Remember what you are waiting for.

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Pentecost 23 2019 Proper 28
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
November 17, 2019

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

In our Gospel reading today it is the week of Good Friday and Jesus is teaching His disciples and others at the temple in Jerusalem.  Jesus just commended to them a poor widow making a sacrificial offering of all that she had.  The disciples are instead admiring the majestic, beautiful temple.  Jesus uses this opportunity to warn them that this magnificent temple will soon be destroyed; things are going to be really bad.  Jesus is turning the world on its head.  He praises a poor, lowly widow and tells them the great temple will be torn down.

This text is a bit confusing because Jesus is talking prophetically about two things at once.  He is prophesying that in 40 years the Roman army will destroy the temple in Jerusalem and Jesus is talking about the Last Day, when He will return to judge the living and the dead.  And, as prophecies can be, it is kind of cryptic and Jesus switches from 70 AD to the last day without warning.  Many of the people to whom Jesus is speaking will experience the horrible Roman siege of Jerusalem, and then its capture and destruction.  The first part of Jesus’ prophecy has come to pass, but we still wait for the second part of the prophecy.

The Last Day is approaching.  Jesus will return in glory for judgement.  Each day we get one day closer, but we do not know when it will happen.  And so we wait.  We wait for Jesus to return.  We wait like the church has been waiting for 2,000 years.

Now waiting is hard.  I recently had to go to the new Hamilton Westside BMV for a vehicle registration and there is now a big waiting area and you take a number and sit down.  So I go up and pull my number… 35.  I look at the sign on the wall and it says now serving number 18.  I sigh and take a seat.  The sign on the wall says no cell phone usage, but no one seems to be paying it much mind, so I pull out my smart phone and open the kindle app and read for a bit while I watch the number on the wall climb ever closer to 35.  I can distract myself from the waiting but I still stay pretty focused on the wait sitting there watching the number on the wall go up.  I know why I am at the BMV and what I need to accomplish and I know my turn will come.

We really don’t like to wait but we endure it because we can see the end of the line.  We have a number and know that our number will come up as we see the progress.  We also wait in a waiting room so we stay focused on what we are doing.

Waiting for Jesus to return is a different kind of waiting.  Jesus said He is coming back but He didn’t say when.  There is no sign on the wall with the number being served.  There is no line snaking towards the Last Day that you can see yourself getting closer.  You don’t know how long you will have to wait.

It is hard to wait when things are going well.  When everything is good it can be easy to be distracted by all the good things of this life.

It is hard to wait when things are rough.  When there is conflict and persecution and sickness and injury and people are dying.  It is hard to stay focused on what you are waiting for in good times and in hard times.  So remember what it is that you are waiting for.

You are waiting for the fulfillment of all that Jesus promised.  You are waiting for your full redemption.  You are waiting for an end to warfare and violence and terrorism and abuse and neglect and heartache and pain and death.  You are waiting for the day of perfect peace.  You are waiting for the dead to be raised.  You are waiting for Jesus to return and take you to be with Him to live in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem forever.  You are waiting for God’s Kingdom to come in its fullness.  You are waiting for the day when eternity with God begins.

Waiting is hard.  It is frustrating to wait in line at the store or an amusement park, to wait for the doctor, to wait in traffic.

Waiting for Jesus to return is the ultimate wait.  You have no idea if the wait will be one day, 10 days, 10 years, 100 years, 1,000 years, 10,000 years.  And life can be hard.  It is easy to get distracted.  Jesus warns of this at the end of our Gospel reading today.  Luke 21:34-36 (ESV) 34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”[1]

Together you stay on guard against giving into dissipation; sloppy living; laziness, drunkenness, sexual immorality.  Together with your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world you support one another through hardship and persecution.  Together you stay alert for Jesus’ return which will come suddenly, like a trap.  Together you wait.  You love.  You serve.

Watch yourselves.  Stay awake.  Pray for strength.  Be prepared for Jesus to return.  Remember what you are waiting for.  Come together here each week and think about this place as a waiting room for Jesus’ return.  Here it is easier to remember what you are waiting for.  Here you gather to receive the gift of God’s forgiveness, here you sing praises and thanksgiving to the Lord, here you receive the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God to strengthen you and keep you in the true faith until life everlasting.  Here you look forward to the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom.  Here, together, you wait for Jesus to return.  Here, together, you wait in humble service, bringing the light of Christ to a world of darkness.  Together you watch.  Together you stay awake.  Together you pray for strength.  Together you guard against idolizing the powerful and influential and instead you honor humble servants of God.  Together you resist the urge to love the beautiful, shiny things of this life instead of being thankful for God’s basic gifts.

Together you stay on guard against giving into dissipation; sloppy living; laziness, drunkenness, sexual immorality.  Together with your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world you support one another through hardship and persecution.  Together you stay alert for Jesus’ return which will come suddenly, like a trap.  Together you wait.  You love.  You serve.

The wait for Jesus’ return has been going on for 2,000 years.  It has been going on for 123 years here at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Hamilton, Ohio.  Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have died and their bodies are buried while their spirits have gone to be with the Lord to wait for the resurrection of their bodies on the Last Day.  They wait with the Lord, you wait here, we all wait for Jesus to return.  And while you still have breath in you, you use your time wisely; making the most of each day.  Live your life as a baptized Christian, redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  Do what a Christian should be doing.  Do what you are given to do in your various vocations.  Seek out ways to love and serve your neighbor.

Your waiting is not a time to despair or a time to distract yourself from the wait.  Your waiting time is a time to, in the words of St. Paul in Philippians 3:14 (ESV) 14 …press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.[2]

Your waiting is a time to persevere against the onslaughts of the devil, the world and your own sinful nature.  And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again and arms are strong.

There is great persecution against the church in many parts of the world.  Churches are being destroyed in China by the communists.  Christians are being arrested and imprisoned in many nations.  Christians are being killed for the faith in Nigeria and elsewhere by Muslim extremists. Here we can see dark clouds rolling in as the forces of the moral revolution in America are attempting to silence the truth of God and force their beliefs on everyone.  Standing on the solid rock of Jesus we watch and we prepare and we stay on guard and when things get tough we remember Jesus tells us to Luke 21:28 (ESV) 28 … straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” [3]

As you wait for Jesus to return, keep your head up, keep your eyes on the goal, stay focused on what it is you are waiting for, do not get distracted.  Live each day as who you are; a Christian waiting for Christ to return.  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

 

You are weak, vulnerable, helpless and blessed.

nullAll Saints Day 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
November 3, 2019
Rev. 7:9-17, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12

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

You are on a lonely country road driving through the night with the kids in the back seat trying to make it to your mother’s house.  Your spouse left you.  You got fired and ran through what little savings you had.  The credit card is maxed out and the bank account is overdrawn.  You lost your apartment and you sold your cell phone to a friend for enough money to get gas to get to your mother’s in the next state.  It’s 3:12 AM when the engine misses.  Your fuel gauge is further below the E than you have ever seen it and what you fear happens quickly.  The engine sputters and quits and you coast to a stop on the side of the country road with almost no shoulder so most of the car is still on the road.  You cannot see a house anywhere around.  You put the hazard lights on and start to cry as you realize how helpless and alone you are.  You are the one who is supposed to be taking care of the kids in the back seat and you can’t even take care of yourself.  You are weak, vulnerable and helpless.  You can’t fix this problem. You are at the mercy of whoever may come by on that road at 3 in the morning.

Weak, vulnerable and helpless.  We hate these feelings.  We spend a lot of money on insurance to try to diminish the feeling of helplessness.  We do our best to maintain our health.  We save money for a rainy day.  We work hard in our lives to avoid feeling weak and vulnerable and helpless.

This is why Christianity can be so difficult for so many.  Christianity is about knowing you are weak, knowing you are vulnerable, knowing you are helpless.  Indeed the doorway to salvation is knowing that you come before God an empty-handed beggar with no standing.

Infants who are baptized are indeed weak, vulnerable and helpless.  They have no standing.  They have nothing to offer.  God simply gives and they receive.  Children know they are weak and helpless.  For children, faith is easier because there is not the great horror at admitting you are weak.  Faith is easier for children because they are more honest about who they are.  Matthew 19:14 (ESV) 14 …Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”[1]

The older you get the more desperately you want to believe you are in charge of the things in your life.  Salvation is one of those things.  You want to play a part.  You want to be involved.  You want to be able to work some formula and make it happen.  You want to be able to fix your problems.  But you cannot.  You are weak.  You are vulnerable.  You are helpless.  You need Jesus.  You are poor in spirit.

Matthew 5:3 (ESV) 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.[2]

Blessed is the one who knows they come to God emptyhanded.  Blessed does not mean happy or something like that.  These are not the be-happy-attitudes.  Blessed here means you are blessed for all eternity.  Blessed here is a blessing for the last day that you will be judged righteous and spend eternity in heaven with the Lord.  Blessed here means the kingdom of God is yours now and forever.  Knowing you are a spiritual beggar you are made a part of the reign of God because you are blessed by the Lord Jesus.

Being poor in spirit is your status; it is who you are.  It is the status of all people everywhere but so many want to deny it.  As a Christian you know you are poor in spirit; you know you are weak, vulnerable and helpless and you know that sin and evil lurk in your own soul, sin and evil lurk in your thoughts and desires, sin and evil surround you in this world.  You know the utter, awful, horrifying evil that is all around you.  Sin and evil and also the tragedies of life; the pain, the suffering, the sickness and the death.  Truly you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  You know the evil and the tragedy in your own life and in the lives of those around you.  You have seen sin and evil tear apart lives and families and you know you are helpless to stop it.

And so you mourn over it.  Mourning is the attitude that you have because of your status of being Poor in Spirit.  You mourn because you know your helplessness.  You mourn because you recognize all the evil and hurt in the world and it brings you sadness and anguish.  As you mourn, remember Jesus’ promise in Matthew 5:4 (ESV) 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.[3]  In the end, evil will not win.  In the end, evil will be destroyed and truth and love will fully triumph.

            Blessed is the one who knows they come to God emptyhanded.  Blessed does not mean happy or something like that.  These are not the be-happy-attitudes.  Blessed here means you are blessed for all eternity.  Blessed here is a blessing for the last day that you will be judged righteous and spend eternity in heaven with the Lord.  Blessed here means the kingdom of God is yours now and forever.  Knowing you are a spiritual beggar you are made a part of the reign of God because you are blessed by the Lord Jesus.

Matthew 5:5 (ESV) 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.[4]  Being meek is a status, not an attitude.  Being meek and lowly is who you are, not what you should pursue.  When you acknowledge that you are indeed lowly; that you cannot stop sinning and you are powerless to make yourself holy, it brings about in you a longing to be righteous; a hungering, a thirsting to be saved from your sins.

Matthew 5:5-6 (ESV) 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.[5]  Knowing you are poor in spirit, and meek and lowly allows you to see that you need Jesus and Jesus comes to you to claim you and reassure you that the troubles of this present life are only temporary.

This first sermon from Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew is earth shattering.  It is so completely contrary to the ways of the world.  The Sermon on the Mount exposes the utter emptiness of the ways of the world where self-righteousness and power are the name of the game.  The humble knowledge that you are helpless before God is the doorway to knowing you need Jesus.  Jesus is teaching the people that He has come to reign over the Kingdom of Heaven and bring that Kingdom to all people.   But the Kingdom of God; the Kingdom of Heaven is not the kind of kingdom people are used to knowing.  Jesus comes as King, but not as a King who is served, rather as a King who serves.  A King who is born into a simple family and laid in a manger.  A King who washes feet.  A King who offers Himself as the sacrifice for sins.  A King whose crown is made of vicious, stabbing thorns.  A King whose throne is a cruel Roman cross.  A King whose greatest glory is found in being abused, humiliated and killed.  A King who suffers and dies for you.  A King who rises from the dead for you.  A King who comes to save you.  Jesus reigns over this Kingdom of love and service and in your baptism you are sealed as a citizen of this Kingdom.

And so on All Saint’s Day remember your baptism and celebrate all those baptized believers who have gone before you in the faith whose spirits are with the Lord awaiting the Last Day and the resurrection of the dead.  Today we remember our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We remember mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers who have died in the faith and rest from their labors.  We remember we are right now in the Kingdom of God and we look forward to the coming last day when we will be raised up together, the living and the dead, to stand before the judgement seat of God.  We look forward to the judgement day when all those clothed in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness will march into the heavenly city of New Jerusalem.  We look forward to being a part of the Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV) 9 … great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”[6]

We look forward to the day when the saints go marching in because on that day evil will be destroyed forever, sin will be abolished, hatred will end, and God will wipe away every tear from your eyes.

Knowing you are weak, vulnerable and helpless is a terrible feeling, but knowing Jesus has given you the gift of eternal life with Him is a healing balm beyond comprehension.  So today look beyond the fading things of this short life and look towards the glory of your unveiled, eternal life in the Kingdom of God given by Jesus Christ.  Matthew 5:3 (ESV) 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.[7]

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

 

Not a day for pride.

nullReformation Sunday 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
October 27, 2019
Proper 25 Genesis 4:1-15, 1 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18, Luke 18:9-17

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

502 years ago on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany.  He intended to begin a discussion of the selling of indulgences.  In reading the New Testament, Luther rediscovered the Gospel truth that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Luther believed the truth of the Gospel and was writing against church practice of selling indulgences in which you could pay a sum of money to erase the penalty for your sins.  The recent invention of the movable type printing press enabled Luther’s ideas to be quickly printed and spread throughout Germany.  Those hammer blows in 1517 led to Luther being excommunicated at the Diet of Worms in 1521 and becoming a wanted man; dead or alive.  With the help of his prince, Frederick, Elector of Saxony, Luther was hidden in the Wartburg Castle for nine months where he translated the New Testament into German.  Under Frederick’s protection Luther’s Reformation was able to spread.

We rejoice at the success of the Reformation in which we now continue to live and worship.  We rejoice, but we need to be on guard against becoming proud of ourselves.  Our pride is only the cross of Christ.  Boast in Christ alone.  St. Paul writes in Galatians 6:14 (ESV)14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.[1]  We must guard against pride because of the essence of the Reformation.  In the Reformation the truth Luther risked his life to preach and teach is that we are not saved by what we do, we are saved by Christ alone.  If it is not about what we do then we have nothing to boast about, except Jesus.  We have nothing to boast about in ourselves.

Boasting is a problem with our human nature.  It comes so naturally to us to look down on others and think about and talk about how we are better than them.  We want to know where we stand and who is below us in the pecking order.  We want to keep score of who is the greatest; in sports, in school, at work, in the neighborhood, even at church.  We want to boast in our abilities, our accomplishments, all the good things that we have done.  We want to be able to boast, but the Reformation takes boasting away from us.  Because the truth of the Gospel is, Jesus has done it all for you.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus is teaching lessons using a parable about two men praying at the temple.  One of the men is considered to be a good guy.  He is a Pharisee.  He follows the rules.  He does the right things.  He is a respected religious leader and a pillar of the community.  The other man is a bad guy; a tax collector; a low life; a sell out to the enemy.  He is an outcast from society and is not welcome among the good people.  They are both praying.  The good guy prays a boastful prayer about how good he is and how much better he is than that other guy.  The bad guy stands far off, will not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beats his breast saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”

But that is not how it works.  The amazing Good News is that Jesus has done it all so, “Did I do enough?” is the wrong question.  The question is, “Did Jesus do enough?” and the answer is “yes.”  Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is enough to save you.  In your baptism Jesus seals you in His forgiveness.  You trust Christ.  You know you are forgiven.  You live your life in His love.  You love and serve others as Christ loves and serves you.

The good guy prays a proud prayer.  The bad guy prays for mercy.  Which one leaves the temple forgiven?  Which one is justified before God?  The bad guy is the one who is forgiven.  He who humbles himself before God and begs for mercy is forgiven and all his sins are washed away.  The one who appeals to his own good works remains in his sin.

This is the Reformation truth uncovered by Martin Luther; it is not about you, it is about Jesus for you.  Salvation is completely accomplished by God.  You have nothing to boast about except to boast in the cross of Christ.  It is not about you.  This may seem harsh, but it is truly such sweet good news.  It is such great good news because if even the tiniest part of your salvation were dependent on your works, you would be in constant doubt as to whether you have done it well enough.  Did I pray enough, did I repent enough, did I love enough, did I give enough, did I do enough?  This is what made indulgences so popular.  You could pay for a piece of paper that transferred the merits of the saints to your account so you could say you have done enough.

But that is not how it works.  The amazing Good News is that Jesus has done it all so, “Did I do enough?” is the wrong question.  The question is, “Did Jesus do enough?” and the answer is “yes.”  Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is enough to save you.  In your baptism Jesus seals you in His forgiveness.  You trust Christ.  You know you are forgiven.  You live your life in His love.  You love and serve others as Christ loves and serves you.

In this parable from Jesus there are two lessons: do not trust in yourself and do not treat others with contempt.  Getting on your knees and confessing that you are a helpless sinner at the beginning of the service is a public confession that you do not trust in yourself.  Live out your life in humble submission to God’s will and do not look down on others no matter who they are.

Ponder the truth that Jesus died for all people and remember it means all people.  Anyone you see is someone for whom Jesus shed His blood.  There is no one you get to dismiss out of hand because they are not good enough.  None of us are good enough and yet we are constantly tempted to look down on others; dismiss others, write them off as unworthy; unimportant.  We are tempted to separate the world into the good guys and the bad guys.  We want to have these categories and yet we learn from today’s Gospel reading that Jesus does not care about these categories and so we should not care about these categories.  We are all the same.  We are all sinners.  We all need Jesus.

So when you see someone whom you are tempted to label as a bad guy, don’t.  When you are tempted to label a group of people and dismiss them, don’t.  When you are tempted to look down on someone else and think badly about them or talk trash about them, don’t.  The only label you should use is, “someone for whom Jesus died.”  That person you want to trash is one of God’s precious creations who needs Jesus as much as you do.

When you are tempted to dismiss someone as unimportant remember the next lesson from our Gospel reading today.  The disciples stopped the people from bringing their babies to Jesus to have Him bless them.  The disciples must believe Jesus is too important and too busy to be involved with a bunch of infants.  But how does Jesus respond?  Luke 18:16-17 (ESV) 16 …Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” [2]  There is no one who is unimportant to Jesus.  We all come to Jesus; not as proud, important people, but as vulnerable, helpless spiritual infants.

So, as you celebrate and remember the Reformation and all that Martin Luther accomplished in bringing us the sweet truth of the Gospel do it knowing that the Gospel truth leaves no room to boast except in Christ on the cross for you.

In 63 days, God willing, I and a number of you will get to stand in front of the doorway in Wittenberg Germany where Luther nailed the 95 theses and unknowingly began the Reformation.  We will stand over Luther’s grave inside the Castle Church.  As you do that, remember the truth that Luther brought to light.  Jesus died for sinners like you.  Remember the essence of the Reformation.  Jesus did it all for you.  Rejoice not in your works, but in your eternal salvation given to you by your Savior, Jesus, the 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

 

Pray continually

nullPentecost 19 2019, Proper 24
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
October 20, 2019
Gen 32:22-30, 2 Tim 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8

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

Like most Bible readings, today’s Gospel comes to us from a larger context.  We are reminded that while chapter and verse numbers are useful aids for finding places in the Bible, they are not inspired.

It can seem that Luke 18 is a new idea, but it follows Jesus teaching about the end of time and the persecution that the church will endure.  At times this persecution will be so severe that God’s people will eagerly desire the end of time to come quickly.  Luke 17:22 (ESV) 22 And [Jesus] said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.[1]  Jesus encourages the disciples not to lose heart in the middle of persecution.  For when the time is right, the Son of Man will come to judge the living and the dead.

Here is where today’s Gospel begins.  In light of the fact that the church will be persecuted in this world, Luke 18:1 (ESV) 1 …[Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.[2]  Jesus instructs His church to pray while she is in this world.

The judge in the parable is not worthy of his position.  Luke 18:2 (ESV) 2 [Jesus] said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.[3]  This judge is interested in his own comfort and doesn’t really care about the cases that come before him.  He isn’t interested in the law of God and he isn’t interested in the opinion of people.  He is just interested in his own convenience.  How would you like to come before this man in a legal dispute?  You would rather find a different judge.

Unfortunately, the widow in today’s parable has no choice.  Widows in biblical times have no power or economic clout.  They are among the weakest, most vulnerable members of society.  For this reason, Old Testament law stipulates that God’s people care for them.  Deuteronomy 27:19 (ESV) 19 “ ‘[Moses said] Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ …[4]  Jesus does not give us the details of the woman’s case because they are not relevant to the point of the parable.  What we do know is that this woman went to someone who should have helped her get justice.

The judge sees no gain in helping the woman, so he decides to ignore her.  He hopes she will just give up and go away, but she doesn’t.  Every morning he enters his court and there she is making her petition.  Eventually, he gets sick and tired of seeing her.  After a while, Luke 18:4-5 (ESV) 4 … he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ”[5]  He does not hear her case because it is the right thing to do, but because he is sick and tired of seeing her in his court every day.

This parable is a parable of contrasts.  Jesus contrasts this unrighteous judge with God, who is righteous and holy.  Luke 18:6-8 (ESV) 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily… [6]  With these words, Jesus teaches His disciples that if an unrighteous judge will give justice just to get a nagging widow off his back, how much more will the God of love and mercy ultimately bring justice to His people.  The judge doesn’t want to hear from the widow.  God wants to hear from us.

The contrast between God and the unrighteous judge is not the only contrast in this parable.  There is also the contrast between us and the widow.  Although Jesus does not tell us the details of the widow’s case, we do know that it was a good case.  On the other hand, our case before God is the exact opposite.  If we ever came alone before the court of the Holy and Almighty God, He would immediately find us guilty and sentence us to nothing but punishment here in time and forever in eternity.  The widow has good reason to ask the court to act.  We have good reason to ask the court not to act.  We, by nature, have no rights in God’s court.

But God loves us so much that He works out a plan to give us those rights.  He sends His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world in order to redeem the world.  Jesus Christ endures the punishment of the guilty verdict we deserve.  He opens God’s court to all when He dies on the cross and then rises from the dead.  Although we have no rights in God’s court, He gives us rights for the sake of His beloved Son.  We receive those rights when the Holy Spirit works faith in us.

The judge, who neither fears God nor cares about his fellow man, finally does the right thing just to get the widow off his back.  How much more will God, who sacrifices His only begotten Son do what is best for us?  When it comes to God, we are assured that He listens and will surely grant grace to those who cry out to him.

In this parable, Jesus teaches us to pray continually and never lose heart.  Why?  Because his promise is that he will grant justice for his chosen ones and will do so quickly.  However, the justice he grants is not what we deserve.  He does not bring about the justice dictated by the law, but the justice dictated by His love and grace.  Jesus shows us that God’s justice is not rightly understood until you first understand God’s suffering love, a suffering love that has as its aim to make the sinner whole and the ungodly just.  This suffering love is even for people like the unjust judge, and it is for you and me as well.

Marin Luther, when he teaches about prayer in his Small Catechism, says that we are to be confident when we pray.  We “ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”  We are God’s children for the sake of the innocent suffering and death of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  God deeply longs for us to approach him, describing to him the needs of our lives and the longings of our hearts.  Do we do it once?  twice?  No! We pray continually.  We never give up.

The most profound prayer we have is the prayer that Jesus Himself gave to us.  In a few minutes we will join together in that prayer.  Shortly after that, God will answer that prayer in a very special way.  What better way is there for God’s Kingdom to come on this earth than when it comes in the true body and blood of our savior, Jesus Christ?  With that body and blood we receive forgiveness for our trespasses for Jesus himself said, Matthew 26:28 (ESV) 28 … this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.[7]  Is it any wonder that we pray the Lord’s Prayer shortly before we receive this very special answer to this prayer?

We are children of God for the sake of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ; we already have God’s Kingdom among us.  However, we are not fully aware of His kingdom, as the Apostle Paul tells us in, 1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV) 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.[8]  So we pray continuously.  We pray especially for the end of time when we shall see Jesus face-to-face.  We pray for the final day of judgment.

After Jesus finishes telling the parable He asks,  Luke 18:8 (ESV) 8 …when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”[9]  Will he find faith that is persistent and loyal?  And the answer implied in the question is yes, he will! He will find people like those mentioned throughout the Bible who prayed without ceasing.  He will find faith in people like the tax collector, who humbles himself and beats his chest imploring God for mercy.  He will find faith in people who, like the little children, look to Christ and trust him implicitly.  He will find faith in people like the blind beggar, who cries out to Christ for healing and mercy.  He will find faith in people like you and me.  For we, too, are a people who stand before God imploring Christ for mercy and leaning on him for everlasting hope.

So can we pray and not lose heart?  Yes! Can we pray and not give up?  Absolutely! For we know to whom we belong.  Jesus Christ shed His blood in order to ransom you from sin.  You belong to Him.  You are part of His family.  He has won eternal life for you.  Part of that eternal life is the right to open your heart to God in prayer as the Apostle Peter teaches, 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV) 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.[10] He cares for you and, unlike the judge in today’s parable; God wants to hear from you.  You are his beloved child.  Pray continually and do not lose heart.  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

 

IHS Restoration

nullPentecost 18 2019, Proper 23
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
October 13, 2019
Ruth 1:1-19a, 2 Timothy 2:1-13, Luke 17:11-19

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

In every city and every town there are abandoned houses.  These houses were once homes filled with families and love and laughter but now sit empty, filthy, broken down, and lonely.  These houses are the bane of their neighborhoods.  They are an eyesore, they are a blight.  They are in desperate need of restoration.

I enjoy watching HGTV shows about fixing up run down homes.  It is truly amazing to see the difference before and after the restoration.  One particular show is more extreme than others.  It is called “Good Bones” and a woman and her mother buy houses in Indianapolis that are in extremely bad shape and take them down to the studs and rebuild them.  They change neighborhood blight into the best house on the block and a new family takes up residence and makes the house a home and fills it with love and laughter and life.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus comes across ten lepers.  Lepers are not only afflicted with a terrible skin disease, but in the Jewish communities they are cast out of society and have to live on the fringes and when people come near they must call out, “Unclean! Unclean!”  These lepers were once part of loving families and communities, but now they are broken down and a blight to wherever they are.  When the ten lepers see Jesus, Luke 17:13 (ESV) 13 …[they lift] up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”[1]

Luke 17:14 (ESV) 14 When [Jesus sees] them he [says] to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they [go] they [are] cleansed.[2]

Jesus restores the ten lepers.  He brings them all back to full physical health.  One leper, a Samaritan, returns praising God and falling on his face at Jesus’ feet.  All ten lepers were physically restored, and this one former leper is also spiritually restored.  He knows that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, and he gives praise and thanks at the feet of God.  Luke 17:19 (ESV) 19 And [Jesus says] to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” [3]  True wellness is the knowledge that Jesus is God for you.

This leper is restored physically and spiritually.  He has new life.  He has the Holy Spirit dwelling within him.  His body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  He is full of life; eternal life.  Jesus fully restores this man.

Jesus is still in the restoration business.  Not of rundown homes, but of rundown people, and there is a world full of rundown people.  There are so many lonely, hurting people in this world; so many isolated and alone.

There is the man who sits by himself in his apartment watching television and scrolling through Twitter and Facebook.  He is connected to people all over the world and yet he is agonizingly alone.

There are prisoners who are in a dorm block with 39 other men and yet are absolutely isolated.

There is the older woman who was once very active in life and now only leaves her home to go to doctors’ appointments.

There is the young mother caring for her children who longs for an adult conversation.

There is the student who is surrounded by others at school but does not have a close, trusted friend and is very alone in the crowd of people.

There is the young person away from home for the first time at college.

There is the addict who thinks everyone is judging her.

There are so many with secret sins and grave doubts that they are afraid to share with anyone and they find themselves very much alone.  The devil uses this isolation and loneliness as a tool of despair and destruction to separate you from the source of life.

Because you know that feeling of isolation and loneliness.  You have experienced it yourself.  You are by nature sinful and unclean.  You’ve been that hurting person with shameful secrets that you do not want to see the light of day.  You have been broken down.  You have been that one who is a blight to others.  Praise God, Jesus is in the restoration business.

The 10 lepers were unclean.  They were cast out from normal society and had to live along the margins.  Jesus cleanses them.  Jesus restores them.

You are, by nature, sinful and unclean, and today you come into Jesus’ presence and he restores you.  In your daily remembrance of your baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, you die to sin and rise to new life.  Jesus takes your darkness, your shame, your guilt, the filth of your sin.  He takes all that away and He washes you clean.  You are washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism.  You are washed clean in Jesus’ words of forgiveness.  Jesus’ touch heals you as He gives you His body and His blood.  Jesus restores you and fills you with the Holy Spirit and welcomes you into community with Him and with your fellow followers of Jesus.

Jesus is in the business of restoration.  Each week you go out into the world to fulfill your various vocations and you get beat up and run down by the devil, the world and your own sinful flesh.  And so you come here on Sunday morning to be restored; to be forgiven; to be cleansed and connected to the community.

Today we welcome little Walter Fonner in the waters of Holy Baptism and we welcome many new members to God’s Church here at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hamilton, Ohio.  As we welcome new members into our midst; into our family, we promise to care for them and they promise to care for us.  We are in this together.  We are being restored together.  You all care for one another in many and various ways already, and I urge you to seek new ways to connect to each other and care for one another.  Continue to get to know each other.  Be intentional about introducing yourself to someone you don’t know.  Come to breakfast on Sunday morning at 9:15 AM and stay for a Bible class and Sunday School at 9:45 AM.  Once in a while go to the other service.  8:00 AM folks attend the 10:45 AM service.  10:45 AM folks get up early and come to the 8:00 AM service.  Meet your brothers and sisters in Christ who you may never have met.  You may be a lifelong member at Immanuel and folks at the other service will think you are a visitor.

Be the conduit to bring others into Jesus’ restoring care.  Consider in your day-to-day life people who may be lonely and disconnected.  Reach out to them to invite them to come with you on Sunday morning to be restored by Jesus and connected to the Body of Christ here in this place.  Think of those who are part of this fellowship that you haven’t seen for a while.  Drop them a note.  Give them a call.  Reach out and invite them to return to this place of restoration.

And when you see an abandoned house, run down and needing repair, think about the restoration God has done to you.  In Christ, God has taken you from being a broken down sinner deserving death and hell to being a saint of God destined for eternal life in the heavenly city.  You have been restored and you are marked by Christ for complete restoration on the last day when the dead will be raised in perfection to dwell in the presence of God, forever.

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

 

Hell is real even if we wish it weren’t

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Pentecost 16 2019 Proper 21
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 29, 2019

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

The story of the rich man and Lazarus is one of those Biblical teachings that leaves you troubled and wondering.  It is a text that the more you think about it, the more disturbing it becomes.

Why is it so disquieting?  First, there is the clear teaching that there is punishment in the world to come.  Now we talk about Hell, we joke about Hell, but real Hell; real, eternal consequence for our sin is something we would rather not think about.  It is something we would like to get rid of if we could.  We want to be able to declare that there is no Hell; it is closed for good.  Most of the made up American religions such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists and the like get rid of the Biblical teaching of punishment in the afterlife.  Liberal Christian churches are quickly joining them in eliminating the concept of Hell and transitioning themselves into effectively being Universalists.  The leader of ELCA is quoted as saying she believes in Hell but doesn’t think anyone is there.

And it is completely understandable.  The reality of punishment in the world to come is deeply disturbing.  God punishing sinners with eternal…fiery…suffering is too horrible to ponder.  If we could wish Hell out of existence, we all would do it.  And that is what makes today’s Gospel that much more disconcerting.  Jesus is teaching that Hell is real.

Another very unsettling aspect of this text is that it demonstrates that the things that we think show us that God is blessing us, may instead, be what imprisons us.  Success in this life is not an indication of God’s favor.

The prosperity preachers grow wealthy teaching that success in life is a sign of God pouring out His blessings upon you.  If success is a sign of God’s favor then in Jesus’ parable it would follow that the rich man is the one who is blessed by God and poor, starving, sore-covered Lazarus is cursed.  According to the prosperity Gospel and worldly common sense, the rich man is blessed and Lazarus is cursed.  But as we read this parable we find out that is completely backwards.  The man with the money is cursed by God and the beggar is blessed.  This causes us to ask, what about me?  How do I know if I am in God’s good graces?”

Hell is real.  There is punishment in the world to come and I cannot tell by worldly possessions where I am headed.  So the looming questions are, “How do I avoid punishment?  What can I do?  Do I need to be more generous and give away more of what I have?  Do I need to become a destitute beggar like Lazarus?  What do I do?  Is there a score card of good deeds and bad deeds?  Is there a scale weighing out good and evil?”

People will sometimes ask questions such as, “Is Judas in Hell?”  “Is this person or that person in Hell?”  “Are these people going to Hell?”  You can seek guidance from God’s Word about these things, but the decision of who is destined for heaven and who is destined for Hell is a question that is way above your paygrade and mine.  God alone is to judge.  But that means that God does indeed judge.  God decides and you cannot influence God by something you do.  Hell is real and God is in charge.  This account of the rich man and Lazarus stays with you like a nagging splinter in your foot that you can’t remove and find comfort.

The rich man says to Abraham, Luke 16:27-28 (ESV) 27 … ‘… I beg you, father, to send [Lazarus] to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers —so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’[1]

The rich man is suffering and he wants to send Lazarus to warn his brothers to repent while there is still time.  He wants Lazarus to tell them that Hell is real.  29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’  They have God’s Word in Holy Scripture.  Lazarus will not bring a warning.  The Scriptures warn.  We see this in our Old Testament reading from Amos a warning against living lives as the idle rich.  Amos 6:4 (ESV) 4 “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall,[2]  There are warnings about the rich abusing the poor in many places in books of Moses and the Prophets.  Jesus has been warning the Pharisees and Scribes about their need for repentance and the danger of their love of money and this parable continues that warning.  This parable of the rich man and Lazarus is meant to trouble the Pharisees and scribes and it is upsetting for us also.

Jesus continues the teaching and ties it to His own upcoming death and resurrection.  Luke 16:29-31 (ESV) 30 And [the rich man] said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ” [3],

Sadly this is so very true.  People at Jesus’ time who are not convinced to repent and believe the Good News by Jesus’ life, miracles and sacrificial death are still not convinced by Jesus rising from the dead.  And Jesus did rise from the dead.  We have eyewitness accounts and still today so many do not repent and believe the good news.

            This changes everything.  You live as a child of God redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  You live in the freedom to rightly see that all the things of this life are not idols to be worshiped, but are tools to use to love and serve others.  Money and belongings are not your gods.  They are tools you use to serve God and your neighbor.

Jesus’ resurrection confirms that He is God the Father’s chosen one.  God the Father gives all good things to Jesus.  Jesus’ resurrection shows He is victorious over sin, death and the devil and to the victor goes the spoils.  Jesus is indeed God in flesh and He has the authority to decide heaven or hell.  God is in charge.  God in Christ is the fount and source of all goodness.  Hell is real.  The amazing Good News is that Jesus is here today for you to give you the gift of eternal life.  He gives it in His words of forgiving absolution.  He gives you the gift in His Body and Blood given and shed for you.  Jesus paid to ransom you from an eternity in Hell and gives you the gift of eternal life in paradise.

The rich man in Hades is in agony and wants a few drops of water from Lazarus.  Jesus gave you more than a few drops of water.  God has poured out forgiveness upon you in abundance in your baptism.  He gives to you forgiveness and eternal life.  He rescues you from sin, death, the devil and Hell.  He marks you as His child destined to inherit the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven.

This changes everything.  You live as a child of God redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  You live in the freedom to rightly see that all the things of this life are not idols to be worshiped, but are tools to use to love and serve others.  Money and belongings are not your gods.  They are tools you use to serve God and your neighbor.

Because of your sin you belong with the rich man in Hell, but Jesus has given you eternal life; what great joy this brings.  Paul writes about this in Colossians 1:11-14 (ESV) 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. [4]

Live in the forgiveness of God, forgiving others and loving others.  And as you move through this life, do not be fooled by appearances.  Success in life is not an indication of God’s favor; failure in this life is not an indicator of God’s judgement.  These are the things of this world and not of the Kingdom of God.  Cling to Christ not to the things of this world.

Hell is real.  God is in charge and you are not.  The Good News is Jesus has given you the gift of eternal life heaven.  Salvation is all about Jesus.

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

 

Jesus welcomes sinners

nullPentecost 14 2019 Proper 19
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 15, 2019
Ezekiel 34:11-24, 1 Timothy 1:5-17, Luke 15:1-10

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 Friday night and you are celebrating so you and your spouse go to a fancy restaurant for dinner.  As you follow the hostess you see a large table set up and a well-dressed, respected local leader is there at the head of the table.  He is respected, but you look around and you see a bunch of the low-life folks of town eating with him.  There are bums and meth heads and burnouts and gang-bangers and ex-cons, and hookers and drunks.  It is a motley-looking group all sitting down for dinner with this respected leader.

You wonder to yourself, “What is going on here?  What is he doing with the likes of them?”  These are not the people he should be having dinner with.  They should not be at this nice restaurant.

In our Gospel reading Jesus is attracting a motley group of sinners and tax collectors.  They are coming to Jesus to hear Him teach, and this makes the Pharisees and the scribes angry; they start to grumble.  They grumble like the Exodus Israelites in the desert who grumble because they do not like how God is doing things.  The Pharisees and scribes grumble because Jesus receives sinners and even eats with them.  They wonder… “What is He doing with the likes of them?”

The Pharisees and scribes think Jesus is one of the “us”; one of the good people, the religious leaders and teachers.  So what is “He” doing hanging out with “them”; low-life sinners, and dishonest, traitorous tax collectors.

The Pharisees and scribes have the “us” being the good religious people like themselves and the “them” being those no good sinners.

It is easy to fall into thinking about people this way.  “Us” versus “them”.  “Us” being the good, hard-working, rule-following people and “them” being the lazy, no-good rotten sinners.  “Us” and “them”.  It is easy to fall into this way of thinking, it is the world’s way of thinking…but it is not Jesus’ way of thinking.  We are tempted to categorize people so we can dismiss them and ignore them.  We have all sorts of categories.  There are the bums, drunks, druggies, thugs, hippies, LGBT folks…lots of categories we use to sort people into “us” and “them”?

In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus addresses the grumbling scribes and Pharisees by telling two stories about lost and found.  What we need to figure out is how Jesus’ “lost” and “found” categories relate to our “us” and “them” categories.  In the first parable the shepherd is very concerned about one lost sheep.  The message is Luke 15:7 (ESV) 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. [1]

The woman in the second story is very concerned about one lost coin.  The message is Luke 15:10 (ESV) 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”[2]

Jesus rebukes the grumbling religious leaders who are thinking that the sinners and tax collectors do not belong with “us”.  Jesus is teaching that the sinners and tax collectors are the lost item that has been found.  They are one sinner who repents.  They are the one for whom heaven rejoices.  The Pharisees and scribes are lost even though they believe they are good enough.  They are the ninety-nine who “need no repentance.”

What does Jesus means when He says they “need no repentance?”  He is being sarcastic.  We know from 1 John 1:8 (ESV) 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.[3]  Who needs repentance?  Who needs to turn from their sin and return to God?  Everyone.  Everyone except the Lord Jesus Himself.  Everyone needs to repent, but the Pharisees and scribes believe they do not need to repent.  The Pharisees and scribes think they are good enough, and Jesus is calling them out.

The Pharisees and scribes are not alone.  There are an awful lot of people in our world who believe they are good enough.  If you were to stop someone on the street and ask them, “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?”, most folks I think would answer “yes.”  And if you ask them, “Why?”  A great number of them would answer, “Because I’m a pretty good person.”

The Pharisees and scribes think they are good enough.  A lot of people today believe they are good enough.  There are so many who think they are just fine on their own.  They don’t need Jesus, they don’t need the Church.  They don’t need repentance.  They don’t need forgiveness.  But they are wrong.  Everyone needs Jesus.  Everyone needs the Church.  Everyone needs repentance.  Everyone needs forgiveness.

You confessed at the beginning of the service that you are by nature sinful and unclean and you deserve God’s present and eternal punishment.  You confessed that you are a sinner and that you need Jesus.  You need Jesus on the cross paying for your sins.  You need Jesus raised from the dead to know the payment is complete.  You know you need repentance and so you gather here each week to repent and receive the forgiveness of your sins.

This is what the Church does.  As the Church, the Body of Christ on earth, we exist to deliver Jesus’ forgiveness to people.  This building is not a museum for saints; it is a hospital for sinners.  St. Paul in his letter to Timothy says he is the foremost sinner.  Chief of sinners, though I be, Jesus shed his blood for me.  Jesus is telling the Pharisees and the scribes that they are in eternal trouble because they do not think they need to repent.

Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.  We welcome sinners and eat with them.  When someone comes to know that they need Jesus we welcome them no matter their background.  No one is too far gone that they cannot return to the Lord.  They are welcome to come to hear the Good News of forgiveness in Jesus.  We welcome all the drunks and drug addicts and LGBT folks to come and hear Jesus’ words of law and words of Gospel; to repent and receive forgiveness.  We welcome them and rejoice with great joy over one who was lost but now who is found.

Now we do not change God’s law.  We do not minimize it or lessen its severity.  We do not get to adjust God’s truth to fit our own understandings, or the changing winds of culture.  Instead, as followers of Jesus, we humble ourselves and submit to God’s truth.  Everyone is welcome to join us in submitting to the Word of God.  We invite everyone to hear the good news and come to Jesus in repentance.

When someone comes into our midst that belongs to one of those categories that people use to dismiss others, we welcome them.  We don’t say, “What is someone like you, doing here, with people like us?”  Instead we say something like, “Welcome, it is wonderful to have you here.  Join us as we repent and hear the Good News.”  Because the real question for all of us is, “What are we… sinners, doing with Him… the Lord Jesus?”  The “us” is sinners who need to repent.

Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.  We welcome sinners, and we repent with them, and receive the Body and Blood of Christ with them for the forgiveness of sins.  We welcome sinners.  Otherwise this place would be empty.  We are indeed a hospital for sinners where Jesus gives out the medicine of forgiveness and eternal life.  And there is great joy in heaven.

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

 

Jesus is all-in for you. Go all-in on Him.

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Pentecost 13 2019, Proper 18
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 8, 2019
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Philemon 1-21, Luke 14:25-35

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

Today is the opening day for our Sunday School; it is church and school picnic day, it is a great day for families to come to church together, and today we get the Gospel reading Luke 14:26 (ESV) 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.[1]

Hate is a such a strong word.  What is Jesus doing here?  And he is not done.  He goes on with more qualifications to be His disciple.

Luke 14:27 (ESV) 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.[2]

Luke 14:33 (ESV) 33 …any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. [3]

This is a hard teaching from Jesus.  Jesus is being honest and clear as to what it takes to be a disciple; a follower of Jesus.  Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”  This section of God’s word is clear; it is just hard.  Maybe we should switch to a different reading.

Sometimes when we are trying to recruit someone for a volunteer position we like to minimize the commitment in order to encourage someone to sign up.  Say we are looking for someone to head up Vacation Bible School.  What does it entail?  Ohhhh, it’s not much…just a couple of meetings…a few phone calls…no big deal.  Often we are afraid that if we are honest it will scare people away.  But it is not right to give people false expectations.  Jesus is being honest with us about what it takes to be His disciple.

Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem and He has been encouraging people to repent and follow Him before it is too late.  Jesus wants people to follow Him; to be His disciple, but He does not want people to do this without examining what that means.

A great crowd is following Jesus toward Jerusalem.  What are they expecting from Jesus?  What are they expecting will happen in the great city?  Jesus turns around to address the throng and He gives them the hard, honest truth about what it means to follow Jesus.  He does not sugar coat the truth.  Jesus isn’t trying to trick people into thinking that being a Christian is going to make you healthy and rich and smart and popular.  He isn’t telling people that being a Christian will solve all of your family issues, or get you a raise at work, or make all your troubles go away.  He is not saying that being a Christian is just an hour commitment on an occasional Sunday morning.

Being a Christian is hard; it is full commitment; it is all encompassing.  Being a Christian is going all-in on Jesus.

In poker when someone has a very good hand, or they are pretending to have a very good hand they will risk everything on that one hand.  They will go all-in and bet all their chips.  It is bold to risk everything.

Jesus is basically telling the people in the crowd that to be his disciple you need to go all-in for Jesus.  You have to hate your family.  Now, Jesus does not mean that you should nurture spiteful thoughts about your father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters.  He does mean that you need to love Jesus more.  Jesus comes first in life.  Jesus is number one.  You have no other Gods.  Following Jesus means going all in for Jesus.

You take up your cross to follow Jesus.  Being a Christian can bring trouble and persecution.  In Jerusalem, people are going to kill Jesus for being Jesus, and they will kill Jesus’ followers for being His followers.  That happened at Jesus’ time and it still happens in places today.  Jesus is teaching that you cannot be a follower of Jesus and then quit when the going gets tough.  Following Jesus means going all in for Jesus.

Following Jesus means renouncing everything that you have.  Nothing in your life is more important than Jesus.

Jesus is letting you know that as a Christian you don’t get to negotiate over the terms of how you are going to follow Him.  You don’t get to say, “Jesus, I will follow you, but my family comes first.”  Or, “I will gather to worship, but only if I feel like it.  Jesus, I will follow you, but don’t expect me to give a sacrificial offering; that money is mine.  I will follow you Jesus, but I will not love my enemy or forgive the person that wronged me.”  Jesus is teaching that you do not get to negotiate the terms of being His disciple.

You do not get to reserve parts of your life from Jesus’ lordship and control.  You don’t get to say, “I’ll follow you Jesus, but don’t think that means you have a say over my sex life, or how I run my business, or my lying, or my selfishness, or my drunkenness.”  We do not get to come to Jesus and negotiate the terms of what it means to be his follower.  To follow Jesus is to go all in on Jesus.  Your whole life; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Your entire existence.  All aspects of your life.  Your time, your relationships, your school life, your job life, your free time, your money; everything is dedicated to living out God’s will for your life.

  So trusting Jesus, go all in anyway.  Go all in for Jesus knowing your efforts won’t be good enough.  Fully trust in Jesus knowing you are going to fail; knowing you will not find perfection in yourself.  Go all in for Jesus because Jesus goes all in for you.  He washes you clean and gives you His perfection.  He gives you His holiness.  He gives you the Holy Spirit.  He gives you the gift of faith.

This is a difficult teaching for all of us.  It is not easy to follow Jesus; it is not easy to go all in.  It can make you wonder, “Do I have enough faith to be a follower of Jesus?  Do I have it in me to go all in for Jesus?”  And, honestly, the answer is no.  On your own you do not have enough faith; you do not have it in you.  You cannot do it.  You cannot commit enough.  You cannot be faithful enough.  Neither can I.  Neither could Jesus’ first disciples.  On that fateful Thursday night in Jerusalem we get to watch Peter; big strong, decisive disciple Peter.  That Peter.   We watch Him three times deny that He evens knows Jesus because he is afraid.  It is indeed a tremendous struggle to go all in for Jesus in a world that wants you to go all in on yourself.  It is a troubling truth that because we are infected with sin we are incapable of being fully committed Jesus followers.  And yet that is what Jesus demands.

So trusting Jesus, go all in anyway.  Go all in for Jesus knowing your efforts won’t be good enough.  Fully trust in Jesus knowing you are going to fail; knowing you will not find perfection in yourself.  Go all in for Jesus because Jesus goes all in for you.  He washes you clean and gives you His perfection.  He gives you His holiness.  He gives you the Holy Spirit.  He gives you the gift of faith.  You don’t have to rely on your own faith; you rely on the Holy Spirit.  Jesus goes all in for you.  Jesus, who is eternal God, gives up the throne of heaven to humble Himself and be born a lowly human infant.  He has no golden cradle but instead is laid in an animal feed trough.  Jesus is fully committed to you when He is born under the law and fulfills the law for you.  He gives Himself completely to the task of saving you from your sins.  Jesus gives up everything for you as He offers Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of the world on the cross at Calvary.  Jesus doesn’t just bet what He could afford to lose, He gives up everything.  Everything is stripped away from Him, and He hangs in agony on the cross, shedding His blood and giving His very life for you, to pay the price for you.  Jesus holds nothing back.  He fully commits to paying the price for your sins.  He dies for you and He rises from the dead to conquer death forever.  And because Jesus went all in for you and rose from the dead for you, you will rise from the dead on the last day.  Death does not have the victory.

Jesus went all in for you so you, trusting His promises, can go all in for Him.  Now, being all in for Jesus doesn’t mean that you run away to a monastery and spend your life in prayer.  It does not mean abandoning your family and your job, and building a commune up on a mountain.  Being all in for Jesus means knowing you are a sinner who has been forgiven of all your sins.  It means knowing that you have eternal life in Christ.  It means you do what you have been given to do according to God’s plan.  Are you a child, parent, student, teacher, worker, employer, hearer, pastor, citizen, ruler?  Do what you are supposed to do.  As a follower of Jesus you live your life doing the right thing because it is the right thing.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Do what you are supposed to be doing, and when you fail to do what you are supposed to do, repent and trust completely in Jesus’ forgiveness.

In Christ you have been born again by water and the spirit in Holy Baptism.  You are a new creation no longer made for this world, but made for eternal life.  Jesus went all in for you and He calls you to go all in for Him.  Knowing your own fallen human nature you know this will be a daily challenge.  Being a follower of Jesus will bring struggles, and difficulty, and persecution.  It will be hard.  But being all in for Jesus and walking in the will of God, doing things God’s way, knowing you are forgiven by the blood of Jesus will bring you peace and joy that the world cannot give.  Delighting in God’s will and trusting in Jesus to save you brings you blessed assurance that even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death you fear no evil.

Losing yourself in Jesus’ love and forgiveness brings you an incomprehensible peace knowing you have been made right with the creator of the universe.  Not from anything you have done, but because of what Jesus has done for you.  You can trust Jesus’ promise that you will live with Him forever.

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

 

You don’t need clout. You will rise from the dead.

nullPentecost 12 2019 Proper 17
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 1, 2019
Proverbs 25:2-10, Hebrews 13:1-17, Luke 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

It is lunch time on the first day of school.  Kasie gets her tray and looks out over the tables in the cafeteria.  She sees a group of popular kids gathered at a table.  They see her looking and motion for her to come over and take the last open seat.  Two tables behind them, Kasie sees her friend Laura who is sitting alone and is waving to Kasie.  Laura is a good friend, but she is kind of awkward and is not very popular at school.  Kasie has a choice.  Does she sit with the “in” crowd, or does she sit with someone who is a bit of an outcast?  Which decision will be better for Kasie’s social clout?  Which is the better decision?

Kasie has a choice of which social class of person to eat with.  We face decisions about social class quite a bit in life.  Who do I interact with?  Who do I speak with?  Who do I eat with?  Who do I ignore.  When someone wants to go to lunch with you or interact with you, it is easy to start to think, “If I am seen with them, what will other people think of me?”

It is quite normal and quite tempting to always want to move up the social ladder; to hang out with the cool, interesting, popular people and to ignore the boring, mundane, difficult, outsiders.  We naturally want to use whatever tools we have to improve our clout.

In our Gospel lesson today Jesus is teaching the people about what is really important.  It is more important to help someone in need than it is to strictly follow the Pharisees’ Sabbath laws.  You should not exalt yourself but rather choose humble service.  You will receive your reward at the resurrection so you are free to be generous in this life and help others who cannot help you.

The people of Jesus’ time were very concerned about social status and this is especially evident on occasions that have to do with food.  Who do I eat with?  Where do I sit at dinner?  Everyone knew where everybody else was on the hierarchy of social status just by what meals they are invited to and where they sat.

In Hinduism there is a very rigid caste system.  You know where you belong in the social order from the day you are born.  A June BBC article explains, “At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from Brahma’s head. Then came the Kshatriyas (ksha-tree-uh) , or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Shudras, who came from Brahma’s feet and did all the menial jobs…Outside of this Hindu caste system were the achhoots – the Dalits or the untouchables.”[1]

In India you don’t share food or drink with someone of another caste and you certainly don’t marry outside your caste.  The Dalits, who are below the caste system, face violence and abuse from those of the upper castes.  Dalit means oppressed.

Our system of social castes is not nearly as oppressive as the Hindu system or the Jewish system of Jesus’ time, but we still have one.  We like to keep score with others as to how we are doing.  We like to use what social clout we have to move up the ladder and gain more respect and admiration from others.  The older way of keeping track of our social clout was with job titles and money and houses and cars and clothing and that all still goes on, but now your social clout is also determined by how many followers you have on Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

I recently learned that a certain style of funky, thick-rimmed white sunglasses are called clout goggles.  They were named this by a rapper named Denzel Curry who said you have to have a lot of swag and sway in order to pull off wearing that style sunglasses.

Clout, social status, Instagram followers.  The name of the game in this life is exalting yourself.  Do your best to climb the ladder of financial success and ascend the social status ranking.  This is what world teaches you is important in life, but these things are not important to God.  God doesn’t care how much money you have, or what kind of car you drive, or what neighborhood you live in, or whose name is on the clothes you wear.  God doesn’t care how many followers you have on Instagram or Twitter or YouTube.  God doesn’t care if you can pull off wearing clout goggles.

In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus calls you, in light of your coming resurrection from the dead, to take off your clout goggles and get off the ladder of success and serve others who cannot repay you.  Jesus calls for you to give up trying to exalt yourself and instead live humbly in love and service to others.  Luke 14:11 (ESV)  11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” [2]  Jesus totally upends what the world teaches.

Jesus teaches the Pharisees present with him at dinner that night, and he teaches us as well.  Jesus is not who they are expecting.  He is not who we would expect.

Jesus is not the kind of God that people are looking for.  When people make up a god they make one up who is mighty and powerful and exalted; enthroned in glory.  Folks make up gods like Thor and Zeus and Hercules and Allah and Vishnu and Brahma and Shiva.  We want exalted gods of power.  We do not like the idea of a God of humility and service, we don’t want a humiliated, suffering God, but that is what we get with Jesus.

By nature we want a God to be powerful and use that power to do whatever it is that we want Him to do.  I want God to help me climb the ladder of success and social status.  I want him to make me strong and keep me healthy and never die.  I want a God who can deliver the goods.  The “goods” being whatever I think is most important.

That is what I want.  That is what you want, but instead we get Jesus, God incarnate; God in flesh.  Jesus is not the God that the Jewish people expected and He is not the God that we expect.  The Jewish people want a military Messiah to ride in on a white stallion, sword drawn, leading a vast army to drive the Romans from their land forever.  They want a Messiah who is greater than the greatest, most powerful Caesar.

But then Jesus shows up; born to a young virgin girl from the nowhere village of Nazareth.  He is laid in a manger.  Before Jesus is born His mother Mary sings her song, the Magnificat, which tells of the great reversal that is coming.  Luke 1:51-53 (ESV)
51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.[3]

Jesus comes to upset the traditional expectations of what God should be like and what He will do.  As a grown man Jesus is ordinary looking.  He dresses in ordinary clothes and goes around accompanied by ordinary folks.  He does miracles, but He does them quietly in service to others and not to exalt Himself.  He welcomes outcasts to eat with Him.  He allows a tainted woman to wipe His feet with her hair.  Jesus is the unexpected Messiah.  Jesus serves others.  Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.  Mark 10:45 (ESV) 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [4]

Jesus comes to offer Himself as the sacrifice for sin; to die for the sins of the all people.  But His sacrifice will not be to die in some glorified battle as a heroic figure.  No.  Jesus is going to die in utter humiliation.  Beaten, whipped, paraded through the streets, stripped naked and nailed to a cross to die slowly, in disgrace, while suffering excruciating pain.  Jesus is not the Messiah people are looking for; Jesus is the suffering servant as foretold in Isaiah 53:3 (ESV) 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.[5]

Jesus humbles Himself for you.  Jesus suffers serving you.  Jesus dies in service to you.  Jesus rises from the dead to conquer death the great enemy.  Jesus rises from the dead to fulfill His promise and to confirm He is indeed God in flesh; God with us.

Your reward is coming and it will be a great reward.  Your eternal reward is secure in Christ so you are freed from worrying about your social status here on earth.  You are freed from having to think about whether being around someone or something will affect your social status.  You are free not to care about what other people think of you.  You are free to eat with the outcasts.  You are free to share with the poor.  You are free to love and serve the crippled, the lame and the blind.  You are free to give freely to those who cannot repay you

Jesus humbles Himself to take on your sins.  He lowers Himself to take responsibility for your sin, even that unspeakable sin.  He pays the price and He conquers death.  For you.  And He pours out forgiveness and eternal life onto you in baptism, in His words of forgiveness, in His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  Jesus gives you eternal life.

You will be raised from the dead on the last day.  You confess it in the creed, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”  That’s your body.  Your earthly body that by then may have gone ashes to ashes, dust to dust will be raised from the dead on the last day.  You will spend eternity in the heavenly city with the Lord Jesus.

Your reward is coming and it will be a great reward.  Your eternal reward is secure in Christ so you are freed from worrying about your social status here on earth.  You are freed from having to think about whether being around someone or something will affect your social status.  You are free not to care about what other people think of you.  You are free to eat with the outcasts.  You are free to share with the poor.  You are free to love and serve the crippled, the lame and the blind.  You are free to give freely to those who cannot repay you because, Luke 14:14 (ESV) 14 . You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”[6]

Be a humble servant and be a blessing to people who cannot be a blessing back to you.  Choose love of the outcast over your own popularity.  Reach out to those others have been cast off.  Eat with people no one wants to eat with.  Don’t do it in order to gain a reward; do it because Jesus did it for you.  Do it because you are going to rise from the dead on the last day.  Do it because that matters more than anything.  Do it because in Christ you are free.

Amen.


[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

 

Those who think they are good enough are wrong.

null

Pentecost 11 2019, Proper 16
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 25, 2019
Isaiah 66:18-23, Hebrews 12:4-24, Luke 13:22-30

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

It is an ancient wall; the oldest wall.  The stones are worn and weathered and moss and lichen grow in the pits and grooves.  The wall is impossibly high and thick.  The ancient stone wall is impenetrable.

It is impenetrable except for a narrow door which stands open for anyone to enter to the other side.

On one side of the wall there is eternal life with God.  The side of the righteous.  The other side of the wall is eternal death in Hell, separation from God forever.  The side of the unrighteous.  The side of evil.

Who is on this side of the wall and who is on that side of the wall?  Am I in or out?  What about others?  Who is with the righteous?  Who is with the unrighteous?

Jesus is journeying to Jerusalem to offer Himself as the sacrificial Lamb of God on the altar of the cross.  He is going there to pay the price for the sins of the world.  On his journey someone asks Jesus, Luke 13:23 (ESV) 23 … “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” …[1]  We all would like to know that answer.  But Jesus does not answer the question.  Instead He replies, Luke 13:24 (ESV) 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.[2]

Strive…struggle…The struggle is repentance and trust.  Entrance through the door comes with sorrow over sin and repentance which is God’s work in your heart.  The struggle is the Word of God calling you to repent and trust in Christ, but sinful human nature warring in you against God’s Word.

Going through the doorway is humbling.  The doorway is Jesus and to enter through the door you submit to Jesus as your Lord and Master.  You kneel in repentant faith.  The side of righteousness is a side of humble submission to God’s will.

Many of the folks on the unrighteous side of the doorway appear to have it all together.  These are self-sufficient people who are all about doing the best for themselves because they deserve it; they have earned it.  These are independent people; people who don’t need anyone’s help; people who are good enough all on their own.  These are people who know what they want and how to get it.  They make their own rules and live by those rules.  Life on the side of the unrighteous has all the promise of individuality and freedom and pleasure.

On the righteous side of the doorway is a collection of people from all walks of life who know they are not good enough; who know they cannot do it on their own.  These are people who publicly and privately confess that they are sinners who need a savior.  They are dependent on the Lord Jesus.  They submit their will to the will of God and repent when they fail to do so.  On the righteous side of the door the people delight in God’s will and walk in God’s ways.  Life on the righteous side of the door is not a life lived serving self, but a life lived serving others.  It is a life lived doing the right thing because it is the right thing even when doing the right thing is very difficult.

On the righteous side of the doorway it is not about you.  It is about Jesus for you.  In this world success is often determined by who you know.  On the righteous side of the wall it is about who knows you.  Jesus knows you.  The old children’s hymn tells us the truth, Jesus loves me, this I know.  There is another truth on the righteous side of the wall.  Jesus knows me.  This I love.

You are on the side of the righteous.  You came through that doorway in God’s sacrament of Baptism; many of you as a tiny baby.  You did nothing to save yourself.  You were there and had God’s name and promise watered onto your head.  You did nothing to bring yourself through the doorway.

You did not bring yourself through the doorway and that is such a great relief because it is all about God’s gift to you and God’s promise to you.  You do not need to wonder if you have done enough.  You do not have to trust in yourself.  You trust in Christ.  You trust in Jesus’ promise to save you.

On the righteous side of the doorway it is not about you.  It is about Jesus for you.  In this world success is often determined by who you know.  On the righteous side of the wall it is about who knows you.  Jesus knows you.  The old children’s hymn tells us the truth, Jesus loves me, this I know.  There is another truth on the righteous side of the wall.  Jesus knows me.  This I love.

Jesus calls you by name and you have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  You are an adopted child of the Master.  You are with Jesus on the Kingdom of Heaven side of the door waiting for the great wedding feast of the Lamb to begin.  You are on the righteous side of the doorway because Jesus has declared you to be righteous.  You live in Jesus’ righteousness.

For now the door is open, but at some point Jesus is going to close the door and the people who are on the side of the unrighteous will be lost forever.  Without warning, Jesus is going to close the door and permanently lock it.  There will be a lot of people who know Jesus; who know about Jesus; of whom Jesus will say, Luke 13:25 (ESV) 25 …‘I do not know where you come from.’[3]  So many who think they are good enough will discover they are wrong and have been locked out of the great wedding feast of the Lamb.  They will be cast out where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  There are people who know about Jesus, but they think they still have time.  They think they can stay on the side of the unrighteous and put off repenting and submitting to God’s will until later; until they are older and more settled down.  They think they have time, but they do not know when the door will close.  So many people have been lied to, and led astray, and even though the door is open they don’t believe the doorway is open for them; they think there is another way.  So many are on the wrong side of the door.  We are called to let our light shine and give glory to God and to speak the truth in love and to spread the Good News of Jesus.  We are called to reach out to those on the unrighteous side of the door so that they will hear the Good News about Jesus, and believe and repent and be brought to faith by the Holy Spirit.  Pray that all will enter through the narrow door to the side of righteousness before it is too late.

While the door is open there is a danger that you can be lured to walk through the door and leave the side of the righteous.  Life on the side of the unrighteous can seem so attractive.  So much freedom.  So much fun.  It is all so rational.  It is so much common sense.  You get what you pay for.  If you want something you have to earn it.  There is a grave danger that the attractiveness of the side of unrighteousness will draw you away from the Word of God and the Sacraments of God.  There is a constant danger that you can be drawn to exit through the doorway where you will be lost forever when Jesus closes the door.  You cannot choose to be saved, but you can choose to leave the faith.

Life on the side of the unrighteous can look so cool and attractive; so slick and together.  It is the latest and greatest; the newest ideas and trends, so much fun and excitement.

The side of righteousness, on the other hand, can often look like a tired, old soul broken down by a lifetime of struggle.  Life on the righteous side looks so strange and powerless.  People gathering each week in an old building to kneel in confession, to stand and sit, to confess faith in something they cannot see, to pray to a God who does not talk back, to sing about this God, and to eat a wafer of bread and drink a sip of wine and believe that it is the body and blood of God in flesh.  How strange?  How foolish this must appear to those on the other side of the door.

Life on the righteous side of the door is not an easy life.  It is a life of striving for repentance and trust in Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit.  It is a life of loving and serving others; even your enemies.  It is a life of getting a foretaste of the feast to come while continuing to wait for the wedding feast of the Lamb to begin.  It is a life of praying, “Come, Lord Jesus,” but also praying that the door remains open a little longer so more can be saved.

You are on the right side of the wall; the side of eternal life.  Give thanks for all God has done for you in Jesus.  Rejoice in the Lord and do what He has given you to do.  Rejoice knowing, Jesus knows me, this I love.

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