There is a greater reality than what you see.

nullPentecost 12 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 12, 2018
1 Kings 19:108, Ephesians 4:17-5:2, John 6:35-51

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

What do you like to do to escape from reality for a while?  Vacation?  I know I really enjoyed my time sitting on the beach this summer reading a spy novel and not thinking about much of anything.  What do you do to escape from reality?  A movie is a good break for a couple of hours.  Maybe the fair?  The circus?  The symphony?  Golf?  Video games?  Television?  Word puzzles?  We all have ways we try to escape from reality for a bit.  Some are harmless and others can be pretty harmful when it gets obsessive or when we use drugs or drunkenness to numb us to the harshness of reality.  There are good ways and bad ways to escape, but we all, at times, want to escape from reality.  But why?

We want to escape because the reality of this life can be harsh.  Life is hard.  There is an abundance of trouble in this life.  Most times we can manage fairly well, but there are the times when the realities of this life are devastatingly hard and we cannot escape no matter what we try.

Life is hard.  We struggle on and off with sorrow and sickness and there is one constant dark cloud in this life and that is the shadow of death.  No one gets out of this alive and the knowledge that you live in the valley of the shadow of death makes life difficult.

For those who know they are created by a loving God and redeemed through the blood of Jesus, death it is still a terrible reality, but in Christ there is a greater reality than this life and death.  For believers in Jesus there is comfort in the valley of the shadow of death.  In Christ there is a greater reality than death and in that greater reality we have our hope and our peace; that peace which is beyond understanding even in the face of the worst that life can bring.

For people that believe that we are simply balls of stardust formed accidently through an endless series of random mutations the reality of death is crushing.  When people believe that this life is all there is to reality, it changes the way they think and act and live.  It causes folks to live for the moment.  In our Epistle lesson Paul warns the church in Ephesus.  Ephesians 4:17-19 (ESV) 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.[1]  We see this way of thinking blossoming in our world today as more and more people turn away from bread of life in order to satisfy their own hungers.  You must stay on guard that you do not fall back into this way of thinking and living.

The reality of this life is hard, but you have the greater reality of Christ.  God has drawn you to Himself.  He invites you to come to Him.  He invites you to receive the gifts of the Lord Jesus.  “Come to me,” Jesus says.  And this can sound like a command, but only in the sense that telling a starving person, “come and eat,” is a command.

You have been sealed by the Lord Jesus in the waters of baptism and now you live as a baptized child of God; you live right now in the Kingdom of Heaven; right now in the reign of God.  Right now you have the promise of eternal life.  Right now you have freedom in Christ to love and serve others in the confidence of eternal life.

            Jesus’ reality is for this life and beyond.  For people who are only focused on the here and now, Jesus makes no sense because they are only concerned about satisfying their physical, emotional, and sexual hungers.  They think, if Jesus isn’t all about satisfying their hungers, then what good is he?  But you know the truth.  Jesus is the greater reality.

The Jews there with Jesus that day thought He was crazy.  Jesus says he is the bread that came down from heaven.  They say, “Bread from heaven?!?”  How can this man be the bread that came down from heaven?  We know this guy.  We can see him with our eyes.  This is Jesus, from Nazareth, son of Joseph and Mary.  We know Him.  We’ve known Him for 30 some years.  What’s all this about coming down from heaven?  Despite seeing and experiencing Jesus’ great miracle of feeding the crowd of 5,000, the people cannot see beyond the reality of this life.  They ate the miraculous bread but they cannot see beyond the physical bread.  They are missing the Bread of Life.  They are missing the greater reality; the deeper reality; the eternal reality.  This is what Jesus is trying to tell them.

There is a reality beyond what we can see and touch; there is eternal life in Christ Jesus.  Jesus is the bread of life.  John 6:35 (ESV) 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.[2]

Jesus’ reality is for this life and beyond.  For people who are only focused on the here and now, Jesus makes no sense because they are only concerned about satisfying their physical, emotional, and sexual hungers.  They think, if Jesus isn’t all about satisfying their hungers, then what good is he?  But you know the truth.  Jesus is the greater reality.

You know the reality of Jesus.  You know that Jesus is the bread of life.  You know that the grave is not the end of the story for you or your loved ones.  You know that on the last day Jesus will raise you from the dead to live with Him forever in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem.  You eat of the bread of life which is Jesus:  This greater reality is found in Jesus’ words of forgiveness, and in His body and blood in Holy Communion.  You live in the new reality of eternal life in Christ.  Jesus teaches, John 6:47-51 (ESV) 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”[3]

There is a great chasm between the reality of this world with all its troubles and the reality of eternal life with Jesus.  Unless Jesus returns soon you will not fully bridge that chasm except through your death, your rest in the grave, and your resurrection on the last day.  But you do get glimpses at the reality of eternal life with Christ.  As you gather in worship each Sunday you bridge the chasm a bit.  You sing with the angels and archangels.  You hear the sweet, sweet words of forgiveness of sins from Jesus.  You sing the words of the angels announcing Jesus’ birth.  You greet one another with the peace of Jesus’ greater reality.  You sing hymns about Jesus dying for you and rising for you to conquer death.  You speak and sing the words of eternal life.  You speak and sing about God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  You take into your body the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins.  Jesus becomes one with you in the greater reality of eternal life.  The Divine Service each Sunday is God coming to you in this life to give you a foretaste of your eternal future with Him.  It is Jesus coming to you to strengthen you and preserve you in true faith to life everlasting.  The best escape from the harsh realities of this life is time together in worship experiencing again and again the greater reality of eternal life with Christ.

The troubles of this life are very real troubles; they are very real problems, and they cause you very real pain and suffering and heartache, but knowing that you are the creation of a loving God who has redeemed you and sealed you as His child brings profound joy even in the midst of sickness and trouble and tragedy.  Knowing you currently have as your inheritance and possession eternal life with God brings peace in the midst of deep sadness and fear and grief.  It brings joy that loves and serves others even in the midst of struggle.  The troubles of this life are very real, but they cannot rob you of the eternal joy of knowing that you are sealed in Holy Baptism as a child of God.  Even with all you face with the realities of this life you live with the eternal joy of knowing you are part of a deeper, greater reality.  You have the reality of eternal life in Christ.  Amen.


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

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

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

Your hungers are not Jesus’ main concern.

nullPentecost 10 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 5, 2018Exodus 16:2-15, Ephesians 4:1-16, John 6:22-35

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

Bread is easy.  Bread is abundant.  I can go to Aldi and buy a loaf of white bread for $.89.  And they won’t limit me to just one loaf, I can buy a dozen.  For a little more money I can buy Italian bread, French bread, Indian bread, Pita bread, wheat bread, sprouted bread, sour dough bread.  Bread is easy.  Bread is abundant.  We can thank our hard working farmers and their amazing machines and chemicals that produce incredible quantities of wheat.  Getting bread occupies very little of my time and effort.  I don’t think about it really.  It is not expensive and Jeannette or I can just pick it up when we go to the store.

Rewind history 2,000 years and we see that in Jesus’ time bread was a big deal.  There were no pesticides, limited fertilizers, no tractors, no $500,000 combines to harvest and thresh the grain all at once.  In Jesus’ time bread was back-breaking work. Sowing seed, hoeing weeds, praying for rain and then waiting for harvest time.  Then the hard part starts.  Cut the grain with a sickle, bundle it, carry it to the threshing floor, thresh the wheat to separate the wheat from the chaff and then toss it in the air with the winnowing fork to get the wind to blow away the chaff and then gather the grains and take the wheat to be milled into flour between two heavy millstones.

In Jesus’ time bread was difficult.  People had to work hard and long, and struggle to get bread.

Rewind another 1500 years back to the time of Moses and the Exodus.  The children of Israel have been freed from slavery to the Egyptians and are in the wilderness on their way to the promise land.  They have eaten the Passover lambs whose blood was painted over the doors to protect the children of Israel from God’s plague of the death of the first born.

The people are free, but they are hungry, and the hunger overcomes the freedom.  We can understand this.  Hunger is a real motivator.  The children of Israel are hungry and they cry out to Moses that they would rather have died in Egypt as slaves where they had enough to eat rather than die of hunger in the wilderness.

Now the children of Israel are in the wilderness and they are free, but they are hungry.  And as difficult as the struggle is for bread when you are living in one area and able to farm, the struggle for bread for a moving band of migrants is pretty much impossible.

The people are free, but they are hungry, and the hunger overcomes the freedom.  We can understand this.  Hunger is a real motivator.  The children of Israel are hungry and they cry out to Moses that they would rather have died in Egypt as slaves where they had enough to eat rather than die of hunger in the wilderness.

God provides for the children of Israel in the wilderness.  He rains down bread from heaven for the people to gather just enough for each day.  God provides enough for each day.

Just prior to our Gospel reading, Jesus feeds 5,000 men, plus women and children in the wilderness.  For these people who live in a constant struggle to get food, Jesus miraculously supplies food.  This is amazing.  Jesus multiplies five loaves into an abundance of bread; like manna from heaven.

The Lord supplies the Israelites with the bread that they need in wilderness of Sinai and the Lord supplies the crowds with the bread that they need in the wilderness by the Sea of Galilee.  The Lord, out of His mercy, does this to meet the people’s needs, and to show that He is the Lord Almighty.  It is a sign from God.  Jesus feeds the 5,000 as a sign that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  The people who eat the bread see it as a sign that Jesus is a bread machine.

In our Gospel reading from John the crowds are following Jesus, but Jesus knows why they seek after Him.  The crowds are not looking for God in Flesh; the Savior of the World.  The crowds are not looking for the King of the Jews; they are looking for a bread king.  They are looking for someone to satisfy their physical hunger.  And Jesus does satisfy their hunger, but it is a sign of what more He can do.

Jesus tells them, John 6:27 (ESV) 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”[1]

“Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.”  The children of Israel are distracted by their physical hunger and unable to see the mighty things God is doing for them in delivering them from slavery in Egypt.  Their greatest hunger; their greatest need is for the Lord’s salvation.  They eat the flesh of the sacrificial Passover lambs and are saved by the blood, but then they forget what God is doing.  God feeds them in the wilderness with bread from heaven but then they grow weary of what God is doing for them.  They grow weary of God’s salvation.  They don’t like the way God is saving them.  It is slow and boring.  They eat the manna from heaven but then lose sight of their total dependence on God and that this is a sign of God’s continuing love and it is pointing them forward to the true Bread of Life, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus is declared to be the Lamb of God at His baptism in the Jordan and Jesus’ blood is applied to the cross to protect you; to save you from your sins.  Jesus provides bread for the multitude, and Jesus also is Himself the Bread of Life.  Jesus feeds you with the Bread of His Word and the Bread of His own flesh; the flesh of the Lamb of God who shed His blood for you and was sacrificed for you.

The people seeking Jesus, the bread machine, want to know what they need to do to be doing the works of God.  Jesus gives them an unsatisfying answer.

John 6:29 (ESV) 29 … “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”[2]  It’s not about you; it’s about Jesus for you.

Jesus is the Lamb of God.  Jesus is the Bread of Life.  Jesus is the true Bread from Heaven.  To do the work of God is to believe in Jesus.  Your salvation is totally dependent on Jesus.  You are totally dependent on Jesus.  Jesus came for you.  Jesus came for all people.  You hunger and thirst for righteousness and Jesus is the Bread of Life.  John 6:35 (ESV) 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.[3]

Jesus was sealed by God the Father in Baptism.  In baptism you are sealed by God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  You have been set apart from this world as one who knows the truth and is fed with the Bread of Life.

This world is full of people who desperately hunger for the food of eternal life, but often they do not know it.  People hunger for the Bread of Life, but they are distracted by their other hungers and can be unaware of their most important need.  For many folks in this world it might still be physical hunger that distracts, but not so much for most of us.  In this land of abundance most of us don’t have to worry about going hungry, but there are a lot of other hungers that distract us.

Hungers are not necessarily bad in themselves, but we can start to believe the Jesus main purpose is to satisfy our hungers; our physical hungers, our emotional hungers, our sexual hungers.  We start to believe that Jesus wants us to be healthy, wealthy, wise, happy, and fulfilled.  We have a desire for physical health and that is a good thing, but it is not the most important thing.  The most important thing is eternal life with God.

The things that are most important to you are not the most important to God.  Physical, emotional and sexual hungers are just temporary issues of this life.  They are not the most important thing.  This is a hard teaching.  Jesus did not come to meet your every need the way you want it met.  Jesus came to meet your most important need.  This teaching does not please the children of Israel in the wilderness of the Exodus and they rebel.  This teaching does not please the crowds that come to Jesus seeking bread and most of them abandon Him.  This teaching does not please people today and people leave the Bread of Life to try to satisfy their temporary hungers.

People want Jesus to be easy; like going to the store to pick up a loaf of bread when you are hungry.  Jesus is simple enough for a child, but He is not easy.  People want Jesus to be a Jesus they can control, and who does what they want when they want.  People grow weary of God’s means of salvation through baptism, the Word of God and Holy Communion; it is so slow and boring.  People would rather satisfy their own hungers.  People would rather to decide for themselves what is sin and what isn’t.  Folks would rather have a Jesus that stays out of their way except when they determine that they need Him.  People want to be a part of their own salvation by doing the works that they determine they should do.  But the work of God is to believe in the one sent from heaven.  It is simple enough for a child, but it is not easy.  It is total dependence.

Believe in Jesus; He is the Bread of Life.  Jesus is life.  Jesus is eternal life.  Apart from Jesus you do not have true life.  You are one with Jesus.  One in Him; one with Him; one in baptism and one in Holy Communion.  Amen.


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

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

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

You are not lost; you are a sheep with a shepherd

nullPentecost 9, 2018

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 22, 2018
Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-44

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

When I was in college in Northwest Indiana I took a weekend trip up to Merrill, Wisconsin with a college friend.  While I was there I drove to Wausau about 20 miles south to visit some people I had met on the North Carolina servant event which I attended in 1982.  The family I was staying with in Merrill gave me directions to find their cabin on a lake where I was to meet them when I returned.  I was young and dumb at the time (one of those has changed) and I didn’t think it necessary to write down the directions or the address believing I would remember it all just fine.  After returning from Wausau I found myself driving through the woods of Wisconsin without a clue as to where I was, where I was supposed to be, or what to do next.  There were no cell phones, no GPS, no Waze App, just me, alone in my Chevy Citation — lost, confused, regretting that I had not done a better job of getting directions.

It is a terrible feeling to be lost; to look around and not recognize anything; to not know which way to go.  You can be lost and alone.  In life you can lose your sense of which way you should be going.  You can be lost and alone and you can also be lost with a crowd.  You can be with a whole crowd of people and nobody knows which way to go; everybody just goes along doing their own thing their own way.  Everyone is just living for the moment trying to avoid pain and pursue pleasure; worried only about themselves with no concern for others.  You can find yourself a part of a large mass of people with no future; no purpose; no identity; just going through the motions; living for today.  So many folks are lost and wandering and confused; like sheep without a shepherd.

            Sheep without a shepherd are exposed.  The world is a dangerous place for sheep.  There are wolves, and bears, and lions, and thieves all wanting to hurt the sheep, kill the sheep, eat the sheep, steal the sheep.  Sheep without a shepherd are weak and vulnerable.  Sheep without a shepherd are easily led astray; they are easily lost, stolen, injured and killed.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus and the disciples are tired.  They have been run ragged teaching and healing and caring for people.  They have received the news that John the Baptist was beheaded.  It is time for a break; time to take a breather; a little time away.  They head off by boat to a desolate place in order to get away from the people.  But the people don’t want to get away from Jesus.  The people want more Jesus; more healing; more teaching.  And so they see Jesus and His disciples getting into the boat and they follow the boat on shore and when Jesus lands there are thousands of people waiting for Him; so much for rest and relaxation and rejuvenation.  Jesus and the disciples see this big crowd and Jesus could get angry at them for ruining his retreat; his little vacation, but Jesus doesn’t get mad.  Jesus sees the crowds and has compassion on them because they are lost.  They are like sheep without a shepherd.  Jesus’ guts ached for the people because they are at risk from the evil one.

Sheep without a shepherd are exposed.  The world is a dangerous place for sheep.  There are wolves, and bears, and lions, and thieves all wanting to hurt the sheep, kill the sheep, eat the sheep, steal the sheep.  Sheep without a shepherd are weak and vulnerable.  Sheep without a shepherd are easily led astray; they are easily lost, stolen, injured and killed.

The world is a dangerous place for people.  There are thieves and abusers and murderers and false teachers and the devil and his demons all out to lead people astray, hurt them or kill them.  There are so many voices in the world calling out to you to believe them; follow them; support them.  So many persuasive voices are pulling at you from your phone, your computer, your television, the movie screen, your coworkers, your family, your friends.  So many voices are calling out to you to lead you astray.  “Do what you want,” they say.  “You deserve it.  Your happiness is most important.  You are the only one that matters.”  The world is a dangerous place to wander without protection.  1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.[1]

Jesus sees the thousands of people in that desolate place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and He has compassion because He knows they are weak and vulnerable.  He knows they are easy prey for the evil one and so Jesus puts His plans for rest on hold and spends the day teaching the people; leading them; shepherding them.  The Lord is their Shepherd, they shall not want.

Jesus spends all day teaching the people and it is getting late and the disciples want the people to go away so they can get something to eat.  But Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  Jesus will provide food in this desolate place just like He provided manna in the wilderness for the children of Israel coming out of Egypt.

The disciples find five loaves and two fish; not even enough to feed Jesus and the twelve, but the Good Shepherd multiplies the little they have to be enough for everyone to eat and to have leftovers.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has the people sit down in the green pastures beside the waters and provides what they need to overflowing.  The disciples bring Jesus the bread.  He takes the bread, He blesses the bread, He breaks the bread, and He gives the disciples the bread to give to the people.  This foreshadows the last supper where Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives the bread to the disciples saying, “This is my body.”

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is there to care for the people; to heal them, teach them, protect them from the evil one; and to feed them.

Jesus provides for your greatest needs.  In this life in the valley of the shadow of death that is so full of trouble, sin, and uncertainty, you fear no evil because the Good Shepherd is with you to protect you, lead you, guide you.

In this world there are so many voices trying to get you to follow them down the wide and well-travelled path to hell.  It is easy to get lost; to find yourself disoriented, confused, weak and vulnerable.  It is easy to find yourself starting to follow the devil’s ways, the world’s ways, and your own sinful nature’s ways.  It is easy to find yourself wandering around like a sheep without a shepherd.  It is easy to find yourself wandering away from the flock.  It is easy to start to believe that you belong to this world and its ways are your ways.  But that is not your identity.  You are not alone and unprotected.  You do not belong to the world.  You do not belong to the devil.  You do not belong to your own sinful desires.  You are not a sheep without a shepherd.  Jesus knows you are vulnerable to the attacks of the devil that is why He is with you.  You are a sheep with a shepherd.  Jesus is your shepherd and gives you direction and protection.  Jesus gives you His Word of truth in the Bible to show you the way.  Jesus, your Good Shepherd, calls you by name in your baptism and leads you to eternal life in heaven.  Jesus, your Good Shepherd, lays down His life on the cross to redeem you from sin, death and the devil.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, takes, blesses, breaks and gives you His very Body and Blood in Holy Communion to feed you with the Bread of Life.  Jesus is here to be your Good Shepherd.

You are not lost.  You have been found.  You are a sheep with a shepherd.

Amen.


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

Where is God when I am suffering?

nullPentecost 6 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 1, 2018
Lamentations 3:22-33, 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15, Mark 5:21-43

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

Where is God?  How do you know that you have found God’s favor?  How do you know that God cares about you?

It is easy and natural to believe that God’s favor and grace is evident if you are healthy and wealthy and strong and thin.  It is easy and natural to believe that God’s favor is evidenced in the things of this world; money, cars, houses, stuff.  We like this idea; it makes sense.  How many times have you heard people say, “God wants me to be happy.”  So many churches present this as their message that if you are faithful, God will bless you with health and wealth, and if you are not experiencing health and wealth you must be doing something wrong.

We like this idea and it makes good sense to us, but then we come to our Old Testament reading from Lamentations.  We don’t hear much from Lamentations in our three year lectionary.  In fact this is the only reading we get in three years.  Lamentations is written by the prophet Jeremiah in 586 B.C. right after the Babylonians brutally conquered Jerusalem and Judea.  They had just finished heartlessly killing many and taking more into exile and leaving Jerusalem in utter ruins.  Things have gone terribly for the children of Israel.  The great temple built by Solomon where God dwells with His people has been destroyed; the walls protecting the city have been torn down.  Dead bodies lay in the streets.  The people are starving; the children cry out with empty bellies.  Those remaining wander through the ruins mourning the dead and aching for those taken away into exile not knowing what will happen to them.  The glorious Holy City lies in utter ruin.  Where is God in all this?  Has God abandoned the people of Israel?  Is all hope gone?  Where is God in times of trouble?  Where is God in times of suffering and hardship?

            In times of great trouble we want to believe that God has abandoned us.  We are offended when we suffer as if it is something strange.  Where is God when you are hurting?  Where is God in times of trouble?  We find the answer in this somewhat neglected book of the Bible; Lamentations.

Jeannette and I were married in May of 1988 and in June of that year my mom found out that her cancer was back; this time in her liver and bones.  She did fairly well for about a year but then in October of 1989 she was hospitalized and grew increasingly weak.  The gravity of the situation became clear when the hospital staff asked the family to make decisions about resuscitation and life support.  Mom’s parents flew in from Chicago on October 28 and went straight to the hospital without even waiting for their luggage.  Mom rallied her strength to talk with her mom and dad and then a few hours later my mother died with her mother, Jeannette and me at her side.  It was devastatingly hard to be there and to go through that with my mother.  The grief was intense and it still sneaks up on me.  Where was God?  Where was God during this terrible time?

In times of great trouble we want to believe that God has abandoned us.  We are offended when we suffer as if it is something strange.  Where is God when you are hurting?  Where is God in times of trouble?  We find the answer in this somewhat neglected book of the Bible; Lamentations.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV) 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.[1]

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  In your times of suffering the steadfast love of the Lord never stops.  In your times of trouble the Lord’s unwavering love is still with you.  His mercies never come to an end.  In the dark fog of distress and anguish the mercy of God never ends.  In sickness, death, divorce, prison, conflict, hunger, poverty, God’s mercies never end.  As the sun rises in the morning so do God’s mercies renew for another day.  Great is God’s faithfulness.

Martin Luther writes of this section from Lamentations:  [God] stands hidden among the sufferings which would separate us from him like a wall, indeed, like a wall of a fortress.  And yet he looks upon me and does not forsake me.  He stands there and is ready to help in grace, and through the window of dim faith he permits himself to be seen…[Some] people know nothing at all of this kind of a faith and they give themselves over to thinking that God has forsaken them and is their enemy…But they who in such suffering trust God and hold on to a good, firm confidence in him, who believe that he is well-pleased with them, see in their sufferings and afflictions nothing but pure and precious merits, the costliest treasures which no man can assess.  For faith and confidence make precious before God all that which others think most shameful.”[2]

When you are hurting it is hard to see that God is there with you.  Agony and sadness obscure God, but through the window of dim faith you look through the dark fog of suffering and see God’s presence with you.

Suffering is not an offense to life as a Christian; suffering is part of life as a Christian.  Times of suffering and trouble are part of life under the cross of Christ and you are called to accept these times with patience and endurance.

In times of suffering the Lord is with you.  In times of trouble say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.”  “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.”  You are a baptized child of God.  The Lord, the creator of the universe, has promised you eternal life.  The Lord is your portion.  The Lord is your future; the Lord is your destiny.  “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:25-26 (ESV) 25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.[3]

The baptismal promise of God is not a call to a life of health and wealth and glory.  It is not a call to live your best life now or become a better you.  It is not a call to dream big dreams and cast big visions.  It is a call to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.  This is hard.  This is not what we want to hear.  We want to hear that life in Christ will be easy.  You want to hear that life in Christ will be simple.

But easy, simple lives do not bring strength and endurance.  It is an awful truth but it is truth.  Suffering and trouble can be beneficial.  This is not just some strange Old Testament teaching.  St. Paul writes about this to the church in Rome.  Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.[4]

The death of my mother was very hard and it changed me; it put me on a different path in life.  Likely it put me on the path to be here with you.  God used that terrible event to make me a better servant.

Lamentations 3:27-30 (ESV) 27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. 28 Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; 29 let him put his mouth in the dust— there may yet be hope; 30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.[5]

The Lord allows trouble to come.  The Lord uses trouble and suffering and hardship to help us learn to trust in Him and quietly endure.

St. Paul learned this hard lesson and writes about it 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (ESV) 7 So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.[6]

Lamentations brings us a very hard lesson and a very good lesson.  There will be times of trouble.  There will be periods of suffering.  But God will not leave you; He is there with you in your suffering.  He walks with you in your trouble.  He teaches you to trust Him alone.  In 586 B.C. Jerusalem is devastated by the Babylonians and yet there is hope for the future and in 70 years Jerusalem is restored by the Persians.  In your times of trouble God does not leave you or forsake you.  Jesus came to earth to take on human flesh and take the sins of the world into Himself and take those sins to the cross there in Jerusalem.  Jesus, the new temple, is destroyed and raised again in three days.  Jesus conquers sin and death forever.  That same Jesus comes to you in His word and with His Body and Blood to renew His mercies and promises; to pour out upon you forgiveness, life and salvation.  Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV) 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.[7]

Amen.


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

[2] Luther’s Works AE 44:28

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

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

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

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

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

 

Who is this guy?

nullPentecost 5 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 24, 2018
Job 38:1-11, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41

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

The beginning of Advent each December is the start of a new church year.  We use a three year lectionary for our readings and each year we change which Gospel gets the most emphasis on a three year rotation between Matthew, Mark and Luke with John interspersed with the others.  We are currently in series B lectionary with a focus on the Gospel of Mark and one of the characteristics of Mark’s gospel is the question about Jesus, “Who is this guy?”

It is almost like people in Mark’s account of the Gospel are playing Jeopardy.  In Jeopardy, the host gives an answer and then the contestants must come up with a question that matches the answer.  The Holy Spirit inspired Mark to begin His Gospel account with the words, Mark 1:1 (ESV) 1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.[1]  Then, throughout the account, the people are asking the question, “Who is this guy?”  In today’s reading the question is, Mark 4:41 (ESV) 41 … “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” [2]

It is the goal of all four Gospel accounts to tell us about the nature of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel account makes it very clear that Jesus is both God and man.

It has been a day of teaching and healing.  As the sun goes down, Jesus decides to cross the Sea of Galilee.  At first, it might seem a little unusual to set out across the Sea as the sun is going down, but remember that some of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen who regularly fished the Sea during the night.  At any rate, a small group of boats leaves the shore for the other side as the sun dips toward the horizon.

Once they are under way, Jesus takes a nap.  Jesus has been teaching and attending to the needs of the crowds all day.  He is tired and He falls asleep in the stern of the boat.

That Jesus gets tired and falls asleep is a property that Jesus shares with us.  He is tired.  He sleeps like any other man.  Here we see one of the many characteristics that show us that Jesus Christ is true man.

Then the storm strikes.  It is bad.  The boat is filling with water.  Even the seasoned fishermen are terrified.  It looks like the end.  Then the disciples notice that Jesus is still sleeping.   They didn’t mind that Jesus had nodded off earlier, but now, the least He could do is help bail out the boat – try to keep it from sinking.  Mark 4:38 (ESV) …“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”[3]

Now the old saying is, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”  In this case the saying is not true.  Jesus doesn’t talk about the weather.  He talks to the weather and the weather does what He tells it to do.

This shows their desperation.  After all, Jesus has grown up in the building trade and is not an experienced sailor.  Of course, it doesn’t take a whole lot of skill to grab some sort of container and use it to bail water out of the boat.

It’s at this time that Jesus does something totally unexpected.  He scolds the wind and the waves.  He speaks to them like a group of unruly children.  Mark 4:39 (ESV) 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.[4]

Now the old saying is, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”  In this case the saying is not true.  Jesus doesn’t talk about the weather.  He talks to the weather and the weather does what He tells it to do.

So here is Jesus demonstrating the human property of exhaustion and the Divine power of control over creation.  Here we see a demonstration that Jesus is both God and man.  Here we see another example of Jesus demonstrating the truth of Mark’s opening statement – that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  Here we see the answer to the question, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  This is none other than the God-man Jesus, the Christ.

Today’s Gospel not only tells us that Jesus is both God and Man, but it also tells us why it is important that the Son of God assumed a human nature.  Every storm is an expression of the curse that came when sin entered the world.  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:  Romans 8:22 (ESV) 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.[5]

Floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, lightening, earthquakes, and all the other natural disasters are the result of the curse that sin brings into the world.

These natural disasters are not the only storms that sin brings into the world.  There are other storms in our lives as well.  There are the medical storms of infection, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and on and on.  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.

Although we may be nowhere near water, these storms often give us the same sinking feeling that the disciples had on the Sea of Galilee.  We may indeed ask the same question that the disciples asked, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”   We may indeed come to the point that we wonder if God really cares for us.

It is in the incarnation of Jesus Christ – the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature – that we see God’s care.  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.  We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.  But the Father of all mercy and grace sent His Son Jesus Christ, who atoned for the sin of the whole world that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

The one who stilled the water and even walked the on water eventually spilled forth water.  As Christ’s dead body hung from the cross John 19:34 (ESV) 34 …one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.[6]

With that water and that blood the one who brings peace to wind and water also brings peace between man and God.  From His baptism in the water of the Jordan to the pouring forth of water from His heart, Jesus sanctifies and institutes all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin.  For in those waters He removes all sin from us and takes it onto Himself so that He can withstand the justice of God in our place.  With the pouring forth of the water and the blood in His suffering and death on the cross, Jesus satisfies God’s justice against our sin.

The water that pours forth from Jesus’ side as He hangs dead on the cross reminds us of another pouring of water – water that joins us to Christ in His death – the water of Holy Baptism.  It is in that water that we receive the credit that Christ earned for us with His death on the cross.  It is also with that water that we receive the blessing of His resurrection.

For Christ does not remain in the grave, but, after He conquers death, He rises from death never to die again.  Just as Holy Baptism unites us to Christ in His death, so also it unites us to Him in His resurrection so, Romans 6:4 (ESV) 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.[7]

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 is able to suffer on the cross in our place and for our good.  In His deity, He is 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 sleeps and stills the storm that we have our faith and the promise of eternal life.

“Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”  It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Amen


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Giving seeds a pep talk doesn’t work.

nullPentecost 4, 2018 Proper
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 17, 2018
Ezekiel 17:22-24, 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, Mark 4:26-34

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

A few weeks ago we celebrated Trinity Sunday.  God being one God and three persons is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith, but not the only one.  How does the Son of God assume a human nature into Himself?  Jesus is not half God and half man, but fully God and fully man.  Through this humanity, God is able to experience death – even death on the cross.  Through this divinity, the human Son is able to give us His body and blood in the Sacrament, no matter where we are.  How does this work?  We don’t know.  I suspect that even if God told us how it is done, we still wouldn’t understand.  It’s a mystery.

Consider some of the mysteries of the Holy Spirit.  How does the Holy Spirit take a rebellious, sinful human being and work faith in the heart?  People balk at the idea that babies can have faith, but, in fact, faith in Jesus Christ at any age is a miracle of the Holy Spirit.  Given that an adult has had many years to build up a defense against the Holy Spirit, the miracle of conversion may be greater in an adult than it is in an infant.

Mysteries abound in the Christian faith.  God has given His Word to the apostles and prophets.  In His Word, He has revealed mysteries that are beyond our understanding.  We may not understand them, we may not even like some of them, but we believe them because God has given them to us in His Word.

The parables in today’s Gospel reveal two mysteries to us.  The first parable teaches about the mystery of faith.  The second parable teaches of the mystery of Christ’s Body, the Holy Christian Church.

The first parable is about seed growing in a field.  Modern scientists know a lot about how plants grow and mature from seeds, but back in the first century when Jesus told this parable, these things were mysteries.  You threw the seed on the ground and after a while, it sprouted and grew and matured.  How?  No one knew.  These things happened automatically without the help of the farmer.  The farmer went about his regular business and the plants just grew.

Even though we know how and why plants grow, the farmer’s job has not changed that much.  We have more machinery to help with the work, but the basics are still the same.  The farmer plants the seed, does what he can to provide a healthy environment with fertilizers and pesticides, but in the end, there isn’t a whole lot the farmer can do to force the seeds to germinate, grow, or mature.  The farmer can provide a healthy environment for the seed to grow, but the growth itself comes from inside the seed just as it always has.

Mark 4:26 (ESV) 26 And [Jesus] said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.[1]  Here Jesus wants us to compare the seed to the Word of God.  The man who scatters the seed is anyone who shares the Word of God with others.  When you confess your faith to other people, you are that man scattering seed.  Every time I tell someone that I am a poor, miserable sinner who deserves punishment and then tell them how Jesus died on the cross so that I receive the joy of heaven instead of that punishment, I am that man scattering seed.

These well-meaning teachers make us feel as though confessing our faith before others is like making a sales call.  If nothing happens, we have failed to close the deal.

Remember that the farmer is not responsible for making the seeds sprout or mature.  In the same way, you are not responsible for producing faith in the heart of another.  That is the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit.

Too often, well-meaning teachers have told us that we must not only share our faith with others, but that we are somehow responsible for bringing those others to faith – that we are somehow responsible for the growth of their faith.  These well-meaning teachers make us feel as though confessing our faith before others is like making a sales call.  If nothing happens, we have failed to close the deal.  Although these teachers are well intentioned, they can make us feel really guilty for seeds that we don’t see grow.

Today’s parable tells us that this is a false guilt; the Kingdom of God doesn’t work that way.  It tells us that the growth of faith in the soil of the heart is a mystery; it is not up to us, it is something that God does.  This parable also teaches us that if no faith grows, it is not our fault.  Just as I cannot cause a seed to germinate by giving it a pep talk, I cannot force faith to grow with anything that I do.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit.

This parable is a great comfort to us.  From this parable, we learn that the pressure of converting someone to faith in Christ does not belong to us.  God has reserved that for Himself.  Just as the farmer scatters the seed out on the ground, God has given us the privilege of proclaiming the joy of our salvation.  On the other hand, God alone is responsible for producing a crop of faith from that proclamation.

So, what is the joy of our salvation?  What proclamation do we throw out to the world?  Jesus explains that in the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

Jesus often compares Himself to plants.  John 15:5 (ESV) 5 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.[2]  And again in John 12:23-24 (ESV)  23 … Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.[3]  Here Jesus speaks of His suffering and death – how He would die and – like a seed – grow up to bear much fruit.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus once again tells us that He must be buried – planted like a mustard seed.  This burial reminds us of the suffering and death He endured to take away all our sins.

Jesus said, “a grain of mustard seed …  is the smallest of all the seeds on earth …” Although He is God, Jesus became small by assuming a human nature.  He became small enough to live in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  He became small enough to live under the authority of the law and keep it perfectly.  He became small enough to die a shameful death and be buried in a borrowed tomb.  Like that grain of mustard seed, He rested in the ground.

Jesus continued His parable with these words, Mark 4:32 (ESV) 32 yet when [the mustard seed] is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”[4]

Jesus did not remain in the grave.  Instead – as a mustard plant emerges from the ground – He emerged from death.  Just as a mustard plant becomes one of the largest plants in the garden so also Jesus becomes ever larger – large enough to be known throughout the world.  As a mustard plant fills a garden and is large enough to harbor birds so also Christ’s body – the church – grows to fill the earth.

We are part of that mustard plant that is the Holy Christian Church.  The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, Romans 6:3-5 (ESV) 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.[5]  Through baptism, the Holy Spirit joins us to Christ’s death and we become part of His body – the church.

The wonderful part about belonging to the Holy Christian Church is that, no matter how often we sin – no matter how often we mess up, God has forgiven us for Jesus’ sake through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith.  He forgives us and calls us to follow Him.  We can come together as the Body of Christ and continuously receive the forgiveness of sins.

Even though your pastor is probably a worse sinner than you are, His words of forgiveness are valid.  The words of forgiveness that come from his mouth are not his words, but Christ’s words.  When that sinner whom God has called to be your pastor forgives your sins, it is not he who forgives.  It is Christ Himself who forgives your sins.  And I thank God that the words I speak are for me as well as for you.

As part of Christ’s church, we not only receive God’s forgiveness through the mouth of the pastor, but also through our own mouths as Jesus Christ gives us His body and blood in union with the bread and the wine of the sacrament.  Jesus Himself said, Matthew 26:27-28 (ESV) 27 … “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.[6]  What a gift this is that we receive as members of the Holy Christian Church.

As we gather together in Christ’s church, we come together to meet Jesus and receive the gifts that He earned for us on the cross –forgiveness, life, and salvation.  We also receive the comfort of knowing that, just as He rose from the dead, we too shall rise from the dead and inherit eternal life.  It is good to be part of God’s mustard plant; the Church.   Amen


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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is God?

null

Trinity Sunday 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 27, 2108
Isaiah 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

It is a perfect day.  The sky is clear blue, the sun is shining, the grass is green, the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, there is a gentle breeze and you are sitting in the shade on a park bench sipping on your bottle of water and just taking a few minutes to watch the world go by in front of you.  A neatly dressed woman sits down next to you and is quiet for a few minutes as you both admire the beauty of the creation.  Without looking at you the woman asks, “Who is God?  I look around at all this beauty and know this cannot be an accident.  But who is God?  So many people have so many different opinions.  Who is God?”

You look around hoping she is talking to someone else; but you are the only one there.  Here is a great opportunity to share with someone the truth of God; but you are nervous that you may mess it up, or say something wrong.  The question resounds loudly in your head, “Who is God?”

“God is incomprehensible,” you begin, not certain exactly where you are going with this.  “We are never going to be able to understand God; we will never know everything about God.  He is the potter and we are the pot that He creates.  The pot is never going to fully understand the potter.  But that doesn’t mean that we cannot know anything about God.”

“What do we know?” she asks.

“We know that God is three in one; trinity.  I know it doesn’t make sense, but there is one God with three persons.  This is how He reveals Himself to us in the Bible.  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  It makes no sense, but that is sort of a proof that it is true.  Who would make up a God like that?  When people make up gods they make up gods that are a lot like us; motivated by the same things as us.”

“The Trinity doesn’t make sense.  Other things about God do not make sense.  God is eternal.  The Father is eternal.  The Son is eternal.  The Holy Spirit is eternal.  I cannot get my head around that; it seems like everything should have a beginning and an end, but God does not.”

The woman replies, “That might keep me awake at night thinking about that.  How is God eternal?”

“God is almighty.  That also does not make sense to us.  We know powerful people, but they still get sick, they still die, there are limits to people’s power.  God has unlimited power; He is outside the laws of nature; He creates the laws of nature.”  We think we are powerful but then a storm blows through and we realize how weak we really are.”

“The Trinity doesn’t make sense.  Other things about God do not make sense.  God is eternal.  The Father is eternal.  The Son is eternal.  The Holy Spirit is eternal.  I cannot get my head around that; it seems like everything should have a beginning and an end, but God does not.”

“God is holy and just.  God hates sin and evil.  God will punish sin and evil.  But God is patient and God is merciful and full of grace.  We have a problem with sin and God provides the solution to sin.  The eternal Son, Jesus, came to earth 2,000 years ago and took on human flesh.  He had no earthly Father and was born to a virgin named Mary from Nazareth.  He was sinless.  This also does not make sense to our rational selves; how can anyone be born of a virgin?  How can Jesus be both God and man?  How can He be without sin?  But He is.  It is God’s plan for salvation.  God provides the sacrifice for sin.  God in flesh takes the punishment for sin for all people.  God provides His only Son as the sacrifice in order to save all people.  John 3:16 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.[1]  We are called to repent and believe.  We are called to turn away from sin and look to Jesus on the cross for forgiveness.”

“So God demands payment for sin, but then pays the price Himself.” the woman says.

“Right.  That’s another way we know that the true God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Virtually every other religion in the world is based on you having to DO something to be saved; that makes sense.  That’s how we would do it if we made it up ourselves.  The truth is that God has already DONE it all for you.  Trust in the promises of God.  Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to prove that He is indeed God in flesh and that His death is sufficient.”

The woman asks, “How do we know Jesus rose from the dead?”

“We have eyewitness accounts.  Matthew, Mark and John were there and saw what happened and wrote it down.  Luke talked to eyewitnesses and wrote their accounts.  There are a lot of people who are willing to die for what they believe to be true, the 11 apostles knew the truth about whether Jesus rose from the dead or not.  They knew the truth and 10 of the 11 were put to death for preaching the resurrection of Jesus.  If Jesus had not risen from the dead these men would have just gone back to their previous lives.”

“So Jesus really is God,” the woman said, “and God is God the Father.  And then there is the Holy Spirit?  What does the Holy Spirit do?”

“The Holy Spirit is the breath of God; the Spirit of God, that lives in you and gives you faith to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God; to believe your sins are forgiven through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The Spirit does not point to itself, but rather always points you to Jesus.”

“Is there really a devil?” the woman asks.

“Yes,” you reply, the devil is always trying to pull you away from faith in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to develop faith in something else; anything else; faith in a made up God or faith in yourself.  The devil wants to convince you that if God doesn’t make sense then God is just something someone made up.  But the very opposite is true.  If God made sense then God would be something someone just made up.  But God does not make sense.  God is incomprehensible.  His love for us is incomprehensible.”

“Knowing all this; knowing Jesus died for our sins; what are we supposed to do?” the woman asks.

“Live in the love and forgiveness of God.  Continue to repent of your sins and struggle against sin.  Love God, and love, forgive and serve others.  Love your enemies.  Pray for them.”

“Who is God?  That is a big question,” the woman said.  “We will never know everything.”

“But we know enough,” you say, “enough to know the way to eternal life.

“Thank you,” she says, “good talk,” and as quickly as she came, she gets up and walks away.

You didn’t get her name.  You didn’t find out where she is from.  You didn’t tell her your name.  You just talked about God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And that is enough.  Amen.


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

Jesus ascended to very near to us.

nullAscension (Observed)
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio|
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 13, 2018
Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53

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

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

This is the last Sunday in the Easter season and today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord. Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday and 40 days later ascended into heaven and during that time, Acts 1:3 (ESV) 3 …he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.  And at the end of the forty day, Acts 1:9 (ESV) 9 ,,,when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.[1]

This is a big part of what we confess in the second article of the Apostles’ Creed.  We confess that Jesus:

1. Was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. This is the Incarnation, the Word made flesh to dwell among us. We celebrate the Incarnation in the Christmas season.

2. We confess He suffered under the power of Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended into hell; On the third day He rose from the dead. We remember the passion and death of Jesus Christ during Holy Week and His glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday.

3. We confess He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty: and from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.  This we celebrate today; Jesus’ ascension.

Ascension is 40 days after the Sunday of the Resurrection, so it falls on a Thursday.  We get off work for Christmas, and Easter is always on a Sunday but in this country we don’t get a day off on Ascension.  In some countries, like Germany, Ascension Thursday is a day off, but not here; it is just another Thursday.  Therefore, we celebrate Ascension on Sunday.

Most of the world ignores the Ascension, but it is an important event that we should remember and celebrate, because in the Ascension we find the promises of the Lord.  Jesus prophesied His death and resurrection before they occurred, but the disciples did not understand that he needed to suffer in order to have victory in the resurrection. Also the Lord told them that after the resurrection, He would return to the Father, but they did not understand why He could not stay with them in a visible form. Acts 1:6 (ESV) 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”[2] They thought He was ready to defeat the Romans, take control, and reign from the throne in Jerusalem.

But Jesus’ throne is not an earthly throne.  The kingdoms of this world rise and fall, but the kingdom of God will last forever. For the Descendant of David to reign forever, as God promised, He had to ascend to the throne of God.  With His birth in Bethlehem began the humiliation of the Son of God, when He left his throne to live among us and to fulfill the Law of God in our place.  He suffered the punishment of our sins on the cross. Death was the last stage of Jesus’ humiliation, and it was also His victory. In the resurrection Jesus was exalted, but the exaltation was not complete until His return to the Father in His human nature exalted by His divine nature.

Because of the resurrection of Christ, we have the promise that we will one day also be resurrected. And, because of the Ascension, we have the promise that one day

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (ESV) 16 …the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.[3]

In addition, we have the promise of the second coming of the Lord. Acts 1:10-11 (ESV) 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “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.” [4]

Today we have another promise. Jesus told them before his ascension: Acts 1:7-8 (ESV) 7 … “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”[5]  Jesus was leaving them but he was sending the promised Holy Spirit.

Next Sunday we will celebrate the day of Pentecost. Ten days after the Ascension, according to the Lord’s promise, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the church. After visible and audible manifestations of the presence of the Holy Spirit, St. Peter preached and three thousand people were baptized. That is, three thousand received the gift of faith by the power of the Holy Spirit and holy baptism. And every person we baptize receives this same gift, because Christ was raised up beside God the Father almighty to send the Holy Spirit to His church.

Therefore, beware lest you imagine within yourself that he has gone, and now is, far away from us. The very opposite is true: While he was on earth, he was far away from us; now he is very near. . .

There are still more. Before His ascension, Christ told his disciples, “I am with you to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) and also promised them where there are two or three gathered in His name, He would be among them (Matthew 18:20).

There is a wonderful passage from an Ascension sermon preached by Martin Luther in 1523.  :We must, therefore, conceive of [Jesus’] ascension and Lordship as something active, energetic and continuous, and must not imagine that he sits above while we hold the reins of government down here. Nay, he ascended up to heaven for the reason that there he can best do his work and exercise dominion. Had he remained upon earth in visible form, before the people, he could not have functioned so effectively, for all the people could not have been with him and heard him. Therefore, he inaugurated an expedient which made it possible for him to be in touch with all and reign in all, to preach to all and be heard by all, and to be with all. Therefore, beware lest you imagine within yourself that he has gone, and now is, far away from us. The very opposite is true: While he was on earth, he was far away from us; now he is very near. . .[6]

In what way is Jesus near?  In what way is Jesus with us?  In His body and blood in the sacrament.  Because in His human body He ascended into the heavens, He is free from the limits of space and time, and His body and blood can be present among the faithful in many places at the same time.  We remember Ascension as the culmination of Christ’s mission in this world.  Now His mission is the mission of the Church.  As a man in visible form, Jesus could only appear in one place at the same time. Because Christ is now among His church anywhere at any time, and the church has the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there are no limits to the proclamation of the gospel.  Jesus ascended so He could send the Holy Spirit who testifies to Jesus.  In this, we have faith and hope and peace that surpass all understanding. Amen.


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

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

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

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

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

The devil wants you to be normal.

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Easter 6 2018 Confirmation Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 6, 2018
Acts 10:34-38

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

1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) 4 … everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? [1]

In baptism you were set apart from the multitude of unbelievers to serve God with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that with all believers in God’s promise, you would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

In baptism God set you apart from the world.  He has delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to the kingdom of his beloved Son.  You have been marked as a child of God and that is wonderful Good News.  But that mark also makes you a target for the devil and the world.  Ever since your baptism the devil and the world have been trying to get you out of the flock of the Good Shepherd and drag you back into the darkness.  The devil and the world want to slowly erode your faith and mold you so that you conform to the ways of the world.  Be on guard.  This won’t be obvious.  The devil will not appear in a red suit with a pitchfork and ask for you to renounce Jesus and follow Satan.  It will be done much more slowly; much more subtly; much more slyly.  This is a great spiritual danger because the devil is so delicate and devious, and tragically, so successful in stealing sheep from Jesus’ flock.

One way the devil goes after you is the simple desire you have to want to be normal; to fit in with those around you; to be admired by others.  It is very uncomfortable for us to be different, and this pressure to fit in is used by the devil to get you to conform your ways to the ways of the world.

Movies and television and YouTube often try to get you conform your way of thinking to the world’s way of thinking.  School should be a place that teaches you how to think, but too often school can be more geared toward telling what to think and getting you to conform your ways to the world’s ways.

The internet is amazing.  You can access all of the world’s information from your phone.  And yet it too often is used to build for yourself a silo of like-minded people who teach you to hate anyone who disagrees with you.  The internet can also be used to anonymously explore lusts and perversions and pull you into thinking that this is normal behavior that you should engage in.

The devil wants you to conform to the ways of the world.  The devil wants you to be normal.  But what is normal?  Being self-centered is normal.  Being so over-committed and over-programmed that you do not have time for God or for other people is normal.  Being focused on personal success at the expense of others is normal.  Arrogant self-righteousness is normal.  Hating others is normal.  Casual, uncommitted intimacy and all the turmoil and trouble it brings is normal.  Broken families are normal.  Abusing the weak, poor, and vulnerable is normal.  Getting drunk and getting high is normal.  Abandoning those you love and care about to pursue your own interests is normal, whether this means leaving your friends in order to sit with the popular kids or leaving your family to seek someone new.  It is normal for children to disrespect their parents.  It is normal to believe that what you are doing is more important than anything else.  It is normal to lie.  It is normal to look down on others.  Being normal in this life means you are a hateful, angry, selfish, abusive, arrogant liar.  The devil wants you to be normal.

It is normal to question the truth of God and that is just what the devil wants.  The devil’s first lie is still one of his favorites, “Did God really say?”  In our world today you are taught that there is no such thing as truth.  There is “your truth” and “my truth” and “their truth”, but no actual truth.  Pontius Pilate spoke for our times when he asked Jesus, “What is truth.”

We are taught that the worst thing you could possibly do is believe in actual truth.  The world thinks this is awful because to believe in actual truth means that you are judgmental.  To believe in actual truth is to believe that some things are true and other things are false.  The worst thing you could do is believe that some things are right and other things are wrong.  Normal is to believe that nothing is true, nothing is false, nothing is right, nothing is wrong.  Nothing is wrong…except to be judgmental.

You are taught that you want to be normal; but that is dangerous when normal means conformity with the ways of the devil and world.

Today we declare once again the truth.  The truth.  The truth that Jesus is the only way to eternal life.

Today we are here for something radically counter cultural.  Today we are going to have five of our eighth grade youth publically declare that they are not normal.  Desiree, Ethan, Rebecca, Dale and Dawson are going to declare that they are in rebellion against the devil and all his works and all his ways.  They are going to declare belief in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  They will declare belief in the truth of God.  They will declare that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.  They will declare that this is not a truth; this is the truth.  This is radical.  This is not normal.  To believe that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him is rebellion against the world, and it is the way that Desiree, Ethan, Rebecca, Dale and Dawson will overcome the world.  Today is not any kind of ending for these five young people.  Today is a day of renewed confession of the truth; a renewed commitment to the continuation of a lifelong battle against the devil and the world and their own sinful desires.  Today these five will promise lifelong connection to Jesus through His Body; the Church and through God’s Word and sacraments.  Today is the day that these five declare that they are not normal; they are set apart from the world in their baptism.  They are set apart to love God and obey his commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.  Love God and love your neighbor.

Life as a Christian in this world is not easy.  Life as a follower of Jesus believing the Bible to be true will make you quite strange to those around you who are compromising and conforming to the ways of the world.  Living as a disciple of the crucified and resurrected Jesus is a call to a life of repentance for all the times you fall into the devil’s trap of being normal.  It is a life of humble service to others in a generation that condemns humility as a sign of weakness and desperately encourages self-promotion; self-indulgence, self-glorification, and even self-worship.  These five young people today reject the ways of the world and pledge to live their lives delighting in God’s will and walking in God’s ways as they live under the eternal reign of God in this life and in the life to come.

Today we declare once again the truth.  The truth.  The truth that Jesus is the only way to eternal life.  The truth that Jesus is the Christ.  The truth that Jesus was baptized in the water of the Jordan River into your sin and the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove.  The truth that Jesus took your sin to the cross and shed His holy, precious blood as the payment for your sins.  This truth that is for all people; everywhere.

Desiree, Ethan, Rebecca, Dale and Dawson have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  They have received the gift of the Holy Spirit which empowers them to make such a bold declaration today.  They receive the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.  The Spirit, the water and the blood all testify to the truth.  Jesus is the Son of God.  I encourage each one of you to make that declaration with them as the battle lines are drawn once again against the devil and the world and our own self-centeredness.  Today you declare once again.  I am against the devil and all his works and all his way.  I believe in the truth that Jesus is the Christ.  (8 AM Service turn to page 12 in bulletin and we declare together.)

1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? [2]

Amen.


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

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

The vine or the fire.

The vine or the fire.

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Easter 5 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
April 29, 2018
Acts 8:26-40, 1 John 4:1-11, John 15:1-8

 

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

Last weekend I figured it is time.  It has got to have finally stopped snowing.  It is time.  I should cut the grass.  Before that first cutting of the season it takes some extra work.  Before I can get the lawn mower out I need to pick up the sticks that have fallen off my trees over the winter.  The sticks are dry and brittle and aren’t really good for anything except to burn.  I used to not have a good place to burn a lot of sticks, but now I am prepared.  Last Fall I bought myself a very simple new “tool” to use in the yard.  Sometimes t-o-o-l is just a different spelling of t-o-y for grown up boys.  I bought an empty 55 gallon steel drum and drilled some holes towards the bottom and now I have my own burn barrel.  Once I get the fire going it burns like a furnace.

So I put some paper and cardboard in the bottom of the barrel and then picked up the sticks stuffed them in the top of the barrel, dropped in a lighted match and watched the fire burn.  The dry, brittle sticks quickly burn with flames shooting up in the air.  Now, don’t tell Jeannette that I kind of enjoy burning things in the barrel; she thinks I am working in the yard.  Of course, once the fire died down I did have to start cutting the grass.

The branches attached to my trees are alive.  The branches that fall to the ground are dead.  The branches attached to the trees have the sap, the lifeblood of the tree, flowing through them bringing water from roots in the ground to the leaves on the branches.  The leaves break down the water; the H2O into separate molecules.  They combine the hydrogen and the oxygen with carbon from carbon dioxide in the air and produce sugar for energy for the tree.  Extra oxygen is released into the air for us to breath.  It’s a good system.  God is good.  The branch needs the water to live and grow; the sap is life.  The branch attached to the tree is alive and part of the tree.  The branch apart from the tree is dead.

In our Gospel lesson today Jesus says, “I am the true vine; you are the branches.”  Grape vines bring life-giving sap to the branches.  The life-giving sap enables the branches to produce leaves and grapes.  Next time you are eating a grape or drinking wine think about how it started out as water and carbon dioxide.  Only the branches attached to the vine can produce fruit.  Branches lying on the ground will produce nothing.

Jesus is the vine.  You are the branch.  Jesus teaches in John 15:1-6 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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. 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 your baptism you were grafted into the vine.  You are a branch attached to Jesus who is the vine.  God’s love and forgiveness flow into you and you are able to bear fruit.  You are a branch, Jesus is the vine.  You are attached to Jesus.  You are devoted to Jesus.  You are committed to Jesus.  You are a part of Jesus.  You are stuck with Jesus.  And that is a good thing.  There is no better place to be than to be a branch attached to Jesus.  God nourishes you and prunes away the unfruitful things in your life to make you even more fruitful.  Jesus is the vine and gives you eternal life; you and all your brothers and sisters in Christ.  For it is not just you and Jesus; it is you and Jesus and all the other branches of the vine.  There is no individual relationship with God.  You are part of Jesus’ vine which goes throughout this community and nation and world, and there are branches of the vine all over the globe being nourished by the same love and forgiveness of God.  Jesus is the vine and you are the branch and there is nothing better.  What more could you want?

And yet…and yet there are times when you can find yourself feeling like being attached to Jesus is too confining.  You can feel like this closeness to Jesus is stifling and suffocating.  Life as a branch in the vine can get boring just doing what you are supposed to be doing, living life in the love and forgiveness of Jesus, loving and forgiving and serving those around you.  Life as a branch of the vine can get sort of mundane.  Kind of boring.  Just the same thing day after day.

There are times when you find yourself looking at the branches lying on the ground and getting jealous.  Those branches are free.  They are not stuck with Jesus.  They are not attached.  They are not being pruned in order to produce more fruit.  They are free to do whatever they like.  No constraints.  No attachments.  They’re free.

You are not a dry, dead branch destined for the fire.  You are a branch of the vine of Jesus.  You are full of life.  You are nourished with the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

You can look at those who are unattached to Jesus and His church and think, “How cool would it be to be one of them?  No rules, no constraints, no guilt, no sin, just pure freedom to do whatever I want.”  It is tempting to look at those apart from the church and think they have it better.  And no wonder.  No wonder sin is attractive because, like you say most Sundays, you are, by nature, sinful and unclean.  Being a sinner is normal.  Being a sinner and indulging every whim, every desire, every lust is how you are hardwired; passed down from your first father Adam.  It is natural to want to sin and so you can find yourself very attracted to a life free from the constraints of being part of the vine of Jesus.  But that freedom is an illusion.  That freedom is a lie.  That life is a life of being a slave to sin.  That life is a life of being a dry, dead, stick destined to be burned.  That is your natural state, but you have been called out of that natural state and, by baptism, have been grafted into the vine of Jesus.

You are not a dry, dead branch destined for the fire.  You are a branch of the vine of Jesus.  You are full of life.  You are nourished with the love and forgiveness of Jesus.  You are changed by being a part of Christ’s Church; by being a branch of the vine.  You are changed because God loves you so much he grafted you into Himself.  The love and forgiveness of God earned by the blood of Jesus flows into you and produces growth and fruit.  The sap of love and forgiveness of God flows from the roots of the creation of the world through the cross of Calvary and into you, and you bear fruit in your life as you love and serve and forgive those around you.  You have the water of life flowing into you from Jesus and you break it down to nourish yourself and to provide fruit in service to others.  And you release extra love and forgiveness into the world around you.

Now loving others sounds so nice and easy, but loving those around you is messy because people are messy; they are mean, they are hurtful.  Love them anyway.  Forgive them even though they don’t deserve forgiveness.  Do it not from your own strength and mercy but from the strength and mercy flowing into you from Jesus.  Do it from the strength and mercy that loves and forgives you even though your life is messy; even though you can be mean and hurtful.  “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  1 John 4:10 Jesus paid for your sins on the cross out of love for you.  Jesus loves you.  Let His love has its way with you.  Cherish your place as a branch of the vine.  Let God’s love wash over you as you live as a branch in the vine and remember that God’s love is for all people.  God’s love is for all and yet so many choose to be separated from the love of God in Christ.

Remember that there are only two options in this life.  Be a branch of the vine which is Jesus, or be a dry, dead, branch destined for the fire.  We want to make things more complicated; more nuanced, but there are two options; the vine or the fire.

Rejoice that you are part of the vine; the Body of Christ; the Church.  You have the opportunity to receive the gifts of the forgiveness of sins each week as we worship together.  You are part of the Body; you are part of the Church; you are a branch of the vine.  Do not fall for the temptation to remove yourself from the vine in order to pursue the illusion of freedom.  You belong in Christ.  You are a branch in the vine.  You are together in the vine with Christians from all over world and you reach out to others with the Good News that Jesus is the vine.  This vine extends all over the earth.  From Israel to China and Kenya and India and Germany and Guatemala and Mexico and Ethiopia.  Ethiopia, where the people first learned about Jesus from a single Ethiopian official who heard it from the disciple Phillip.  The vine continues to grow in Ethiopia to this day and you support our missionary Pastor Mark Rabe at the Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa.

Jesus is the vine.  You are the branches.  Abide in Jesus and He in you.  Stay with Jesus.  Stay a part of the vine.  Amen.