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.


Friday, June 13, 2014

A Nerdy Lutheran's Guide to Dating

I wrote the article below for the winter issue of Higher Things magazine. It was a joy to write a short piece on dating and relationships for one of my favorite Lutheran periodicals. Also, here is the Issues Etc. radio interview I did based off of this article.
There I was. Surrounded by water. The gunwales of that tiny rowboat felt like a prison wall, the oar locks were my shackles, and there was more than 200 yards of pure, mountain fresh Oregon lake water between me and freedom. I was trapped, like Admiral Ackbar. And all I could do was gaze at the glimmer of the bobbers upon the water, waiting for a bite and waiting for the awkward conversation to end.

But thankfully, I wasn’t alone. My father was in that boat with me. And as it turned out, he didn’t bring me out in the middle of that lake to be my prison warden, but because he cared. He cared enough to brave an awkward conversation with his adolescent son about dating, marriage, and sex. And so that’s what we did, or rather, he did. Honestly, I don’t remember talking all that much; my job was to listen.
Whether it was this maritime pre-pre-marital counseling session or during one of those embarrassing moments while watching a movie where my parents would pause the VCR and explain that what this man and woman were doing wasn’t good because they weren’t married – they taught me the importance of the 6th commandment. As Luther explains:
We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.
Come to think of it, most of what I know about dating, marriage, and sex – especially the good and God-pleasing, Biblical things about these gifts of God – I learned from my parents. You see, that’s what dating, marriage, and sex are: gifts from God. When they’re abused, we turn God’s gifts into idols. But when they’re used in their proper context, and for the purposes God gave them, these are great joys God’s children receive from our loving, gracious heavenly Father.
Now, when it comes to dating, marriage, and sex I can’t give you a top ten tips on how to have a super-awesome dating life like Clark Kent and Lois Lane, Cyclops and Jean Grey, or Han Solo and Princess Leia. And I can’t guarantee a dramatic romance like the Doctor and Rose, Peeta and Katniss, or Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
In fact, I had to laugh at myself a little bit when I was preparing to write this article on dating and relationships. What could a guy who’s been married eight and half years with two children possibly have to say to you, the Lutheran youth of today? And then it came to me. I’ll pass along some of what I’ve learned from my parents, as well as a few of my nerdy friends.
So, consider this a brief bit of advice on how to think and dare to be Lutheran when it comes to dating and relationships.
Like Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley, my parents taught me that good relationships are built upon even better friendships. It’s also good to get to know each other’s families. Let your parents meet the person and get to know them. Your parents typically have excellent radar readings on people’s character.
Like Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, my parents taught me about fidelity to one another, which grew out of Christ’s faithfulness to them. Of course, this applies whether you’re dating or married. Remember, “I’m a married spud!”
My parents also taught me to avoid the drama, unlike Edward and Bella (sorry Twilight fans). Drama may sell movie tickets, but it’s deadly for relationships. It’s tempting to be a gossip girl…or boy. We all break the 8thcommandment. Thankfully, we have a perfect bridegroom in Christ who always speaks the best of us before our heavenly Father.
Like Mario and Princess Peach, my parents taught me how to live in humility and tireless, sacrificial love – the kind of love that goes to the ends of the earth or into Bowser’s castle to rescue you. Now, none of us can claim perfection here either. Our old sinful nature holds on to our precious sin like Gollum and the Ring of Power. Thankfully it’s not your love that sustains your love for others, whether in relationships or in the Christian Church. We love because Christ first loved us in his death and resurrection. We put others’ concerns and needs before our own because Christ did this for us on the cross.
And like Samwise and Rosie, my parents taught me the joy of contentment, especially in the gifts of God’s creation, such as dating, marriage, and sex. What could we possibly say that would express our thankfulness to God for these gifts? Amen. Gift received. We thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

So, parents, don’t be afraid to talk with your children about dating, marriage, and sex. Yes, it’ll be a little awkward. And whether or not they admit it at the time, your children want and need to hear about it all from you first. It may look like they’re just gazing off into the grainy floor boards of a poorly built watercraft, but they’re listening. I know I was.
And Lutheran youth, yes, I know it’ll feel simply dreadful, and you’ll want to run off to a galaxy far, far away or hop in the TARDIS and head anywhere in time but that moment. But your parents love you and want what’s best for you in your relationships now and when you’re married. That’s why God gave them to teach you to take you to Church, pray the Catechism with you, and instruct you in the ways you should go.
Trust me, it’s not a trap.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pentecost Sermon: "A Day of Confession"

+ The Feast of Pentecost - June 8th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A: Numbers 11:24-30; Acts 2:1-12; John 7:37-39

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

In many ways, the day of Pentecost is a day of Confession.

In the Old Testament, Moses and certain leaders were appointed by the Lord to speak his word on behalf of the people. They were appointed to confess what the Lord gave them to confess: his word, his prophecies, and his promises.

At the Feast of Pentecost, the disciples receive the Holy Spirit in order to confess God’s word to new Israel, the Church; and through the church for the world. So that all who called upon the name of the crucified and risen Lord would be saved. 

This is what Jesus promised in John 7: Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. So, Jesus gives as he promises. He sends us the Holy Spirit as the fount and source of our confession of faith. This confession flows downstream, from the living water and blood of Jesus’ open side, to the living waters of the font straight to our heart and mouth.

Pentecost is a day of confession.

And the Church’s liturgy also confesses for us, with us, and for the world, a constant confession. We confess our sins and receive absolution. We confess, “Lord, have mercy.” We confess the faith of the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church. We confess the same Christian faith in hymns, thanksgiving, and prayers. We confess the same Christ - who gave his Holy Spirit to the disciples, who died and rose again, who ascended and reigns at God’s right hand - is also here giving us his flesh and blood to eat and drink.

What we believe shapes what we confess; and what we confess reflects what we believe.

Pentecost is a day of confession.

And your life in Christ is one of confession. We confess that daily we die to sin and rise in Christ through Baptism.

This is Mark and Ethan’s confession today as well. Today they join all who have gone before them in confessing the Christian faith given in Holy Baptism.

Pentecost is a day of confession.

And so, Confirmation is also a day of confession; but not just for Mark and Ethan.

To be sure, they confess the faith given them in Holy Baptism. But in reality confirmation is nothing other than a confession of what God gives us in Holy Baptism. Same words even. Today they renounce the devil and all his ways, as they confessed at Baptism. Today they confess the faith in God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Today they confess the Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God, and the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church to be faithful and true. Today they confess that they will continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death (did you catch that?!), rather than fall away from it. In other words, stay Lutheran, my friends.

These words should be familiar; memorize them. We’ve confessed them before, whether you were confirmed as an adult or a youth.

Pentecost is a day of confession: for Mark and Ethan, for you and me, for the Church.

But as important as our confession is today; Christ’s confession is even greater. Jesus’ entire life – lived perfectly in obedience to God’s will and Law – is one confession lived for you who have failed to keep his law and disobeyed his will. Jesus’ suffering and death is a confession both of the great cost of our sin and of the greater payment for our sin made by his suffering and death. Jesus’ resurrection too is a confession: death no longer holds dominion over Jesus or you.

Yes, Pentecost is a day of confession.

For at your Baptism the same Holy Spirit - sent to the disciples, poured out to sanctify and enlighten the Church - is also poured out upon you. Holy Baptism is your Pentecost day. Because you’re given God’s Triune Name, Christ’s forgiveness, the Holy Spirit’s calling, gather, and sanctifying you, Jesus’ washing and cleansing of sin; now every day is Pentecost day for you. For in Christ, every day is a day of confession.

A blessed Pentecost and Confirmation day to each of you…

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



Monday, June 2, 2014

Easter 7 Sermon: "Divine Eavesdropping"

+ Easter 7 – June 1st, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A: Acts 1:12-26; 1 Peter 4:12-19. 5:6-11; John 17:1-11
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

From the time that we’re young our parents and teachers tell us (some of more than others) to mind our own business; don’t be so nosy; stop your eavesdropping. So it seems a bit odd to us that we’re allowed to listen in Jesus’ prayer.
But of course Jesus prays publicly for all to hear – his disciples in that upper room just before his trial, crucifixion, and death; and us, here in this room, who continue to rejoice in Christ’s death and resurrection. John 17 is a delightful case of divine eavesdropping.
And for what and for whom does he pray?
Jesus prays that the Father might glorify him in his death on the cross. All of John’s Gospel has been leading up to this, Jesus’ glory on the cross for you.
Jesus prays in order that you would be given eternal life.
Jesus prays for the Word of God to take root in you and spring to life and faith in the one true God.
Jesus prays for you and for all who believe in him. That’s particularly comforting, especially when you don’t know what to pray, or how to pray for something particularly troubling in your life. Jesus not only prays with you; Jesus prays for you.
And Jesus prays… “I have manifested your name.” This is God’s name of course. We know God’s name by many titles in the Old Testament (many more in the NT as you can see on your bulletin cover). Lord. Adonai. God. Elohim in the Hebrew. Yahweh – God’s personal name given to Israel. But Jesus gives us a new name by which we are to address God.
Sure, we have earthly fathers, spiritual fathers, father figures, and so forth. It’s a common title. But this is no small name. It is a holy privilege, a great joy, and honor to address God and call upon him as Father.
For once we had no right to call him Father. At one time we were all children of darkness, not light. We were children of Adam, not our heavenly Father. We had no inheritance, no right to be called heirs and sons; we were enemies of God. This is what sin does. Sin separates us from our heavenly Father like it did for Adam and Eve, expelled from Eden. Sin turns us against our family members like Cain with murderous thoughts and wicked deeds. Like Jacob, sin warps our minds into thinking we can trick our heavenly Father into blessing us on the basis of our cunning and scheming. Like Absalom against David, each of us have turned aside from our heavenly Father in rebellion.
And yet, Isaac blessed Jacob. David wept and mourned Absalom’s death. Cain was given a mark of mercy. Our heavenly Father is no different. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” he declares. “I do not desire the death of a sinner”, he promises. And so like Adam and Eve, our heavenly Father clothes us. He sends his Son, his only Son, to be our sacrifice. Like Jacob you are clothed in blessing on account of your brother in the flesh, Jesus Christ. Like Cain you receive a mark that covers your murderous heart of darkness, the sign of the cross upon your forehead and heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified. And like Absalom, you are anointed with water and the Spirit by Jesus, your Greater David, who was enthroned in glory for you on the cross.
This is the kind of heavenly Father you have. The Father who sends his Son to die for the sins of his wayward, wicked children. For your sins. For mine. For the world. The Father sends the Son. And the Son reveals the Father’s name. Jesus reveals the Father’s glory, chiefly in suffering and dying for you.
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 
Calling upon God as Father is baptismal language.
We heard this at Jesus’ baptism… “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” The Father is well pleased with his Son who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Father is well pleased by his being your substitute. The Father is well pleased that Jesus stepped into the Jordan to be baptized unto his death. The Father is well pleased that through Jesus’ death you receive a new birth from above, that in Holy Baptism you are born by water and the Spirit. And now the Father is well pleased with you.
Like all fathers, our heavenly Father only wants what’s best for us. And so he gives it to you. He gives you eternal life in Jesus’ dying and rising. He sends pastors to absolve your sins in his name. He feeds you with living bread from heaven.
God even gives you a new name in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Your name is no longer child of Adam and sinner, but now it is saint, God’s own child. Children of the heavenly Father.
Now this may sound like a silly example but I think it makes the point well. In the Disney movie, Toy Story, we learn quickly that Andy, the young boy whom the toys belong to, is very protective of his toys. So much in fact that he takes a nice black sharpie and writes his name on the bottom of each foot of his toy. You see, to be one of Andy’s toys means something: he loves and cherishes you, you’re his treasured possession, and you belong to him; you belong to a family.
What a wonderful illustration of Holy Baptism. In the font our heavenly Father does something far greater and more permanent than even a big black sharpie; he baptizes you into the glory of Jesus’ death and resurrection and signs his Triune Name upon your forehead with the blood of the Lamb. The Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is placed upon you and that means something. He loves and cherishes you. You’re his own treasured possession. You belong to Jesus.  
In Holy Baptism the glory of Christ’s suffering and crucifixion is made yours. A great exchange. You are clothed in Christ for he was clothed in your sin. You are made an heir of Christ’s eternal inheritance because he suffered for all that we had coming to us. Christ’s mercy is poured out upon you because Christ received the flood and torrent of God’s wrath over our sin.
God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Today in this font, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Kim and Carter (8 AM) and Kyliegh (11 AM) are made members of Christ’s family. Welcome to the family, Kim and Carter. Welcome to the family, Kyliegh.

And what he has given them today he has given us all, the right to be called children of God. That’s why we pray, “Our Father”. Jesus prays with us. Jesus elevates us to the status of sons and heirs according to God’s promise. And so we join Jesus in praying: “Our Father”. You’re never alone when you pray that prayer, whether you’re in a room by yourself with others. Holy Father, keep us, your children, in Your name.
We give you thanks, Holy Father,
For your holy name which you have caused to dwell in our hearts,
And for the knowledge and faith and immortality
Which you have made known to us
Through Jesus your servant;
To you be the glory forever….
Remember your church, Lord,
To deliver her from all evil
And to make her perfect in your love;
And gather her, the one that has been sanctified,
From the four winds into your kingdom,
Which you have prepared for her;
For yours is the power and the glory forever.
(Didache, 10)

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