Jesus is the loser King and King of the losers

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Pentecost 5, 2020 Proper 9
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 5, 2020
Zechariah 9:9-12, Romans 7:14-25a, Matthew 11:25-30

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

“Everybody loves a winner.”  “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”  “Winners never quit.  Quitters never win.”  There are a lot of inspirational quotes about winners and winning.  We want to be winners.  I want to think that I am doing it better than others.  I want to think that I am the best.  I want to believe that I am a winner.  We learn self-talk for winners, “I am good enough, I am smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”  Everybody loves a winner.

I so much want to be a winner.  I want to be the best pastor ever.  Today, in our Epistle reading we get some insights from arguably the greatest missionary of all times, Paul of Tarsus; St. Paul, the author of at least 13 books of the New Testament.  What can I learn from Paul that will help make me a winner?  What are his insights for living a victorious life?  What makes Paul tick?

Romans 7:15 (ESV) 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.[1] Whoa!  Wait a minute.  What is Paul talking about?  What kind of victorious life is this?  He cannot even control himself.  Romans 7:18 (ESV) 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.[2]

What kind of loser self-talk is this?  “I can’t do it.  I can’t control my own actions.  I’m a loser. I’m a wretch.”  This is St. Paul.  We name churches after this guy.  He is the one whose writings are God-breathed Holy Scripture.  And here he is, admitting that he is a wretched sinner; just like the rest of us.  Paul’s honesty here is amazing…and brutally accurate for all of us.  You so much want to be a winner, but you do not understand your own actions.  For you do not do what you want, but you do the very thing you hate; me too.  This kind of honesty regarding the battle with sin is a hard truth to face.  But you know it is the truth.  Romans 7:24 (ESV) 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?[3]

Who? Who will save me?  Oh, there He is, prophesied in Zechariah, chapter 9, coming down the mountain, in a majestic procession into Jerusalem.  Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.[4]  Here the Savior comes in His Palm Sunday procession; but hold on…wait just a minute.  What is He riding?  Is He proudly astride a large, powerful, warhorse?  No.  He is sitting humbly on a baby donkey taking awkward little steps down the path into Jerusalem.  What kind of King is this?  This is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.  He is a loser King, and King of the losers.  As we watch Him ride the little donkey colt into Jerusalem we know He is riding into a trap set by the winners of Jerusalem.  They are going to win in their conflict with Jesus even if it means killing Him; and that is exactly what they plan to do.

They arrest this itinerant preacher on Thursday evening and tie Him up, blindfold Him, bully Him and torment Him.  We watch the strong abuse the weak; the winners humiliate the loser.  In the morning the cruelty heats up as they bring Jesus to the Roman governor who is himself too weak to stand up to the Jewish leaders and He allows Jesus to be brutally flogged then dressed up as a king and mocked as He is crowned with thorns to cries of “Hail! King of the Jews!”  Pilate washes his hands of the whole affair and lets the Jewish leaders crucify Jesus.  The bloody, loser King is paraded through the streets to Calvary where He is stripped naked and nailed to a cross to slowly suffer and die in humiliation and agony as the ultimate loser.  Above His head is a sign mocking Him, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”  Everybody loves a winner and Jesus is the ultimate loser. He is king of the losers.

Who are the people Jesus reaches out to in His ministry?  Kings and princes?  The wealthy and powerful?  The popular, cool kids?  No.  Jesus seeks after tax collectors, prostitutes, foreigners, little children, adulterers, lepers, the blind, the lame, the hungry, the demon possessed.  Jesus comes for the losers of society.  He is the loser King who is king of the losers.

Authentic Christianity is tough to market. You want to be able to put on the church sign, “Come and learn how to be a winner and succeed in life.”  But to be honest the sign should say, “Come and learn that you are a loser.”  Everybody loves a winner and Christianity is not about being a winner; it’s about knowing; along with St. Paul, that you’re are a loser.  Romans 7:24 (ESV) 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?[5]

If you stay at Calvary with dead Jesus you are left in your sin; condemned by the law, dead in your trespasses.  But Jesus’ story does not end at Calvary.  Just as He said He would, Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus conquered sin.  Jesus conquered death.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! This makes all the difference.  Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again to save you.  Romans 7:24-25 (ESV) 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! … [6]  Jesus saves you, you, a sinner who struggles with temptation and gives in way too often.  Jesus comes to save sinners.  As St. Paul write in 1 Timothy 1:15 (ESV)  15 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.[7]  You are a sinner, and you have been saved by Jesus.  You are, at the same time, a Sinner and a Saint.  Martin Luther coined this phrase in Latin; simul justus et peccator.  This is such great good news for the losers of the world who know they cannot be good enough; who know they need help.  Jesus saves sinners.

Matthew 11:25 (ESV)  25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;[8] Jesus comes for the weak and broken.  He comes to those who are outcasts of society; the sick and the suffering.  He comes for little children; those without status or standing; those without the wisdom and understanding of the world.  Matthew 18:1-4 (ESV) 1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.[9]

Jesus comes for hurting, helpless people who know their sin.  He comes for those burdened by their sin.  He opens his arms to them and says, Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [10]

Being bound to Jesus is having the weight of your sin lifted off.  Being yoked to Jesus means you are set free from the heavy load of the law.  As a baptized follower of Jesus you live knowing you are in Christ who is gentle and lowly.  In Christ you find rest and restoration.

The world believes that everybody loves a winner, and that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing, but they are wrong.  Jesus comes for the outcasts, the weak, those that know they cannot be good enough.  What people think is winning in this life will lead to eternal death.  The humble, loser King, King of the losers, came to save you and give you eternal life with God in the heavenly city.  In Christ you are a winner.  In Jesus you will rise from the dead to eternal victory.  1 Corinthians 15:54-58 (ESV)
54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. [11]         Amen

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[8]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[9]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[10]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[11]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

Dead to the law

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Pentecost 4, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 28, 2020
Jeremiah 28:5-9, Romans 7:1-13, Matthew 10:34-42

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:          immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                          bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:     bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

Ever since Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from the Lord, people have had a difficult relationship with God’s Law. What is the purpose of the Law?  How does God’s law function?  What does it mean to me?

When we study Luther’s Small Catechism we learn that God’s Law shows us our sin.  We think S.O.S.;  “Shows our sin.”  The Gospel is also S.O.S. “shows our savior”.  This seems simple enough, but we have a complex relationship with the law as we learn in today’s reading from Romans 7.

Sort of strangely, one thing the Law can do is awaken sinful desire.  You have an inbred, rebellious nature, and when you hear that you should not do something it can make you want to do it more.  The joke is that if you want something done, you have to do it yourself, or forbid your kids from doing it.  “Whatever you do, don’t cut the grass.”  Forbidden fruit is sweet.  There is something in us to varying degrees that makes us just want to be mischievous.  I think school kids often can get involved in sex or vaping or drinking or smoking weed because they are attracted to the secretive naughtiness of it all.  The feeling that you are breaking the rules and getting away with it is, for many, a powerful attraction.  There is something in us that causes us to want to be bad.  That something is original sin, inherited from Great-Grandpa Adam.  Due to your sinful nature, God’s law can awaken sinful desire.  God’s law also shows your sin.

Have you ever cleaned your house by the light of a single candle?  Wouldn’t that be great?  Things look pretty good in the dark.  But when you turn on some lights you see what you were missing.  The hallway downstairs here by the boiler room used to have a single light bulb and the carpet in the hall looked okay.  Years ago, when we installed a new drop ceiling with 2×4 light fixtures suddenly the carpet did not look very good. God’s law functions this way.

The Law of God shines light on your life.  The more you study the Law, the more light shines and the more sinful you realize that you are.  The Law serves to curb bad behavior and it serves as a guide as to how to live, but it also serves as a mirror showing you the ugly truth about your sinfulness. The Law shows sin to be sin and shows you to be sinful beyond measure – and this is good.  This is a good function of God’s law.

Why is it good to know that you are sinful beyond measure?  It is good, because you want to be in charge.  Because, like a young child, you want to point to your own actions and say, “Look what I have done.”  But the Law takes that away from you.  The Law shows your sinfulness beyond measure.  The Law strips away from you any thought that you can be good enough.

When a child gets caught doing something wrong and is facing punishment and is negotiating for mercy what does he say?  “I won’t do it again!  I’ll be good. I promise.”  How many times have you said these same things to God when you are negotiating after sinful behavior?  “I won’t do it again!  I’ll be good. I promise.”  But for how long are your promises good?  The Law has made it clear, you are sinful beyond measure.

In the Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 step program of recovery, step one is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”  Knowing you are sinful beyond measure leads you to admit that you are powerless against sin and your life has become unmanageable.  Admit you are powerless.  That’s how we begin worship each Sunday; by admitting we are powerless. “I, a poor, miserable sinner.”  “We are by nature sinful and unclean…”  We “first consider our unworthiness and confess before God and one another that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed, and that we cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition.”

The Law is a brutal taskmaster making demands that you cannot accomplish.  You so much want to believe that you can be good enough, but the Law lets you know that you cannot.  This can lead to despair in which you just give up trying because you know you can’t do it.  Or it can lead to self-righteousness in which you start to believe that you are good enough because you are better than others. But these are both tricks of the devil. The law shows you that sin is sin, and you are sinful beyond measure.  Is there any hope?

AA step two is “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  For Christians convicted by the Law and knowing you are sinful beyond measure you also turn to a higher power, and you can declare who the higher power is.  “For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.”  “…For the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me.”  “Together as His people let us take refuge in the infinite mercy of God, our heavenly Father, seeking His grace for the sake of Christ, and saying: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

 In baptism you died to the law, and rose in the Spirit, to live in Christ, to bear fruit for God.  You were born again in water and Spirit.  You are free from the demands of the law.

You cannot free yourself from sin but Jesus can and Jesus does.  “Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins.”  The Law shows your sin and shows you your need for Jesus.  The Gospel shows you your savior.

The great Good News of the Gospel is that you have been released from the Law.  You have died to the Law.  You have died to the Law in your baptismal death and rebirth.  You no longer live under the tyrannical demands of the Law, but you live in the new life of the Spirit.  Romans 7:4 (ESV) 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.[1]

In baptism you died to the law, and rose in the Spirit, to live in Christ, to bear fruit for God.  You were born again in water and Spirit.  You are free from the demands of the law.

So many view the Law of God as if God is pointing a gun at your head demanding, “behave or else.”  Folks think that in order to be saved they need to be good enough.  They need to conquer sin in their life.  But the Law shows that you cannot be good enough.

In Christ, it is not about being good enough.  Jesus is good enough.  Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God who paid the penalty for your sin.  In Christ you have died to the law.

The struggle against sin is intense and ongoing.  The struggle becomes easier knowing that your salvation does not hang in the balance.  It is easier to battle sin when you know the war is already won.  It is difficult to believe that it is not about what you have done, and that is a wonderful, freeing truth.  Your salvation is not based on what you do, but based on what Jesus has done for you.

No longer do you obey God in order to be saved.  Now you obey God because you are saved.  This is a huge difference.  Obedience to earn salvation leads to despair or self-righteousness.  Obedience because you are saved is done in the peace of God and in the joy of salvation. Knowing you are already saved by the blood of Jesus frees you to live in love for God and love for one another. Knowing God does not have a gun to your head demanding obedience, but instead He died in your place, frees you to live for God.

God’s Law still serves you as a curb, a mirror and a guide.  It helps you to live the Christian life.  The Law serves you, but it is not the source of your salvation.  You have died to the Law and now you live in Christ in the new life of the Spirit.

Amen.

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

What is truth? Jesus is Truth.

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Pentecost 3, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 21, 2020
Jeremiah 20:7-13, Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:5a-21-33

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

What is truth? This is what Pontius Pilate asks Jesus when Jesus says to him, John 18:37-38 (ESV) …“You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”38   Everyone who is of the truth listens to Jesus’ voice.

What is truth?  The truth is that you live in strange times of evolving cultural truth.  What was true for society yesterday is no longer true today; fundamental definitions change rapidly.  What is marriage?  What is a man?  What is a woman?  What is right?  What is wrong?

The truth is that you cannot rely on culture to show you the truth.  The truth is that Jesus is the truth.  The truth is that Jesus declared, John 14:6 (ESV) 6 … “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.[1] The truth is that Jesus is the truth.  The truth is that you are a baptized follower of Jesus.

The truth is that even though you are a baptized follower of Jesus you still have ongoing sinful desires.  The truth is that you want to do things that you should not do.  The truth is that devil wants you to obey your sinful desires.  The truth is that the world wants you to obey your sinful desires.  The truth is that your own sinful flesh wants you to obey your sinful desires.  The truth is that there is abundant pressure to obey your sinful desires.  The truth is that it is way too easy and way too tempting to give in to your sinful desires and become obedient to sin; to become a slave to sin; to become a slave to unrighteousness.

But you do not belong to sin.  You belong to Jesus.  You are not unrighteous; you have been made righteous.  You have been set free from sin.  You are of the Truth.  You are called to obey Jesus.  You are called to use your body as an instrument of righteousness.  Romans 6:13 (ESV) 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.[2]

The truth is that you will obey someone.  You will obey sin, or you will obey God.  As a baptized child of God you are called to listen to Jesus and obey. Jesus paid the price for your sin. Jesus took your sin upon Himself and suffered and died on the cross for you.  He took you out of the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of light. He took you from eternal death to eternal life.  He took you from impurity to righteousness.  He took you from lawlessness to sanctification.  God loves you so much He sent His son to suffer and die for you.  God knows you.  God loves you so much that He knows more about you than you know about yourself.

How many hairs do you have on your head?  You don’t know.  It might seem that Mr. Schlade would know.  It looks like he doesn’t have any hair, but that because he keeps what’s there trimmed down.  How many hairs are growing on his head?  He doesn’t know, but God knows, because God cares that much about Mr. Schlade.

God cares about the sparrows at my birdfeeder.  God cares deeply for little birds and God cares so much more deeply for you.  Jesus shed His blood and died for you.

The truth is that you belong to Jesus.  And the truth is that this can bring you trouble.  Matthew 10:24-25 (ESV) 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. [3]

The people around Jesus call him Beelzebul; the devil. They think Jesus is a devil and you are not above your teacher, Jesus.  There are many people today who firmly believe that anyone who is a follower of the truth of Jesus is also a devil.  If you believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation, they will hate you. If you believe that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman you will be shunned as a hateful bigot. If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for the sins of the world, you will be considered to be an ignorant, dangerous fool.

The truth is that being a follower of Jesus will put you out of step with mainstream society in our nation.  Listening to Jesus and obeying Him will put you outside the inner circles of the cultural elite.  The truth is that being a Christian who believes the Bible is true can get you fired because some companies believe they cannot employ someone who is so backwards in their thinking.  Even if you show up and do your job well, that won’t be enough; you can be fired for not thinking the right things; and the right things to think change day by day.

Being a Christian can bring trouble.  Being a Christians can put you in difficult situations, but this is exactly what Jesus is warning us about today in our Gospel reading.  Matthew 10:28 (ESV) 28 …do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[4]

The truth is that is easy to be afraid of the cultural vigilantes who attempt to silence and marginalize anyone who disagrees with their ever-evolving truth.  The truth of Jesus is something they want silenced. They have great influence in our country, but it is worse elsewhere.  In some countries Christians are beaten, imprisoned or killed for proclaiming the truth of Jesus.  These forces of evil can kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul.  Pray for the persecuted Church throughout the world.

In this country there is tremendous pressure on individuals and organizations to adapt to the ever-changing societal truth.  The truth is that there are church bodies that have given in to the pressure and instead of being transformed by the Truth of Jesus they conform to the ever-evolving truth of the world.  In an attempt to be nice, and get along, they give up Jesus.  They are embarrassed by Jesus saying He is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.  In order to not offend those of other religions they give up the Truth of Jesus.  They stop confessing Jesus.  This is eternally perilous.  Matthew 10:32-33 (ESV) 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. [5]

The truth is that true joy is found in Jesus. People without Jesus chase happiness and joy in their passions and in the accumulation of wealth and belongings, but true joy and true peace is found in the Truth of Jesus.

The truth is that Jesus is the Truth and He knows you better than you know yourself.  So listen to Jesus.  Obey Jesus. He freed you from slavery to sin. You belong to Him, and He loves you, and cares for you.  By your sin you earned death, but Jesus gives you the gift of eternal life.  What is truth?  Jesus is Truth.  Amen.

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

Control-Z

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Pentecost 2, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 14, 2020
Exodus 19:2-8, Romans 5:6-15, Matthew 9:35-10:8

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:          immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                          bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:     bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

Control-z.  Control-z is wonderful.  How many know what control-z does; or command-z?  I asked Olivia Pirn if she knew what control-z is and she said she learned about it a few weeks ago and it changed her life.  What is this life changing tool?  Control-z is the keystroke shortcut for the “undo” command on a computer.  Control-z takes away your mistakes.  For those who prefer, there is an “undo button” you can click.

As I am working on the computer and make a mistake, I just hit “undo”.  Boom!  Mistake gone. How wonderful would it be to have an “undo” button in life?  For those times when in anger or haste you said or did something hurtful that you immediately wanted to undo?

Have you ever tried to untangle a snarled mess of fishing line or string or a long extension cord?  It takes patience and perseverance–not my strong suits–to methodically work your way through the mess and get it untangled.  What happens when you get frustrated, lose your cool, and just give the whole knot a good strong yank?  Now it is nearly impossible.  You could use an undo button; control-z for life.

How many times in your relationship with someone do you find that you have a tangled knot of issues and instead of patiently working it out, you get frustrated and angry and yank hard on the knotted issues with your words or actions and turn the tangled relationship into an impossible mess.  It would be good to have an undo button.

Have you ever broken something? The ball goes through the window, you drop you cell phone on the concrete and shatter the screen, you wreck the car.  You want to be able to hit the “undo” button.  It is not good to break physical items, but they can often be repaired or replaced.  There are a lot of things that are much worse to break than belongings.  It is worse to break your promises.  It is worse to break free from self-control, lose your temper, and hurt someone with your words or your fists.  It is worse when you break from self-denial and give in to self-indulgence.  It is worse when you give up on God’s way and give into the temptations of the world and life gets broken.  Life becomes a tangled mess.  Sin tangles up your life into a jumble of brokenness and denials and justifications and regret and anger and guilt and shame and despair.  Sin makes a tangled, knotted mess of life.  If only you had an undo button.

Sin makes life a tangled, knotted mess, but worse than all of that, sin brings death.  St. Paul writes in Romans 5:12 (ESV) 12 …sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—[1]

Death is our great enemy.  In this Pandemic the great fear is widespread death.  We are warned repeatedly about the grave danger of Covid-19.  Even during normal times it seems like each day “experts” are coming up with something else for us to worry about in order to stay healthy and not die.

Adam broke life and turned paradise existence into a tangled, knotted, dying mess.  If only Adam had an “undo” button.

When you are young it seems there is more of a sense of immortality.  This sometimes can lead young people into risky behaviors because they think they will live forever.  The older you get the more you realize you will not live forever.  As the years go by and your hair turns gray, the more death stares you in the face.  You know it is coming.  Sin brings death, and there was sin in the world even before God gave the 10 Commandments. Romans 5:13-14 (ESV) 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.[2]

Even before Moses received the law, death reigned.  Death was king.  As Adam ignored God’s Word and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he tore a gaping hole in the fabric of life and brought sin flooding into the world; he brought death into the world.  Adam broke life and turned paradise existence into a tangled, knotted, dying mess.  If only Adam had an “undo” button.

What kind of regret and shame and guilt must Adam and Eve felt having broken life?  Adam broke the world.  He tore open the curtain that kept evil away.  He opened the floodgates of sin and death, and we still daily feel the effects.  Hospitals and cemeteries are monuments to Adam breaking the world.

Sin and death came through the first Adam who was a type for the one who is to come.  Jesus is the second Adam.  Adam broke the world by tearing the curtain and allowing evil to flood the world. Adam brings sin; sin brings death. Jesus becomes sin.  He enters into death and Hell.  He conquers all three; sin, death and Hell.  Adam broke the world.  Jesus heals the brokenness.  Jesus tears the curtain in the temple and the grace of God floods into the world from the throne of God.  Jesus undoes sin.  Jesus undoes death.  Romans 5:18 (ESV) 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.[3]

Now, death still has temporary power over us, but the power is limited.  Death’s power is fleeting.  Death’s eternal reign has been broken.  Death is no longer king.  Jesus is King and brings eternal life.  Jesus is coming back to raise the dead.

Romans 5:17 (ESV) 17 If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.[4]

Jesus tore the curtain in the temple and flooded the world with forgiveness and life.  Romans 5:21 (ESV) 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.[5]

Jesus is coming back to raise the dead.  1 Thessalonians 4:16 (ESV) 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.[6]

Jesus undoes sin. Jesus undoes death.  It was not easy.  It was not just hitting control-z and resetting the world.  It cost Jesus everything.  It came at the cost of Jesus’ blood; His suffering and death.  Adam brought sin and death.  On the cross, Jesus undoes sin and death and brings forgiveness and eternal life.  How amazing. For this we thank God and praise God. For this we serve Him and obey Him.

The world still suffers from the brokenness brought by Adam.  Sin and death make life a tangled, knotted mess.  Jesus has undone sin.  Jesus has undone death.  You live in the flood of grace, mercy and peace flowing from the throne of God out into this broken world bringing healing and restoration.  Rejoice that you live in that flood of forgiveness and love. Thank the Lord and sing His praise, tell everyone what He has done.  Let the forgiveness and love that flows into you from the cross of Jesus overflow out of your life to those around you living in this tangled, knotted world of sin.  Jesus has undone sin for you.  Jesus has undone death for you.  Amen.

 

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

Racism, hatred & abuse of power is sin. Jesus saves.

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Trinity Sunday 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 7, 2020
Genesis 1:1-2:4a, Acts 2:14a-22-36, Matthew 28:16-20

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

Authority.  This is not one of our favorite words.  If someone tells you, “I have authority over you,” what does that mean?  How does it make you feel?  During the COVID19 Pandemic we have had to learn a lot about authority.  The governor exercised his authority and life changed dramatically.  Very often, for many of us, we don’t much like authority.

I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me not to do something, it kind of makes me want to do it.  From the time a little child first tells her mother, “No!,” the quest for autonomy, and the rebellion against authority has started.  With Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, rebellion against authority began and it has been accelerating ever since.

In 1981, Jeffery Stout, a professor of religion and philosophy at Princeton University, published a book called The Flight from Authority. In it, he described a social and philosophical trend in western society. Collectively, he argued, we have been on a, “flight from authority,” for several centuries. In the Reformation, we fled the authority of the Catholic Church. Under rationalism, we ran from the authority of the Scriptures. With Kant, we turned our backs on the authority of reason, and then morality. The flight continues in our own times as we resist conformity to governments, social norms, and institutions in general. Obedience is out. Autonomy is in. Simply put, we like to be charge.[1]

What does the Bible say about authority?  When we study the fourth commandment it is all about authority; “Honor your father and your mother.”  Parents have authority by virtue of creating or adopting a child. We have a lot of authorities in our lives.  Parents, teachers, bosses, coaches, pastors, police, government.  All individual authority, however, comes from one authority. Authority comes from God so that His Kingdom comes and His will is done.  Those in authority are masks of God, doing Jesus’ work of service, in love for their neighbor.

In our Gospel reading from Matthew today Jesus talks about authority.  Matthew 28:18 (ESV) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.[2] How much authority does Jesus have?  All authority.  Jesus is in charge.  What does he tell you to do?  Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[3]

Jesus’ authority comes from who He is.  Jesus is the Son of God, begotten of the Father from eternity.  He is God in flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.  Jesus’ authority is confirmed at His baptism with the presence of the Holy Spirit and the voice of God the Father, Matthew 3:17 (ESV) 17 … “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”[4] His authority is shown in His miracles such as when Jesus calms the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Luke 8:25 (ESV) 25 …[the disciples] were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” [5]

Jesus has all authority.  He has the authority to forgive your sins because He takes responsibility for all sin.  He who knew no sin became sin for you and offers Himself as the atoning sacrifice upon the altar of the cross.  Jesus is God in flesh and all authority has been given to him.  At His transfiguration, God the Father says, Matthew 17:5 (ESV) 5 … “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”[6]  Listen to Jesus.  Do what He says.  Obey Him. He has authority over you.  He has all authority.  He exercises His authority with Divine perfection.

As you exercise the authority given to you by God, as a parent, teacher, boss, coach, pastor, police officer, government official, or in any other way, remember that you are a mask of God for good in the Kingdom of God.  You are a servant of God serving your neighbor. Also, remember always, with authority comes responsibility.

Parents have authority over their children, but also responsibility for their children.  The State of Ohio recognizes both.  Children can be arrested for not obeying their parents.  Parents can be arrested for not caring for their children.  With authority comes responsibility.

In our world there is the temptation to seek autonomy instead of obedience, but there is also the temptation for people with authority to abuse their authority and ignore their responsibilities.  You can all think of examples from your own life where someone in power overstepped their authority:  an abusive manager, pastor, parent, teacher, police officer, government official.

Over these last couple of weeks we have seen the horrifying video of a Minneapolis police officer abusing his authority.  Instead of using the least force necessary to arrest a suspect, he applied deadly force in a slow, brutal, deliberate way, taking the life of George Floyd.  This former officer’s abuse of power caused the death of a fellow human being.  This is a great evil and now we trust those with authority to bring justice.

Protests and demonstrations have been staged all over the country and the world, including here in Hamilton, to call out this deadly abuse of power and speak against racism.  According to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, citizens have the right to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  The people have a right to peaceably assemble, but those who bring violence, looting and destruction into the demonstrations are abusing their right to assemble.  They are overstepping their authority and neglecting their responsibilities.

This is a challenging time for our nation and, as Christians, we need to be careful how we respond.  This particular case is one in which there is nearly universal condemnation and calls for the former officer to be punished.  This is a time we should, as a nation, be able to unite to work for real solutions to end the abuse of police power.  But there are those in our nation who abuse their authority and use vague charges to divide us and promote in us hatred of others.  There are those who for power and political leverage take the actions of the few and indict the many.  There are those who strive to have us categorize people into groups and dismiss them. Abuse of power is evil.  Racism is evil.  Division and hatred are evil.  These are sins that we can all be drawn into, and these are sins for which we must repent.

When the actions of a few are magnified and applied to an entire group that is evil.  To be identified as a victim, or an abuser, simply based on the color of your skin, is wrong because we are each individuals with unique experiences.  It is wrong, but there is great power in division and there are those across the political spectrum that want to emphasize distinctions and differences, and drive wedges between us.  We must reject these divisions and hatred, and work together to stamp out the abuse of power at all levels for those in authority.  Christians are called to abhor racism, division, hatred and abuse of authority.

As a Christian, as a baptized child of God, you are under the authority of Jesus and He has instructed you to love your neighbor.  He has commanded you to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you; to turn the other cheek, and go the extra mile.  Racism in all forms is contrary to Christianity.  In the Bible there are no races.  There is no mention of red and yellow, black and white; the only division is Jew and Gentile which is undone in Jesus.  St. Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-28 (ESV) 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.[7]

In the Kingdom of God there is no place for any type of racism or hatred or division.  When you fall prey to these temptations, repent and receive forgiveness in the blood of Jesus shed for you.

We all have room to improve in understanding people who come from different backgrounds.  We can all benefit by empathetically listening to those who look different from us; who come from different places, and who have different experiences. I have never been pulled over for driving while black, but I know people who have.  I am a fourth generation American with family roots and support.  Others are new immigrants, alone in this country. Honor others’ perspectives even if you don’t share them.  Racism and hatred have no place in our nation and certainly have no place in the Church. Here we are one in Christ.  Here we kneel together and confess our sins and receive forgiveness from Jesus.  As the old Christian Folk song says, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.”

Every person on earth is someone for whom Jesus died.  In Christ, you cannot hate someone for whom Jesus died.  Each person is someone to be loved and cared for as Jesus would love and care.

These are difficult times.  We are struggling to find the best way forward. We struggle because we are all natural born sinners who rebel against authority.  We struggle because there are many who abuse their authority and do great evil.  We struggle because we can abuse our authority.

These are difficult time, but the call from Jesus is clear for all who exercise authority.  Love and serve your neighbor.  Jesus commands that we make disciples of all nations.  All nations.  All people groups.  And how do we make disciples?  Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 19 … baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” [8]  Jesus wants all to be united in one baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Learn from others.  Love and serve your neighbor.  Fight racism and hatred and division and abuse.  Obey Jesus.  Obedience may be radically counter cultural, but it is not optional.  Jesus has all authority; listen to Him.  Love God.  Love your neighbor.  Amen.

 

 


[1] Peter Nafzger www.1517.org/articles/gospel-matthew-2816-20-trinity-sunday-series-a

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[8]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

You have the breath of God

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Pentecost 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 31, 2020
Numbers 11:24-30, Acts 2:1-21, John 7:37-39

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

Last week we celebrated Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of God the Father to reign over all creation.  Before He ascended, Jesus told the disciples to stay in the city until they are clothed with power from on high.  Acts 1:8 (ESV)  8 …you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”[1]

Soon, the Holy Spirit will come upon the disciples in a powerful, public way. Forty days earlier, on the evening of the day of His resurrection, Jesus bestowed the Spirit on His disciples in a quiet, private way.  John 20:21-23 (ESV) 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” [2]  On Pentecost, 10 days after Jesus’ ascension, the Spirit comes to the disciples in wind and fire.  Who is the Holy Spirit?  What do we know about Him?

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. Coequal with God the Father and God the Son, and yet He is the person of the Trinity that we hear the least about.  We hear the least about Him because the Holy Spirit is not about promoting the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit points you to Jesus, your Savior; the Lamb of God sacrificed for you on the cross of Calvary.

            As a baptized child of God you are one Spirit with Jesus.  The Spirit dwells in you.  The breath of God gives you faith to know your sins are forgiven through Jesus.  You no longer belong to yourself.  You have been purchased and won by Christ.  You are in the Kingdom of God.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the breath of God.  “Spirit” in Hebrew is ruach; in Greek, pneumatos. Both these words mean spirit, wind; breath.  In English we have similar words with similar roots such as pneumatic or pneumonia which have to do with air or breath.  In our word, respiration, the root of the word is the same as spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the breath of God and the Holy Spirit dwells in you.  St. Paul explains this when warning against sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:17-20 (ESV) 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.[3]

As a baptized child of God you are one Spirit with Jesus.  The Spirit dwells in you.  The breath of God gives you faith to know your sins are forgiven through Jesus.  You no longer belong to yourself.  You have been purchased and won by Christ.  You are in the Kingdom of God.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

But the Holy Spirit’s presence is not something that you are even aware of most of the time.  It is sort of like breathing itself.  You don’t really notice that you are breathing unless you just ran up the stairs or have a stuffy nose some other breathing issue.  You have been born again in water and the Spirit and yet you don’t feel the Holy Spirit dwelling in you.  The spirit doesn’t shout out His existence.  You don’t know the Spirit is present, except by the result.  The Spirit is the breath of faith.  You can feel that when in the depths of darkness you remain in Christ.  You have faith.  You know Jesus is your Savior.  You know your sins are forgiven.

Ephesians 2:8 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…[4]   Faith can be a struggle because we are so tempted to want to make faith about us and something we can do.  We want it to be about our strength; our determination.  We want to tightly hold onto the gifts of God so that we can control them.  But it is all a gift.  You do not firmly grasp God’s gifts in your closed fist; rather you hold the gift of forgiveness, life and salvation in an open hand.

Through the Holy Spirit you have faith that Jesus is your savior.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Through the Holy Spirit you know that Jesus is Lord and that through Jesus you have access and knowledge of God the Father.  Jesus teaches in John 15:26-27 (ESV) 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.[5]

The disciples are given the task to bear witness about what they have seen.  This is clearly shown on the day of Pentecost.  On the day of Pentecost the Spirit comes in the wind and in tongues of flame, but what does the Spirit empower the disciples to do?  The Spirit empowers them to preach and teach about Christ crucified and risen from the dead for the forgiveness of sins.

On that Pentecost day when the disciples receive the Holy Spirit and begin preaching and teaching in many different languages there are those who speak against them.  “What is going on here?  What is this teaching in different languages?  What is all this talk about Jesus?  These men must be drunk.”  Peter denies this and preaches about Jesus.  Peter preaches repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  Acts 2:38-42 (ESV) 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.[6]

The work of the Holy Spirit in the Church does not fit into our rational categories in life.  There are many today who think that what Christians do is just foolishness. How ridiculous?  What a waste of time gathering together each week.  The pastor declares sins are forgiven, but what is that?  It is just words.  They splash some water on a baby’s head and think something happens; but it is just water; it is just words.  They eat a little cracker and take a sip of wine and think that makes everything okay with God; but it is just bread and wine; it is just words.

Without the Holy Spirit, Christianity is just foolishness.  1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.[7]  With the Holy Spirit, the truth of Christianity is the most important thing in all creation.  It is the source of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life with God.

Lately, there is a great temptation for the Church to give up on preaching Law and Gospel and instead try to meet people where they are; to adjust what we do to fit the “new realities.”  There is tremendous pressure to give up on the authority of the Word of God and to follow your feelings.  There is great pressure to conform to this new way, but this would have the Church cease to be the Church.  The Church trusts the Holy Spirit.

We trust the Holy Spirit to work.  We proclaim the word of the cross.  We continue the work of the apostles; preaching and teaching God’s law and God’s Gospel; confessing and forgiving, baptizing, and receiving the Lord’s Supper.

You have received the Spirit of God; in your baptism, and over and over again in God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper.  Your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit, the breath of God, dwells in you and gives you faith to know you are a forgiven child of God.  Hold these gifts in an open hand and live your identity in Christ. Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

Jesus ascends to be God with us everywhere

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Ascension (observed) 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May, 23-24, 2020
Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

Sunday, December 1, was the first Sunday of Advent.  It was the beginning of the new church year.  The first half of the church year is the Festival half when we remember and celebrate big events in Jesus’ life.  During Advent, we look forward to the Jesus’ arrival in two ways; His first arrival as Immanuel, “God with us,” as that baby born in Bethlehem and announced to shepherds, and His second arrival when He returns in glory on the last day.  Then comes Christmas, the Christ Mass, celebrating Jesus birth; that little, normal-looking, baby in the manger is God in flesh.  “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail, incarnate deity.  Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel.” As you know, Immanuel is Hebrew for “God with us.”

Next comes Epiphany on January 6.  Jesus is revealed to the mysterious Magi from the East.  Jesus’ identity as “God with us” is revealed to Gentiles; non-Jews as well as to the Jews.  During the season of Epiphany we recall Jesus’ baptism, His 40 days in the wilderness and temptation, His miracles, and His transfiguration which brings us to Lent. Lent is the time we remember that Jesus has to suffer and die because of our sins and also that He suffers and dies to pay for our sins and give us forgiveness.  We learn that “God with us” is also “God for us”.  Maundy Thursday brings us to Jesus transforming the Passover meal into the Lord’s Supper as He offers Himself as the sacrificial Lamb of God whose body and blood is shed for us and given to us for the forgiveness of our sins. Good Friday brings us Jesus’ death and burial.  The dark sadness of Good Friday is tempered by the knowledge of what is coming. Resurrection Sunday soon comes with the great joy of knowing that “Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia.” Jesus, God in flesh, God with us, dies for the sins of the world and He is raised from the dead.  He is still God with us.  He appears to the women at the tomb, to his disciples, to 500 others in Jerusalem and Galilee.  Jesus is with the people.  The resurrected God in flesh is still “God with us.”

And then comes the day of Ascension 40 days after resurrection which was this past Thursday.  Jesus is going away.  “God with us” is going away from us.  The disciples who have been with Jesus for three years are very concerned.  What are they going to do?  How can they go on without Jesus there with them?

Is “God with us” going far away to be “God away from us.”?  What is Jesus’ plan?  Luke 24:45-48 (ESV) 45 Then [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.[1] Jesus tells the disciples that His mission is not ending, but expanding. The message of repentance first preached by John the Baptist and by Jesus will continue to be preached, by Jesus’ followers.  It will begin with the Jews in Jerusalem and expand to the people of all nations.  The disciples are the witnesses, martyrion, in Greek.  This word is where we get our word martyr, someone who dies for the faith.  The eleven remaining disciples will dedicate the rest of their lives to being witnesses to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection even while it costs ten of them their lives.

This is a huge challenge, but Jesus is not abandoning the disciples.  He continues in Luke 24:49 (ESV) 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” [2]  And from Acts 1:8 (ESV) 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”[3]

On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes to the followers of Jesus to reveal Jesus’ presence with us in his Word, in His sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, in His body on earth, the Church.  Jesus remains “God with us” and we know this through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. Jesus reigns over the creation in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus remains Immanuel, “God with us.”

Have you ever had a helium balloon and let it go accidentally, or on purpose, and then watched it rise into the sky, higher and higher until you have to strain to see it and then it is gone from sight.  That is not how Jesus ascended into heaven.  Acts 1:9 (ESV) 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.[4]

Jesus ascension, is essential to our Christian faith because, along with Pentecost, the ascension signals a shift for how God, in Christ, is continually present with His people, with the Holy Spirit illuminating this reality through the gift of faith.

Jesus ascends and a cloud hides Him from their sight.  In the Bible God’s presence is often shown with a cloud.  During the exodus from Egypt the people are led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  When Moses is on the mountain to get the Ten Commandments from God, the mountain is enveloped in a cloud.  When the Israelites built the tabernacle, God’s presence was shown by a cloud.  At Jesus’ transfiguration a cloud covers the mountain when the voice of God the Father speaks.

The cloud shows God’s presence with us.  Jesus ascends in order to reign as Lord over all.  The Lamb who was slain has begun his reign.

Jesus ascension, is essential to our Christian faith because, along with Pentecost, the ascension signals a shift for how God, in Christ, is continually present with His people, with the Holy Spirit illuminating this reality through the gift of faith.

During the time of the reformation there were some theologians who taught that since Jesus ascended into heaven in His Body there was no way that Jesus’ Body and Blood could be present in the bread and wine of Holy Communion on countless altars around the world.  It does not make sense, therefore it must not be.  How can Jesus be at the right hand of God and also, in, with and under the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion?  It is because the right hand of God is not a set place.  The right hand of God is everywhere.  Jesus is omnipresent.  It does not make sense to us, but we are not called to limit God to our understandings.

There are those who believe they must seek God in their actions, in their feelings, in their meditations; so many are seeking God through being spiritual but not religious.  But you don’t need to seek after God, God comes to you.  Martin Luther addresses this in a sermon on Jesus’ baptism.

“God has given us Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar, and absolution to bring Christ very close to us, so that we can have Him not only in our heart but also on our tongue, so that we can feel Him, grasp Him, and touch Him. God did all this for the sake of those shameful spirits who seek God according to their own pleasure, with their reason and their own ideas and dreams. To make it possible for us to recognize Him, God presents Himself to us perceptively and clearly in signs. But we do not accept these; nor are we concerned about the divine WordAt all times God has so governed His people that He could also be recognized visibly by them, lest they say: “If it were possible to find God, we would roam to the ends of the earth in search of Him.” If you had ears to hear, it would be needless to wander far in search of God. For He wants to come to you, plant Himself before your very eyes, press Himself into your hands, and say: “Just listen to Me and take hold of Me, give Me eye and ear; there you have Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar. Open your mouth, let Me place My hand on your head. I give you this water which I sprinkle over your head.”          —Martin Luther”[5]

Advent to Pentecost is the festival half of the church year and we remember “God is with us” by remembering and celebrating events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  From Pentecost until Advent we have the season of the Church, or ordinary time; a time we don’t celebrate major events in Jesus’ life, but continue to learn about Jesus and what He has done for us.  It is a time to continue to live and worship in the presence of God.  It is a time to receive God’s gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation.

We have been worshipping separately from each other’s presence for some time, being the Church in a different way.  It is wonderful that we are beginning to gather together again while remaining somewhat distant.  Know that no matter if we are physically together or apart, we are one in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, Immanuel, “God with us,” ascends in order to be present everywhere for you.  Amen.

 

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5] LW 22, John 3:25

Who, what, where, when, why and how

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Easter 6, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 17, 2020
Acts 17:16-31, 1 Peter 3:13-22, John 14:15-21

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

Who, what, where, when, why, and how?  These are good questions to ask when you are trying to learn about something. They are questions I was taught when studying for my major at college in Northwest Indiana.  Today I want to use these questions to examine a passage from our Epistle reading 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;[1]

Who?  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, is writing… 1 Peter 1:1 (ESV) 1 …To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,[2] These are areas in modern day Turkey. Now, because, as we learn in 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,[3]  we know the who is not just dispersed Christians 2,000 years ago, the who is also you and me.

What?  The Greek word for defense is apologian.  An apology. I need to be ready to make an apology.  You need to be ready to make an apology.  When I work with premarital couples we talk about how important it is to say those two words that can be so hard to say, “I’m sorry.”  People are pretty proud by nature and it doesn’t come easy to admit you are wrong, but it is so important.  When husband and wife argue and there is tension between them each should go to the other, give them a hug, and say, “I’m sorry,” even if it is just, “I’m sorry I snapped at you.”  You need to be ready to make an apology.

But that is not the kind of apology that our text is talking about this morning.  The word apology also means a defense, or justification for your position.  1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;[4]  Apologian.  From this word we also get the word apologetics which is the practice of defending the truth of Christianity.  One of the confessional writings that Lutheran pastors pledge faithfulness to is the “Apology of the Augsburg Confession,” which is the defense of the Augsburg Confession which presented by the Lutheran Princes to Emperor Charles V in Augsburg, Germany.

Always be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is in you.  Peter is giving us a powerful instruction.  Stay ready.  Know what it is that you believe and why you believe it and be ready to give a defense; an apology.

Where?  The where could be anywhere.  We think about certain places where sharing the Good News seems more likely, but often the opportunities come up in unexpected places.

When?  Be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have.  The when is when someone asks you.

When you are able to maintain the joy of salvation even in the midst of a global pandemic, people will notice.  When you grieve the loss of a loved one, but not like those who have no hope, people will notice.  When you forgive others who do not deserve forgiveness, people will notice, and they may ask you.  Why? What is the secret to your joy and peace and hope?  Be prepared to give a defense of your hope when someone asks.

Why? Because you know Christ is Lord. Because you know, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  How do you know that Jesus has risen from the dead?  You have eyewitness testimony.  You have eyewitness testimony from Matthew, Mark, John, and Peter.  Luke records the eyewitness testimony of those who were there.  You have the written testimony from people who were there and saw Jesus crucified, buried and then raised from the dead.  These men spent the rest of their lives telling people the Good News because they knew it was true even when it cost them their lives.

You make a defense of your faith because you have a good conscience knowing your sins have been forgiven.  You give the reason for your hope because Jesus is the way and He is the only way and all people need Jesus.  You want all people to hear the Good News of forgiveness of sins and believe it.

How?  How do you give the defense; the apology for your hope in Christ?  Peter gives clear instruction.  1 Peter 3:16 (ESV) 16 … do it with gentleness and respect.”  I think we can all do with the reminder to be gentle and respectful even with people with whom we disagree.

I am reminded of a travelling preacher who visits Miami University ever once in a while and yells at students passing by about all the evil they are involved in, including wearing short pants, and how they are destined for hell.  That is not gentleness and respect.  When someone asks you for the reason for your hope it is a tender, vulnerable moment.  They are reaching out to you.  This is not a moment to be flippant or rude or snarky. It is a moment for gentleness and respect.  It is a time to share that your hope comes from the gift of faith through the Holy Spirit. It is a time to share that you are a sinner who does not deserve mercy and grace and God gives you mercy and grace anyway through Jesus.  It is time to share that Jesus loves you so much that He took responsibility for your sins and sacrificed Himself on the cross as the payment for your sins.

            You give reason for the hope that you have not as one who is a better person, but as a fellow sinner needing forgiveness.  You are not up on some Christian pedestal looking down on the others who are beneath you.  You are a sinner who needs forgiveness as much as the person with whom you are sharing the reason for your hope.  Your hope is in nothing from you; your hope is entirely in Jesus.

You give the reason for the hope that you have with a good conscience.  A good conscience meaning that you know that you are right with God.  You received a good conscience in your baptism into Christ.  1 Peter 3:21 (ESV) 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,[5]  This is a difficult thing to get your head around. How can you be right with God? You are a sinner.  You struggle with sin.  You sin daily in thought, word and deed.  And yet you have a good conscience.  You know you are right with God.  Not from what you have done, but what Jesus has done for you.  Jesus’ life, death and resurrection have been credited to you.  You are, at the same time, a sinner deserving death and hell, and a saint destined for eternal life in heaven.  Even though you are guilty, you have been declared not guilty.  This is the amazing Good News.

You give reason for the hope that you have not as one who is a better person, but as a fellow sinner needing forgiveness.  You are not up on some Christian pedestal looking down on the others who are beneath you.  You are a sinner who needs forgiveness as much as the person with whom you are sharing the reason for your hope.  Your hope is in nothing from you; your hope is entirely in Jesus.

You give reason for the hope that you have by declaring the truth that Jesus rose from the dead.  At the end of our reading from Acts we see Paul do this as he speaks to the Greeks in Athens.  Acts 17:29-31 (ESV) 29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”[6]

Who, what, where, when, why, how?  Good questions for a reporter and also good questions when examining a Bible verse. You have hope because you have Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  1 Peter 3:15 (ESV15 [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;[7]

You know the reason.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! Amen

 

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

The Way can be hard, but it is the only Way

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Luther Service Book Divine Service 1

Hymns:  468, 488,633,, 644

Easter 5 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 10, 2020
Acts 6:1–9; 7:2a, 51–60, 1 Peter 2:2–10, John 14:1–14

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

A couple of weeks ago we got to hear Saint Peter’s Pentecost sermon in which he accused the Jews of Judea and Jerusalem of killing Jesus; the Messiah, the Son of God.  The people are cut to the heart and repent and ask, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter answers, Acts 2:38-41 (ESV) 38 …“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. [1]

What a great day!  Three thousand souls!  Wow!  What a victory.

And now today, in Acts chapter 6, we hear about Stephen, one of the new deacons chosen to help the disciples serve the poor. Stephen is doing great signs and wonders and because of it he is arrested and brought before the council to answer for his teaching about Jesus.  Stephen has an opportunity to speak to the High Priest and the council. Stephen takes this opportunity to teach the history of God’s people from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Joseph and the time in Egypt; Moses leading the people out of Egypt to the Promised Land, to King David and his son Solomon who built the temple.  Stephen accuses the council members of being the children of those who killed the prophets who announced the coming of Jesus.

The people hearing Peter are cut to the heart and repent.  The people hearing Stephen do not repent; just the opposite.  They dig in their heels.  They believe they have done nothing wrong and they become so enraged that they grind their teeth.  Stephen continues, Acts 7:55-56 (ESV) 55 …full of the Holy Spirit, [Stephen] gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”[2] Stephen is having a vision of Jesus and the council’s rage intensifies.  Acts 7:57 (ESV) 57 …they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.[3]

Three thousand hear about Jesus and are baptized with Peter, with Stephen they cover their ears and scream and drag him outside the city, surround him, and throw rocks at him until he is dead.  Before he died Stephen forgives those throwing the rocks.  Acts 7:59-60 (ESV) 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. [4]

What a contrast from the day of Pentecost. Instead of the mass baptism of thousands, we are left with a silent, bloody, lifeless body lying in the dirt. Speaking about Jesus can have different effects on people.  Life in Christ is not all victory after victory, but it is The Way.  There is no alternative to Jesus.  Jesus is The Way.  Jesus is the truth.  Jesus is the life.  There is no other way to the Father.

Our Gospel lesson today is often a funeral text.  At the death of a loved one Jesus’ words brings great comfort.  John 14:1-3 (ESV) 1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.[5]

It brings great comfort to know that there is more to come.  The best is yet to come.  There is an old story published by Ann Landers.  “A woman was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given three months to live. She asked her pastor to come to her home to discuss her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at her funeral, and what scriptures to read, and which outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Then she said, “One more thing. I want to be buried with a fork in my hand.”

The pastor was surprised. The woman explained, “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, `Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite time, because I knew something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie — something wonderful. So, I want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and wonder, ‘What’s with the fork?’ Then, I want you to tell them, `Keep your fork, because the best is yet to come.”‘[6]

The best is yet to come, but the comfort Jesus gives is not only for the future.  This is comfort and strength along The Way.  And what is The Way?  Jesus is The Way.  He tells us in the Gospel of John.  He is The Way, the truth, the life; He is the living water, He is the Bread of Life; He is the light of the world, He is the Good Shepherd, He is the door, He is the resurrection and the life, He is the vine.  What is The Way?  Jesus is The Way.  He is The Way to the Father in this idolatrous world.  Jesus is The Way, but it is not an easy way.  The danger of Pentecost is that we might think that is always how life is on The Way; people hearing the Good News and repenting and following Jesus. Life on The Way can be like that at times, people hear about Jesus and are cut to the heart, repent and follow Jesus. But life on The Way can also be hard.  Stephen and Acts 7 bring us another reality of life on The Way.  Life on The Way can bring persecution and even martyrdom.

Before they stop their ears Stephen rebukes the High Priest and the council Acts 7:51 (ESV) 51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.[7]

Not much has changed.  Today you are on The Way but it is in a world full of stiff-necked people who are uncircumcised in heart and ears, who always resist the Holy Spirit.  There are so many who when confronted with the Word of God cover their ears and scream and try to silence God’s Word.

And living amongst these people and being a natural born sinner yourself, it is quite easy to fall into the idolatry of ignoring God’s Word.  God’s Word speaks against your favorite sin and you just ignore Him.  What is it for you?  What sin in your life do you hold onto and try to rationalize and excuse?  When do you cover your ears and say “La-la-la-la” to try to drown out God’s Way because you want to do it your way?  Far too often you want so badly to do it your way that you are tempted to stop reading God’s Word, stop hearing God’s Word, stop repenting of your sins.  You want to do it your way.  But that is not the right way.  You know The Way.  Jesus is The Way.

When you realize you have stopped up your ears to ignore God, be like the crowds on Pentecost; repent and be baptized.  Repent and live as a baptized child of God in the Kingdom of Heaven. Remain on The Way to your Heavenly Father.  Jesus is The Way.  His life, death and resurrection are credited to you.  You belong to Him.  You have been purchased and won by the innocent blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sin of the world.  Jesus is The Way.  There is no other way.

You are on The Way because Jesus put you on The Way.  Quiet yourself and uncover your ears and hear the Word of God. Turn from sin.  Stay on The Way.  The Way is not easy but it is the only way.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Life is hard, but you know The Way.  Amen.

*


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6] https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2000-08-12-0008120241-story.html

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

Jesus is the only door to Paradise

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Easter 4
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 3, 2020
Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

It is kind of fascinating to think about doorways to other worlds; portals to other lands, times, dimensions.  We see this often in movies and dramas.  Stranger Things is all about the upside down dimension with various entry points.  Alice goes to Wonderland when she falls down a hole.  In Back to the Future the portal is a DeLorean with a flux capacitor.  In the Wizard of Oz it is a Kansas farm house and a tornado.  Dr. Who explores the universe in a blue police box called the TARDIS.  In the Chronicles of Narnia it is a wardrobe in the bedroom.  In Avengers: Endgame the heroes use a time machine to go back in time to undo destruction of half of the earth’s population.

There are a lot of fictional portals to other times and places.  Today, in our Gospel reading we learn about the true portal to the eternal kingdom; the one and only door to paradise.

You live in a broken world.  This is a fallen world with many troubles.  There is disease.  There is violence.  There is murder.  There is abuse.  There is rampant evil.  There is death.  There is great trouble and turmoil.  The Psalmist describes this world as the valley of the shadow of death.  Currently all humanity is affected by a virus which is spreading disease and death across the globe.  Truly you live in a fallen world.

There is another world; a better world, a Kingdom beyond anything you know in this broken world.  There is the Kingdom of Heaven; the Kingdom of God.  This is the Kingdom that Jesus teaches about in His parables, and it is not a Kingdom of this world, as Jesus tells Pontius Pilate.  This is a Kingdom that has three phases.  Phase one is the Kingdom of Heaven while you are still living life in this fallen world.  It is a life lived without fear because you know Jesus is your Good Shepherd.  In this Kingdom you live in the grace a mercy of God and strive to love God and love one another.  Kingdom of Heaven Phase two is the time between your death and the resurrection of the dead.  This phase we don’t know much about.  Your body is buried in the ground and your spirit goes to be with the Lord to rest in peace until the day of resurrection.  Kingdom of Heaven Phase three begins with the resurrection of the dead and it is the full glory of eternal life in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem.  It is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom. It is the Pearl Gates and Golden streets and Jesus as the light.  How do we get to this Kingdom?

Everyone is born into this fallen world of trouble and is, by nature, sinful and unclean.  Everyone is, by nature, blind, dead and an enemy of God.  You are born into the domain of darkness.  How do you get from the domain of darkness to Jesus’ Kingdom?  How do you get to the Kingdom of Heaven?  What is the way to the Kingdom of God?  Where is the portal to this place of grace and mercy and peace?  Where is the door to paradise?  Jesus tells us today in His story about sheep.

John 10:1-5 (ESV) 1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”[1]

Jesus here is continuing to rebuke the Pharisees after they expelled the man born blind and then healed from the synagogue.  Jesus is telling the Pharisees that they are thieves and robbers and that there is one shepherd and there is one door.  In this world there are many, like the Pharisees, who don’t use the door.  These are thieves and robbers who want to hurt the sheep.  There is one shepherd and there is one door.

John 10:7-10 (ESV) 7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.[2]

Jesus is the door. The door is Jesus.  He is the only door.  Jesus is the portal to the Kingdom of Heaven.  If anyone enters by Jesus he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. Where do we hear this language of going in and out?  It is in the blessing after baptism.  The Lord preserve your coming in and your going out from this time forth and even forevermore.  Jesus is the door and Jesus instituted baptism as a portal to the green pastures of the Kingdom of Heaven.  This baptismal font is the portal by which many of you entered the Kingdom of Heaven.  When you see this font, recognize it as the place where so many have been transferred into the light of the Lord.  It is a Holy portal to paradise.  Baptism is God marking you as being in Christ.  Jesus is the door.

The great Good News is that the door is open for everyone.  There is no secret knock.  There is no entrance requirement.  There is no heroic act you need to perform in order to access the door. The door is open for anyone and everyone.  This is great Good News that the door is open for everyone and yet some people find this to be offensive to their sensibilities.  Your intelligence, your reason and your common sense want you to believe that you have to do something.  So many people cannot believe that they don’t have to do anything.  They so much want to believe that they have to have a part in their salvation.  But it is not about you, it is about Jesus for you.

The great Good News is that Jesus is the door and the door is open for everyone. The hard teaching is that Jesus is the only door.  Jesus is the door.  There is no other door.  There is no other way into the Kingdom of Heaven.  There is no other way to the Kingdom of God.  Jesus is the way.  Many find this exclusivity offensive.  People hate that Jesus is the only way.  Out of our compassion we want any way to be a good way, but that is not God’s compassion. God’s ways are not our ways.  God has compassion by opening the way to all people, but there is only one way.

The thieves and the robbers want to deceive you by pretending there are other doors. They talk about other ways to the Kingdom.  It is as if they have painted beautiful doorways on a concrete wall.  This painted concrete looks like a doorway and people talk about it as if it is a doorway; they believe it is a doorway, but it is just a pretty concrete wall and when the time comes to go through the door it will be impossible.  There are very sincere people who believe that all these pretend doors are real portals, but it is just fiction.  Throughout human history folks have made up religions to control people, exploit people, and pacify people.  There are so many false religions all promising that they are the way but those that promote these religions are thieves and robbers.  Jesus is the way.  How do we know that Jesus is the way; because, Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Christianity is completely false if Christ is not raised from the dead, but Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!  There is only one door and that door is Jesus.

It is like an eternally important game of Let’s Make a Deal.  It looks like there are many doors to choose from but only one is really a door.  Jesus is the only door.  There is no mystery here.  You know which door is real.  Tell others. Spread the word.  Jesus is the door.  Jesus is the way.  Don’t let the thieves and robbers lead people to false doors which will leave them outside the Kingdom of Heaven.  We so want to believe that any way is a good way, but there are not many ways; there is only one way.  You know the way.  Jesus is the way.  Jesus is the door.  Amen.

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001