Monday, August 24, 2015

Memorial Service Sermon for Robert Drews: "By Grace"

+ In Memoriam – Robert Karl Drews +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 14:1-7

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

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

By grace.

Such a small sentence, yet it is hard to find a greater word which reveals who God is for us. God gives us grace full to the brim in Christ Jesus. God’s grace is his favor and mercy towards us sinners. It is God’s riches at Christ’s expense. It is free. Undeserved. Unmerited. God’s grace is pure gift, just like the gift of faith.

And so these precious words - by grace – also happen to be a fitting description for the life of our dear brother in Christ, Bob Drews.

By grace he was Baptized in Dearborn, MI. God’s grace washed him, gave him new birth and life by water and the Word.

By grace he grew as a young boy, he learned the Scriptures, Small Catechism, and received our Lord’s body and blood.

By grace he married Rita and raised a family in the Lord’s gracious Word and wisdom.
By grace he served the fire department for many years, helping and serving others.

By grace he walked in the good works that God had prepared beforehand, assisting the board of trustees and elders here at Redeemer, and countless other tasks.

By grace he faithfully attended bible study and services here in the Lord’s house, receiving God’s grace by our Lord’s Word and the Lord’s Supper.

By grace he grew old. Getting old isn’t for sissies, he would fondly say. Indeed it is not. And so by grace Bob knew that even when he was weak, Christ was his strength.

By grace, Bob rests in the promises of Jesus. And so do we.

Because God’s grace belongs not only to Bob, but God gives his grace to each of us as well.

For St. Paul tells us the truth about our sinful nature. We were dead in trespasses and sin. We did not earn, deserve, or merit God’s love. But that’s why it’s called grace. God made us alive…by grace you are saved.

By grace Jesus leads us away from sin and death to life and joy in Him who is the Way.

By grace Jesus delivers us who are full of lies and deceit by his Word of promise to for he is the Truth, and his Word is Truth.

By grace Jesus conquers our sin and death for he is our Life.

By grace you are rescued. By grace you are redeemed. By grace you are saved, just as Bob was.

By grace Jesus washes us in the new birth of Holy Baptism.

By grace Jesus declares our sins forgiven in Holy Absolution.

By grace Jesus feeds us his body and blood in the Holy Supper.

For grace is more than a word or a phrase. Grace is not abstract or allegorical. It is more than a feeling or a state of mind. God’s grace has arms and legs to bear you up when you are weak. God’s grace has eyes to look upon us in our need. God’s grace has hands that bore our sin and Bob’s on the cross. God’s grace has a head that was crowned with thorns for us. But God’s grace is not dead. Jesus lives. Grace is a person: Jesus.

Yea though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death; we will fear no evil…for Thou art with us. Thy rod and Thy staff…and Thy grace comfort us.

God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

By God’s Grace Jesus was born for you. By God’s grace Jesus has flesh and blood like you. By Grace Jesus carried your sin, sorrow, and brokenness to the cross. By Grace Jesus died for Bob and for us. By Grace Jesus rose from the dead. By grace Jesus will raise us from the dead too, along with Bob and all the faithful. By grace we’re saved.

By grace we live. And yes, God’s grace comes to us even when we grieve and mourn, especially then, when we are weak.

By grace we look forward to our eternal home and a joyful reunion in heaven with all the saints who are there by grace.

By grace we boast in the Lord, as Bob did. Therefore, let not your hearts be troubled. Rejoice in God’s gift of grace in Jesus.

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

Monday, August 3, 2015

+ 10th Sunday after Pentecost – August 2nd, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B, Proper 13: Exodus 16:2-15; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:22-35

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

I’m going to the store, do you need anything?
Oh yea, some beer, crab legs, and Tillamook chocolate peanut butter ice cream, a few toys, some candy, and a kitty cat.
No. No. No. What do you need?

Needs and wants. As children we learn the difference. As adults we’re probably still learning. There are wants and needs. The want list is long, complicated, and expensive. The need list is pretty basic: food, water, clothes, and shelter.
The crowds following Jesus had the same problem.
They sought after Jesus – not because they saw him as the Bread of Life – but because they wanted more bread.

To the crowds, Jesus is nothing more than a magic genie with a vending machine for a lamp. At the feeding of the 5000 the crowds ate all they wanted and were satisfied. There were leftovers. 12 baskets. And still they wanted more.
They were hungry and yet incapable of satisfying their appetites. They followed Jesus unaware that he is who they needed. They wanted daily bread, but they needed something more: Jesus the Bread of Life.

We’re no different. Jesus is the Bread of Life we need.
Like Old Testament Israel, we grumble in spite of his gift of daily bread. Like the crowds following Jesus, we do not lack bread – God gave that to them freely. No we lack faith in him who is the bread of life – who gives himself for the life of the world. We foolishly think we can find contentment in the things we want rather than the one thing that is most needful: Jesus our Bread of Life.

St. Augustine famously described our spiritual starvation quite well…
Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they finds their rest in Thee.

Like the crowds we are needy. We long for contentment but are incapable of finding it. Our spiritual appetites are starving, O Lord, until we find our satisfaction in Jesus our Bread of Life.
And what does our Lord do, turn us away? Cry out: “no food for you.”? No.
Jesus has compassion. Jesus had the crowds sit down, rest, eat, and listen to him.
Jesus has compassion on you.

Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.
Jesus would have us sit down and stop worrying, stop scheming, stop being so anxious… and simply rest and receive his promises.

Jesus knows our greatest need and gives himself for you. His perfect life lived for you. His dying and rising for you. His own flesh and blood for your forgiveness.
Jesus is the Bread of Life that does not perish. Jesus is the Bread of Life who gives you eternal life. This is why Jesus was anointed - not to be a new Moses; not simply to feed with earthly bread – though he does do that (food, water, shelter, clothing, and more). And above all, Jesus lives, dies, and rises to feed and satisfy our greatest need.

And this is how the crowds responded.  
That’s how we sinners think: God gives a gift and we to make it all about us. How easily we twist God’s gifts into our own work.
But Jesus sets us all straight. It’s not about you; it’s about Jesus for you.

The work of God is that you receive him. It is the work of God that you believe in Jesus, trust in his provision for all our needs of body and soul. It is the work of God that you have faith in his Son, our Lord, Jesus.
Jesus is the Bread of Life we need. And Jesus is the Bread of Life God gives to you.

So today we join the crowds in receiving Jesus our Bread of Life. Where we are faithless, Jesus is faithful. Where we hunger and thirst, Jesus feeds us with his own body and blood. Where we are concerned about our daily needs, Jesus provides.

For we come as beggars and yet Jesus feeds and clothes us.
We are pilgrims who receive sustenance on the journey home.
We are his sheep, and Jesus is our Shepherd.
We are sinners who are forgiven.
Jesus gives you his own flesh and blood as a forgiving food and drink.
Jesus clothes you in his cross and new creation in Holy Baptism.
Jesus shelters you in his own body, the Church.
In Jesus you have everything you need.

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

Monday, July 20, 2015

+ 8th Sunday after Pentecost – July 19th, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-44

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

Holidays. Sporting events. Church picnics. Food is a great people magnet. Just ask the hobbits.

Mark’s account of the feeding of the 5000 is no different.

Jesus and his disciples went out to a deserted place by themselves, yet the crowds followed them.  The day grew late.  Stomachs began to growl.  The people grew anxious.  And the disciples became frustrated.  But there was In ‘N Out burger, Costco pizza, or taco trucks in sight.  What everyone needed seemed impossible to provide.

But the problem was worse than being stuck in the boonies with a hungry mob.  Immediately when Jesus came ashore He had compassion on the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  There’s the real problem – the crowd was lost.  The food was important, but Jesus’ Word came first.  A feast of God’s Word followed by a feast of bread and fish. 

Mark 6 demonstrates wonderfully how Jesus shows compassion for His people.  For Jesus, compassion gives birth to action.  Jesus’ love does the impossible. Jesus the Good Shepherd satisfies our needs of body and soul.

For we like sheep have gone astray. We too are lost sheep.  Like the crowds, we’re powerless to provide what we need in body and soul.  God’s Word identifies the problem…and the problem is us.  This is what we confess in at the beginning of each service…we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean.  We get hungry, we get anxious, we get frustrated.  We wander away from God’s Word and prayer. 

And we are poor shepherds, for apart from Christ we can do no good thing.  Apart from God’s Word we feed on all kinds of spiritual junk-food.  Apart from Jesus who is the Truth, we wander in our own ways.  Apart from Jesus who is the Way, we search for direction and guidance in all the wrong places.  Apart from Jesus the Life, we eventually die physically and spiritually like sheep without a shepherd.

And yet, we’re not without a shepherd.  Jesus doesn’t abandon us in our need.  Jesus feeds us in both Body and soul.  Jesus sees our need. Jesus has compassion on us. Jesus returns us lost, wandering, sheep to our place in His flock.  Jesus is the only shepherd we need.

I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

 Nothing – not hunger, not illness, not a bad economy, not worry, not doubt, not our old sinful nature, not the devil and his prowling ways – will snatch you out of Jesus’ hands.
I AM your Good Shepherd, Jesus declares.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for you, his sheep.  This is who Jesus is. 

When the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowds away to the villages near by to get food for the evening, Jesus provided.  Food and fellowship – it was all there.  Jesus was present with them.  Jesus took the bread and the fish and looking up to heaven said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people.  They ate.  They were stuffed.  There were left-overs. 

This is what Jesus does.  Jesus shepherds you.  Jesus saves you.  Behold I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out…I will rescue them where they have been scattered…I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and will strengthen the weak.

This is the work of the Good Shepherd. Jesus taught crowds in the desolate places and was later surrounded by crowds who rejected His teaching, spat in His face and mocked Him.  Jesus, who listened to the cries of those in need and later heard the mob yelling, Crucify Him, Crucify Him!  Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep.  In find us, Jesus became forsaken.  In order to bring us back from wandering, Jesus walked the road to the cross.  In order to bind up our sinful wounds, Jesus was bound and beaten, bruised and bloodied.  In order to save his sheep, Jesus lays down his life for you.

And so it is…on the night when He was betrayed Jesus took bread and when He had blessed it He broke it and gave it to His disciples…take eat, this is my body; take drink this is cup is the new testament in my blood.

Jesus is your Good Shepherd. Here is your pasture – this font where Jesus’ promise is washed over you in water and word. This altar – where Jesus’ body and blood are given for you. Jesus’ Word – spoken to give you life.

In compassion Jesus feeds us with himself as food for body and soul.

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sermon for Pentecost 7: "A Tale of Two Kings"

+ 7th Sunday after Pentecost – July 12th, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Amos 7:7-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29

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

Mark’s account of John the Baptist’s beheading matches the world we live in.
Grim. Violent. Messy. Senseless.

Countless Christian churches have been targeted and burned throughout our country.
Same-sex marriage advocates work tirelessly, first to make the Christian church tolerate, then accept, and finally celebrate sin.

A South Carolina church still grieves the death of their pastor and parishioners at the hands of a wicked man.

Demonic hordes such as ISIS threaten, persecute, and behead our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, whether it makes the news or not.

How true our Lord’s words ring in our ears:
Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. (John 16:2-3)

We’re tempted to despair. To give up the fight. To cry out: “Who’s in charge of this mess? Is God defeated? How’s he at work in all of this chaos?

And yet…Even in death John the Baptist is the forerunner, pointing us to Jesus’s death for us.

See how John’s death reveals a great irony: Mighty Herod is afraid. John is faithful. Herod hears the truth but fails to keep it. John hears the truth and can’t help but speak. The powerful Herod is weak, while weak and lowly John is strong. And if we understand this, we see the entire Gospel laid out before us. God’s power made perfect in weakness. The last are first. God reconciles sinners. Jesus’ death is our greatest victory. And John’s brutal, innocent death points us to Jesus’ innocent suffering and death for us.

Like the prophets before him, John was beholden to no man. Herod’s ax couldn’t silence John’s preaching any more than Manasseh’s saw could quiet Isaiah, or the pit drown out Jeremiah, or Jezebel was able to muzzle Elijah.

Whatever the Lord spoke, John spoke, even if it meant imprisonment or death.. John was the Lord’s servant. The Lord’s mouthpiece. A witness.

This is why we call it the martyrdom of John the Baptist. Not simply because he was martyred, but because he was a witness in life and death to the One whose way he was called to prepare.

That’s what that little word martyr means: witness. To testify. To confess that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Who takes away your sin. My sin.
And that is what cost John his life. Speaking the truth.

But what about us? Are we more like John – bold in our conviction of faith, intolerant of immorality no matter what the world thinks, fearless in pointing to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Or are we more like Herod – hiding in the shadows listening to the truth, but cowering in public, weak-kneed and without conviction?

Repent. For there’s a little Herod in each of us who is lukewarm and afraid to commit. There is a little want-to-be king in each of us that is more afraid of looking bad in front of the world than we are afraid of God’s wrath over sin. Oh that we would join our hands to our neighbors and beg them to run with us and join John in fleeing the wrath that is to come. That we would leap for joy in sharing the Gospel as John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb. That we would be faithful witnesses to the Lamb who was slain and yet lives, even for sinners like us and John.

So on the one hand, John’s death serves as a warning and an antidote against any Pollyannaish notions we have about any victorious Christian living, or confusing the Gospel with positive thinking. Can you imagine if someone like Joel Osteen had been called to preach to John the Baptist in jail? “God has great plans in store for you, John, just stay positive...don’t worry; be happy!”

This is nothing but Tinkerbelle theology – you know, think happy thoughts. It might sound nice, but it’s a sham. It offers no hope, no comfort, and no forgiveness because it offers no Jesus crucified and risen for you.

We need John’s voice crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord. We need John’s broken-record message: there is one coming who is greater than I. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away your sin.

Even in death, John is the forerunner, pointing us to Jesus’ death for us. For it is the suffering and death of Jesus that gives us consolation in our suffering and death.
And so John’s death is more than a warning. It is a witness.

John’s death is a great comfort when we – or anyone we know – is suffering, especially for their Christian faith.

Herod may have murdered the chief witness, but he could not silence John’s testimony. Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, but the Roman guards couldn’t keep him in the grave.

Churches in this country may burn, be sued, or come under attack for our confession of faith but we are built on the rock of Christ’s death and resurrection. The world rages around you; but you are safe in Christ. The devil will still scowl fiercely. But he cannot harm you. He’s judged. Defeated.

ISIS may persecute and even martyr more Christians, but they cannot and will not remove the head of the Church, who is Christ our Lord. He holds the field victorious.
Paul may have been imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, but even in captivity he wrote of our great freedom in Christ:
 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

You see, this is a tale of two kings.

Herod hosted dinner parties for the powerful and wealthy. Jesus ate and drank with sinners and outcasts.

Herod appears strong but is weak and powerless. Jesus is weak - humbling himself even to death on the cross – and reveal his power hidden in weakness.

Herod oversees the death of John for his own gain. Jesus lays down his life for others.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

Is God at work in John’s death? Yes, even in death, John is the forerunner, pointing us to Jesus’ death for us.

Is God being defeated? Yes, for in his defeat you receive victory over sin and death. His suffering is your suffering. His death is your death. His life is your life.

And so, faith looks at John’s death and says, “This is the Gospel of the Lord.” Your faith is not blind. We see tragedy and persecution. But faith looks through the mess of this world to the cross. Faith looks to Jesus crucified for you, for John, and for this whole messy, sinful world.

“God give us the strength of conviction, the courage born of compassion, the zeal forged in the reality of this same Grace to follow in John’s example. For even in death, John who points not to our many sins, but to our Redeemer, the Lamb of God, who saves you. May He fix our eyes there and let them never be moved.” (Peterson)

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sermon for Pentecost 6: "Rejected for You"

6th Sunday after Pentecost – July 5th, 2015

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Ezekiel 2:1-5; 2 Cor. 12:-10; Mark 6:1-13
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lebron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the hometown crowds went wild.
A young Marine returns home after three tours in Afghanistan and the whole community throws a parade.
Your first-born arrives home from a long semester at college and the family smokes the fattened brisket.

And then there’s Jesus returning to Nazareth. You might think they’d throw a party for him or a homecoming parade, especially after healing a woman with a 12-year blood-flow, raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead, and casting out demons. But no.

Jesus is rejected to rescue us from rejection.

No cheering fans. No hero’s welcome. No mouth-watering BBQ. Instead, Jesus gets the Nazareth inquisition:

Where did this man get these things? Where did he learn the wisdom of Solomon? When did he learn to preach like Moses? How can a plain old carpenter’s hands do such great things?

They were scandalized. They rejected Jesus. Was it the miracles? No. They liked those, especially the ones including lunch. Was it his teaching? Well, not until he started talking about Jerusalem and suffering and the cross and saying and doing things only God can say and do.

And that’s what is truly scandalous about Jesus. Jesus said he was God in human flesh. Jesus forgave sin. Jesus declared that he has always existed – even before Abraham. Jesus said he would judge the world on the Last Day. Jesus said he would die and rise three days later.

They rejected who Jesus is and what he teaches. There’s no doubt Jesus was ordinary. His stomach growled when he was hungry. He wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. Cut him and he bleeds like us. And to be sure, Jesus is holy. But all of God’s holiness is hidden for you in this ordinary carpenter from Nazareth, the Son of Mary. And yet, Jesus is more than a carpenter. For it is true, only God can save us from our sins. But God can save us from our sins only by becoming man and by being rejected for us.

Jesus is rejected to rescue us from rejection.

As St. John reminds us, Jesus came to his own but his own did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1).

Those are the two responses to Jesus – faith or unbelief. Everywhere else in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus performs a miracle, teaches and preaches, the crowds marvel, and many believe. But here in Nazareth Jesus is rejected and he marvels at their unbelief.
This is how Mark draws us into the story.

After all, it’s easy to wag our fingers at the Nazareth crowds who reject Jesus, while we do the same.

Whenever we place our trust in earthly rulers, governments, or even courts – we join the crowds in rejecting Jesus. Trust not in princes, they are but mortal.

Whenever we foolishly think that our time and possessions are our own property, rather than gifts of God meant to be received with thanks and used in his service, we join the crowds in rejecting Jesus.

Whenever we fail to love and serve our neighbor as Christ first loved and served us, we join the crowds in rejecting Jesus and serving ourselves.

This is why Jesus tells this story of warning. Repent of your rejection.

And rejoice in Jesus’ rejection for you. Yes, rejoice in Jesus’ suffering and death on your behalf. For Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth points forward to his greater rejection on the cross for you.

Jesus’ words to St. Paul are just as true when it came to his own suffering and death. My power is made perfect in weakness. God’s power hidden beneath the cries of mockery and the cracking whip. God’s power hidden beneath the thorn-pressed, bloody brow. God’s power hidden beneath the wounds and blood of Jesus. God’s power made perfect in Jesus’ weakness – in his rejection that accomplishes your redemption.

God’s kingdom, then, isn’t found in the courts of Pilate, Caesar, or the Supreme Court– but in the Crucified King and his kingdom which comes in water, word, body, and blood.

Jesus’ rejection on the cross fills his Church – and this congregation – with his crucified and risen presence. Like St. Paul, Christ gives us the gift of contentment in his promises. My grace is sufficient for you. God’s undeserved mercy toward us in Christ, is far more sufficient than anything else.

And then Christ continues to hide his power behind each of us – as masks – sending us to love our neighbor as he first loved us.

So, not only do we rejoice in our weakness, knowing that we are strongest of all when we realize we have no strength, save Christ. But we also rejoice in Christ’s weakness for us. We rejoice that he who knew no sin became sin for us. We rejoice that Jesus is rejected in order to rescue us from eternal rejection by the Father. Jesus overcomes our rebellion of sin by being rejected in our place.

And this the greatest scandal of all, that your redemption isn’t found in your acceptance of Jesus, but in his acceptance of you. that your forgiveness, life, and salvation is given to you in spite of your rejection and rebellion of sin against Jesus. And it’s given freely – no strings attached.

And yet this great scandal is also our greatest joy.

Jesus is rejected to rescue us from rejection.

Jesus gives you faith in him, and in everything he’s done and still does for you. It’s all gift. God’s doing. For you.

And that is truly marvelous.

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

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sermon for Pentecost 2: "Freedom"

+ Pentecost 2 – June 7th, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Genesis 3:8-15; 1 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

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

Adam and Eve sowed their fig leaf fashion not simply because they were naked; yes their guilt was exposed – but because they were no longer free. The fig leaves were prison uniforms. They were captive to sin, death, and the devil. And so they hid.

Jesus’ own family wanted him to hide away as well. “He’s out of his mind. He’s crazy” they said. Words which revealed that they were just as enslaved to sin as Adam and Eve were.

The scribes, too, were so blinded by their slavery to sin that they didn’t see the contradiction of their claim: He is possessed by Beelzebul and by the prince of demons he casts out demons. It’s all twisted around. They claim that he who has the Holy Spirit was possessed by an unclean spirit.

Jesus wasn’t in league with Satan; rather, he came to bind the strong man, crush his head, and free us from slavery to sin.

For like the scribes, we are blinded by sin. And so the Holy Spirit works to show us our need for rescue by exposing our sin.

Like Adam and Eve, we attempt to hide our sin which is nothing but retreating further into captivity.

But this is all part of the devil’s great lie: “Go ahead. Do whatever you please, whatever is desirable, whatever feels right. After all, it won’t hurt you or anyone else; no one’s going to die. You’ll be like God.”

And yet the devil cannot deliver on his promise. It’s a lie. A farce. The devil promises freedom with one hand but only delivers slavery with the other.

And here’s the irony, the more we think we’re free to do as we desire or do whatever we feel is right, the more we’re enslaved to sin. Certainly we see this at work in the world around us: We’re told to tolerate and accept, even to glorify and celebrate sin...on magazine covers and in the courthouse.

But if we do not also see that we tolerate and accept and glorify our own sin, we remain in captivity.

For whoever commits sin is a slave to sin.

This is why Jesus came preaching, teaching, and casting out demons – not because he was in league with the devil. But because he is the Stronger man come to bind the strong man, and set you free. Because Jesus is the woman’s seed who has come to crush the serpent’s head, and reconcile you to the Father.

After all, Satan isn’t going to destroy his house from the inside. That would be absurd. How can Satan cast out Satan? A house divided against itself will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.

Indeed, in Jesus, the devil is finished. Satan met his match. Thought he could lead sinful men to betray. Lie. Mock. And crucify Jesus.

But Jesus’ death destroys death. Death has no dominion over you. Jesus’ death pays for our sin. You are no longer a slave, for the Son has set you free; and you are free indeed. And the devil is no longer your slave driver. He is undone.

For no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Jesus is our divine Burglar. He came to take back what is rightfully his. With every demon Jesus casts out, he binds the devil tighter and tighter, until the last cord is wrapped, tied, and knotted on the cross.

Jesus, the Stronger man, binds the strong man and sets you free. Jesus frees us from slavery by being enslaved in our sin. Jesus releases us from bondage to sin and death by dying in our place. Jesus releases us from prison by becoming the prisoner for us.

Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter

Jesus pours out his forgiveness in these words. The same words that fill the font with a blessed flood of salvation. The same words that fill our ears in the absolution with the blessed verdict: you are forgiven all your sins. The same words that make simple bread and wine Jesus’ body and blood.

All sins will be forgiven.

Mark’s word for forgiveness here is important; it means to loose, to release. Jesus forgives our sin. Jesus looses us from sin. Your chains are broken. You are released from captivity. You are no longer a slave to sin. You are free.

And here’s where our sinful flesh chimes in with Jesus’ family. He’s out of his mind.
All sins will be forgiven? Really? That’s outrageous. Maybe even a little crazy sounding.
Yes. All is forgiven. Who did Jesus die for? Everyone. How many sins of yours did Jesus die for? All of them. So, which of your sins aren’t paid for by the blood of Jesus? None.

All sins will be forgiven.

“But…but,” we protest. “What about the unforgiveable sin? Why does Jesus say, whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin? What is Jesus saying here?”

Remember who Jesus is talking to, the scribes. They were saying, he has an unclean spirit. To call Jesus and the Holy Spirit unclean – or the prince of demons – is to reject the very same Spirit and Son whom the Father sent to forgive sins. And to reject the Holy Spirit and Jesus who came to forgive all sin is to reject the one place where forgiveness is found.
Jesus is warning the scribes against continuing to insist on their rejection of him and the Holy Spirit – for he is the one who creates faith in Jesus as Savior.

They refused to receive what Jesus was giving them. That’s the sin against the Holy Spirit – knowing the work of Jesus and refusing to be forgiven anyway.

The unforgivable sin isn’t some particular thing you did on a Tuesday afternoon and suddenly you find yourself outside of God grace…it isn’t unforgivable because it’s so big and bad. Jesus paid for all our big and bad sin, and died for us big, bad sinners on the cross. The unforgivable sin is unforgivable because it wants no part of forgiveness. And that’s just downright foolish.

So if you’re concerned whether or not you’ve committed the unforgiveable sin, fear not. You haven’t. Anyone who’s concerned about the unforgiveable sin hasn’t committed it. When you’re concerned about your sin, that means the Holy Spirit is working to show your sin and your need for a Savior.

The Savior who declares to you: All sin is forgiven. Your sin is forgiven.

So don’t spend your time trying to metric your sins – or others' for that matter. Don’t bother trying to calculate who deserves forgiveness or not. You can’t metric the Gospel either. Be glad and rejoice in this: All sin is forgiven.

And rejoice all the more because you know where your sins are forgiven. Here in our Baptism, where our unclean spirit is cast out and the Holy Spirit is sent in. Here in the Word where we hear that our eternal weight of sin has been replaced with an eternal weight of glory in Jesus dying and rising for us. Here in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s Supper, where all our sins are forgiven, just as Jesus promised you.

You are free. You are no longer a slave but a son, and an heir, a member of God’s family. You are reconciled with the Father. You are no longer at enmity with God. You are at enmity with Satan, and that’s a good thing. That means you belong to Jesus. Yes, Satan is going to fight like hell to get you back. But he’s going to have to go through Jesus’ dead and risen body first before he can get to you.

For Jesus, the stronger man has bound the strong man and sets you free.

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