Everyone Loves a Parade

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Advent 1 2021 
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 28, 2021
Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 19:28-40

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

            Some parades, like the July 4th parade, mark an annual remembrance; other parades mark the beginning of something, such as the opening day parade for the Reds.

            This past Thursday the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City marked both an annual remembrance and the beginning of something.  It is the annual celebration of the National Day of Thanksgiving and, perhaps more importantly for Macy’s, the kickoff of the Christmas shopping season as the final float carrying Old St. Nicholas takes up the rear.  The parade gets you ready for Black Friday; the day after Thanksgiving, on which the retailers hope you spend lots of money.

            In our Gospel reading today we have a parade down the Mount of Olives and into Jerusalem.  Jesus is riding a young donkey down the hill while His followers lay their cloaks on the road so the colt does not step on the dirt.  This parade down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem marks the beginning of the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  This parade marks a great transition for Jesus as He comes into Jerusalem to fulfill His calling on that dark Friday we call Good on which this King riding a donkey colt is sacrificed for the sins of the world.  

            At Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem angels announce to the shepherds Luke 2:10–12 (ESV) 10 … “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  An army of angels sings, Luke 2:14 (ESV)  14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 

            A baby’s birth announced by angels.  This baby is the Christ.  Christ is Jesus’ title.  He is the anointed one.  The chosen one.  When the Magi come to Jerusalem they ask around, Matthew 2:2 (ESV) 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

            Herod the Great, who thinks he is king of the Jews, is not pleased with the news there is a new King of the Jews and he plots to kill Him.  Jesus’ stepfather Joseph is warned to escape and flees by night with Jesus and Mary to Egypt.

            Now, in broad daylight, Jesus parades on a donkey down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem to shouts of, Luke 19:38 (ESV) 38 … “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.”  And words that echo the angels’ song at Jesus’ birth, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 

            Angels announce Jesus’ birth.  Crowds announce Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem.  The Pharisees want Jesus to shut them up, but there is no quieting the announcement of Jesus as King.  Luke 19:40 (ESV) 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”  And that is what happens.

            At the end of the week Jesus is crowned and put on His throne.  The governor declares Him to be “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews” and when His followers are silenced by grief and fear, the rocks indeed cry out as Jesus breathes His last.  Matthew 27:51 (ESV) 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.”  Jesus accomplishes what He came to do. 

            Today is the first Sunday in Advent.  Advent means coming into place; arrival.  Today we hear about Jesus’ advent in Jerusalem at the beginning of that fateful week.  He comes into place by riding a donkey into the city as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) 

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  A donkey is the mount of a king who is coming in peace. Jesus has been on the way to Jerusalem and the cross for His whole ministry and now the time has come for Jesus to bring peace between God and man.  Jesus has arrived.

            As we begin the advent season and prepare to celebrate Jesus’ arrival on the scene as a baby in Bethlehem 33 years earlier, today we fast forward to the reason for the advent of our King.  The birth, announced to lowly shepherds told to search for a baby lying in a manger, gives us a clue to what kind of king Jesus is.  Jesus is the servant King, the suffering King, the sacrificial Lamb of God King.  He is the King crowned with thorns and enthroned on the cross to accomplish His most glorious work of paying for the sins of the whole world. 

            This Advent season we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus and this is good.  But, I fear, sometimes we can get so focused on Bethlehem, the city of David, that we forget that this son of David has a terrible, wonderful mission to accomplish in Jerusalem.  Today, as we begin this new Church year, we focus on the goal of Jesus’ coming as God in flesh. Jesus came to die for your sins and rise from the dead to conquer death for you.

            Advent is a busy season.  As we look forward to celebrating Jesus’ birth, we also remember Jesus coming to Jerusalem as the sacrifice for sins, and look forward to Jesus coming again on the Last Day.  We look forward to that day when Jesus and His parade of angels come to earth to raise the dead and ready the living in preparation for the judgment and eternal life in heaven for those clothed in Christ.

            This beginning of a new church year we are reminded that Jesus came into our crazy, sin-filled world of turmoil to bring peace between God and man.  Jesus brings peace between God and you.  This morning Jesus comes to you in His Word declaring your sins forgiven.  He comes to you in His body and blood to unite with you and strengthen you and preserve you in true faith.  He comes to bring you the peace of God which is beyond understanding. 

            Jesus’ mounted parade on Palm Sunday marks the end of His ministry of preparing people for His coming to Jerusalem, it marks the beginning of Holy Week which brings Jesus’ teaching at the temple, the Last Supper where Jesus transforms the Passover meal into the Lord’s Supper, it brings Jesus arrest and trial, His abuse and condemnation before Pontius Pilate, His crucifixion, death and burial, His rest in the tomb, and His resurrection from the dead on Sunday morning. 

Today, and throughout the year, we remember what Jesus came to do, what He continues to come into our midst to do, and we look forward to what He will come again in glory to do, for you, for eternity.  Amen.  

Post and Orders, Remain as Directed

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Last Sunday of the Church Year 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 21, 2021
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14, Revelation 1:4b-8, Mark 13:24-37

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

            If you get a chance to visit our Nation’s Capital, one thing not to miss is the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. 

            According to the cemetery website, “The Tomb Guard marches exactly 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process.  (The number 21 symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed, the 21-gun salute.) Next, the Sentinel executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, signifying that he or she stands between the Tomb and any possible threat.”

            Every hour, on the hour, in the slow tourist season, and every half hour in the peak season there is the changing of the guard.  “The relief commander conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. Then, the relief commander and the relieving Sentinel meet the retiring Sentinel at the center of the black mat in front of the Tomb. All three salute the Unknown Soldiers who have symbolically been given the Medal of Honor. The relief commander orders the relieved Sentinel, “Pass on your orders.” The current Sentinel commands, “Post and orders, remain as directed.” The newly posted Sentinel replies, “Orders acknowledged,” and steps into position on the mat. When the relief commander passes, the new Sentinel begins walking at a cadence of 90 steps per minute.

            Post and orders, remain as directed — Orders acknowledged.

            Jesus commands His disciples, Jesus commands you, Mark 13:33 (ESV) 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 

            There on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem, Jesus puts His disciples on guard duty because judgment day is coming.  He gives them orders “Be on guard, keep awake.”

            Mark 13:34–37 (ESV) 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” 

            Jesus is preparing His disciples because He is going to go away for a time.  After His crucifixion and resurrection, He will ascend into heaven and sit at the right hand of the Father.  But He is coming back.  From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.  Jesus is coming back, and you don’t know when.  Jesus is coming back for judgment.  This is a sobering thought.  Jesus is coming back any day now.  You need to be ready for Jesus to return.  As a baptized child of God you have been declared perfect and holy by Jesus.  You have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.  You are ready for Jesus to return.  But it is taking so long.

            You want to be ready, you want to stay ready, but it has been so long.  It has been 1,993 years, 728,000 some days.  It has been so long and yet “post and orders remain as directed”.  Jesus’ instructions to His disciples are still in force.  “Be on guard, keep awake.”

            As you wait for Jesus’ return — as the Church waits for Jesus’ return, it is far too easy to let down your guard, forget about the ways of God, and give in to the ways of the world.  As an individual saint of God, and as the Church on earth, you are given your work to do — to love God and love your neighbor in all that you do. And so you do what you have been given to do.  You do what God has given you to do, not in order to make yourself good enough for Jesus, but because Jesus has already made you a saint. 

            You are a saint of God, holy and blameless, covered by the righteousness of Jesus, and, at the same time, you are a sinner.  You are a sinner who struggles mightily with temptations and evil desires.  You are, at the same time, saint and sinner.  So stay awake.  It is possible to lose your faith.  It is far too easy to fall away because it is the path of least resistance.  It is so very tempting to just give in and instead of staying awake, to fall asleep spiritually, and just go with the flow and become a part of the multitudes living according to the ways of the devil, the world and their own sinful desires.  So be on guard.  Know you are a sinner.  Know the devil’s favorite bait to try to trap you.  Fight sin and temptation in your thoughts before they become sinful words and deeds.  Because, as we read in James 1:15 (ESV) 15 …desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 

            So, as a saint who is also a sinner, “Be on guard, keep awake.”  Stay ready for Jesus to return.  Live each day knowing today could be the day. Knowing that today could be the last day, stay alert.  Do what you have been given to do.  Avoid doing things you would be ashamed of if Jesus returned.  Live out each day, not in terror, but in reverent awe and anticipation, motivated to bring the Good News of salvation in Jesus to a world that is asleep in sin. 

            As an individual saint, and as the Church on earth, you must stay awake and remain on guard.  Being on guard does not mean that you retreat from the world and hide.  As the Church we remain open and welcoming to sinners needing forgiveness.  We welcome sinners, but we do not welcome new teachings that contradict Holy Scripture. And so we read and study the scriptures in order to know what is genuine.

            The Christian church is 1,993 years old. There have been saints on guard duty that whole time welcoming sinners to the font of forgiveness and keeping out false teachings.  It has been a long and arduous journey, and the journey continues. 

            Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Hamilton, Ohio, has been in existence for 125 years with saints on guard duty, staying awake and watching for Jesus to return.  The guard has changed over the years, a number of times.  For now, you and I are on guard duty.  We are the ones to stay awake and remain on guard.  If Jesus does not return soon, there will be another changing of the guard.  We will pass the orders to the next generation, “Post and orders remain as directed.”

            Be on guard against sin and evil and falsehood.  1 John 4:1 (ESV)  1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 

            The world around you is full of evil and confusion. The devil, the world and your own sinful nature want to pull you down into the selfish darkness so you forget who you are in Jesus.  The world wants you to look inside of yourself for identity and meaning, but inside of you is empty.  Your identity comes from outside.  Your identity comes from the Creator of the Universe who has marked you as His own child in the waters of baptism and declared you to be His own.  Because you have been marked as a child of God, the world hates you and wants to pressure you to conform.  If they cannot pressure you they will try to force you to conform. 

            In the time of the early church, as detailed in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the Roman authorities would go to people and make them burn a pinch of incense to a small bust of Caesar and say, “Caesar is lord.” People had to do this in order to get their necessary documents to work or go to school, and to avoid punishment.  Faithful Christians would refuse.  Sometimes the Romans would just let the stubborn Christians languish without jobs or schooling.  Other times they would make examples of the Christians.  The faithful would be arrested and fed to the lions in the arena to entertain the people. 

            As an individual saint of God, and as the Church on earth, you must reject the world’s pressure, reject the world’s demands and live in the love of Jesus.  Romans 12:2 (ESV) 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

            Nowadays, companies and schools and government officials are not looking for you to burn incense and say, “Caesar is lord.”  Now, one of the ways they try to force you to conform is by demanding that you wear a rainbow flag sticker on your badge and say, “marriage is the union of any two people,” and “a man is a woman and a woman is a man.” And if you refuse to comply, if you dare say marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman; if you dare say men are men and women are women, you can lose your job, be kicked out of school, or be punished some other way.  In some countries you can be arrested.  If you dare say that Jesus is the only way to salvation you can be banned from polite society.  The goal is to force you to conform to the world.

            As an individual saint of God, and as the Church on earth, you must reject the world’s pressure, reject the world’s demands and live in the love of Jesus.  Romans 12:2 (ESV) 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

            The guards at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier do the same thing over and over and over again, and no one says, “That’s boring, they should do something different.”  As saints of God, as the Church on earth, you do the same things over and over and over.  You confess your sins and receive forgiveness.  You take into your body the Body and Blood of Jesus given and shed for you.  You will do this over and over and over, until the Master returns or the changing of the guard. 

            The pressure to give up on Jesus and and give in to the world is as intense as ever. Many have fallen away; many will fall away, believing they are the wise ones.  Be on guard.  Keep awake. Abide in Christ.  You do not know when the master is returning.  Stay awake.  “Post and orders, remain as directed.  Orders acknowledged.” Amen. 

What comes next?

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

All Saints’ Day (observed) 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 7, 21021
Revelation 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

            It was a Wednesday.  April 6, 1966.  It was a momentous day, at least for me.  It was the day that, against my will, I was forced from the warm, watery confines of my mother’s womb into the bright, antiseptic environment of the maternity ward at Porter Memorial Hospital in Valparaiso, Indiana. 

            Up to this point I had the constant, comforting beat of my mother’s heart to keep me company.  I could hear my mother’s muffled voice and voices of others around her.  I had a blurry vision but could see the glow of bright lights.  Depending on what mom had for dinner I could taste it in the fluid surrounding me.  It was a wonderful life inside the womb.  It was the only life I knew.

            But then I had to come out into the world.  I did not want to come out, but I came out into the world anyway, and it was not an easy trip.  I do not remember much about that day, but I am sure it was traumatic.  I probably cried and wet myself.  

            Birth is horrible and birth is wonderful.  It transports you to the next stage of your existence.

            You have been born, and you now live life in this world.  You can see things more clearly.  You can hear things more distinctly.  You can taste the nuances of food and drink.  You can feel the sun on your face and feel love from other people. You are pretty invested in this life. The joys and the struggles.  The triumphs and the tragedies.  The excitement of life and the drudgery of day by day existence.  It is all you know as you live here in the womb of this life preparing to be birthed into the next life. 

            On All Saint’s Day you think about what is next.  After your time here in this life, what awaits you?  This is a question that has perplexed people from the beginning.  What happens after you die?

            Like a baby in the womb who thinks he is living his best life now, too often you can think that you are living your best life now, but you are wrong.  The best is yet to come.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  Blessed here does not mean happy.  Blessed means you are blessed for eternity.  You are blessed with eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.  You are blessed to have all your sins covered by the robe of Jesus’ righteousness.  You are blessed to be destined to spend eternity with the Lord in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem. 

            The best is yet to come and yet that is so easy to forget.  It is far too easy to get so focused on the things of this life that death seems to be the absolute worst thing that can ever happen.  Death can become terrifying.  And so you try to deny death; ignore death; pretend that you are immortal.  You want to stay insulated from death, and yet death is an ever present companion. Indeed, you walk through the valley of the shadow of death but you want to imagine that the shadow is not there. Today we remember those who died this last year, and before, and we are reminded that death is coming for each of us.

            Death is horrible and death is wonderful.  Death transports you to the next stage of your existence.  Death is a step on the journey of your existence from creation to eternity in the Heavenly City where you will live in the presence of the Lord forever.

            Stay alert.  The devil, the world and your own sinful flesh want you forget about the life to come and to focus only on the here and now.  They want you to give up eternal life for the things of this life. 

In the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou” there is a guitar player who claims he sold his soul to the devil in order to become a talented musician.  In movies and television there are many variations on this theme of selling your soul to gain something.  You see this and think, “I would never do that!” but it is amazing to see for how little people are willing to sell their eternal souls.  What keeps people away from gathering to hear the Good News of forgiveness and receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus?  What gets people started on a habitual absence from the Body of Christ? Staying out too late on Saturday night? Wanting an extra hour of sleep?  A lazy morning?  The repeated plan to get to church next week that never actually happens? Life getting so busy you cannot squeeze one more thing in?  People give up Jesus for the fleeting things of this world. 

We are all sinners who need a savior. Salvation is freely given by Jesus to all people but so many who hear this Good News, so many who confess the Good News, get distracted by the busyness of life and the deceitfulness of wealth and they turn their backs on Jesus.  It is so very tempting to give up Jesus to pursue the things of this world because we lose sight of the life to come.  We get so focused on glory in this life we forget about the cross of Christ which brings you to the next life.

            As followers of Jesus you are in the world but you cannot be of the world.  Your identity is as a baptized child of God.  You are a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.  You have been born again of water and the Spirit.  You are in this world, but this is not your home.  For now you live in this world and you do what you have been given to do.  You manage God’s gifts to you, but you also know this life is short.  Job 14:1–2 (ESV) 1 “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. 2 He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not. 1 Peter 1:24–25 (ESV) 24 … “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”

            The Word of the Lord remains forever.  Your body will not.  You have been born of your mother and then born again in water and the Spirit. Unless Jesus returns soon, you will die, but because you are clothed in the robe of Jesus’ righteousness you will not experience the second death of eternity in Hell.  You have the eternal word of the Lord.

            Your body will, one day, be buried in the ground and return to the earth.  Dust you are and to dust you shall return.  When you die your remains are buried in the ground and your spirit goes to be with the Lord as you rest in peace awaiting the final resurrection of your body on the last day when you will be raised up imperishable.  Folks have so many ideas of what things will be like in the afterlife, but we really do not know much about what life will be like in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem.  We know even less about the intermediate time between your death and resurrection.  You do not now know what that existence will be like, but one day you will know. 

            The Word of the Lord remains forever.  Your body will not.  You have been born of your mother and then born again in water and the Spirit. Unless Jesus returns soon, you will die, but because you are clothed in the robe of Jesus’ righteousness you will not experience the second death of eternity in Hell.  You have the eternal word of the Lord.

            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.”  

For now you get only get Biblical glimpses of your future in the Heavenly City.  Revelation 7:9–12 (ESV)  9 After this I looked, and behold, a 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!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 

            Life in the Heavenly City will be beyond what you can now understand.  Like a baby in the womb you do not know what the next life will be like, but you have God’s promise that it will be paradise.  You know that wearing the white robe of Jesus’ righteousness you will be one of the Saints who go marching in through the pearl gates on the Judgment Day.  For now, you live your life as a stranger in this world, sealed with the blood of Jesus, trusting in the promise of life in the next.  Remembering those who have fought the good fight of faith we feebly struggle waiting for the breaking of the yet more glorious day when we will be raised to eternal life in the Lord.  And you confess with St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:55–57 (ESV)  55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

The Gospel is Scary

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BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Reformation Day 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 31, 2021
Rev. 14:6-7, Romans 3:19-28, John 8:31-36

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

            This time of year there are lots of scary thing used to decorate; skeletons and ghosts and witches and spiders.   For some, Halloween has become a time to try to make your house as scary as possible. But, for some, October 31 is scary for different reasons. 

            October 31, the eve of All Saint’s Day, All Hallows Eve, is an important date for Lutherans because this is the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door at All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg, Germany in protest of the selling of indulgences.

            For many people, what Luther did was pretty scary and not because he was dressed up as a zombie or something.  Luther just wanted folks to know that you are saved by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross for you and not by anything that you buy or do.  Jesus died and rose for you and gives you the gift of forgiveness and eternal life in baptism, in the Word of God and in Holy Communion.

            For so many, this Good News is terrifying.  Many churches are afraid of the Gospel.  They believe it is dangerous to let people know that they are saved by grace alone and not by what they do.  How are you going to motivate people to do what you want them to do?  How are you going to coerce people to give money to support the church?  How are you going to control the people?  They will just go wild. 

            Without the Good News of the free gift of forgiveness you can tell people that they will be saved if they give enough money; if they volunteer enough, if they pay the proper respect to the leaders, if they are good enough.  And if you are not good enough or do enough or give enough there are penalties you need to pay in order to make up for your shortfall.  They are afraid of the Gospel because they fear losing control. 

            Some churches are afraid of the Good News that Jesus died and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of your sins, because if Jesus forgives sin it means that there really is sin and it means that Jesus really is Lord; really is God in flesh.  This is frightening because it means that Jesus has authority.  It means that Jesus is in charge and you are not.  It means you cannot erase the parts of the Bible you do not like. 

It scares people to know that Jesus truly is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him because that means that religions that deny that Jesus is the exclusive way, truth and life are false religions.  It is frightening because it means Jesus is God and not just a nice teacher or a wise philosopher that you can ignore if you choose.  These Churches really want to keep Jesus at arm’s length; keep Him at a safe distance so He does not have any real effect on you.  They are afraid of the Gospel because they fear losing control. 

            For individuals, the Gospel can be quite terrifying.  The Good News that Jesus paid the price for your sins on the cruel cross of Calvary means that God really does take sin seriously; God takes your sin seriously.  It means that you really are a sinner and you really need Jesus. The Gospel is scary because it means that you are not good enough on your own.  You are dependent on Jesus. 

            This is hard, disturbing news to take in.  You need a savior because you are a sinner and the wages of sin are death and Hell.  As much as you may try to pretend that everything is okay, you know truth about yourself.  Jesus also knows the truth about you.  Jesus knows all your sins and failings – even your secret sins.  You can, at times, pretend that you are good enough, that you do enough, that you give enough.  Or you might rationalize that you are not perfect but you are so much better than a lot of those other people.  You can pretend and rationalize, but God’s law breaks through any self-righteousness with the hard truth.  If you say you have no sin you deceive yourself and the truth is not in you. The Gospel can be frightening because you fear losing control. 

            But you know the truth.  You know trying to be good enough is not working.  Trying to do enough is not working.  Trying to give enough is not working.  In the darkness of your despair over sin and failure, the Good News of Jesus’ forgiveness breaks through with the light of Christ. 

            Jesus comes for sinners — sinners like you.  Jesus comes to be the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  As a baptized follower of Jesus you are marked with the blood of the Lamb.  You belong to Christ.  John 8:36 (ESV) 36 … if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 

Your sins are forgiven by Jesus.  Out of His great love for you God the Father sent His Son to be the sacrifice — to be the propitiation by His blood.  Jesus makes God view you as holy.  By drinking the cup of God’s wrath to its bitter dregs, Jesus appeases God’s anger at your sin and through His cleansing forgiveness changes God’s attitude toward you from anger to love.  You are saved by grace.  You receive what you do not deserve.  Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  In baptism Jesus makes you a part of Himself.  You are a member of Jesus.  You are a part of the Body of Christ. 

            The Gospel is pure gift and this can be daunting for adults.  Little children can receive a gift freely without any sense that they need give a gift in return.  Adults receiving a gift so often feel an obligation to make things even.

            But with God, there is no way to make things even. You are forgiven by God out of His love. You cannot pay Him back.  God’s love is out of your control.  God’s love is messy.  God’s love and freedom in Christ does not come with a clear cut set of rules.  Freedom in Christ is messy.  God’s love is messy, but it is a wonderful mess.  God loves sinners like you and me.  God loves sinners so much He sent Jesus to pay for sin and you cannot repay God.  Like a helpless child you just receive God’s love.  Give up trying to make things even with God and instead bask in God’s love and forgiveness and allow this love and forgiveness to so permeate your life that love and forgiveness flow out from you to others. 

            The Good News of God is disturbing to so many because of all the implications of personal helplessness and God’s authority.  But the Good News is not scary.  The Good News is Good News.  The Good News that Jesus has died for you is the precious medicine of God’s love for you.

            Live in Christ.  Live in His forgiveness.  Live in His love.  Live in His Church.  In love, do what you have been given to do.  God has prepared good works for you to do.  Ephesians 2:8–10 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

            God has works for you to do, however, good works do not precede salvation; they follow.  Good works do not earn forgiveness, rather good works flow out of God’s love and forgiveness for you.  Works done to earn salvation are not good works because the motivation is wrong.

            The Good News of God is disturbing to so many because of all the implications of personal helplessness and God’s authority.  But the Good News is not scary.  The Good News is Good News.  The Good News that Jesus has died for you is the precious medicine of God’s love for you.

            Attempting to begin a discussion about the sale of indulgences, Martin Luther unexpectedly started a reformation.  He brought back the Gospel which was being lost as church leaders obscured it in order to better control people and raise money.  Luther renewed the Bible’s teaching that you are not in control.  God is in control.  God is God and you are not. 

            Even though it frightens many, we delight in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There is nothing to fear.  You know the pure truth of God.  Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay the price for your sins and gain for you eternal life.  You are justified by faith apart from the works of the law.  It is not about you, it is about Jesus for you.  Amen. 

Road Trip with Jesus

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Pentecost 22 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 24, 2021

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

            Anyone else get excited about a road trip?  New things to see, new people to meet, new areas to explore. Jesus has been on a different kind of road trip since Mark, chapter 8.  Jesus’ road trip will bring him to Jerusalem where, as He tells His disciples, Mark 8:31 (ESV) 31 … the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” What kind of road trip is this?  Peter rejects this idea and rebukes Jesus for His negative talk.  Jesus has to set Peter straight and then tells the others.  Mark 8:34 (ESV) 34 …“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” 

            On this road trip Jesus goes to the mount of transfiguration with Peter, James and John and then back to His disciples where He heals a boy with an unclean spirit.  Together they walk through Galilee and Jesus tells them again, Mark 9:31 (ESV) 31 …, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 

            The disciples do not understand.  Instead they are concerned about which one of them is the greatest.  Jesus tells them, Mark 9:35 (ESV) 35 … “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 

            Along the way Jesus teaches about sin and temptation. His road trip goes across the Jordan to the east side and there He stops for a while and teaches.  The disciples try to keep children away from Jesus because children are not important, but they allow a rich young man come right up to Jesus. Jesus teaches them that God does not care if you are rich, but he does care about children.  Mark 10:15 (ESV) 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 

            They get back on the road to Jerusalem.  Jesus leads the way and the disciples and others follow; they are amazed and afraid that Jesus is still continuing to Jerusalem. 

            A third time Jesus tells what will happen, Mark 10:33 (ESV) 33 …“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.”

            You would think that this would focus the disciples on the nature of this road trip, but not James and John.  They come up to Jesus and ask Him to do whatever they ask Him to do.  Jesus asks, Mark 10:36 (ESV) 36 … “What do you want me to do for you?”  The brothers say to Jesus, Mark 10:37 (ESV) 37 “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”  Jesus must just shake His head.  Jesus’ glory will be suffering and dying on the cross with two criminals crucified on His right and His left.  Jesus tells James and John that they do not know what they are asking and teaches about true greatness.  Mark 10:43–45 (ESV) 43 … whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 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.” 

            Jesus leads the disciples and the others across the Jordan River to Jericho.  Jericho is 825 feet below sea level.  Jesus leads the disciples and the others through Jericho and out the other side on the road to Jerusalem which climbs up 3,300 feet over 18 miles.  The road will take them through rugged, desolate wilderness up to the City of Peace;  Jeru – shalom. 

            Jesus’ road trip is quite different from most road trips today.  Now, we take a car out on the open road at 70 miles an hour.  Jesus is walking on the stone and dirt roads maybe three miles an hour. At 70 with the windows up and music on, you see things whiz by outside, but you are not connected to them.  If someone outside tries to talk to you, you will not hear them. 

            As Jesus walks out of Jericho with His disciples and a great crowd they walk past a blind beggar sitting on the side of the road. This helpless man calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

            Jesus’ road trip is not a trip of glory as we think of glory.  It is not a trip where Jesus is visiting the rich and noble people and staying at their fancy villas insulated from the common folk.  Jesus comes for the little children, the outcast and downtrodden. Jesus comes for sinners who know they need a savior.  Jesus comes for the poor in spirit who know they cannot save themselves. 

            The blind beggar, Bartimaeus, cries out to Jesus, and the people around him tell him to shut up.  Who is this worthless, sorry excuse for a man to think he can talk to Jesus, the famous teacher?  The people try to silence him, but Bartimaeus knows Jesus is Lord, Jesus is King.  “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

            Jesus hears the blind beggar and stops along the road outside of Jericho and the whole parade of the disciples and the great crowd behind Him stops.  Jesus says, “Call him,” and they tell Bartimaeus, “Take heart.  Get up; he is calling you.” 

            Bartimaeus is likely sitting with his cloak folded in his lap to collect money from those who pass by.  He throws off the cloak, coins clattering on the ground, and jumps up to get to Jesus.  Jesus says to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  It is the same question He asked James and John after they demand that Jesus do whatever they ask of Him.  But Bartimaeus is different.  Bartimaeus is not seeking glory, he only cries out for Jesus to have mercy on Him and now Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

            “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”  Mark 10:52 (ESV) 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.”  Jesus says, “Go your way,” and Bartimaeus follows Jesus up the desert road to Jerusalem.

This road is not a road of glory.  This road is not easy.  Like the road from Jericho to Jerusalem it is often an uphill slog with tribulation and evil and illness and injury and death.  Following Jesus is not the ticket to a life of ease. 

            This morning you gather together here and sing out, “Lord for mercy” and you receive mercy.  You come in need of forgiveness, and forgiveness is given to you by Jesus in the words of absolution, and in His Body and Blood at His altar.  You come as followers of Jesus and you are refreshed for the journey.

            Today Jesus is still on a road trip to Jerusalem — the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem — and He calls you to follow Him.  You have been on this trip with Jesus since your baptism into Christ.  You follow in His footsteps.  As a forgiven sinner you delight in God’s will and walk in His way.  The road runs right through your midst; this stone path running from the altar down the center aisle of the church and into the narthex and out the door into the world – this is the road on which you follow Jesus. Jesus is in your midst.  You all are the body of Christ on earth.  You are a follower of Jesus, so, with Jesus, you walk this road, out of this building into the world, to follow Jesus on your road trip from the waters of the font all the way to the River of Life in the Heavenly City.

            This road is not a road of glory.  This road is not easy.  Like the road from Jericho to Jerusalem it is often an uphill slog with tribulation and evil and illness and injury and death.  Following Jesus is not the ticket to a life of ease.  Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me.” You are on a lifelong road trip following Jesus through this life.  It is an uphill, wilderness road where you love your neighbor, even love your enemy, as you follow Jesus through life in this sin-filled world. 

Like Peter, James and John, it is so easy to get distracted by the things of this world as if they are most important.  The world wants you to chase after every new, shiny thing.  The world wants to elevate your feelings above truth and commitment.  The world wants you to seek after glory for yourself as the greatest good.  Jesus calls you to follow Him on the road to Jerusalem, and so you come here each week and sit by the side of the road and call out, “Lord, have mercy,” and He does, and you follow Jesus.  Amen. 

Open, Empty Hands

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Pentecost 21 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 17, 2021
Ecclesiastes 5:10-20, Hebrews 4:1-13, Mark 10:23-31

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

            Picture for a moment that it is all over; the trumpet has sounded, Jesus has returned, the dead have been raised, the living have ascended and everyone has been brought before the judgement seat of God.  You are watching the Lord on His throne separating the sheep from the goats. The sheep are sent marching through the pearl gates of the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem, and the goats to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  When you come to the throne of God to be judged, what will you do?  What will you offer God in exchange for your salvation?

            Will you pull out your blue U.S. passport to prove you are an American citizen and therefore worthy of eternal life with the Lord?  Will you produce your résumé or your C.V. showing how your skills and hard work were rewarded by a continuing upward climb in your career?  Will you bring out pictures of your children to show that you did a good job as a parent? What will you offer to God?

            Perhaps you can show him a picture of your house, or your car, or your investment portfolio.  Maybe you can tell him about all of the good things you have done over the years to help other people.  What will you offer to God on judgment day?

            The truth is that you have nothing to offer to God in exchange for your soul. On judgment day you will come before the throne of God with empty hands.  You will come before God as a helpless child with nothing to offer to save yourself.  This is radical helplessness.  God does not care about the things of this world.  All of the things that seem so important in this life will have no value on the Last Day.  The only thing that will matter is whether or not you are clothed in the robe of Jesus’ righteousness that covers all your sins.  Are you protected by the blood of Jesus?  Are you a baptized child of God born again in water and the spirit, marked by the cross, redeemed by Christ, the crucified?  All you will have on the judgement day is the forgiveness of sins earned by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus poured out on you in your baptism, in the Word of God, and in the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. 

You come to God with open, empty hands and Jesus fills you and saves you.  Even though you are by nature blind, dead and an enemy of God, He gives you the gift of eternal life.  Each Sunday you come here to the altar with open, empty hands to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus given and shed for you.

            You come to God with open, empty hands and so also you live your life open-handed.  Into your open, empty hands God places things for your management.  You don’t own these things, but you are steward of these things. What God puts into your care is yours to care for during your time on earth.  Children, family, home, transportation, finances, belongings, employment, skills, time.  These things are important in this life and you are the manager of God’s gifts which you hold in your open hands. 

            There is great temptation in this life to try to get the most you can and close your fist and hold onto it tightly.  Far too many cling to money.  Sadly, it is quite normal for people to fear, love and trust money above all things.  This is a great danger because if you love money and cling to money you are not able to love God and cling to the cross of Christ. Also, if you love money you will never be content.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 (ESV) 10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.  

            You cannot cling to money because you will lose your salvation.  Matthew 6:24 (ESV) 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”  Much less importantly, clinging to money will make it so that you will never be satisfied and won’t enjoy the gifts that God has given.  King Solomon gives sage advice about the satisfaction and joy of workers while the wealthy worry. Ecclesiastes 5:12 (ESV) 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.”  And, Ecclesiastes 5:18 (ESV)  18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.” 

            Hold the gifts God gives you in open hands and enjoy the work you are given to do.  The work you are given to do is a gift from God.  Whether that is being a student, working a part time job, manufacturing, teaching, plumbing, running a business, caring for your children, or some other honest work.  Work is a gift from God.  In retirement you find new ways to serve others.  Retirement is an opportunity to serve others in ways you were unable to before.  God has created you to work. 

            This is baffling.  It makes no sense to the disciples.  They, like us, equate wealth with blessings from God.  God, of course, loves rich people.  Rich people have it all together.  Wealth is a sign of God’s favor.  Isn’t it?  The disciples would not let little children come up to Jesus, but ushered the rich young man up to Jesus right away because rich people are good.  Right?

            In our Gospel reading we see that 2,000 years ago folks’ view of money is very much like today and Jesus’ teachings turns this all upside down.  Mark 10:23 (ESV) 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

            This is baffling.  It makes no sense to the disciples.  They, like us, equate wealth with blessings from God.  God, of course, loves rich people.  Rich people have it all together.  Wealth is a sign of God’s favor.  Isn’t it?  The disciples would not let little children come up to Jesus, but ushered the rich young man up to Jesus right away because rich people are good.  Right?

Jesus’ teaching is radical; then and now.  He repeats it to make sure they understand.  Mark 10:24–27 (ESV) 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”       27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”  Your riches won’t get you into the Kingdom of God — Jesus will. 

            This further illuminates what Jesus had taught earlier.  Mark 10:15 (ESV) 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 

            Little children have nothing to offer God and they know it.  Children simply receive the gift of forgiveness as a promise from their dear Lord Jesus.  Children know they are helpless and needy; they know they need a savior.  Rich people may want to believe they are powerful and independent, but they also are helpless and needy and they also need a savior. Rich people need Jesus. 

            And in case you are thinking that I am talking about those other rich people, all of you, by world standards, are rich.  To be rich in the world is to have more than one pair of shoes and get to choose what you eat.  You are rich and you need Jesus. 

You come to God with open, empty hands and He fills you with forgiveness. You receive the gift of forgiveness as a promise from your dear Lord Jesus and so you fear, love and trust in God above all things.  You come to God with open, empty hands and He fills them with His love.  He fills them with forgiveness.  You come to God with open, empty hands and He fills them with the things needed for life in this world. 

            Now, if you work hard, are careful with debt, and live within your means there is a good chance the amount of money and goods under your stewardship will grow.  Sometimes it can grow to large amounts.  Always hold it in open hands.  Beware of the temptation to fear, love and trust in money.

            Hold the gifts God gives you in open hands with your fingers spread.  Let the gifts flow into your hands from God, live within your means, save some for a rainy day, and let the gifts flow out to others.

            Be generous.  Use your money and goods to love God and love your neighbor.  Care for those given to you and also for those in your community and world. For those who own or manage businesses you have a great burden to manage the business well to provide for your employees and their families.

            Be deliberate in your giving.  Give a generous, regular, first-fruits offering to the Lord through His Church to fund the continued proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Give to groups doing the Lord’s work of caring for others.  Lend to others not expecting to be repaid.  Tip liberally.  With money and belongings, be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  Know that whatever gifts you have in this life they can be used to help others in this life, but they have no value for eternity. 

            All the things of this world that seem to be so important will mean nothing on the Last Day.  On the Judgement Day you will stand before Jesus with the only thing that matters; the robe of Jesus’ righteousness that covers all your sins.  You need Jesus, and Jesus has given you all you need.  In the end, that is all that matters.  Amen. 

We have a heart problem

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Pentecost 19, 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 3, 2021
Genesis 2:18-25, Hebrews 2:1-13, Mark 10:2-16

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

            We have a heart problem in our nation and it is affecting our families. As we heard a few weeks ago in our Gospel reading…Mark 7:20–22 (ESV) 20 … out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”  We have a heart problem and it leads to no end of trouble. 

            As a culture we have forgotten what marriage is. We no longer understand that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman.  This confusion has been going on long before the Supreme Court invented a right to same-sex marriage in 2015.

            So what is marriage?  Lately, folks have come to see marriage as a temporary relationship with your #1 person.  People believe that marriage is the recognition of an intense emotional relationship that lasts as long as that intense emotional relationship remains the #1 relationship in your life. 

            This is what most people in our nation believe marriage to be.  It grows out of the sexual revolution, the hook-up culture, cohabitation and no-fault divorce.  This country, for the most part in marriage, has abandoned monogamy, exclusivity, permanence and sexual complementarity.  Our society has sacrificed marriage on the altar of the sexual freedom.  As a human institution, marriage is beaten and bloodied.  It looks like marriage might be down for the count, but looks can be deceiving. 

Marriage is under attack, but marriage will never be killed off by people, because marriage is not a human institution.  Marriage is instituted by God in Genesis 2:24 (ESV) 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  Marriage is not what we say it is.  Marriage is what God says it is.

            Marriage unites a man and a woman comprehensively. It is a comprehensive sharing of life. It is a comprehensive permanence. It is a comprehensive forsaking of all others.  This comprehensive union requires an intimate bodily union; two becoming one flesh. Marriage is the complete, total sharing of life and is ordered toward life. 

            Marriage is what God says it is, and marriage is good. Marriage is good for the husband.  Marriage is good for the wife.  Marriage is good for the children.  Marriage is good for society.  Governments recognize this good. 

            Why do you need a license to get married?  Why does the state of Ohio care about marriage? Is it that the state government is a sucker for romance?  Does the state care if you are with your #1 in an intense, emotional relationship?  No.  The government knows that it is a great benefit for parents to be married and for a father to be there at the birth of his children, and be there to raise his children. [1] 

            In our Gospel reading today, the Pharisees are testing Jesus to try to distract Him from His ministry with a difficult, divisive question.  Is divorce allowed?  It is still a difficult question in churches today.  Lots of people have gone through divorce and it can leave you feeling ashamed, damaged and a lesser Christian than others.  I fear many divorced people in church feel isolated and alone.  Divorce does happen.  There are times when divorce is unavoidable and sometimes it is the best option in a bad situation.  The great good news is that Jesus forgives real sins including divorce. 

            Hard hearts cause divorce, and we are all at risk.  It is your constant battle in life.  I know it is mine.  We inherit a naturally hard heart from our great, great grandpa Adam and it wants to creep back in and lead us into selfishness and sin. 

            It is a touchy question — is divorce allowed?  The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus, they want him to alienate some by saying divorce is always allowed, or anger others by saying divorce is never allowed. 

When questioned by Jesus, the Pharisees said that Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce.  Jesus explains why Moses did this.  Mark 10:5 (ESV) … “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.  Remember, “out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”

            Hard hearts cause divorce, and we are all at risk.  It is your constant battle in life.  I know it is mine.  We inherit a naturally hard heart from our great, great grandpa Adam and it wants to creep back in and lead us into selfishness and sin. 

You have an inherited heart problem but Jesus has given you the solution.  In your baptism, as we saw with Nate this morning, you received a heart transplant which is foretold by the Prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”  In Christ you have a new heart; a loving heart, a submissive heart, an obedient heart.  In Christ, there should be no divorce.

            And yet there is divorce.  There is divorce because we live in a world of heart trouble. There is divorce because we live in a fallen world and we are by nature sinful and unclean.  There is divorce because with no-fault divorce there is nothing you can do if your spouse demands a divorce.  There is divorce because out of the heart flows sexual immorality and adultery.  There is divorce because sometimes the abuse that flows from a wicked hard heart makes staying married impossible and getting divorced the lesser of two evils.  Those who have been divorced know most clearly the pain and heartache and trouble brought about by divorce even when it is not your intention.  Thank God Jesus offers real forgiveness for real sins. 

            Marriage is built as the one flesh union of a man and a woman.  In marriage you lose your individual identity as you are comprehensively united with another. What St. Paul writes to the church in Philippi as to how followers of Jesus are to act toward others has an even heightened importance in marriage.  Philippians 2:3–4 (ESV) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  What a beautiful picture of a good marriage. 

            Marriage trouble is caused by heart problems.  I am acutely aware for myself that it is hard to admit when I am wrong.  I hate to admit I am wrong and yet it has happened once or twice over 33 years of marriage.  If you get into a heated disagreement with your spouse do not let the anger linger and let the devil get a foothold.  Do not let the sun go down on your anger.  Call a time out, take a moment to cool off, and then go your spouse and apologize for losing your cool.  Marriage is hard work.  When you are struggling with marriage because your heart is hardening, come to the Lord like a helpless child and pray in the words of the Psalmist David in Psalm 51:10 (ESV)  10  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Confess the hardness of your heart.  Repent and turn back to Christ who gives you a heart of flesh.  Receive the forgiveness won for you on the cross of Calvary where Jesus’ heart is pierced so your heart of stone can be replaced with a new heart.  Receive the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins.  Live under the will of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you.

For those who are single and seeking a spouse, pray God, if He wills, sends you a good Christian spouse with whom to share your life. 

            For those who have been divorced, know that you are washed clean in the blood of Jesus.  He has taken your shame and guilt as far from you as the East is from the West. 

            For those who are married, remember that your spouse is so much more your current #1 person.  This is the person God has comprehensively united with you to become one flesh, and God-willing, create new life.  “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  Love your spouse with a selfless love.  Forgive each other freely.  Work together in service to get through each day.  Do the little things in service to each other.  Take out the trash, unload the dishwasher, vacuum the house, cut the grass, help the children with their homework. 

In baptism Christ has given you a heart transplant.  Embrace your new heart and be on guard against a hard heart creeping back in.  As a beloved child, love God, love your neighbor.  Forgive one another the way that Christ has forgiven you.  Love your spouse with the heart of flesh given you by Jesus.  Treasure your spouse as a gift from God.  Amen.


[1] From presentation by Ryan T. Anderson 8/28/21 Davenport, IA

Living Stones

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Rev. Gilbert J Duchow                                                                                   
125th Anniversary
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio 
September 26, 2021
1 Peter 2:1-10

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

Topic: “Living Stones”

Text: Selections from 1 Peter 2:1-10: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to the Lord, a living stone, rejected by men but chosen and precious in the sight of God, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house….So the honor is for you who believe.  But for those who do not believe, the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense….But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

            I begin with some precious memories of our life and ministry together at Immanuel.  The first time we visited Immanuel in 1980, we were greeted by streams of joyful children from the school—presenting us with more than 100 pair of their hands that they had traced and cut out of paper—warmly welcoming us to Immanuel.  I still have those welcoming hands stored away in my Immanuel box of memorabilia.

            A couple months later was what I call my “baptism” at Immanuel.  After 4 inches of rain fell in 2 hours, the quiet little stream at the edge of the property turned into a raging torrent which filled the church basement with 9 feet of water.  After the fire Department had pumped out the basement, the hard work of cleaning up began. 

The next day there were only about a dozen who showed up to help.  That evening I decided to get to know the congregation.  I got out the church directory and called every family and individual in the church—inviting them to join us the next day, a Saturday, to help with the clean-up. Many people were grateful, saying that they had never been asked before to help with anything at church.  Of course, there were a few who said something like, “What church are you talking about?  Oh yes, we used to belong to Immanuel.”

            I could go on for quite a while sharing precious memories. I will mention just a few—Vacation Bible Schools that drew as many as 250 children from the church and community, joyous Easter services beautified by the Easter garden in the chancel, delightful Easter breakfasts with favors at every place made by Emma Ziegler and the youth group, a 2-hour weekly Bible class that twice drew 50 people for a two-year journey through the Bible, the marvelous ministry of Jeff Pool in our school and with our youth and seniors, and the countless people of God who were the backbone of the ministry at Immanuel–and the source of so much joy and blessing for me and my family.

            When I began my ministry at Immanuel in 1980, there were quite a few members who could still remember the old, white-framed church building, that was torn down in 1950, when the congregation moved out to the edge of town to their beautiful new stone church.  But I expect that there is hardly anyone here today who remembers the old building or the decades-long ministry of Pastor Ziegler.  There are many changes in a congregation in 70 years—and even more in 125 years.

            Through the years, Immanuel has been blessed with many faithful pastors and teachers, several of whom have had long, fruitful ministries, including Pastor Jud, who has well-surpassed my 16 years of service here.  Through the years, hundreds of members have come and gone—some transferred to other congregations, and many transferred to the church triumphant in heaven.  But one thing never changes—the church’s message and mission—”to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous and eternal light.”   Above all, our Savior never changes.  The Bible assures us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  By God’s grace, He has always been, is now, and always will be–the cornerstone of Immanuel Lutheran Church.

Church members come and go.  But one of the great blessings for the good and growth of God’s Kingdom are the members who come and grow, the ones whom Peter calls “living stones,” people who keep on growing up into Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit at work through God’s Word and Sacraments.  Living stones take up their cross daily and follow Christ faithfully.  Living stones are committed to sharing the light and love and saving grace of Jesus Christ with people all around them and all around the world.

By God’s grace, you and I are counted among those living stones.  We are very imperfect people.  But through our faith in Christ, we live in His forgiveness.  And each day He covers us anew with His righteousness, which covers over all of our guilty stains.

            Sadly, there are many people these days, including some who were brought up in the church, who are looking to sources other than Jesus Christ, the Rock of our salvation, for spiritual nourishment and hope for the future.  They are trying to build their spiritual life on whatever lifeless stones and ideas suit their fancy at the time.  But all they end up with is “stone soup,” which offers them no real or lasting nourishment or hope or peace.

Peter makes clear that in order to build a spiritual house that will stand strong through the storms of life, and will accomplish God’s will and purposes, we must first become living stones through the pure spiritual milk of baptism. Then by God’s grace, we continue to taste and see that the Lord is good, as we feed on God’s holy Word and Holy Supper. Through these means of grace, God’s Spirit continually breathes new life into our ministry as God’s chosen people—and prevents us from becoming God’s frozen people. 

As we grow in our faith in the Living Stone, Jesus Christ, and build our spiritual life on the foundation of His Word and promises, God’s Spirit gathers us together in a spiritual house like Immanuel.   Then, working together under the leadership of a pastoral shepherd, God’s people focus their efforts on carrying out Christ’s mission—to make disciples for Christ, and to help those disciples grow and mature in their Christian faith– and their life of Christian love and service.  This has been the mission of Immanuel for 125 years, and by God’s grace, will continue to be its central focus for decades to come.

            However, just as in Peter’s day, so today, many people reject God’s priceless gifts of forgiveness, new life and salvation which Jesus earned for us on the cross.  They try to create their own version of stone soup, which can never satisfy their spiritual thirst.   2,000 years later, Jesus is still “the stone that the builders rejected,…a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”  

An increasing number of people these days are taking offense at the exclusive claims of our Biblical faith.  They claim that all religions are basically the same, there are many saviors, and all roads lead to the same place.   Peter says that we are to share the saving message of the Gospel with gentleness and respect.  But we must always stand firm in our faith.  As the hymn says, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”  Jesus Christ may not always be “the people’s choice.”  But He is the only choice for our salvation.  Peter says clearly in Acts 4:12: “There is salvation in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

            By God’s grace, Immanuel is made up of living stones whom God has gathered together as the building blocks for His church—living stones like you!.  But the psalmist reminds us that unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain (Psalm 127:1).  We must always let the Master Builder be our architect and builder.

For 125 years, the Master Builder has given to the people of Immanuel countless times when you have “tasted the kindness of the Lord,” countless times when your ministry has been blessed beyond measure.  The lives of literally thousands of people have been touched and transformed by the light and love of Christ, through the ministry of Immanuel’s church and school.  As you keep on growing God’s family in this community and region, by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and keep on providing the opportunities for everyone at Immanuel to grow up in Christ and serve the Lord with gladness, you will continue to be a blessing for countless people, who will be blessed as you and I have been, to call Immanuel their home!   May God grant it for Jesus’ sake.        Amen.

Uncomfortable Comfort

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Pentecost 16, 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
September 12, 2021
Isaiah 50:4-10, James 3:1-12, Mark 9:14-29

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 lesson from Mark 9 we meet a very comforting man.  Not Jesus this time, but rather the father of the son with an unclean spirit.  This man brings us a sort of uncomfortable comfort because this man is so much like us. The man’s son has a spirit that makes him mute and tries to destroy him and so the father brings his son to Jesus’ disciples to have them cast the evil spirit out.  The father has high hopes of deliverance, but the disciples are unable to drive out the demon.  The Jewish scribes, with glee, watch the disciples’ failure and seize the opportunity to point out their humiliation.  The scribes and disciples are locked in a heated dispute when Jesus returns from being on the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James and John.  The crowd, which had been interested in the argument, now turns their attention to Jesus.  Jesus inquires as to what is going on and the father explains what has happened with his son.  Mark 9:21–22 (ESV) 21 And Jesus asked [the] father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 

            It is here we find the uncomfortable comfort.  The father says to Jesus, “If you can do anything…”  The man’s faith has been weakened.  He believed Jesus’ disciples could drive out this evil spirit, but then they could not.  Now he is not so sure Jesus can help.

            How often do you find yourself, like this father, with weakened faith?  There are times when it feels like your faith is so strong that nothing could shake it. Perhaps just after worship on a Sunday when the hymns and the sermon and the Lord’s Supper have strengthened you and have fortified you for the coming week and you feel like your faith is unshakeable.  But then comes those things that shake your faith. 

Hardships and tragedies can weaken faith.  A family member gets sick; a loved one dies and you find yourself blaming God.  Your marriage is in trouble, your child is on a bad path, your finances are a mess. There is a natural disaster or a violent attack.  You grow angry with God and become more distant from His Word and His sacraments, and your faith weakens. 

Success, also, can shake your faith.  Things are going well, the kids are achieving great things in sports, you’ve gotten a promotion at work, there is some money in the bank, and God seems less important.  Your faith in yourself grows stronger and your faith in God grows weaker. 

            You would like to believe that your faith just grows ever stronger and more vibrant throughout your life, but you know that is not true.  You know that you have times when you are just barely holding onto faith in Christ Jesus. In today’s Gospel reading we meet a man like that.  He is barely holding onto faith.  His son is in trouble, maybe Jesus can help, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

            Here is a man, like us, who is struggling in faith. How does Jesus react?   Mark 9:23 (ESV) 23 And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 

            What wonderful good news for you and for me. Jesus helps a man with weak faith. Jesus hears the man’s prayer and responds and drives the evil spirit from his son.  And this is such good news.  Jesus hears the prayers of those with weak faith.  Halleluiah! 

            The man wants to believe, but he just watched Jesus’ disciples fail to help his son.  He is desperately hanging on by a thread.  Mark 9:24 (ESV) 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

            What a great prayer.  It is powerful in its humility and simplicity.  It is honest and it is trusting.  And how does God in flesh respond to this humble prayer, Mark 9:25–27 (ESV) 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 

            What wonderful good news for you and for me. Jesus helps a man with weak faith. Jesus hears the man’s prayer and responds and drives the evil spirit from his son.  And this is such good news.  Jesus hears the prayers of those with weak faith.  Halleluiah! 

            At times, people will ask me to pray for good weather or something saying, “Because you are closer to the Big Guy.”  But I am not.  Being a pastor does not make me closer to God.  I struggle with sin.  I struggle with faith.  This is my prayer too, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

            I know it must be, at times, your prayer also, “I believe, help my unbelief.”  The great Good News in today’s Gospel reading is to know that Jesus hears the prayers of those with weak faith.  This is Good News for you, for me, for the world.  It is Good News because we live in a world of people with weak faith.  This is a world filled with bruised reeds and smoldering wicks. 

            Jesus’ gentle treatment of those weak in faith fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah as we hear in Matthew 12:20 (ESV) 20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; 

            Jesus is gentle with those struggling with faith. He is gentle with those who don’t have it all together.  Jesus is gentle with those who struggle with sin and temptation.  Jesus eats with sinners.  Jesus does not lessen the law, but He speaks the truth in love.  Jesus loves you so much he takes the penalty for your sin upon himself and offers you the forgiveness of sins. 

            And so in this world of broken, hurting people; in this world of bruised reeds and smoldering wicks; those who presume to speak for God bear a great responsibility.  Pastors and church teachers are warned in our reading from James, James 3:1 (ESV) 1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 

            James then talks about how difficult it is to control the tongue.  I could probably come up with a whole sermon series just relating personal experiences of my lack of control of my tongue throughout my life.  We all have issues with this, but whose tongues is James specifically talking about here?  The tongue of the pastor.  The tongue of the church teacher.  Those who speak on behalf of God and say, “Thus saith the Lord,” must truly speak on behalf of God.

            It is a great temptation for me to preach my own opinions and present it as God’s Word.  That should never be.  I must tame my tongue.

            For me, writing my sermons out fully, and editing and reediting the manuscript helps me to be more thoughtful and precise in my language and what I need to say.  It gives me time to control my tongue. 

            Because the tongue is dangerous.  James 3:5–6 (ESV) 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 

            Misguided pastors can set fields of bruised reeds on fire with false teachings.  False teachers lead people to hell.  There is a great temptation to takes God’s word and to soften it, to knock off the sharp edges, to make God’s word more in line with our thinking.  So many pastors try to get rid of truths of God that they don’t like.  They try to get rid of Hell.  They try to get rid of God’s teachings about marriage and intimacy.  They try to get rid of Jesus being the only way to the Father. They try to reshape God in their own image and then teach about this new god, but now instead of using their tongues to bless the people they are using their tongues to curse them to hell. 

            As a member of Immanuel you have a responsibility to ensure that what I am preaching is the truth of God’s Word.  You need to be so familiar with God’s Word that you will know if I have gone astray.  If you hear me preach something contrary to scripture, let me know.  There have been a couple of times when after the 8 o’clock service someone approached me to ask about a detail of something I had said that may not align with scripture.  I checked it and then adjusted the sermon for 10:45 AM.  Read and study your Bible, and listen carefully to the sermon to make sure you are always being given living water and not deadly poison.

            Together, as the Church, we stay alert and remain aware that what we believe, teach and confess is the truth of God.  Together, we cling to the forgiveness we have in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Together, we are careful to be gentle in our teachings because people are weak and have weak faith.  There are a lot of bruised reeds and smoldering wicks. 

Together, as followers of Jesus here at Immanuel Lutheran Church and School, we gently speak the truth in love.  We acknowledge that we are all sinners who need a Savior.  We struggle to control our tongues.  We speak the truth in love and we trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.  Together, we pray the comforting, uncomfortable prayer of the father in Mark 9, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Amen.