Monday, February 25, 2019

Sermon for Feast of St. Matthias

+ Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle – February 24th, 2019 +
Isaiah 66:1-2; Acts 1:15-26; Matthew 11:25-30
Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Milton

Image result for st. matthias

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

If you do a Google search for Lutheran Church names, you’ll find a plenty of St. Paul’s, St. John’s, and St. Peter’s Lutheran Churches, but not too many congregations named after St. Matthias.

By worldly standards, Matthias gets less attention than a D-list celebrity or a one-hit wonder. No fame. No glory. Nothing the world would call super-spectacular, much less make the ESPN top ten plays. 

St. Luke spends the better part of a whole chapter of Acts on how Matthias was chosen to take Judas’s spot as an apostle. But after that we don’t hear another word about Matthias in the New Testament. 

Why then, we wonder, does the Church have a feast day for St. Matthias?

Today the Christian Church remembers and gives thanks to God for Matthias.
Because he was called to be an apostle, not a celebrity. A faithful eye witnesses to the historical events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Because Matthias, like John the Baptist, was called to decrease, that the good news of Jesus Crucified would increase.
Because Matthias was called to proclaim, not himself, but Jesus crucified and risen in word and deed. For all people. For you.

There may be a lot we don’t know about St. Matthias. But we do know a few of the most important things about him. He was baptized. Redeemed. Made holy. Chosen and called by the Lord to be his messenger. Sent out in his vocation to serve.

The important thing about Matthias isn’t the man, the messenger, but rather the message. Not so much whowas called, but whathe was called to do. As St. Peter declared…

So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 

An eye-witness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. That’s the job-description of the apostles. To preach, proclaim, teach, and deliver God’s saving gifts of forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ death and resurrection. And to do so not as men spinning threads of fantastic fairy tales or legends, but as historical fact. These things happened. 
Matthias was an eye witness. He saw Jesus dead on a Friday afternoon, and alive again three days later on Sunday evening. That’s the joy of the Christian faith and Scriptures. It isn’t made up. It’s real. It’s true. It happened and was seen by real people. We didn’t see the death and resurrection of Jesus. We didn’t hear with our own ears what He said. But Matthias and the others did and they faithfully delivered it wherever they preached. To the Church. To us today. 
This is God’s way of doing things. Working through sinful men to accomplish his saving work and to care for others. In the Old Testament God had his 12, his chosen people Israel. Through the 12 tribes of Israel came the Holy One of Israel, Jesus. In the New Testament God had his 12, his chosen, called disciples. Through the 12 disciples and later the 12 apostles, the Holy One of Israel, Jesus was proclaimed. And God still has his 12, His chosen, called, beloved people. You. The baptized. Redeemed. Made holy by the blood of Jesus. Gathered as his Church. All by God’s grace, just like Matthias.
For by God’s grace, he simply, quietly yet boldly, did what Jesus called and sent him to do. To be a witness to Jesus’ death and resurrection for him and for all. To preach this saving good news to all. To love his neighbor as God in Christ has loved us.

In this way, we’re a lot like Matthias. Matthias’s story is our story.

The same Word of God that turned Matthias into an apostle, turns us away from sin and death to be God’s baptized, beloved children. 

The same Holy Spirit that called Matthias to hear and proclaim God’s saving Gospel opens our hears to hear and our mouths to declare the forgiveness of sins to those around us. 

The same saving good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection that Matthias witnessed is witnessed and received among us today in the Scriptures we hear and meditate upon, and in the forgiveness of sins we hear, taste, touch, and see at our Lord’s Table. 

The same Lord who used and equipped Matthias to serve as an apostle, along with the other apostles, sinful men all of them, still chooses to call and equip sinners as his chosen instruments to serve others, here in our congregation and in our community.

It’s tempting, in our sinful flesh to want to make St. Matthias day all about St. Matthias. Just as it is tempting to make our daily Christian life all about ourselves. To want to make a name for ourselves, to want the spotlight, and to be self-serving. But that is not the way of God’s people, just as it was not the way of Matthias and the apostles. 

God calls us, as he called Matthias and the apostles, not to self-service, but to sacrificial service. To glory in Christ crucified, not ourselves. To point, as John the Baptist did to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. For you. For all. To speak the words of Jesus that Matthias was called to speak. Those words that are Spirit. Life. Salvation. And true rest in a busy world.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

A blessed Feast of St. Matthias to each of you…

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

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Sermon for Epiphany 5: "The God Who Calls"

+ 5thSunday after the Epiphany – February 10th, 2019 +
Series C: Isaiah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 14:12-20; Luke 5:1-11
Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Milton 

 Image result for disciples catch fish

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

God is the God who calls. 

God called Isaiah to be his prophet, to declare God’s word of warning and promise to Israel. 

God called Peter, James, and John to leave everything behind – the nets, fish, and boats – to be his disciples, to hear, teach, and proclaim his word to all people. 

God calls you too. Calls you his adopted, holy child in Baptism. Calls you pardoned in holy absolution. Calls you to fed and forgiven in his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. He calls you to faith in Jesus, and to live out that faith in whatever vocations he places us into. 

Our Lord calls us the same way he did Isaiah and the disciples. By his Word. Jesus’ Word that cleanses us of sin, calls us his own, and sends us out in our callings with his Word (in our hearts and minds, and on our lips).

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 

You can probably imagine what Peter and the other fishermen were thinking, at this point. Perhaps muttering to one another. “Who does this guy think he is? He’s just a rabbi carpenter from Nazareth. What does he know about fishing anyway? It’s a waste of time fishing in the deep in midday. Doesn’t he know it’s easier to catch fish in the shallows toward nightfall when they come up to feed?

“Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!”, Peter calls out. “But at your word I will let down the nets.”

This is rather remarkable if you think about it. Simon Peter trusts the Word of Jesus over and against his own experience as a fishermen. He has no good reason to let out the nets in the daylight in deep water except for Jesus’ Word. Yet, there’s something different about Jesus’ Word. Peter has heard him preaching in the synagogues. Saw him heal his own mother-in-law. Witnessed Jesus cast out demons.

“At your word I will let down the nets.”

Perhaps we’ve stood in Peter’s sandals before. Just when everything, every one, and every experience in life seems to be running the opposite way of God’s promises, something unexpected and undeserved happens. That’s how Jesus works for us too – all by grace.

So they let down the nets. And to Peter’s surprise, the fish swam in like little kids to ice cream. The nets began to burst. The boats began to sink. And as Peter looked at the fish, flopping around in his boat; looked at Jesus. And this big, tough, fisherman fell to his knees crying out…

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

In that moment Peter saw Jesus for who he is. He was more than a carpenter, rabbi from Nazareth. It also revealed Peter for who he was, an unholy person in the presence of the holy God. He fell to his knees. He confessed. Not his sins.Not the fights with his brother, the bickering with his wife, his greed for gain, his discouragement over a fruitless night of labor, or whatever. He doesn’t simply say “I have sinned,” but “I am a sinner.” That’s what he is. That’s what you and I are as well.

With Isaiah, we come into God’s holy presence and confess, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” A string of broken commandments stands as evidence against us. And all we can do is what Isaiah and Simon Peter did –confess it. We are sinful and unclean, in our thought, our words, our deeds, in what we do, in what we don’t do. Sinful and unclean. Simon Peter knew it; Isaiah knew it; we know it too.

But then something unexpected, undeserved, and truly amazing happens. Jesus did not depart from Simon Peter. Our Lord did not let Isaiah wallow in his uncleanness: he sent a seraphim with a burning coal from the altar. And neither does he depart from us in our sin. Instead, he atones for it. Jesus jumps in the sinking boat of this world with us, to bring us into his holy ark, the church.

The holy one of Israel becomes unholy for us. The sinless one takes on our sin. Jesus departs to the cross with all of our sin, doubt, disease, and death so that he will never depart from us. 

“Do not be afraid”, Jesus declared to Peter. The same words the angels said to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth, and the disciples at Jesus’ resurrection, and from Jesus when he appeared that Easter Sunday. Do not be afraid.

Jesus does the same for you here today that he did for Isaiah in the temple. He baptizes you with the fire of the Holy Spirit. He burnishes your lips with the hot coal of forgiveness in the form of His body given into death to save you; his blood shed for you as the atoning sacrifice of your sins. He puts the Word of forgiveness, the Word of Absolution, into your ears which are the doorway to the heart. Faith comes by hearing the Word.

“Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

“Don’t be afraid: from now on you will be catching men,” Jesus tells Peter, James, and John. They were caught, called, and sent. To catch men alive in the net of Jesus’ death and resurrection in the deeps for the lost, the lonely, the last ones. For us. Whom Jesus also catches, calls, and sends by His Word. 

Trusting in his Word, his ways, his time, not ours. His Word and His ways. His outrageous, free, abundant forgiveness, more abundant than the fish in the nets. His Baptism, Supper, Forgiveness, and Word of Life. Snatching sinners out of the depths to life and freedom.

God is the God who calls. Isaiah. The disciples. You and me. Caught. Called. Sent. All with the Word of Christ Crucified for you.

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

Image result for disciples catch fish

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Sermon for Epiphany 4: "The Word Does"

+ 4thSunday after the Epiphany – February 3rd, 2019 +
Series C: Jeremiah 1:4-10, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:31-44
Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Milton

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

Image result for luke 4:31-44 

Words are powerful. Words make things happen. Words can carry great authority. The words of a judge can sentence you to jail. The words of congress enact laws that bring punishment or reward. The words of a commanding officer issue orders that are to be followed.

When someone in authority speaks, those words carry that authority. When someone who has power speaks, those words carry power. So when Jesus who is the Word speaks the Word, His words come with the power and authority of God Himself. And that’s the point of today’s Scripture readings. Jesus’ words are powerful. Jesus’ word makes things happen. Jesus’ word carries the greatest authority of all, that of his life, death, and resurrection. 

Today’s Gospel reading picks up right where we left off last week. The Word Jesus read and proclaimed from Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, he now performs in the town of Capernaum. 

Like a good Netflix miniseries, Luke reveals the power and authority of Jesus’ words in three episodes. And like a good binge-worthy TV show, it’s better to see these three episodes together as one unit, all with Jesus’ powerful, authoritative word at the center.

Jesus teaches God’s Word and casts out a demon in the synagogue by his Word. Jesus rebukes the demon and the people proclaim, What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”

Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law of her fever. Jesus rebukes her illness by his Word, and in response to Jesus’ healing Word she serves.

Again, Jesus healed many other sick; he cast out and rebuked the demons – all by his Word.

Holy Scripture begins with the Word. In the beginning was the Word. Creation is six days of God speaking. And God said…and it is so. The Word says what it does. “Let there be light,” and there’s light. God does by speaking. He doesn’t pick things up with His hands. He doesn’t use tools. He speaks, and His Word, with all the power and authority of God, does what He says. 
Not so with our words. When we beg the stoplight to turn green it doesn’t. When we say “be clean” to our messy desks or children’s rooms they aren’t instantly picked up. When we demand our cold or illness to get better, it doesn’t heed our word.

But this isn’t the only thing our words fail to do. Our words fail to show love to our family, friends, and neighbors. Our words fail to share the Gospel with others. Our words fail to thank and praise God for all he does for us in His Word. Our words fail to heal, forgive, and withstand temptation.

Not so with Jesus’ Word. Jesus’ Word comes to undo the brokenness of our fallen world. In the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus cast out the demon with his Word. The same Word he used to cast out the devil at our Baptism, and to destroy the devil by the great exorcism of the cross.

In Capernaum, Jesus rebuked Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever by His Word. The same Word that promises you there is nothing that can separate you from his love – not sin, disease, or death. For Jesus’ love is patient and kind; Jesus love bears all things for you as surely as he bore our sin on the cross.

In Capernaum, Jesus healed the sick and cast out many unclean spirits by his powerful, authoritative Word. The same Word that comes with the power of his life, death, and resurrection to heal, forgive, and save you in simple, yet powerful words that do what Jesus says: I forgive you all your sins. 

It’s true. Our words fail. After all, we live in a broken world: broken lives, broken relationships, broken bodies and minds, broken promises. Thankfully, and graciously, God’s Word to us in Jesus never fails. 

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

This is why Jesus went to Capernaum. To proclaim that He whose powerful Word heals disease and rebukes and casts out the devil, is same One who will keep and fulfill every one of God’s Words by going to cross for you. And there declaring another word for you. A word that destroys the devil, cancels our sin, and heals our brokenness. “It is finished.”For you.

That’s why Jesus had to leave Capernaum. “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 

Today, the Word of the Lord comes to us here in Milton as He did to Jeremiah and Capernaum. To dwell with us, and to abide with us in His Word. To declare His life-giving, powerful, does-what-it-says, Good News Word to us.

Jesus, the Word made flesh comes to you. The same Word that silenced demons, that raised old ladies from their sickbed, comes to you. “I forgive you all of your sins.” “This is my Body given for you, my Blood shed for you. For the forgiveness of your sins.” All because Jesus says so. That same Word with the same power and authority comes to you to forgive you, heal you, restore you, raise you up from death to life. Jesus’ Word does what he says. The demons are silenced. Death has no sway. The Law cannot accuse you. You are forgiven. You are cleansed. You have Jesus’ Word on it.

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