thanks to God; look upon these gifts as servants, not masters; Jesus calls us to live generously with what He’s given us (and it’s all gift from start to finish) Be good stewards of our wealth and possessions, giving them for the service of the church, for the spread of the Gospel here at Redeemer and for the work of proclaiming the Good News in our community.
Live as Abraham, knowing that we are pilgrims and nomads in this life. We live as if we have nothing, yet possessing everything in Jesus.
Seek his kingdom and everything else will be added to you. Your heavenly Father knows your needs. And he provides for you by grace.
When it comes to our earthly possessions, money, and stuff – don’t look to your own heart – full of anxiety, worry, doubt, fear, sin, and darkness – but look rather to the heart of Jesus. Pierced for you on the cross. Where his heart is, there your treasure is also.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

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

Note: Before the sermon, the congregation read the following portion of Martin Luther's Small Catechism:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that God has made me and all creatures. He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them. In addition, He has given me clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods. He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life. He protects me from all danger and guards me and preserves me from all evil. He does all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this I ought to thank Him, praise Him, serve Him, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.


Give us this day our daily bread.
What does this mean?
Answer: God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked people; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What is meant by daily bread?
Answer: Everything that belongs to the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Funeral Sermon for Cliff Bril: "The Lord's Servant"

+ In Memoriam: Cliff Bril – April 30th, 1920 – July 8th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Isaiah 43:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; Luke 2:25-32

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

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word.

Simeon the priest was in the temple as he sung these words, serving God, serving others. That was his calling. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ, the Messiah and Savior that YHWH had promised long ago. And there he was in the flesh. In Simeon’s arms. 

Here was the infant Priest foreshadowed by all the Old Testament priests. 

Here was the consolation of Israel cuddled in his aged arms. 

Here was the Lord of all who became the Servant of all for Simeon, for Cliff, and for you.

At that moment, God’s word had been fulfilled.

At that moment, Simeon saw his salvation and Cliff’s and yours in those wiggly infant arms and legs that would one day be fixed to the cross, where the infant priest would make the ultimate sacrifice.

At that moment, Simeon was ready to depart in peace. He was ready to die. The Lord was faithful. The Lord kept his promise.

The more I read Luke 2 in preparing for today’s service, the more I noticed how much Cliff has in common with Simeon.

Like Simeon, Cliff rejoiced in being here in the Lord’s temple where the Lord of all is still the Servant of all: proclaiming his promises for Cliff and us; calling us by name in Holy Baptism, as he did for Cliff; and beholding the Lord’s salvation of hidden in humble bread and wine for the forgiveness of his sins.

Like Simeon, Cliff was ready to die in peace. Like Simeon, he knew he was a sinner, but that Jesus is the savior and rescuer of sinners. He knew it was time to be with the Lord. But of course, we were not ready for him to depart. And so we are grieved. We weep. We mourn. And yet, the prophet Isaiah speaks words of comfort to us Thus says the Lord, Fear not; I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

And like Simeon, Cliff was the Lord’s Servant. He served as a faithful husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He served as a faithful member of this congregation in fervent prayer, love for others in his gracious compliments, and joyfully receiving God’s gifts week after week.

Yes, one of Cliff’s greatest joys was serving others. That’s why he was proud of his time in the Army. He drove supply trucks, built airfields, and even warned his fellow soldiers of a German breakthrough in the Ardennes, boots in hand and socks on his feet.

But don’t think that this is all about Cliff. He wouldn’t want that kind of attention on himself. That, by the way, is another mark of a servant; counting others as more important than yourself.

To paraphrase Isaiah, Cliff knew that when he passed through the waters of Omaha beach behind the wheel of a supply truck, the Lord was with him. He knew that when he was waded through the rivers and forests of France, the Lord was with him. He knew that even though he was surrounded by the thunderous fire of German tanks, the Lord was with him. Cliff knew that whether he was half way across the world in the war, or at home or church next to family, the Lord was with him, just as he was with Simeon.

Cliff knew all this because he knew what Simeon knew…that it was also Jesus’ greatest joy to serve others, to count others as more valuable, more precious than himself, even to the point of laying down his life on the cross for Cliff and for you.

For…The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

This is why Simeon held Jesus that day in the temple. The Lord’s servant had come at last. The Priest and sacrifice had entered the temple. God’s Word was fulfilled. The Lord of all became a servant of all for Simeon, for Cliff, and for you.

Simeon was ready to die in peace because he knew that Jesus had come to in order to bring about that peace. Peace through his death on the cross for Cliff and for you. Jesus fought the good fight against sin and death for Cliff and for you.

Jesus let the torrent waters of judgment overwhelm him so that you would pass through safely to the other side.

Jesus walked up the hill of Calvary to the cross, endured the scorching heat of God’s wrath over sin all so that we would not be consumed.

Jesus is the Lord’s Servant, in death and in life. And he continues to serve us as he did Simeon and Cliff, throughout life, and even through the grave to eternal life. That’s the hope that Simeon and Cliff point us to: The Lord is faithful. Jesus keeps his promises. Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

With Simeon and Cliff, we long to see, hope for, and love the Lord’s appearing, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. And we join Simeon and Cliff in confessing: Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to Your word.

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