Jesus Calms the Storm

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Pentecost 4, 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Hilbert Kamps 
June 20, 2021
Mark 4:35-41

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 stormy-weather incident recorded for us in this morning’s Gospel lesson is not just a nice story about Miracle Worker Jesus saving His followers from a watery grave. It is also full of teachings concerning

the nature of Jesus as the Christ and the nature of the sinners in the boat with Him. Which is also our sinful natures.

The context leading up to the events in today’s Gospel include a very full day of teaching for Jesus. We heard two of the parables He taught in last week’s Gospel. It’s been a long day.  Jesus is tired.  As is often the case after a busy time of ministry, Jesus decided to get away with His disciples for some much needed rest and relaxation.  In this case, He elected to travel across to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. 

The Sea of Galilee is about eight miles across from west to east at its widest point.            Ordinarily, the crossing should only take a few hours, but on this crossing, a storm came up.  Even though several of the disciples were experienced fishermen, they were still frightened.  This indicates that the storm was certainly powerful. 

Where was Jesus during this storm?  He was asleep in the stern of the boat. He was exhausted from His long day and fell into a sleep so sound that even the storm did not wake Him.

The fact that Jesus was asleep is an important demonstration of the nature of the Christ.  Other than His actual death on the cross, there is no better demonstration of the humanity of Jesus than the sleep of exhaustion.  Every human being on the planet knows what it is to grow tired and fall asleep.  Here Jesus demonstrates His unity with all people.  He sleeps like any other human being.

But then the disciples wake Him and ask for His help.  We should not assume that the disciples were expecting much from Jesus. After all, he was brought up as a carpenter, not as a sailor.  It is more likely that they were  just thinking  in terms of another  set of hands to help bail the water out of the boat or some other similar activity. It may even be that they just wanted Him to move away from the stern so that they had better access to the  rudder. In  any case, they woke Him and asked for help, but they did not expect what happened next.

Jesus woke up and had a few choice words for the developing weather elements.  The word “rebuke” in the text means that Jesus scolded the wind and the water rather harshly.  After that, the wind and the water became calm. 

Now, you and I could scold the weather until we were blue in the face and nothing would change.

Remember in the movie Forest Gump where Sargent Dan is sitting high on the mast-pole and cursing the storm. Well, if we would continue in that sort of activity, people might wonder if they should call the authorities to take us somewhere to get a mental checkup.  Jesus, on the other hand, scolded the weather and the weather paid attention.  It paid attention because Jesus is not just your ordinary, sleepy human being.  He is also the God of all creation.  Jesus’ ability to control the wind and the waves with just a word clearly shows that He is God.            So it is that this one event very clearly demonstrates that Jesus is both 100 % man and 100 % God in one person.

The disciples, on the other hand, were terrified.  The original Greek says that they feared a great fear. They were in a boat with someone who could talk to the wind and the waves and the wind and the waves would pay attention to what He said.    They began to question who their master and teacher really was.

This is one of the themes in Jesus’ life. People often ask who Jesus is.  Today, we heard that the wind and the waves know who Jesus is.

In other parts of the Gospel account, we learn that diseases, birth defects, and injuries know who Jesus is. Even the demons know who Jesus is.  But, when it comes to the human beings, Jesus is a great mystery. They regularly ask, “Who is this? Where does He get this authority?”  Hear the words that the Holy Spirit spoke through His prophet Isaiah.  “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey  its  master’s crib,  but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” (Isaiah 1:3)

The terror  of God traces  its  way clear  back to Eden.  God called and Adam  replied, “I  heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid.” (Genesis3:10)  Adam had sinned and the  presence of  the  holy and almighty God terrified him.  It is the same for  all people who see their sin clearly in the holy presence of Almighty  God. The writer  to the Hebrews  put it  this way:  “It is a fearful thing to fall into  the hands of  the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

That is the reason it  so important that Jesus be both man and God. If Jesus were only God, He could not take our place under the law and live a holy life for us.    He also could not suffer the penalty we have earned for our sin. If Jesus were a man, and nothing more, then His perfect life and sacrificial death would earn the salvation of one and only one person.  The rest of the world would be lost. It is essential for our salvation that Jesus be both God and man. We need the salvation that Jesus provides because the storm on the Sea of Galilee is just one instance of the many disasters that the sin of humanity has brought into this world.

The destruction that storms bring is an expression of the curse that came when sin entered the world.  Our sin not only brings sickness and death to us, but even the world is cursed. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to the Romans: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  (Romans 8:22)

Floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, lightening, earthquakes, and all the other natural disasters are the result of the curse that our sin brought into the world. These natural disasters are not the  only storms that our sin has brought into the world.  There are other storms in our lives as well.  There are the medical storms of infections, heart disease, diabetes, strokes, cancer, and so forth. There are the relational storms of broken families and friendships.  There are the financial storms of plant closings and layoffs. Ultimately, there is the storm of death that comes to all of us sooner or later.  We may try to deny the existence of sin in our lives, but these storms, both private and public, say otherwise.

It is in the incarnation of Jesus Christ – the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature – that we see God’s loving plan to deal with sin.  In Jesus Christ, God assumed human nature to save humans from their nature –  their sinful nature.  For our own sin doomed  us to perish –  not  just from this earth, but also from the blessings of God’s presence with us.

In first John chapter 1, verse 7 we read; But the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7) Christ’s human nature allowed Him to be the target of God’s wrath as He hung on the cross.

Christ’s Divine nature allowed Him to endure that wrath for all people in all times and places.  So it is that God took on human flesh and saved us from our sins.

We have complete confidence in that salvation that Jesus earned for us because death was unable to hold Him.  For Christ did not remain in the grave, but, after He conquered death, He rose from death never to die again.  After He rose, He showed Himself to His disciples.  He encouraged them to examine the marks of the cross in His body.      He talked with them and ate with them.  He interacted with them in very human ways.  At the same time, locked doors and windows were no barrier to Him as He appeared and disappeared at will. In His resurrection, He demonstrated that He lives forever as both God and man in one person.

Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.           With that combination, we find our full salvation from sin, death, and the power of the devil. In His humanity, He was able to suffer on the cross in our place and for our good. In His deity, He was able to defeat our foes and rise from the dead to give us eternal life. It is in the person of Jesus Christ who both slept and stilled the storm  that we have our  faith and the promise  of eternal life; as well as the promise that your sins are forgiven, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Jesus Calms the Storm

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Pentecost 4, 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Hilbert Kamps 
June 20, 2021
Mark 4:35-41

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 stormy-weather incident recorded for us in this morning’s Gospel lesson is not just a nice story about Miracle Worker Jesus saving His followers from a watery grave. It is also full of teachings concerning

the nature of Jesus as the Christ and the nature of the sinners in the boat with Him. Which is also our sinful natures.

The context leading up to the events in today’s Gospel include a very full day of teaching for Jesus. We heard two of the parables He taught in last week’s Gospel. It’s been a long day.  Jesus is tired.  As is often the case after a busy time of ministry, Jesus decided to get away with His disciples for some much needed rest and relaxation.  In this case, He elected to travel across to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. 

The Sea of Galilee is about eight miles across from west to east at its widest point.            Ordinarily, the crossing should only take a few hours, but on this crossing, a storm came up.  Even though several of the disciples were experienced fishermen, they were still frightened.  This indicates that the storm was certainly powerful. 

Where was Jesus during this storm?  He was asleep in the stern of the boat. He was exhausted from His long day and fell into a sleep so sound that even the storm did not wake Him.

The fact that Jesus was asleep is an important demonstration of the nature of the Christ.  Other than His actual death on the cross, there is no better demonstration of the humanity of Jesus than the sleep of exhaustion.  Every human being on the planet knows what it is to grow tired and fall asleep.  Here Jesus demonstrates His unity with all people.  He sleeps like any other human being.

But then the disciples wake Him and ask for His help.  We should not assume that the disciples were expecting much from Jesus. After all, he was brought up as a carpenter, not as a sailor.  It is more likely that they were  just thinking  in terms of another  set of hands to help bail the water out of the boat or some other similar activity. It may even be that they just wanted Him to move away from the stern so that they had better access to the  rudder. In  any case, they woke Him and asked for help, but they did not expect what happened next.

Jesus woke up and had a few choice words for the developing weather elements.  The word “rebuke” in the text means that Jesus scolded the wind and the water rather harshly.  After that, the wind and the water became calm. 

Now, you and I could scold the weather until we were blue in the face and nothing would change.

Remember in the movie Forest Gump where Sargent Dan is sitting high on the mast-pole and cursing the storm. Well, if we would continue in that sort of activity, people might wonder if they should call the authorities to take us somewhere to get a mental checkup.  Jesus, on the other hand, scolded the weather and the weather paid attention.  It paid attention because Jesus is not just your ordinary, sleepy human being.  He is also the God of all creation.  Jesus’ ability to control the wind and the waves with just a word clearly shows that He is God.            So it is that this one event very clearly demonstrates that Jesus is both 100 % man and 100 % God in one person.

The disciples, on the other hand, were terrified.  The original Greek says that they feared a great fear. They were in a boat with someone who could talk to the wind and the waves and the wind and the waves would pay attention to what He said.    They began to question who their master and teacher really was.

This is one of the themes in Jesus’ life. People often ask who Jesus is.  Today, we heard that the wind and the waves know who Jesus is.

In other parts of the Gospel account, we learn that diseases, birth defects, and injuries know who Jesus is. Even the demons know who Jesus is.  But, when it comes to the human beings, Jesus is a great mystery. They regularly ask, “Who is this? Where does He get this authority?”  Hear the words that the Holy Spirit spoke through His prophet Isaiah.  “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey  its  master’s crib,  but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” (Isaiah 1:3)

The terror  of God traces  its  way clear  back to Eden.  God called and Adam  replied, “I  heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid.” (Genesis3:10)  Adam had sinned and the  presence of  the  holy and almighty God terrified him.  It is the same for  all people who see their sin clearly in the holy presence of Almighty  God. The writer  to the Hebrews  put it  this way:  “It is a fearful thing to fall into  the hands of  the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

That is the reason it  so important that Jesus be both man and God. If Jesus were only God, He could not take our place under the law and live a holy life for us.    He also could not suffer the penalty we have earned for our sin. If Jesus were a man, and nothing more, then His perfect life and sacrificial death would earn the salvation of one and only one person.  The rest of the world would be lost. It is essential for our salvation that Jesus be both God and man. We need the salvation that Jesus provides because the storm on the Sea of Galilee is just one instance of the many disasters that the sin of humanity has brought into this world.

The destruction that storms bring is an expression of the curse that came when sin entered the world.  Our sin not only brings sickness and death to us, but even the world is cursed. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to the Romans: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  (Romans 8:22)

Floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, lightening, earthquakes, and all the other natural disasters are the result of the curse that our sin brought into the world. These natural disasters are not the  only storms that our sin has brought into the world.  There are other storms in our lives as well.  There are the medical storms of infections, heart disease, diabetes, strokes, cancer, and so forth. There are the relational storms of broken families and friendships.  There are the financial storms of plant closings and layoffs. Ultimately, there is the storm of death that comes to all of us sooner or later.  We may try to deny the existence of sin in our lives, but these storms, both private and public, say otherwise.

It is in the incarnation of Jesus Christ – the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature – that we see God’s loving plan to deal with sin.  In Jesus Christ, God assumed human nature to save humans from their nature –  their sinful nature.  For our own sin doomed  us to perish –  not  just from this earth, but also from the blessings of God’s presence with us.

In first John chapter 1, verse 7 we read; But the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7) Christ’s human nature allowed Him to be the target of God’s wrath as He hung on the cross.

Christ’s Divine nature allowed Him to endure that wrath for all people in all times and places.  So it is that God took on human flesh and saved us from our sins.

We have complete confidence in that salvation that Jesus earned for us because death was unable to hold Him.  For Christ did not remain in the grave, but, after He conquered death, He rose from death never to die again.  After He rose, He showed Himself to His disciples.  He encouraged them to examine the marks of the cross in His body.      He talked with them and ate with them.  He interacted with them in very human ways.  At the same time, locked doors and windows were no barrier to Him as He appeared and disappeared at will. In His resurrection, He demonstrated that He lives forever as both God and man in one person.

Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.           With that combination, we find our full salvation from sin, death, and the power of the devil. In His humanity, He was able to suffer on the cross in our place and for our good. In His deity, He was able to defeat our foes and rise from the dead to give us eternal life. It is in the person of Jesus Christ who both slept and stilled the storm  that we have our  faith and the promise  of eternal life; as well as the promise that your sins are forgiven, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Repackaging Poison

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Pentecost 2 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
June 6, 2021
Gen. 3:8-15, 2 Cor. 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35

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

            Have you ever had a dream where you find yourself at school or work and then you realize you are naked or in your underwear?  Supposedly this is a dream about having your insecurities revealed.  In our Old Testament reading today we find some people who are living out that dream.  Adam and Eve suddenly realize that they are naked.  They are naked and ashamed.  Ashamed not just about being unclothed, but ashamed that they have disobeyed God.  Naked and ashamed, our great-great grandparents try to cover up with fig leaves and then they try to run from God; hide from God.  They have been deceived by the lies of the evil one.  They have broken the world.  Now they are trying to hide from God’s wrath.

            God, however, is not going to destroy them and start over.  Instead, God has a plan for redemption.  God comes looking for His human creations and asks them questions.  He calls to them, “Where are you?”  Genesis 3:10–11 (ESV)  10 And [Adam] said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 [God] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  Satan deceived the two by questioning God’s word, “Did God actually say?”  He twisted the truth and repackaged rebellion against God as just, “being like God.”

            God asks the naked and ashamed couple three questions which convict the hiding pair of their sin.  Although it turns out it isn’t just Adam and Eve hiding from God in the Garden, the serpent is still there with them. 

            Guilty Adam desperately tries to shift the blame to others. Genesis 3:12 (ESV)  12 … “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”   Genesis 3:13 (ESV) 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 

            The Lord God will address Eve and Adam, but first He speaks to the Serpent; Satan, and He curses the Evil One.  Genesis 3:14–15 (ESV) 14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” 

            God gives the plan of redemption.  The offspring of the woman will be wounded but He will crush the serpent’s head.  God promises a savior and covers over Adam and Eve’s naked shame with garments of skin. 

            In our Gospel reading the offspring of the woman has come and is preparing to crush the devil’s head while being wounded by the devil on the cross.  As Jesus moves about in His ministry His very presence causes unclean spirits to cry out and then Jesus drives them out.  Jesus has been driving out demons, healing many, preaching and teaching.  He cleanses a leper, a paralytic and a man with a withered hand.  Jesus is attracting such large crowds that He is not even able to eat. 

Jesus’ family hears about this and they twist things around to declare “He is out of his mind.”  The scribes twist the truth of what is going on and try to repackage what is happening. They say that Jesus is casting out demons by the prince of demons.  Jesus, upon whom the Holy Spirit descended at His baptism, is accused being in league with the devil. 

Jesus has come to crush the devil and the scribes say He is working with the devil.  Mark 3:23–27 (ESV) 23 And [Jesus] called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. 

Jesus is binding the strong man, Satan, and plundering his house.  Jesus is freeing people from the power of the devil and the scribes say He is possessed by the devil.  Jesus sternly warns them of the dire consequences of their mislabeling who Jesus is.  Mark 3:28–30 (ESV) 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” 

            If you reject Jesus and the Holy Spirit, you reject forgiveness.  You will be lost forever.  You will stand before the judgement seat of God naked and ashamed because you have rejected the Lamb’s robe of righteousness which covers over all your sin. 

Sin is serious.  You need forgiveness.  You need Jesus.  If you reject Jesus, you reject forgiveness.  You need the real Jesus who died on the cross for you and rose from the dead for you.  You need the real Jesus of the Bible, not one that has been repackaged and relabeled into someone compatible with the whims of the culture. 

            How wicked would it be for someone to come into your house and take toilet bowl cleaner, pour it into soda pop bottles and put it in your fridge?  It would be a tremendous evil to repackage and relabel poison to make it appear harmless. 

            But that is exactly what people love to do these days. Folks love to repackage and relabel sin to make it seem harmless and fun.  Greed and the love of money are repackaged as ambition and aggressive business skills.  Anger is relabeled as righteous indignation. 

            God created man and woman and said, Genesis 1:28 (ESV) 28 … “Be fruitful and multiply ….”  and 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. 

God has a plan for sexual intimacy within the marriage union of a man and a woman, but people reject God’s plan and relabel and repackage sexual sin to seem harmless.  Just fooling around.  Just hooking up.  Just shacking up.  So much twisted and perverse sexual sin now repackaged with rainbows and relabeled as pride. 

            Killing an unborn child is called essential health care for women.  Killing the elderly and infirm is called death with dignity.  We so much want to listen to devil’s lie, “Did God really say?” and repackage and relabel sin. 

            When sin is repackaged and relabeled as harmless it is more dangerous than toilet bowl cleaner in a pop bottle.  Because if you believe sin is harmless you will not seek forgiveness, and without forgiveness, sin is eternally deadly.  If you reject Jesus’ forgiveness because you ignore sin it will leave you standing naked and ashamed before the judgement seat of God. Do not fall into this twisted trap of the evil one.

            Renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways. You are a baptized child of God. Your naked shame has been covered by the robe of Jesus’ righteousness made white in the blood of the Lamb.  Jesus paid for your sins on the cross of Calvary. He is the first fruits of the grave promising that you will be raised from the dead. 

            In Christ you have eternal life.  Indeed you are by nature sinful and unclean but you have forgiveness in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit dwells in you.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  So stay alert.  1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)  8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 

Everyday, be aware of the devil’s tricks as he twists the true Jesus into a false Jesus, even making Jesus the enemy.  Resist the devil and his lies as he repackages and relabels sin.  The devil knows all your weak points.  Do not dabble with sin and evil.  James 4:7 (ESV)  7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 

            Always remember who you are a new creation in Christ. You have been born again in water and the Spirit.  Declare the truth, “I am baptized!  I still struggle with sin, but Jesus has forgiven me.  On the last day I will not be naked and ashamed before the throne of God because I am clothed in Jesus’ righteousness and I will live with him forever.”  Amen. 

Trinity Sunday

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Trinity Sunday 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
May 30, 2021
Is. 6:1-8, Acts 2:14a, 22-36, John 3:1-17

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

            The potter grabs up a double handful of reddish brown clay slaps it between his hands and presses it into a smooth ball.  He throws the ball of clay in the center of the rotating potter’s wheel. Over the next hour the potter carefully transforms the lump of clay into a beautifully shaped jar which he then fires in the kiln, paints and fires again.  The potter creates beauty and function from a couple of handfuls of clay.  

            The Lord God Almighty takes a couple handfuls of fresh dirt and slaps it and presses it and forms it into a man and breathes into him the breath of life. From a pinch of flesh from the side of the man the Lord God Almighty forms woman and brings her to the man. From this man and woman, formed from the dust of the ground, all people have descended.  You are the product of the creative power of the Almighty Potter.

            Now, does the clay jar have any rights to demand things of the potter?  What audacity a clay jar must have to have to question the potter who made it.  But that is just what ol’ Grandma and Grandpa Eve and Adam decided to do.  They are clay jars, God is the potter, and yet they are tempted to question God’s instructions.  They are tempted to want to be like God.  The pot is tempted to be the Potter.

            This continues throughout history and even until today.  The pot wants to be the potter.  Isaiah 29:16 (ESV) 16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? 

            Romans 9:20–20 (ESV) 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 

            There is an ongoing desire since the Garden of Eden to question God’s authority, to want to be like God, to be your own god.  We want to be like God and make God in our image so God makes sense to us. 

When people make up religions they often make up gods that are like themselves. Joseph Smith made up the Mormon god with the idea that god was once like you and if you try hard enough you can be like god.  People make up gods that make sense.  Gods who demand you do what they say in order to earn their favor.  The Greek and Roman gods were created in the image of man with the same flaws as people.  In Islam, they did not so much make up a new god, but rejected things about the true God that did not make sense; the idea of God being incarnate or God being spirit.  They teach that Allah is beyond all comprehension. Now this helps make God make sense, and while it does acknowledges God’s majesty, it is fatally flawed because it rejects God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in order that the pot can make more sense of the Potter.  There is a deep desire to have a god that makes sense.

            But the true God does not make sense; three persons, one God.  God the Father is spirit.  Jesus was spirit and then took on flesh.  The Holy Spirit dwells in you.  Three persons, one God.  It does not make sense, and that really does make sense.  Because if you have a god that makes sense it means it is a god that someone made up.  It makes sense that the true God is beyond understanding because He is the Potter and you are the pot.

            The true God is spirit; a personal being without a body. John 4:24 (ESV) 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The true God also takes on human flesh in God the Son in order to redeem humanity.  John 1:14 (ESV) 

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

            At Christmas we celebrate God coming to be with us as that little baby boy born in Bethlehem.  “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity.  Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel!”

            The true God is beyond your understanding.  He is incomprehensible.  God does not make sense.  The Trinity does not make sense.  You cannot understand God.  God is uncreated, eternal, infinite, almighty, coequal, coeternal. 

            When we think about it, our minds are really quite limited in our understandings.  God is eternal; He is infinite; He has no beginning and no end.  We have symbols in mathematics to represent infinity, but we do not have a handle on eternity.  I can draw a line with an arrow at each end and say this line goes on forever, but my mind cannot comprehend something that has no beginning and no end.  We cannot understand how God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has always been and always will be. 

            Arius, a theologian from Alexandria Egypt in the late 3rd and early 4th Century AD, taught that God the Son is not coeternal with the Father but was begotten of the Father in time.  This was rightly condemned as heresy by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  This led to the Nicene Creed.  Opposition to Arius was led by another Alexandrian theologian, Athanasius, along with others including Nicholas of Myra, Ol’ St. Nicholas was not so jolly one day at the council and became so enraged he slapped Arius in the face.  The Athanasian Creed was a further clarification of Biblical truth in opposition to the Arians and clearly expresses what we can know about the Trinity.  It is named after Athanasius who most likely did not actually write this creed which we confess on Trinity Sunday.

            God is eternally holy; infinitely pure; perfectly just. In our Old Testament reading we see Isaiah coming into the presence of God and having an intense time of confession and absolution.  Isaiah 6:4–5 (ESV) 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

            Isaiah has seen God, YHWH Sabaoth.  YHWH of heavenly armies.  There are angelic beings, cherubim and seraphim, Isaiah 6:3 (ESV) 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 

Isaiah knows his sin and feels his own guilt and shame.  But YHWH does not crush Isaiah.  He does not give Isaiah tasks to earn forgiveness.  Instead He sends a seraphim to Isaiah with a burning coal and Isaiah 6:7 (ESV)  7 And he touched [Isaiah’s] mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 

            As you gather together each week you come into the presence of the eternal God, YHWH Sabaoth, and get on your knees and plead guilty of your sins.  The foundations of the church building do not shake.  The sanctuary is not filled with smoke.  There are no Cherubim and Seraphim flying around.  The danger is that it can get to be routine.  But know that you are coming into the presence of the infinite, incomprehensible God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and admitting that you deserve immediate and eternal punishment.

            But God does not strike you dead.  He does not give you a list of things to do to work off your debt.  Instead, He forgives your sins.  He declares you forgiven and He touches your lips with His Body and Blood in Holy Communion. He cleanses you and makes you holy and pure.  Jesus’ death and resurrection are credited to you as a free gift of love from God.  You are called by God to live out your holiness in love and service to others; doing what you have been given to do and responding to God’s call to do what He wants you to do.  You are called to live as someone whose body is a temple of the Holy Spirit praying the words of Isaiah 64:8 (ESV) 8 But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. 

            When you find yourself alone on a clear, dark night staring heavenward at the stars you stare into infinity and realize how small you are in the universe.  You are small in the universe and still the infinite God loves you and cares for you and forgives you and knows how many hairs are on your head. 

            God is incomprehensible.  The pot truly cannot understand much about the Potter and yet remains the Potter’s treasure.  You have the Spirit of God dwelling in you giving you the Good News of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for you.  You have the treasure of God.  2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  

            The Good News about Jesus comes indeed in jars of clay but it still remains an eternal treasure.  You are a creation of the infinite God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You are a treasured pot made by the eternal Potter.  You have been sealed by the infinite God and while you cannot comprehend eternity you have eternal life.  Amen. 

Bucket of Wind

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Pentecost 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
May 22, 23, 2021
Ezekial 37:1-14, Acts 2:1-21, John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

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Text:                           pastorjud.org   
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itunes:                        bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:   bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            It is a windy day at the park.  Lots of children are flying kites which soar high into the sky.  But there is one boy who doesn’t have a kite.  Instead he has a five gallon bucket in one hand with the lid in the other.  He is running around holding the bucket high in the air by the handle.  He swoops the bucket through the air and then slams the lid down onto it.  You ask him, “What are you doing?”  He replies, “I have caught the wind.  Do you want to see?”  He lifts the lid. 

            You know that he has sort of caught the wind in the bucket, but it is hard to tell.  It looks like an empty bucket. 

            I think that sometimes when we talk about the Holy Spirit it can be frustrating. Comprehending the Holy Spirit is a lot like trying to catch a bucket of wind.  Today, on the Festival of Pentecost, let’s take some time to ponder the Holy Spirit. 

            Pentecost is an Old Testament festival 50 days after Passover.  It is also called the 

Feast of Weeks.  It is a harvest festival offering the first fruits of the wheat crop to the Lord. On that Pentecost after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension the disciples are together in Jerusalem waiting to be clothed with power from on high as Jesus promised at His ascension. 

            The Holy Spirit shows up that Pentecost in a big way.  The Spirit arrives with the sound like a mighty rushing wind that fills the house where the disciples are.  Like herald trumpets the wind sound announces the arrival of the Holy Spirit who comes like divided tongues of flame which rest on each of the disciples. 

            And in that moment, the confusion of languages that God caused at the Tower of Babel is undone in Jerusalem.  The disciples are enabled to tell the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension so that all can understand.  They are not just speaking Hebrew, but languages that all can recognize; even the Gentiles. 

            This is a monumental moment in the history of salvation.  The whole world is united as those for whom Jesus died and the gift of salvation is now offered to all; Jews and Gentiles.

            Peter then preaches to the people gathered there from all over the Mediterranean bringing them the Law of God and the Gospel of God.  Acts 2:37–41 (ESV) 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 

            3,000 people received the gift of the Holy Spirit that day in baptism.  These 3,000 who receive the Holy Spirit are the first fruits of an ongoing harvest of those devoted to the Way; devoted to Jesus. You received the gift of the Holy Spirit at your baptism.  You are part of the ongoing harvest of those with the Holy Spirit.  You are one in the Spirit with Peter, James and John and the other eight disciples.  You are one in the Spirit with the 3,000 on that Pentecost day long ago.  You are one in the Spirit with Christians throughout the world and throughout the ages.  

Your body is perishable.  Death is ever lurking.  But God has given you the Holy Spirit as an earnest deposit on you guaranteeing that He will return and raise your body from the grave and bring you to live with Him forever in Heaven.  2 Corinthians 1:21–22 (ESV) 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 

            The Holy Spirit is and does so many things.  He is God’s guarantee to you that He is coming back for you.  The Holy Spirit is the breath of God that breathes in you and gives you faith to believe that Jesus died for you and rose from the dead for you. The Holy Spirit dwells in you and your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit makes you Holy and helps you in the struggle to live out that holiness in this crooked generation.  The Holy Spirit is your helper, your counselor, your comforter. 

            The Holy Spirit enables you to believe.  As Martin Luther writes in the explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed.  I believe in the Holy Spirit…What does this mean?  I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

            Getting a handle on the Holy Spirit is like trying to catch a bucket of wind.  Martin Luther comments on this passage, “The Lord wishes to say: ‘…Nor can you tell Me how far [the wind] blows and where it stops, even though it blows right in front of your nose.’”

            “Why are some saved and others not?”  Among churches there are different answers to this question.  “Why are some saved and others not?”  In the Roman Catholic Church they would say that some people are members of the Roman Catholic Church and others are not.  Baptists and Evangelical Churches would say that some people have decided to follow Jesus and asked Jesus into their hearts, and others have not.  Lutherans answer this question with an unsatisfying, “We don’t know.  We don’t know how the Holy Spirit works.”

            Jesus is talking to Nicodemus at night in John 3:8 (ESV) 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  The word here for “wind” is also the word for “spirit”.  The word for “blows” is also the word for “breathes”. The Spirit breaths where it wishes. Why do some receive the Holy Spirit and believe and not others?  We don’t know. 

            Getting a handle on the Holy Spirit is like trying to catch a bucket of wind.  Martin Luther comments on this passage, “The Lord wishes to say: ‘…Nor can you tell Me how far [the wind] blows and where it stops, even though it blows right in front of your nose.’”

            How does the Spirit work?  We don’t know?  We do know that the Spirit gives faith to confess Jesus as Lord.  1 Corinthians 12:3 (ESV)  3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 

            The Spirit works through hearing and reading the Word of God, and through the water and Word of Holy Baptism.  John 3:5 (ESV) 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

John 6:63 (ESV) 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 

            The Spirit is mysterious.  The spirit does not promote Himself, but rather directs you to the object of your faith, Jesus on the cross for your sins; Jesus rising from the dead to conquer death for you.  There is only one Holy Spirit and that same Spirit dwells in each of you and all believers around the world.  The Spirit unifies the Church on earth.  1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV) 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.  You have the Spirit dwelling in you so you can confess that Jesus is Lord. 

            Next week on Trinity Sunday we will explore how the Trinity, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is incomprehensible.  Today we are getting a preview of the incomprehensible.  Trying to understand the Holy Spirit is like trying to catch a bucket of wind.  You know the Spirit is there, but you cannot see Him.  That’s okay. God is not here for you to comprehend. He is here to save you.  On the Last Day the saving breath of God will breathe on your dry bones and fill your body with life eternal.  Rejoice in Spirit of God who dwells in you.  Amen. 

That will be me one day.

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Ascension (observed) 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
May 16, 2021
Acts 1:1–11, Ephesians 1:15–23, Luke 24:44–53

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org   
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            Have you ever been on a pilgrimage?  There are many different kinds of pilgrimages.  Muslims are supposed to take a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once in their lifetime.  Roman Catholics take pilgrimages to holy sites around the world to seek to atone for their sins and sometimes to gain an indulgence which is supposed to remove the penalty for sin.  Some baseball fans make a pilgrimage to watch a game in every stadium in the major league. Some folks make a pilgrimage every few years to Florida to see a mouse.

            Our trip to Germany every four years might be called a pilgrimage to see some the sites of Martin Luther’s life, and our upcoming trip to Israel could be called a pilgrimage to see where Jesus lived and worked when He was on earth.  There a lot of different kinds of pilgrimages. 

All of you have been on a pilgrimage.  In fact, you are on a pilgrimage right now. You are on a pilgrimage from the baptismal font to standing before the throne of God. 

In our readings today we hear about Jesus’ ascension into heaven to be with God the Father.  This is the end of Jesus’ earthly journey and the beginning of the Church’s pilgrimage on earth.  The Church has been given to proclaim to the world that the way of Jesus is the way to the throne of God.  Jesus is the way.  When you wonder about your pilgrimage, look to Jesus to see the shape of your journey. You are on a pilgrimage through life, death, resurrection and ascension with the goal to stand, in your resurrected, imperishable flesh, before the throne of your heavenly Father with your earthly brother, Jesus. 

Give thanks that Christ has already brought humanity to the throne of God; preparing the way for you.  1 Corinthians 15:20–26 (ESV)  20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

            In our Gospel lesson today we read how Jesus teaches the disciples how He fulfilled everything written about Him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.  Luke 24:45–49 (ESV)  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 

Jesus ascends into heaven 40 days after His resurrection.  Ten days after His ascension, the power from on high is bestowed upon the followers of Jesus at Pentecost.  They receive the Holy Spirit and become witnesses for Jesus.  The Church, the Body of Christ on earth, is born and begins its pilgrimage from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth to invite all people to join on the journey and personally make the final pilgrimage with Christ and ascend on high on the last day.  Two thousand years later the Church is still on this pilgrimage to bring the Good News of Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension to all people. 

The children of Israel are delivered from Egypt through the waters of the Red Sea into the wilderness and finally into the Promised Land; an exodus from slavery to freedom. 

Jesus goes through the waters of John’s baptism, into the wilderness of temptation, through a time of ministry fulfilling the scriptures, and then into suffering, death, resurrection and ascension; an exodus from death to life. 

You gather each week as people on the pilgrimage. Worship begins with a remembrance of where your journey began at the baptismal font, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  You hear the Word of God which has been fulfilled in Jesus and learn more about your journey.  You receive the true Body and Blood of Christ in a mysterious way in the bread and wine at the Lord’s altar to strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting.  Ponder this mystery.  You receive the very body and blood of Jesus that are at the throne of God saving a place for you.  You gather together and sing praises to the Lord as a foretaste of what is coming on the last day when you will praise God face to face. 

You know the way.  Jesus is the way.  So pilgrim, remain faithful on your journey.  Cling to the Word of God which guides you on your pilgrimage.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Pause in your vocation as a worker to gather in worship each week to remember why you are on the pilgrimage and receive strength for the journey.  Remember that Jesus is the leader of your pilgrimage. He has gone ahead to blaze the trail and you get to follow in His footsteps.  Invite others to join you on the pilgrimage where you have meaning and purpose and death has lost its sting.

You are on a pilgrimage; an exodus from slavery to sin to freedom in Christ; an exodus from death to life; a journey from the waters of baptism to the throne of God.

So many in this world do not see Jesus’ ascension as giving shape to their journey. So many are not on a pilgrimage to the throne of God, but instead are just wandering through this life without direction. They have been told that they are just the meaningless byproduct of an endless series of random mutations; that they are just stardust residue from a great explosion.  Lost in the world they live in constant terror of death which is always lurking and gets closer every day.  So many folks live like this, desperately trying to find meaning and purpose in the things of this world.  They can feel that they are missing something, but they don’t know what and so they seek peace by following their every urge or desire, thinking this will bring them fulfillment and yet they are disappointed.  They should be on a pilgrimage to the throne of God, but they have rejected the narrow path for the wide, easy way. 

You know the way.  Jesus is the way.  So pilgrim, remain faithful on your journey.  Cling to the Word of God which guides you on your pilgrimage.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Pause in your vocation as a worker to gather in worship each week to remember why you are on the pilgrimage and receive strength for the journey.  Remember that Jesus is the leader of your pilgrimage. He has gone ahead to blaze the trail and you get to follow in His footsteps.  Invite others to join you on the pilgrimage where you have meaning and purpose and death has lost its sting.

Jesus is on the top of the Mount of Olives with His disciples.  He has said His final words and ascends up and a cloud takes Him from their sight.  The disciples just stare upwards when two angels appear standing nearby and tell them, Acts 1:11 (ESV) 

11 … “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” 

Jesus will come back and raise you from the dead and take you up to be with Him forever in the presence of God.  Until then you are on your pilgrimage following Jesus. As you ponder Jesus ascension, know that you can honestly say, as you picture Jesus ascending, “That will be me one day.” Amen 

Command Thursday

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Easter 6 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
May 8, 9, 2021
Acts 10:34-48

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            It is the sixth Sunday of Easter and here we find ourselves back in the upper room on Maundy Thursday as Jesus prepares His disciples for His arrest, crucifixion and resurrection.  The word Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum; command.  Maundy Thursday is command Thursday. 

            In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke the Maundy Thursday account is relatively short, contained in one chapter, and each includes the institution of the Lord’s Supper; Jesus ongoing gift to you of His Body and Blood. 

            In the Gospel of John, the account of Maundy Thursday covers chapters 13-18; six chapters.  It begins with Jesus washing his disciples’ feet.  Jesus explains afterwards, John 13:13–15 (ESV) 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 

            As we read Jesus’ words in our Gospel reading from that first Command Thursday the night is growing late and time is running short.  Jesus’ teaching here in this section is intensely important. Judas has already left the gathering to set up Jesus’ betrayal into the hands of those who would arrest Him, beat Him, mock Him, whip Him and crucify Him.  Jesus’ teaching here is focused and clear.  He gives a new command.  

            What is the command Jesus gives on commandment Thursday. John 13:34 (ESV)  34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 

            Love one another.

            Love.  It is an amazing word that can mean so many different things.  In English we have one word for love, in Greek there are at least four.  The word “love” for us often conjures up lots of sweet images of hearts.  We hear “love” and think first of romantic love.  But there is also brotherly love for our friends and family.  We use the word love to describe liking something a lot; “I love hiking.”  There is love within the family.  These loves come naturally to us.  The type of love that Jesus commands us to have for each other is not a natural love.  It is the Greek word “agape.”

Agape is a selfless love.  A love that loves no matter what.  A love that loves even when the other does not deserve to be loved.  A love that even loves your enemy.  This is the kind of love that Jesus has for you.  Jesus gives up everything for you.  He lays down His life for you.  He offers His own body to the wolf as a sacrificial lamb to pay the price for your sins.  Jesus is servant of all.  Jesus eats with sinners.  Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.  He washes you into His love in the waters of Holy Baptism.  He washes away your sins and covers you with His love and feeds you with His own Body and Blood.  You belong to Christ.  You abide in Christ and Christ in you.

            As a baptized, forgiven, beloved child of God, how should you live?  In the precious moments just before His arrest, Jesus is telling His disciples, and He is telling you, live in agape love.  Live in selfless love.  Strive to love like Jesus.  This is an impossible love.  It does not come naturally from within you.  This love comes from Jesus to you.  As a branch in the Jesus vine, the love of Jesus flows into you.  Jesus loves you unconditionally.  Jesus loves you in your sin.  Lose yourself in Jesus’ love.

            People unconditionally love many things instead of God.  St. John warns in 1 John 2:15 (ESV)  15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  And in 1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV) 10 …the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. … 

            Love can be misused.  Love can be abused.  Jesus’ command is to love unconditionally.  How do you love like this?  John 14:15 (ESV)  15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  In our reading today John 15:12 (ESV) 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  John 15:14 (ESV) 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 

            We have the Ten Commandments from God shown up here on two tables.  How are they broken up?  Commandments 1, 2, and 3 on the first table (recite 3 commandments) and commandments 4-10 on the second.  (recite 7 commandments).  What is the five word summary of the Ten Commandments.  Love God.  Love your neighbor. 

            On that first Command Thursday Jesus gives a deep teaching; an impossible teaching.  Jesus calls you to love like He loves.  Just love like God in flesh; God with us.  You want to cry out in frustration, “I can’t do it.  Just give me a list of five things to do.  Give me a doable checklist that I can accomplish.” But there is no checklist.  Instead you are called to love like Jesus, and when you fail to love like Jesus, He again envelopes you in His unconditional love and forgives you.  When you fail, you receive more love from Jesus and a renewed call to love like Jesus. 

            John 15:9–10 (ESV) 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  

            Jesus loves you with an impossible love and calls you to love others with that impossible love.  It is this impossible love that enables you to forgive someone who does not deserve forgiveness.  It enables you to care for people who are not your responsibility.  It allows you to see others as fellow sinners that Jesus loves so much that He died for them.  If Jesus loves this person, how can you do anything less?    Matthew 5:44 (ESV)  44 …Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

            When you are tempted to love money.  When you are enticed to love the world.  When you are drawn to love yourself more than others. When satisfying your desires becomes top priority…stop.  Stop and ponder the love Jesus has for you.  Love like Jesus.  By nature you want everything to be about me.  Jesus smashes this idea.  Everything is about Jesus and what He has done for you.  Everything is about loving others.  You are to be about loving like Jesus.

            Jesus loves you with an impossible love.  He saves you and blesses you with eternal life. You abide in Christ and Christ in you. Live in this love and love like Jesus. Amen. 

The Branch says to the tree, “I don’t need you.”

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Easter 5 2021 – Confirmation Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
May 2, 2021

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
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            When camping with my family as a boy I liked to whittle on sticks with my pocket knife.  I thought this was great fun, but my mother would cringe and start calculating the distance to the nearest emergency room.  Apparently I had a tendency to cut my fingers…badly.  Many times the doctors needed to stitch my fingertips back together, but somehow I made it to adulthood with all ten fingers scarred but intact.

            What would you do if you did actually cut off one of your fingers?  With my extensive first aid knowledge gleaned from television ambulance dramas I think you are supposed to find the missing digit, pack it in ice and send it with the patient so the doctors can hopefully reattach it.  If the finger cannot be reattached it will die; it is no use without being attached to the body.  The body gives the finger life.  How deadly foolish it would be for a finger to say to the rest of the body, “I don’t need you.  I’ll be better off on my own?”

            After a storm I walk around my yard and collect dead branches lying under the trees.  Attached to the tree they were full of life.  Now they are dead and only good to be thrown into the fire.  Imagine for a moment a branch rebelling against its tree saying, “I don’t need you.  I will be better off on my own.”  It is utterly self-destructive. 

            John 15:5–6 (ESV) 5 [Jesus said] I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 

            In baptism you are grafted into the vine of Christ. You are made a part of His Body, the Church.  You abide in Christ and He abides in you.  Christ Jesus lives in you.  His life flows into you and gives you life.  In the Church, the Body of Christ, you receive forgiveness of sins through the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Jesus.  You in Christ, Christ in you, you have life. 

            Today at the 11 AM service we will baptize the three Johnson children; sealing them as branches of the vine of Christ renouncing the devil and all his works and all his ways and declaring faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  At the 8 AM service four of our young men will confirm what was spoken for them at their baptisms renouncing the devil and declaring faith in the true God.  They will also pledge to remain in Christ and Christ in them.  They will pledge to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully.  They will pledge to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, even to death.  They will pledge to remain steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.  They will promise to remain in Christ and Christ in them.  Because they know they need Jesus.  They know that in Christ there is life; without Christ is only death. 

Like blood flowing to your extremities, like sap flowing through vine and branches, Jesus’ love and forgiveness flows into you and then from you to others through your good works.  Because you are in Christ and Christ is in you, you bear the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22–23 (ESV)  22 … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; …. 

            You know that you need Jesus.  Each day remember your baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and renew your vows to remain in Christ and Christ in you.  Because you need Jesus. 

            Jesus is life.  Without Jesus is death.  And yet there is an aching temptation to want to be independent.  The devil wants to separate you from the vine.  He wants you to think you don’t need Jesus; that you can be free from Jesus, that you can go it alone.  He wants you to let the busyness of daily life choke out life in Christ and to separate from His Body, the Church.  The devil wants you to give up the Church.  The devil wants to push you to declare, “I don’t need forgiveness.  I don’t need the Church.  I don’t need your organized religion.”  But that is like a finger saying to the body, “I don’t need you.” That is like the branch saying to the tree, “I don’t need you.”  Independence equals death.  You are fully dependent on Jesus.  

Like blood flowing to your extremities, like sap flowing through vine and branches, Jesus’ love and forgiveness flows into you and then from you to others through your good works.  Because you are in Christ and Christ is in you, you bear the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22–23 (ESV)  22 … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; …. 

Alive in Christ, you bear the fruit of the Spirit in love for your neighbor even as you continue to struggle with temptation to selfish sin.  Life in this fallen world is a struggle.  Life in Christ is not the promise of an easy life, a pain free life, a life without trouble or hardship.  Abiding in Christ and Christ in you, as a branch in the vine, God prunes you to clean you from sin and make you more fruitful.  With Christ in you; with your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit the Lord works in you to cut sin out of your life.  God prunes you to help you to battle sin in your thoughts before they become sinful words and deeds that harm your neighbor and that the devil can try to hold against you.  This pruning hurts and it is an ongoing process which continues until the day you die. You live in the paradox of being, at the same time, a Saint declared holy by God because of Jesus, and a sinner who struggles with the devil, the world and your own sinful desires.  You are already declared fully clean because you are in Christ and Christ is in you, and God continues to prune and cleanse you of your sin.  Pruning can be painful as sin is cut out of your life in this ongoing cleansing but it is God’s work in your life to make you more fully live out who you are in Christ in love for God and love for your neighbor. 

Alive in Christ or dead apart from Christ.  There are only two categories.  You in Christ and Christ in you, you are alive forever.  Apart from Christ you are dead and destined for eternal fire.  You cannot live apart from Jesus. 

Jesus is the vine.  You are the branches.  Remain in Jesus.  Amen. 

The Good Shepherd

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Easter 4 2021 Good Shepherd Sunday 
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
April 24, 25, 2021
Acts 4:1-12, Psalm 23, 1 John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18

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 a dark night with a light wind blowing.  The sheep bleat in fear and huddle close together sensing a predator lurking nearby.  The young shepherd boy smells the bear’s musk on the wind and strains his eyes staring into the darkness trying to locate the hungry killer.  The shepherd boy loves the sheep.  They are his family business, but they are also his companions as he keeps watch over them during the long, dark nights.  He knows each sheep and each little lamb.  The bear makes his move and comes in fast toward the flock away from the shepherd boy.  The flock scatters and the bear is able to knock over a young ewe lamb and separate her from her mother.  The lamb gets back on its feet and tries to flee but the bear quickly catches the lamb in his mouth and carries her away for a feast.  

            Without warning, the knotty end of a thick wooden club crashes down on the bear’s head causing him to stumble and drop the lamb which quickly runs back to her mother.  The bear shakes his head to clear his vision and sees the young shepherd boy standing over him with a club.  The angry bear turns around and charges the shepherd boy who jumps to the side putting the bear in a headlock grabbing the fur under the bear’s chin twisting the bear onto its side with one arm while mercilessly clubbing the bear in the head with his other hand over and over and over.  The brutal clubbing continues until the bear lies dead in the bloody grass outside of Bethlehem.

            This shepherd boy’s name is David and he goes on to kill not only lions and bears threatening his family’s sheep, but also a giant Philistine warrior named Goliath who is threatening the children of Jacob; the sheep of the house of Israel.  David is God’s chosen one; anointed to be king by the Prophet Samuel.  Before becoming king, David remains faithful to faithless King Saul even while Saul tries repeatedly to kill David.  After Saul’s death David becomes King.  The Shepherd King.  Shepherding the children of Israel.  David is a good king…for a while…but then brings great shame and trouble because of his sins of adultery and murder.  David forgets that not only is he a shepherd, he is also a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd that he writes about in Psalm 23:1 (ESV) 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  As a sheep David needs to follow the Good Shepherd.  

            There is an ongoing problem with the shepherds of Israel forgetting that they are sheep of the Good Shepherd and instead of caring for God’s sheep, they abuse them for selfish gain.  God rebukes the bad shepherds of Israel; both kings and religious leaders.  Ezekiel 34:1–6 (ESV) 1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; 6 they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. 

Far too often the shepherds of the sheep of Israel are faithless, selfish shepherds; including David for a time. 1,000 years after David a new shepherd king is born in Bethlehem; the City of David.  This new king’s birth is announced by angels to Bethlehem shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night.  The Shepherd King is named Jesus; Yeshua, YHWH saves, because this baby born in Bethlehem is YHWH in flesh who has come to save His people from their sins.  Jesus has come to save the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel. 

            In our Gospel reading today Jesus has just been confronted by the Pharisees for healing a man born blind on the Sabbath day.  Jesus lets them know that they are false shepherds. John 9:39–41 (ESV)  39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. 

            Jesus then begins teaching about Himself being the Good Shepherd.  John 10:11–15 (ESV)  11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 

            When David is confronted by a predator he risks his life to rescue the sheep and kill the predator.  Jesus handles the wolf differently.  Jesus has come to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but when the wolf attacks, Jesus does not hit the wolf with a club.  He does not grab the wolf by the chin hairs and wrestle him to the ground.  Jesus offers himself to the wolf as a substitutionary sacrifice.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, becomes the sacrificial Lamb of God and allows the wolf to savagely kill Him in order to protect the sheep.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 

            Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  A good shepherd cares for the sheep because the sheep are his own. They belong to him and he loves them, not for his own sake, but for theirs. He will not abandon them when the wolf comes. He will protect and defend them. With Him, they are secure.  With Him, you are secure.  Jesus is your Good Shepherd.  Jesus loves you and will not abandon you to the devil. 

            When David is confronted by a predator he risks his life to rescue the sheep and kill the predator.  Jesus handles the wolf differently.  Jesus has come to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but when the wolf attacks, Jesus does not hit the wolf with a club.  He does not grab the wolf by the chin hairs and wrestle him to the ground.  Jesus offers himself to the wolf as a substitutionary sacrifice.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, becomes the sacrificial Lamb of God and allows the wolf to savagely kill Him in order to protect the sheep.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 

            Now, this is not a good technique for a regular shepherd because once the wolf kills the shepherd then he would kill all the unprotected sheep. But it is the strategy for the Good Shepherd because as Jesus says in John 10:17–18 (ESV)  17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” 

            A hired hand does not care for the sheep, but just runs away at the first sign of danger.  Jesus is accusing the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders of being nothing more than hired hands that don’t care for the sheep.  The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  And then He takes up His life again.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

            Jesus rises from the dead and is still the Good Shepherd who now defends His flock with the power of the cross.  The wolf tries to attack one of Jesus’ sheep and the wolf gets smashed on the head with the cross of Christ.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He has undershepherds who work for the Good Shepherd to do the will of the Good Shepherd. 

In the darkness outside the High Priest’s house Peter denies Jesus three times around a charcoal fire.  After His resurrection, at the Sea of Galilee Jesus builds a charcoal fire and feeds the disciples and restores Peter.  John 21:15–17 (ESV)  15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 

            Undershepherds of the Good Shepherd can never forget that they are also sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  The undershepherds serve the sheep, tend the sheep, care for the sheep. They wash the sheep into the flock of the Good Shepherd with the waters of baptism, comfort the sheep with the eternal Word of God for the forgiveness of sins, and feed the sheep with the very Body and Blood of the Lamb of God who laid down His life for His sheep.  And not just the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but the lost sheep of the whole creation. 

The Good Shepherd laid down His life for you because He loves you.  You are Jesus’ beloved little lamb in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  One flock. One Shepherd. 

            Amen.             

Here I Stand

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Easter 3 2021 Here I Stand Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
April 17, 18, 2021
Acts 3:11-21, 1 John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36-49

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 the year 1414 Jan Hus, a Czech priest, theologian and philosopher, was summoned to the Church Council of Constance in what is modern Southwestern Germany.  Hus believed in the authority of scripture alone and had opposed a couple of Popes on various issues including the selling of church offices and the selling of indulgences.  He had been excommunicated, but continued to preach and teach.  Hus was promised safe passage to and from the Church Council and so he travelled from Prague to Constance in order to help put an end to dissension in the Church.

            Hus arrived November 3 and on November 28 he was imprisoned after church authorities claimed that promises made to heretics do not need to be kept.  Hus is urged to recant his writings but he asks to be shown his error in scripture.  The following summer Hus is condemned to death and on July 6, 1415 he is tied and chained to a stake and burned as a heretic.  Before lighting the fire Hus is asked once more to recant his teachings and he replies.  “God is my witness that the things charged against me I never preached. In the same truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, drawing upon the sayings and positions of the holy doctors, I am ready to die today.[1]

            The fire is lit and before he dies Hus it is reported that Hus said, “What I have taught with my lips I seal with my blood. You are now going to burn a goose, but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil.” The name Hus in Czech literally means goose. His ashes were later thrown in the Rhine River in order to prevent his followers from venerating his grave.

            One hundred years later Martin Luther is coming onto the scene to continue what Hus began.  Luther is often called the swan of the reformation.  500 years ago Martin Luther is summoned to the Imperial Diet in the city of Worms in western Germany, 322 miles from Wittenberg.  Luther is promised safe passage to and from the Diet of Worms but Luther knows about the promise to Jan Hus and how well these promises are honored.

            On April 17 and 18, 1521, Luther faces Johann von Eck who is the presiding officer of the Diet speaking on behalf of the Emperor Charles V.  Luther is asked to recant his 25 publications.  It is a tense moment.  Failure to recant likely means being burned alive.  On the afternoon of April 17 Luther asks for more time to prepare a proper answer. 

            After a long night of prayer and preparation at 4 PM on April 18 Luther appears again before the assembly.  He notes that his writings are of different types.  First, works which were well received even by his enemies: those he would not reject.  Second, books which attacked the abuses, lies and desolation of the Christian world and the papacy: those, Luther believed, could not safely be rejected without encouraging abuses to continue. To retract them would be to open the door to further oppression.  “If I now recant these, then, I would be doing nothing but strengthening tyranny”.  Third, attacks on individuals: Luther apologized for the harsh tone of these writings but did not reject the substance of what he taught in them. If he could be shown by Scripture that his writings were in error, Luther continued, he would reject them. Luther concluded by saying:

            Jan Hus stood on Scripture alone.  Martin Luther stood on scripture alone.  The true Christian church today stands on Scripture alone.  The Bible is our source of knowledge of salvation.  We don’t add to it.  We don’t subtract from it.  It is through the words of scripture that you know that Jesus is God in flesh who suffered and died to pay for your sins and rose from the dead to conquer death forever.  The Bible teaches that Jesus forgives your sins. 

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand,[2] May God help me. Amen.[3]

The pope declared that a believer could buy an indulgence to pay off the penalty for their sins and the Vatican was making big money.  Luther asked that the practice be defended from Scripture and not papal authority. 

            Jan Hus stood on Scripture alone.  Martin Luther stood on scripture alone.  The true Christian church today stands on Scripture alone.  The Bible is our source of knowledge of salvation.  We don’t add to it.  We don’t subtract from it.  It is through the words of scripture that you know that Jesus is God in flesh who suffered and died to pay for your sins and rose from the dead to conquer death forever.  The Bible teaches that Jesus forgives your sins. 

You would think that 600 years after Jan Hus and 500 years after Martin Luther we would not still be fighting the battle for scripture alone; but we are.  The battle continues.  The Roman Catholic Church still holds that the pope is infallible when speaking from the throne of St. Peter.  Teachings not in the Bible are declared to be dogma that must be believed in order to be a Christian. 

Many false religions have sprung up over the centuries; so many in American over the last 200 years.  People declare they have a new revelation from God.  They declare that there is a new scripture that is equal to the Bible or replaces the Bible.  Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Scientologists and many others.  We can see these errors fairly clearly. 

There is more insidious threat that has made its way into Christian churches over the last hundred years or so.  Something else is taking the place of the Holy Bible as the authority. 

            We live in an age where more and more our ultimate authority is our feelings.  We want to disregard the authority of the Bible and be an authority unto ourselves.  We want to follow our feelings.  We want to make up our own theology and our own morality based on our own understandings and desires. 

            There is a growing movement to ignore scriptural guidance and trust your intuition; your inner feelings; your desires.  People do this in regards to sexual morality, abortion, greed, anger, hatred, laziness. “I know the Bible says this, but I feel like I know better.  So I will do things my way.”  There is a great desire to get rid of scripture alone and make a new god of your own design who does whatever you want him to do. 

            In the face of this ongoing movement to reject the Bible, we continue what Jesus started with His disciples and what Jan Hus and Martin Luther restarted.  We hold to Scripture alone and bring that message to the world.  Luke 24:46–47 (ESV) 46 [Jesus] said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  

May God grant us the courage to continue to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in the face of a world of people that continue to reject the Bible and follow their feelings. May God grant us the strength to stand on Scripture Alone with Jan Hus and Martin Luther and so many others who have risked their lives for the truth of God’s Word.

            Martin Luther does get out of Worms and is quickly kidnapped by his own prince and held in protective custody for nearly a year at the Wartburg castle.  The emperor issues an order to capture Luther dead or alive and so Luther begins translating the Bible into German, which is a capital offense, but he is already under the threat of death.  Luther helps bring the Word of God into the language of the people.

            How blessed we are to have the Bible in our own language; what a great treasure to be able to read about Jesus saving all people from their sins; reading about how Jesus saves you from your sins.  What a tremendous blessing to know Jesus rose from the dead just like He said He would.  To know Jesus conquered death for you.  To know that in Christ you have eternal life. 

            There is a great temptation to add to the Bible or subtract from the Bible.  There is a great temptation to follow your feelings.  Resist the temptation.  Cling to Scripture alone.  Cling to Christ alone.  Even unto death.

            Amen. 


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Hus

[2] “I cannot do otherwise, here I stand” is not recorded in some transcripts of the Diet

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diet_of_Worms