Who am I? Where am I going?

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Pentecost 3 2022 Proper 8 – Vicar Installation
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
June 26, 2022
1 Kings 19:9b-21, Gal 5:1, 13-25, Luke 9:51-62

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            When I was at seminary in St. Louis, often after chapel, a squadron of F-15 fighters would fly over fairly low.  They were pretty loud.  We’d remark, “It is the sound of freedom.”  Freedom.  What is freedom? 

            A teenager wants to go out with her friends and her parents say no.  The teenager gets angry and longs for the day she moves out so she will have the freedom to do what she wants to do. 

            School students wait for the last day of school to begin summer vacation.  “No more homework, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks.  The students long for freedom to do what they want to do.

            A man counts down the days until his retirement when he will no longer have to get up early and commute to work and have to listen to all the people telling him what to do.  He longs for the freedom to do what he wants to do. 

Simply put, freedom is being able to do what you want to do.

            Soon will celebrate our freedom as a nation on July 4th when we began to throw off the rule of the king of England and established our own constitutional government.  Our forefathers fought for our freedom to do what we want to do.  As they were establishing this nation, the founding fathers must have really have wondered, “How well will this work?” John Adams, the second president of the United States, said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Why would John Adams say this?  What was he worried about? 

            I believe it has a lot to do with our reading today from Galatians 5. Galatians 5:1 (ESV) 1 For freedom Christ has set us free… Galatians 5:13 (ESV)  13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 

            Freedom is being able to do what you want to do. The big question, the huge question, the question with eternal consequences is… “What do you want to do?”  You, Christian, have been set free by the blood of Jesus.  You are free to do what you want to do.  What do you want to do?

            When you face this question ask yourself two additional questions.  Who am I? Where I am heading?  Who am I?  Where am I heading?

            Who are you?  Are you a slave to your desires?  Are you a child of the world?  Are you a follower of the devil?  Where are you heading?  Are you on the road to hell?  Are you seeking out immoral sexual activity?  Do you pursue spiritual adultery by following after other gods?  Do you seek wisdom from the dark forces of the world?  Do you break relationships with others and feed division and anger and hatred?  Do you overindulge in alcohol?  Do you gather with others who pursue works of evil and encourage each other to sin?  Is this who you are?  Is this your identity?  Are you bound for eternal damnation?

            No! No! No! No!  A thousand times, no!

            Who are you?  You are a baptize child of God.  Your sins have been forgiven by Jesus on the cross.  You have been set free by the blood of Christ.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, you will rise from the dead to eternal life.  You have renounced the devil and all his works and all his ways at your baptism and confirmation. Your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit.  That is who you are.

            Where are you going?  You have a reserved seat at the wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom. You are bound for eternal life in heaven with the Lord. 

            So, Christian, you have freedom in Christ.  What do you want to do?  You want to love your neighbor as yourself.  Often when you are trying to make a decision or evaluate your behavior it is easy to start thinking in categories such as, “is this a sin, is that a sin?”  Certainly we need to beware of sin, but, perhaps, a better question is, “Does this show love for my neighbor?  Am I loving my neighbor?” 

            You are free in Christ and freedom is tricky.  Living in the freedom of Christ there is temptation to go back to the old ways.  Vicar Yaeger hopefully will learn during his year with us how to better live in this freedom and how to teach others how to live in this freedom.  It is an ongoing challenge.  The devil is actively trying to get you to abuse your freedom. You say, I am free, I can do what I want to do, but then you find it is not what the trueyou wants to do.  You find that you are doing what your old, dead, sinful self wants to do. 

            You will struggle with temptations because you are a natural born sinner and sin comes easily to your old self, but this is no longer who you are.  When you find you have given into temptation to sin, do not give in to the temptation to despair and give up, or the temptation to become self-righteous and think your sin is not as bad as that other person.  Instead, get on your knees and bring your sins to the Lord Jesus and know that He has set you free from the condemning power of the law.  Hear the words of absolution.  Receive the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.  Your sin has been taken away.  Live in the freedom of Christ.

Our Epistle lesson today brings a warning about freedom.  St. Paul is very clear.  Galatians 5:16–17 (ESV) 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 

            To be extra clear, Paul lists sins of the flesh.  Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV) 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies [or carousing], and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” 

Paul lists three sexual sins, two sins of following false Gods, eight sins of division and anger and fighting, and two sins of overindulgence.  I fear that it is too easy to get caught up thinking about sexual sins or sins of overindulgence and let down your guard about idolatry and division.  You certainly need to beware of temptations to sexual sin and drunkenness and decadence, but you also need to be very much on guard against fearing, loving and trusting something other than the true God.  Beware of falling into a life of letting differences tear people apart.  It is too easy to fall into a life of fighting and anger which consumes you.

            On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs. Wade decision and the Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision about abortion.  States now have the authority to regulate and forbid abortion.  We give thanks for this huge step in defense of human life from conception to natural death. It is a time of joy.  But it is also a time where many in our nation are angry and frustrated.  This is a moment to speak the truth in love without gloating or stoking division and anger and hatred.  It is a time of prayer.  Matthew 5:43–44 (ESV) 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”  

            You are free in Christ.  Freedom means doing what you want to do.  What do you want to do?  Who are you? Where are you heading? 

            Paul clearly warns not to live a life fulfilling the desires of the flesh.  Do not embrace sin as your lifestyle or the goal of your life as if you are a child of the devil bound for hell.  This is not who you are.  This is not your future.

            Who are you?  You are a baptized child of God set free by the blood of Jesus.

Where are you going?  You are bound for eternity with the Lord in heaven.  Your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit.  Walk by the Spirit.  Love your neighbor.  Bear fruit in your walk in the Spirit.  Bear the fruit of joy…peace…patience…kindness…goodness…faithfulness… gentleness… self-control.  This fruit is not an event, it is not a sporadic, occasional activity, it is your lifestyle, it is your goal of life because of who you are and where you are going.

You are free in Christ.  Freedom means doing what you want to do.  What do you want to do?  Love your neighbor.  Walk by the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit because you are a baptized child of God. Because you are on your way to heaven.  Amen. 

You are free

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Pentecost 2 2022, Proper 7
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 19, 2022
Isaiah 65:1-9, Galatians 3:23-4:7, Luke 8:26-39

            The countdown is over.  The day he dreamed about for so long has finally arrived.  He’s served his sentence; he’s done his time; he’s paid his debt to society and today he is going to be released. 

            Prison life is hard, but he adapted over the years. It is a dangerous place, but once you figure out the written and unwritten rules and you learn to always be aware of your surroundings you can get by.  The prison has rules, the inmates have rules.  Not too much to think about.

There is a set schedule.  You don’t have to think about setting an alarm or figuring out when to turn the lights out; that is all done for you.  You don’t have to think about what to buy at the grocery store or what to fix for dinner.  Every meal is served at exactly the same time, every day.  The food isn’t that good, but it is always there; no matter what. Nothing to think about.  No decisions to make.  The rules are the rules.

Today all that ends.  Today is a day of freedom.  There is a whirlwind of activity and the next thing the inmate knows, he is standing outside the gates of the prison; outside the double chain link fence topped with razor wire.  He stands there in a new set of clothes with $50 in his pocket.  He is free.

            And, in freedom, he is seized with confusion and fear. What now?  Where should I go?  What should I do?  What next? So many decisions.  So many unanswered questions.  No one to take care of him.  He is now very much alone in the world.  He looks back inside the fence with a strange sense of longing to be a prisoner again.

            As bad as being a prisoner is; sometimes freedom can be worse.  As bad as slavery is, if you are released without any resources, freedom can be worse. The children of Israel free in the desert of the Exodus looked back on their time of slavery in Egypt with longing.

            This can happen when people are freed from slavery to the law of God.  Too often people who have been freed from slavery to the law want nothing more than to return to the comfort and familiarity of having the law as their master. It is so natural to just want a list of rules to follow because then you know what to expect.  Do this, don’t do that.  Eat this, don’t eat that.  The rules are the rules and the rules don’t change and that is so very comfortable. In Old Testament times the children of Israel had the law of God as their guardian.  Galatians 3:23–26 (ESV)  23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 

The law was like a servant whose job it is to care for a rich man’s children until they are old enough to take care of themselves.  The law was there to teach what to do and what not to do and when to do it and not do it.  The law cared for God’s children as a nanny cares for the children in her charge.  Having someone to look after you can be comforting. It is reassuring to be a child in someone else’s care.  It may be frustrating at times; but it is familiar.  It is predictable.

            God’s people are cared for by the guardian of the law until it is time.  Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV) 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.[1]

            A little of the Christmas story here in June.  When it is time, God sends forth His Son, born of woman.  Born under the law.  Jesus does not destroy the law; He fulfills the law.  He is circumcised on the eighth day.  As the firstborn He is redeemed by a sacrifice of two birds.  He follows the law of God in order to redeem those under the law.  Jesus redeems you from the guardianship of the law.  Jesus sets you free.  No longer are you under the power of the ceremonial laws.  You are free.

            But Jesus’ freedom does not leave you outside the prison walls with $50 in your pocket.  Jesus’ freedom does not leave you in the desert.  Jesus comes for two things. 

  1. To redeem those under the law,
  2. so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters.

You are not redeemed from the law and then abandoned to go it alone.  You are redeemed and adopted as a child of God. God sends Jesus to redeem you and then sends the Spirit into your heart so you can call God, Abba!  Father!  You are an adopted child of God.

You are not left alone in the world.  In baptism you have put on Christ.  You are placed into the family of God.  You are united here in Christ as the adopted children of God — united with God as your Father, with Jesus as your brother, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in you to give you the breath of faith and eternal life.

You are a child of God.  You are an heir of the heavenly kingdom.  You have been set free from the law.  So how then should you live?  Just be yourself.  Live out your identity.  Act like who you already are.  Live as your redeemed, forgiven self.  Love God and love your neighbor.

Just being who you are in Christ sounds easy enough, but there are many evil forces trying to get you to forget your new identity in Christ and go back to live in your natural, sinful and unclean ways. 

You are a part of the family of faith; the Church, but the devil wars against your new identity and your new family.

He wants you to stop coming to family gatherings.

He wants you to stop attending family dinners.

He wants you to stop thinking about the family and think only of yourself.

He wants you to act like you don’t belong to God, but rather that you are a citizen of the world; a slave of the devil; a prisoner of your own sinful flesh.

The devil wants you to forsake Christ and return to the old days under slavery to the law.  He wants you to believe that your salvation is something you earn based on what you do. In that way he can get you to despair or become self-righteous. 

But that is not who you are.  You have been baptized into Christ.  You have put on Christ.  You are free in Christ.  Don’t let the devil have you forget that.  Don’t let him drag you back to the ways of your old self. 

Rid yourself of the old sinful ways, the ways of the flesh, the old ways under the guardianship of the law.  You don’t belong there anymore. 

Stop trying to maintain a tight grip of control over your life.  Turn your life over to God.  Stop holding on to the hurts and harms that people have done to you as if you are the one to judge.  Stop holding onto the hurts, nurturing them and treasuring them so you can feel justified in your anger.  Take all your anger and bitterness and resentment and give it to God and trust in Him. 

But that is not who you are.  You have been baptized into Christ.  You have put on Christ.  You are free in Christ.  Don’t let the devil have you forget that.  Don’t let him drag you back to the ways of your old self. 

Knowing you are free in Christ…knowing that you are an adopted child of God…allow yourself to be vulnerable and admit you are not perfect.  Admit your errors.  Admit your flaws.  Admit your struggles.  Admit that you have thoughts and desires and actions of which you are ashamed.  Admit that you are hurt and broken and struggling and you cannot do it alone.  Admit that you need Jesus.  And know Jesus has given it all for you.

You have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you.  Live as Christ would have you live.  Live in Christ, live for Christ, live in love for each other. 

Through Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection, He has set you free from bondage to the law.  But he did not leave you alone in the world.  He did not leave you to fend for yourself and long to return to slavery. He has adopted you as His child and He has brought you into His family.  Gather at His family gatherings here in His house.  Come to the family meals here at His altar.  Live together and love together during your struggles here on earth as we look forward to the day of resurrection. 

You are a child of God and can call the creator of the universe Father, and the redeemer of the world, Brother.  You live in Christ.  You are free in Christ.  Amen.


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

Well-Equipped Witness

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Ascension 2022 (observed)
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
May 29, 2022
Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53

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            If you are called as a witness in court you will go up to the witness stand and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.  So, as a witness in court you tell the truth.  That is what the 8th Commandment makes clear.  Do not bear false testimony against your neighbor.

            When you think about being a witness, a courtroom comes to mind, but that is not the only place we find witnesses.  In our readings today we find Jesus leaving witnesses standing atop the Mount of Olives near Bethany above Jerusalem as He ascends into heaven. 

            The eleven apostles are there with Jesus.  They have seen Jesus perform many miracles of healing, feeding, cleansing, driving out demons, calming storms, walking on water, raising the dead.  They witnessed all that Jesus did.  They were with Jesus on that Thursday night when He washed their feet and transformed the Passover meal into Holy Communion.  They were there when Jesus was arrested and then watched from a distance as He is tried by the Jewish leaders and taken to the Roman governor in the morning. They saw Jesus paraded through the streets with His cross and marched up to the place of the skull to be crucified. John was at the foot of the cross and the others likely watched from a distance as the life drained out of Jesus until He hung dead on the cross and the Romans pierced Him with a spear to make sure.  They saw it all.  They saw Jesus’ dead body buried in a borrowed tomb and then they hid behind locked doors for fear that the Jews would be coming after them next.  The eleven apostles knew very well what happened to Jesus.  And then came Sunday morning and the news that Jesus rose from the dead started to spread among the apostles.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

            Jesus then appeared to these disciples.  Acts 1:3 (ESV) 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”  

These eleven and others with them know for certain that Jesus rose from the dead. They know that Jesus rose from the dead and, as Jesus commands them to do, they spend the rest of their lives witnessing to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.  They spend the rest of their lives proclaiming repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations beginning from Jerusalem.  Jesus prepares the disciples during His three years of ministry.  He further readies them during the 40 days from His resurrection to His ascension. He promises to send the Holy Spirit who will come in 10 days on Pentecost.  Some of the last words that Jesus speaks to the disciples confirm the written word of the Old Testament.  Luke 24:44–45 (ESV) 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,” 

            The eleven are eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry and His death and resurrection.  The eleven have the Old Testament; Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.  Jesus opens their minds to understand the Scriptures. The eleven will receive the Holy Spirit fully on Pentecost.  They have the tools they need to accomplish what God wants them to accomplish. 

How amazing it must have been to be there at Jesus’ ascension; to hear Jesus’ last words on earth and watch Him ascend and disappear into a cloud.  How incredible to have Jesus equip you with all you need to be sent out with the Gospel to all the world.

            It is easy to think, “If only I was equipped like those eleven apostles, then I could really do some good for the Kingdom of God. You know, those eleven were eyewitnesses.  They had Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms, their minds were opened to understand the scriptures.  They had the Holy Spirit.  If only I had what they had.”

            But you do.  You have virtually the same tools as Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Thomas, Philip and the others.  You are well equipped.  Now, you are not an eyewitness, but you have the eyewitness testimony written down by Matthew, Mark, John, Paul and Peter.  You have additional eyewitness testimony compiled by Luke.  Along with this you have Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. You have the Holy Spirit.  Your mind has been opened by God to understand and believe the Holy Scriptures.  You are well equipped.  So, be ready when opportunities arise.    1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)  15 …in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”  Be ready to give the reason for the hope that you have, yet do it with gentleness and respect.  In this contentious world with so many opportunities for division and conflict, you are called to interact with gentleness and respect.

            As a well-equipped witness for Jesus you bring the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to a world that does not understand.  You speak the truth in love with gentleness and respect into a world full of darkness and evil. 

            Witness to the truth about Jesus with gentleness and respect because that is how Jesus treats you.  When you mess up and offend God with your sin He does not treat you with angry contempt and dismissiveness.  God solves your problem with sin.  He tells you the truth that your sins are forgiven.  In great love for you the Father sends His Son to die on the cross to pay for your sins.  He sacrificially offers Himself for you.  He gives you abundant hope and He does it with gentleness and respect. 

            As a well-equipped witness for Jesus you bring the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to a world that does not understand.  You speak the truth in love with gentleness and respect into a world full of darkness and evil. 

            And there is great evil in the world.  We see that evil in big ways in unjust wars and in evil people who heartlessly kill children in a classroom or shoppers at a store. This is incomprehensible evil. Evil simmers around you constantly in regular street violence.  On a recent weekend in Chicago 24 people were shot, six fatally.  And no one seems to care too much.  It is just a regular thing.  A murder in Fairfield Township is huge news, two people murdered in Cincinnati is just business as usual.  Evil can become commonplace.  You have great hope because Jesus died and rose for you and yet you mourn the evil in this world.  You do not want to get used to the evil and give up hope; rather you fight back against it. As well-equipped witnesses to the truth you battle evil and darkness in the world. 

            You battle evil in the world using the tools that you have been given.  You battle the darkness using the light of the world.  The love and forgiveness of Jesus flow out from you into the world and this diminishes evil around you.  You shine light in the darkness.  You love when others hate.  When someone attacks you, turn the other cheek.  You befuddle your enemies by returning love for evil.  You are a sponge for evil and not a mirror.  You are a sponge for evil, absorbing it and eliminating it, not reflecting it back and causing it to grow.  Around you evil shrinks and love grows.

            Live in the hope of Jesus and when people notice that you continue to have hope when others have only despair, be ready to the give the reason for the hope that you have.  Declare that you are a baptized child of God and He has made great promises to you in the blood of Jesus.  Declare to anyone and everyone that Jesus died for them because it is true.  Declare, “Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death you need fear no evil for the Good Shepherd is with you.  There is great evil in the world and it can seem like evil is winning, but, in the end, evil will be destroyed forever.  Jesus has overcome the world.” 

            You can talk about how frustrating it is that there is evil in the world.  Why does God even allow evil?  Why am I infected by original sin?  What can one person do about all the evil in the world?  Then you can share the truth that one person can make a difference.  In your interactions, you make a difference. You push back evil in the world.  You, indeed, can have great impact on those around you using the tools that Jesus has given you.  You shine the light and the light spreads.  Be salt and light in a world full of decay and darkness.  You have eyewitness testimony to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Your mind has been opened to the words of scripture.  You have the Holy Spirit.  You know the message of repentance and forgiveness.  You are equipped to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Let Jesus’ light shine.

            Put it under a bushel?  No!  I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.  Amen. 

The Bride of Christ

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Easter 5 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
May 15, 2022
Acts 11:1-8, Revelation 21:1-7, John 16:12-22

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            A woman stands in the back of church dressed all in white with a veil over her face and a bouquet of flowers in her hands.  The organist is playing Canon in D and the pews are full of family and friends.  Who is this woman?  What is she doing?  It appears that she is a bride on her wedding day preparing to get married, but there is one more thing that is essential to her being a bride.  She needs a groom.  To be a bride she needs a man waiting at the front of the church for her to come down the aisle and the two be united as one.  A woman cannot make herself a bride.  She needs a man to ask her to be his bride.

            The Church is the bride of Christ.  The followers of God are united with God and are to be faithful to God.  In a marriage you pledge to forsake all others and be united to one person alone. With God you must be faithful to God, and God alone.  The first commandment is, “You shall have no other Gods.” 

The Church is the bride of Christ.  This idea of God’s people being in a marriage relationship with God runs throughout the Bible.  In the Old Testament there is much talk about the rebellious children of Israel being an adulterous people.  This isn’t talking about them cheating on their spouses; instead it is the accusation that they are cheating on God by following after other gods — foreign gods, false gods, detestable gods.  An interesting and under-read book of the Bible is the book of Hosea.  The Lord has the prophet Hosea marry a prostitute named Gomer as a warning to the people of Israel that they are prostituting themselves with other gods.  Two of Hosea and Gomer’s children are called, “No Mercy” and “Not my People.”

            In the New Testament we see this concept continue and increase.  Jesus comes for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and then His ministry expands also to the Gentiles; the nations.  We see in our reading from Acts God clearly showing that Christ has come for all people; Jew and Gentile. 

The Church consists of the baptized followers of Jesus.  The Church is the bride of Christ.  In Ephesians 5 we see St. Paul offer teachings about marriage based on the relationship of Christ and the Church.  Ephesians 5:22–27 (ESV) 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

            The marriage relationship of husband and wife is modeled after Christ and the Church; the Bridegroom and the bride of Christ.  It is a relationship of submission and protection and cleansing.  You all, as the Church, are the bride of Christ, not because you have declared yourself to be such, but because Jesus has made you His bride and washed you clean by the washing of water with the word and He presents you to Himself in splendor.  Jesus presents you without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.  He presents you holy and without blemish.  Jesus chose you to be His bride.  You all are the bride of Christ. 

            The Church is the Bride of Christ.  The Church belongs to Christ.  Therefore the Church is not something you can use to build up your self-esteem.  The Church does not exist for you to use it to network and increase your business.  The Church is not yours to be used to pursue the American dream of wealth and success.  The Church is not to be used to exercise authority over people.  The Church is not yours to be molded and shaped to fit your desires.  The Church is not yours to adjust so it evolves with the world.  The Church belongs to Christ. 

What is the Church?  The Augsburg Confession is the first basic summary of the teachings of the Lutheran Church presented to Emperor Charles V on June 25, 1530.  In Article VII defines the Church: “[Our churches] teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.” 

Together, united in Christ, you are the Church, but you did not create the Church.  You do not get to define the Church because the Church belongs to Christ. 

There is an entire industry that markets and sells programs to save the Church. There is a false yet very attractive idea that, if we can just do this…or if we can just do that…then we can save the church.  But the Church is not yours to save, it is not mine to save, the Church is Christ’s Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.  Congregations are planted and congregations close. Membership numbers go up and down. There is a great temptation to take control.  “We’ve got to do something!  Anything!” But the Church is not a product to be marketed.  The church is where the Gospel is rightly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered.  The Church is for preaching and teaching and baptizing and receiving Holy Communion. The Church is for distributing God’s gift of forgiveness in Jesus.

            The Church weeps and laments and yet is filled with the joy of Easter because you all know that the Church will endure to the Last Day. This age will end.  This World will pass away.  And despite how things may look at times, in the end Jesus wins. 

We go through life as the Church, struggling with conflict and sin, fighting off temptation, resisting the devil, suffering the slings and arrows of evil, injury, sickness and death.  The Church battles against the devil’s desires to divide and destroy, but we do it together as the Church.  We do it together, remembering our baptism.  We do it together, hearing again and again that our sins are forgiven. We do it together, receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.  We live together knowing that Jesus took all our sins into the grave and left them there when He rose from the dead. 

            You are right now the Church, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ and yet, for now, the Church struggles mightily in this world and life.  Jesus warns of this in the Gospel lesson, John 16:20 (ESV) 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”  Jesus is speaking of His death and resurrection and also of His ascension and return in glory on the Last Day.  The Church lives in the joy of Easter even as she weeps and laments the evil in this life; even as the world rejoices. 

            The Church weeps and laments and yet is filled with the joy of Easter because you all know that the Church will endure to the Last Day. This age will end.  This World will pass away.  And despite how things may look at times, in the end Jesus wins. 

            In the midst of all the conflict and confusion and hardships of this life we get glimpses of what the future holds.  In today’s lesson from Revelation we hear John’s vision of last day and it is a glorious vision.  This earth and this life is all we know and yet all this is only temporary.  A new heaven and a new earth are coming.  The holy city, New Jerusalem, will descend out of heaven from God as a Bride adorned for her husband.  God will dwell with His people.  The bride of Christ will be with her Bridegroom and we will celebrate at the wedding feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom.

            You live now as a saint of God in this time between Jesus’ ascension into heaven and His return on the Last Day.  It is the time of now you are saved, but you are not yet in the full presence of the Lord.  It is a time when you have been declared righteous, innocent and blessed because Jesus died for you and rose for you.  You are, right now, a saint made perfect in the blood of Jesus, a saint perfected by the blood of Jesus and yet you still live in this fallen world full of sin and trouble.  You are a saint who is, at the same time, a natural born sinner struggling to act like who you already are in Jesus.  Life as a follower of Jesus is hard.  It is a life of bearing your cross.  It can seem, at times, like there is no hope, but in the midst of the struggle and temptation and failure — remember who you are.  You are a baptized child of God washed clean in the blood of Jesus.  Together, you are the Bride of Christ.  Together, you are His Church.  Together, look forward to the last day when, Revelation 21:3–4 (ESV) 3 … “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

            You are the bride of Christ washed clean by Jesus.  He presents you without blemish.  Come, Lord Jesus!  Come quickly!  Amen. 

Mixed Metaphors

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Easter 4 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
May 8, 2022
Acts 20:17-35, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30, Psalm 23

Sermons online: 
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Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                        bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:   bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            The Shepherd sits with His back to the fire so His eyes will stay adjusted to the darkness.  Wolves are howling and at least one is getting closer and closer.  The sheep are nervous and restless and they crowd together for support near the Shepherd who rises and takes hold of His staff.  He stares out into the darkness straining to see or hear any movement.  It is a dark, moonless night and the Shepherd hears the wolf before He sees him as the wolf slinks in from the woods towards the sheep.  The Shepherd goes to confront the wolf.  You expect that the Shepherd will violently attack the wolf.  But the Shepherd does not pound on the wolf’s head with His staff; he does not hit the wolf with a club.  The Shepherd drops his staff and lets the wolf attack him.  The Shepherd kneels before the wolf.  Then the Shepherd goes down on all fours and transforms into a helpless little Lamb.

            The wolf cannot believe his eyes.  The Shepherd is acting so strangely.  The Shepherd is allowing Himself to be attacked.  He does not defend Himself but instead He becomes a Lamb and the wolf greedily sinks his teeth into the silent Lamb and kills Him. The Shepherd becomes a Lamb and offers Himself to the wolf.  Having killed the Shepherd the wolf now turns to the unprotected sheep thinking, “Now they will be easy pickings, the Shepherd is dead.  I will get them all.”  As the wolf crouches to pounce on a lamb, suddenly a big heavy club crashes onto his head.  The wolf whimpers and rolls on his back to see what happened.  The Shepherd has risen from the dead and is protecting the sheep. The sacrificial Lamb is alive and in triumph guards the sheep.  The Lamb who was slain has begun to reign over His sheep as the Good Shepherd.  His sheep listen to his voice. 

            In language, similes are figures of speech using “as”, “like”, or “than”.  Bob is strong as an ox.  A metaphor is a comparison not using, “as”, “like” or “than”.  Bob is an ox.

When learning to write you are taught to avoid mixed metaphors.  Mixed metaphors are confusing.  “We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.”  “Don’t beat a dead horse in the mouth.”  “Trying to thread a needle with a haystack.”  “That will be opening a can of beans.”  It is confusing.  You shouldn’t mix metaphors.

            Apparently no one told the apostle John who writes, Revelation 7:17 (ESV) 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd…”  Upon seeing Jesus, John the Baptist declares, John 1:29 (ESV) 29 … “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  Jesus declares. John 10:11 (ESV) 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  About being the Shepherd Jesus declares, John 10:27–28 (ESV) 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 

Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep.  Jesus holds His sheep in His hand.  The Church, the flock of the Good Shepherd who listen to His voice, resides in the hand of God.  As a baptized, redeemed child of God, bought by the blood of the Lamb of God, you are a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd and you safely dwell in Jesus’ hand; in God the Father’s hand.  And no one can snatch you out of God’s hand.  There is great depth to God’s love and care for you; unfathomable depth.  God’s love is too deep for you to comprehend.  It is far too deep for one metaphor.  The Lamb takes away your sin.  The Good Shepherd guides and guards you.  Jesus holds you in His hand.  In Jesus’ hand you are safe.  The devil cannot grab you out of God’s hand and drag you away.  You are safe in the hand of God.

            You are safe in the hand of God, but the devil does not want you to stay safely there.  There is still danger as Peter tells us.  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.”  

            In our reading from Acts, Paul is warning the elders, the pastors, of the church in Ephesus to be good under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd and care for the church of God obtained by the blood of Christ. While the devil and his henchmen cannot snatch you out of God’s hand they will try to lure you out.  They will try to convince you that freedom means that you do not need Jesus to guide and guard you.  That you are independent and capable and do not need the Lamb to pay for your sins.  They will lure you into complacency about worship and the Word of God.  Then they will lure you into ongoing sinful situations so you will reject God.  They will tempt you to demand of God, “Who do you think you are to tell me what to do?” Paul warns the Ephesian pastors, Acts 20:29–30 (ESV) 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”\

            You are safe in Jesus, but be aware each day of the dangers and temptations that are lurking, trying to get you to turn your back on your baptismal inheritance, to reject Jesus’ death and resurrection for you, and to climb out of Jesus’ hand to reside in and of the world.  Stay alert and listen to Jesus.  Listen to Jesus. 

            Fierce wolves will try to lure the sheep out of the hand of the Good Shepherd who is the Lamb of God sacrificed for the sin of the world.  To remain on guard against this danger, remember what Jesus’ sheep do.  John 10:27 (ESV) 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  Jesus’ sheep listen to Jesus.  Listening to Jesus is getting increasingly difficult in our media saturated lives.  It was not so many years ago that the only news from the outside world to reach rural areas was a weekly newspaper arriving in the mail.  The church and the Bible had greater potential for influence.  Today there is a constant cacophony of voices coming from the television and the radio and podcasts and tiktok and teachers and family and friends and so many other places all competing for your attention. Be aware of who you are listening to. Are these voices speaking for the Good Shepherd or are these voice trying to lure you away from Him?  Are these voices encouraging you to remain in God’s hand or drawing you away to eternal destruction?  Listen to Jesus because you are a sheep safely in the hand of the Good Shepherd.  Remain in Christ. 

            You are safe in Jesus, but be aware each day of the dangers and temptations that are lurking, trying to get you to turn your back on your baptismal inheritance, to reject Jesus’ death and resurrection for you, and to climb out of Jesus’ hand to reside in and of the world.  Stay alert and listen to Jesus.  Listen to Jesus. 

            There is an old children’s finger play that goes, “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.”  The people are the church.  God’s hand holds the church.  God’s hand holds all of His children.  God holds you in His hand and He will not let you go.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd defending you from the assaults of the devil with His rod and His staff.  As you struggle each day against temptations to sin.  As you fail to resist the temptations.  As you realize again that you are not good enough.  As you are heartsick by all the evil in you and in the world, remember you are forgiven by the blood of the Lamb.  Remember God’s hand holding you and all the followers of Jesus.  Through all the struggles of life you are safe for eternity.  Listen to Jesus.

Dwelling in the hand of the Good Shepherd, listen to Jesus every day.  Spend time each day in prayer.  Spend time each day reading or hearing the word of God.  Spend time meditating on God’s Word.  Come to worship each week to hear God’s word in the liturgy, lessons and sermon.  Abide in Christ.  Listen to Jesus.  He is your Good Shepherd who is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world and holds you in the palm of His hand.  Amen. 

Not a Comforting Image

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Easter 3 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
May 1, 2022

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 you think about images of Jesus there are certain comforting images that come to mind maybe from the wall of a Sunday school room, or grandma’s house.  A favorite is Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding an injured lamb in His arms bringing the lamb safely and gently back home.  We like the image of Jesus knocking at the door.  Jesus teaching His disciples.  Also comforting in their own way are images of Jesus suffering on the cross because you know Jesus is suffering for you.  But I do not recall too many pictures of the conversion of St. Paul.  There is nothing comforting about this scene. Paul, then called Saul, is on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus and bring them back to be tried and imprisoned — or worse.  Saul hates Christians.  Saul is present and supports the stoning to death of Stephen, an early deacon of the Christian Church.  Saul is zealous about stopping Christians by whatever means necessary.  He is breathing threats and murder and on his way north to Damascus.

            Saul is an important person on a mission for the high priest.  It is 150 miles give or take to get to Damascus so Saul is likely riding a horse along with armed guards from the high priest to ensure the success of his mission.  Saul is riding high – bold and confident, convinced he is on the right path, doing God’s work, getting rid of those foolish followers of Jesus.  Saul is riding high.  But it all changes in an instant.

            Acts 9:3–6 (ESV) 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 

            This is not the gentle Good Shepherd carrying a wounded lamb.  This is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  This is Jesus demonstrating that His is the kingdom, His is the power, His is the glory, forever and ever.  Jesus knocks Saul to the ground and leaves him lying there, a broken man, blinded and bewildered unable to eat and drink.  This is not a comforting scene — but it is a valuable scene.

            Saul is zealous about religion.  He is a firm believer, but he believes the wrong thing. Saul is fully committed to the cause and Saul is wrong, and Jesus tells him he is wrong.

There is a powerful temptation to never want to believe someone else is wrong, and an even greater temptation to never want to believe that you are wrong.  It is so easy to follow after the wrong things in this life and be led astray by the ways of the devil, the world and your own sinful nature.  It is an easy thing to firmly believe false teachings, as shown by the billions of people following false religions.  How do you know what is right and what is wrong?  Do you go with your gut?  Do you trust your feelings?  That is what Saul is doing and he finds out he is wrong.  How did Saul find out he is wrong?  Through the Word of God.  Jesus spoke directly to Saul.  How do you find out when you are wrong?  God speaks to you through Holy Scripture.  That is your rule and norm of what is right and wrong.

Jesus knocks Saul to the ground and tells him he is wrong and leaves him there dazed and blind with instructions to go to the city.  This is not a comforting image because, in this image, you can see a picture of God’s law working on you and knocking you down from your high horse and leaving you convicted and guilty knowing you are wrong. 

There is a great temptation for pastors to teach that if you become a Christian, life will get better and everything will be easier and you will have no more problems.  Join our church and your family troubles, money troubles, life troubles will all go away. But it is a lie.  For Saul, and for you, being a follower of Jesus can bring suffering.

Blind Saul is led into Damascus where he is three days without sight, food or drink, a shell of his former bold, confident self.  The Lord sends a follower of Jesus named Ananias to go to Saul. Ananias is hesitant since Saul is known to be hunting for Christians.  We hear the Lord’s final instructions to Ananias and they are more discomforting than Saul being left on the ground blind.  The Lord tells Ananias, Acts 9:16 (ESV) 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 

            Acts 9:16 (ESV) 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  I have not ever had someone choose this as their confirmation verse.  I have never seen this written on a wall hanging at Hobby Lobby.  Nobody has this on a bracelet.  This is not a comforting verse.  This is not what people want to hear. 

There is a great temptation for pastors to teach that if you become a Christian, life will get better and everything will be easier and you will have no more problems.  Join our church and your family troubles, money troubles, life troubles will all go away. But it is a lie.  For Saul, and for you, being a follower of Jesus can bring suffering. 

            Your suffering for the sake of Jesus will likely not be as dramatic as Saul who becomes known as Paul.  I pray you will not be stoned and beaten and imprisoned and executed because of Jesus.  But you will suffer. 

            You will suffer for simply speaking the truth in love to those who do not want to hear the truth.  Many do not want to hear that Jesus is the way, the truth and life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.  Many do want to hear that the 10 commandments are still God’s commandments and not just antiquated, outdated suggestions.  Many do not want to hear that their feelings are not authoritative, but rather God’s word is.  Many do not want to hear that marriage is a man leaving his father and mother and being united to his wife and the two becoming one flesh.  Speaking the truth in love can bring the quiet suffering of being ostracized from family and friends and work and society because you are not constantly conforming your beliefs and practices to whatever the latest and greatest new thing you are told you must believe and celebrate or face the consequences. School and work can become very stressful.  Family gatherings become strained. 

            You may suffer quietly because you do the right thing when doing the right thing is not popular.  You speak up for the weak and vulnerable to protect them from the powerful. You defend the defenseless.  You reach out to the outcast. 

You will quietly suffer all of the big and little struggles as you faithfully do what you have been given to do as father, mother, child, grandparent, sister, brother, friend, worker.  You endure quietly as you get up early and fight traffic and do your job well because it is what you have been given to do to support your family.  You endure quietly as you patiently change endless diapers, and hold and rock your screaming infant even when it feels like such a lonely, difficult, thankless vocation.  You quietly struggle to keep Sunday morning set apart for worship and diligently fight the temptations to give up meeting together.  You suffer quietly as you struggle against that secret, sinful desire instead of giving in to the desire and embracing the sin. 

            Jesus does not promise you a comfortable life.  He promises you eternal life.  And with that promise you can live each day in the joy of the Lord and in the peace of the Lord even as you struggle through life.  Being a follower of Jesus is not a ticket to a life of ease.  Jesus does not promise that you will achieve the American dream.  Having a great job and a fancy house and expensive cars and health and wealth is not a sign that you are a faithful follower of Jesus.  Jesus does not give guarantees for physical abundance in this life, but He gives certain, wonderful guarantees for eternity. This is the great good news. Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!  And because Christ has risen, it is proof certain that Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus’ death and resurrection are credited to you in baptism.  Your sins are forgiven.  You have eternal life. 

            Saul getting knocked down and blinded is not comforting.  It reminds you of God’s law working on you.  The Lord showing Saul how much he is to suffer for Jesus’ name is not comforting. The King of kings and Lord of lords shows His power to Saul, but the Lord does not leave Saul in his broken blindness.  Acts 9:17–18 (ESV) 17 …Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;”

The Lord does not leave you in your sins.  He does not leave you knocked down and broken by God’s law.  He announces to you that your sins are forgiven.  He feeds you with His very Body and Blood.  He cleanses you and sends you to speak the truth in love to your neighbor and spread the Good News of forgiveness in Jesus. 

            Jesus knocks Saul down and then lifts him up giving him the Holy Spirit in baptism.  Saul was lost and Jesus found him.  Saul was blind, but now he sees.  He sees the truth about Jesus and he spends the rest of his life proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ, and Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!” This enemy of Christians is changed by the Word of God into the greatest missionary of all times and the author of 13 books of the Bible.  The conversion of St. Paul may not be comforting but it clearly shows the power of God’s Word to save sinners.  Maybe alongside pictures of Jesus as the gentle Good Shepherd we should add a few pictures of the conversion of Paul to remember the power of God’s Word to save sinners, including you and me.  Amen. 

Promises, promises

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Easter Sunday 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
April 17, 2022

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 almost a cliché of broken promises.  A boy wants a dog and will say anything in order to convince his parents that this is a good idea.  “I will take care of everything.  I will walk the dog, feed it, give it a bath.  I will pick up after the dog in the yard.  I will do everything.  I promise. I promise, promise, promise.” 

            “Promise, promise, promise,” Dad mumbles as a cold rain runs down his neck at 5:30 in the morning while he is taking the dog for its morning walk so it doesn’t make another puddle in the house.

            Someone says, “I promise.”  Is this a valuable statement or empty, worthless words?  Depends who is saying it. 

I promise.  How many times have you used these words with every intention of following through, but instead you failed to fulfil your promise.  How often have you said to God, “I promise I will never do that again.”? How many times when you hear someone else promise you something, you doubt them and say sarcastically, “Promises…Promises.”  Promises, far too often, are a waste of breath.  And so, at first, it seems understandable that people doubted Jesus’ promise that He would rise from the dead. 

Right after Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ of God Jesus tells them, Luke 9:22 (ESV) 22 … “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”  Jesus spoke clearly and yet the disciples and others do not believe Him or remember what He said. 

            Jesus makes a promise to his disciples but they are not paying attention.  They are so wrapped up in their own ideas and their own expectations that they don’t understand what is happening and what will happen.

Jesus tells them again as they near Jerusalem, Luke 18:31–34 (ESV) 31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”

            Jesus makes a promise to his disciples but they are not paying attention.  They are so wrapped up in their own ideas and their own expectations that they don’t understand what is happening and what will happen.

            And while you often have good reason to doubts someone’s promise due to past experience, Jesus’ disciples have no reason to doubt His word.  The disciples have seen Jesus teach with authority and, with His words, take authority over demons, disease, disability, food, weather and even death.  Three of the disciples have seen Jesus transfigured and shine with heavenly light and hear God the Father say, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to Him.”  And yet…they do not listen. 

            Jesus made promises.  He has declared things to be true.  He promised to rise from the dead.  Over and over Jesus shows that His word is good and true and can be trusted and yet that first Easter morning where are the disciples?  They are hiding in fear.  The women go to the tomb, but what are they bringing with them?  Spices, to anoint Jesus’ dead, decaying body so it does not smell so awful.

            When the women arrive at the tomb they find that the stone has been rolled away and they go inside but Jesus’ body is not there. And they still do not understand that “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia.” The women are confused and then two angels in dazzling clothing appear and ask the frightened women, “Luke 24:5–8 (ESV) 5 … “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words,”

            The women now understand.  They remember Jesus’ promise and they believe, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!  Alleluia.”  They go to tell the apostles, the ones sent by Jesus to proclaim the good news.  The women tell the good news to the disciples Luke 24:11 (ESV) 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”  The disciples, who saw firsthand the authority of Jesus’ words still do not believe He rose from the dead. 

            Curiosity, however, gets to Peter and he goes to the tomb and sees the burial clothes neatly folded up by themselves.  Peter knows the tomb was guarded and if someone stole the body they would not fold up the burial clothes.  Peter marvels at what has happened.  Peter believes.  Later that first Easter Sunday Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and then to the eleven.  They touch Jesus, and Jesus eats with them, and then they still do not want to believe. So Jesus teaches them again and promises them power from on high; the Holy Spirit.  Then the disciples believe and spend the rest of their lives proclaiming repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all nations beginning in Jerusalem. Finally, they believe Jesus. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

            The value of a promise depends on who is making the promise.  Jesus’ promise to rise from the dead is a solid promise because He is the one who makes the promise.  While our promises can be pretty iffy, Jesus’ promises are rock solid.  Jesus said He would rise from the dead and Jesus rises from the dead.  “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia.”

            When the devil confronts you with your sins and accuses you of not being worthy of forgiveness, he wants you to look to your own faith, your own promises to do better, your own actions.  The devil wants you to rely on yourself, but there is no comfort there because your promises are iffy.  When the devil accuses you, stand on the solid rock of Jesus’ promises because, in Christ, there is true comfort.

            Stand on Jesus’ promise to forgive your sins. Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sin of the world and He rose from the dead to show that He has conquered sin and death forever.  Stand on the solid rock of Jesus’ word that declares, “I forgive you all your sins.” Stand on the solid rock of Jesus’ promise to you in your baptism; that you are His child for eternity. Stand on Jesus’ rock solid promise that in Holy Communion you receive His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  When buffeted by the storms of life do not try to live on the shifting sands of your own strength, your own promises, your own good intentions.  Stand on the promises of Jesus. 

            The devil’s first lie is still so very useful to him. “Did God really say?”  There is a great temptation to not want to trust Jesus. It is too easy to think of Jesus as one of us and want to think about His promises like our promises.  The devil wants you to doubt Jesus’ promises and look to yourself for forgiveness.  The devil wants you to despair because of your broken promises. But the devil is a liar.  Salvation is not found in your promises; it is found in Jesus.  The devil is a liar and Jesus tells the truth.  Today we celebrate the truth that Jesus conquers sin and death for you. 

            This bright and festive morning filled with flowers and bells and joyful music is a great celebration.  We celebrate with gusto the resurrection of Jesus from the dead because it changes everything.  Today, and every Sunday, we remember and celebrate that Jesus keeps His promises. Jesus says your sins are forgiven and your sins are forgiven.  Jesus keeps His promises.  You do not need to doubt God’s love for you.  You do not need to doubt God’s promise to you as His baptized child.  You need not doubt your salvation.

            Today, bask in God’s love.  Rejoice in the forgiveness of your sins.  Celebrate Jesus’ promise of eternal life.  Know Jesus drowns your sin so each day you can live a new life in Christ.  In your struggle against sin and guilt know that Jesus has already won the victory. Bask in God’s love and forgiveness for you in Christ and let that love and forgiveness flow out from you into a troubled world bringing the light of Christ into the darkness.

In this life, death is your constant companion…stalking you from the moment of your birth.  This life is indeed lived in the valley of the shadow of death and yet you need not fear; the Lord is with you.  The devil and the world want you to be in constant, crippling fear of death, but you do not need to fear because Jesus has conquered death for you.  Jesus promises, John 11:25–26 (ESV)  25 … “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”…  Then Jesus asks, “do you believe this?”  Whoever believes in Jesus, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who believes in Jesus will never die.  Do you believe this?  It sounds too good to be true but you know it is true because… Jesus keeps His promises. “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

            Live in the promise of the resurrection.  Through all the troubles and struggles, live your life in love and joy knowing that you have eternal life.  “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!” Amen.

Dad, aren’t you dead yet?

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The Fourth Sunday in Lent 2022
March 27, 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
Luke 15:1-3a, 11-32

            Can you walk into a bank where you don’t have an account, go to the teller and demand that the teller give you money?  I suppose you can, but they call that bank robbery.

            Can you go to your boss and demand that she give you a $10,000 bonus?  No?              Why not?  Because it doesn’t belong to you; it is not owed to you. 

            Can you go to your parents and demand your inheritance? “Mom, Dad, I just can’t wait until you die, I want my share now.”  Can you do this?  Of course not, people would talk.

            The audacity!  The scandal!  How dare he think that he can just waltz in to speak to his parents and demand his inheritance? 

            But this is what the younger son does in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal; the wasteful, the free-spending, son.  He goes to his father and demands his inheritance as if the father owes this to him; as if it is the father’s debt to the son.

            Now in Jesus’ parables we need to examine who’s who. The father is God.  The sons represent us humans.  The younger son goes to the father and demands an inheritance as if it is owed to him.  How often is this the way that people treat God?  We go to God and demand our inheritance from him as if he owes us. 

            How many view salvation from God as their “right?” Folks will say, “I believe in God,” and yet their lives are unaffected by this “belief”.  They say, “Sure, I’ll get to heaven, why wouldn’t I?”  Salvation is viewed as a heritage; a birthright and it is just demanded from God and then they leave home and live a life apart from, and unaffected by the Father.

            I am afraid that this may be the case for many of those who have distanced themselves from the church; from the body of Christ. Without even being aware, folks demand their inheritance from God; the forgiveness of their sins — and then drift away from the church and head off to a foreign land, and squander that inheritance.

            Folks claim forgiveness as their right, but you don’t deserve forgiveness.  It is not owed to you.  It is not God’s debt to you.  Rather, it is a gift that he freely offers in His Word and His Sacraments.  This forgiveness was won through Jesus’ holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.  You cannot purchase it, you cannot earn it, you cannot demand it — it is a gift which you receive here each week as you gather as the body of Christ, as you kneel before the Lord in confession, and at the communion rail as you eat and drink from the fountain and source of all goodness.

            For those who are members here at Immanuel or becoming members, this is your home, your spiritual home.  There is a great spiritual danger in leaving home to live in the world and forsake the fountain of forgiveness found here.  It is dangerous to leave home.

            But this happens all too frequently.  The worries of this world, the busyness of life choke out your connection with the Body of Christ.

            Our confirmands and their families too often, it seems, take their inheritance and depart for a foreign land.  Our precious young people stand here in their white robes and promise to remain faithful to this church and suffer all, even death rather than fall away; and then they disappear into the foreign land to squander their inheritance.

The college years are a great danger.  Our young people leave home and head off to the university where there is an abundance of options of worldliness in which to get entrapped.  They are away from us and many do not find a local congregation to serve as a spiritual home-away-from-home while at college.  We have been that home for a number of students at Miami University, but there are so many who live their college years spiritually away from home, like the younger son, off in a foreign land squandering his inheritance. 

Young families can become busy with sports and activities; they claim their inheritance and drift off into a foreign land. 

Folks can wander away to the latest and greatest new community church that has a great band and a great video system and a charismatic, likable pastor, but instead of teaching about sin and forgiveness, they teach you how to live well in the foreign land and feel good about yourself while living there.

            Folks of any age can have a crisis in their life and this can be used by the devil to separate you from the body.  It could be a divorce, an illness, or a move to a new area that causes people to drift into a foreign land.

            It is a danger as you grow older and weaker that you allow this to separate you from the body.  Don’t give the devil a foothold.  For those who are too ill and too weak to come here to receive the forgiveness of sins we will bring it to you at home.

            Most folks have allowed themselves to drift at one time or another.  Often this is not so much a conscious decision but rather that they have allowed other things to overwhelm life.

When you find yourself alone and separated from the Body of Christ, what do you do?

            If you find yourself in a foreign land like the younger son, what do you do?  When you find that you have squandered the gift of forgiveness in wild living, what do you do?  When you find yourself in the spiritual pig pen starving for some real food, what do you do?

What do you do when you find yourself empty after chasing fulfillment through intimacy without commitment? 

What do you do when you find that the alcohol and the pot and the pills can’t numb the pain anymore? 

            The younger son realizes that his father’s servants have a better life than living with the pigs in the mud of the foreign land and the son returns home humble and repentant saying, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”

When you find yourself alone and separated from the Body of Christ, what do you do?

            You come home.  You humble yourself before God and you come home to where you belong.  You come home and get on your knees and confess that you are by nature sinful and unclean.  You come home and get on your knees and confess that you have sinned in thought, word and deed.  You come home and get on your knees and beg for the gift of forgiveness that previously you demanded as if it were something you were owed. 

            And God the Father will lift you up; He will surround you with His love, wash you clean, and clothe you with the best robe; the robe of Jesus’ righteousness.  He will restore you to your place as His son; as His daughter.

            He will invite you to the feast and there he will feed you with the very body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

            What do you do when you find yourself in mud?  Come home.  Come home and be welcomed with open arms by God the Father and by your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now, this parable is not just about the younger son, but also the older, loyal son; the one that has been consistently devoted to the father.  He too forgets his place.  He too demands from the father what is only offered as a gift. He thinks he has earned it by his years of hard work and faithfulness.  Be on guard also against “older son syndrome” in which you start to think that God owes you forgiveness because you have been faithful to him and his Church for so many years.  Guard against “older son syndrome” in looking down upon those who have lived for a while in the foreign land and found themselves in the mud and humbly came back to our midst.  Those returning are your brothers and sisters redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  You kneel with them at the altar of the Lord and this unites you with those who have wandered and returned.  It is not for you to be bitter that the younger son is welcomed back.  It is a time for rejoicing. 

You do not have the right to think that another is less deserving of Christ’s forgiveness.  You cannot kneel at the rail with a fellow Christian and wonder, “Who does she think she is coming here to the altar.”

Those who are loyal and faithful, be aware.  In this parable, which son is in the better spiritual place?  It is the younger son, broken down by knowing what the world truly has to offer, who realizes he is owed nothing and who comes to his father in humility and penitence.  The older son is in great danger because, although he is with the father, he still thinks that his father owes him.  The father owes him nothing, but all that he has is for the son.  The father owes you nothing, but offers you everything as a gift. 

No matter if you have been a faithful disciple for 90 minutes or 90 years, you still approach God the same way.  You come with empty hands, in humility and repentance to receive His great and abundant gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. 

You can’t demand forgiveness; it is not God’s debt to you.  The Good News is that forgiveness is already yours; a gift from God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  You are not owed forgiveness, but you have been given forgiveness, life and salvation by your loving heavenly Father.  Amen.

O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken

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Lent 3 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
March 20, 2022

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            I enjoy word puzzles.  My daughter Heather got me started on Wordle a month or so ago and now I work it every morning.  It is a once-a-day puzzle website that gives you six chances to find a five letter word. I had 100% streak going until the other day when I had found __ATCH.  Problem is that there are too many words that can fit; batch, hatch, latch, match, catch, patch, and I ran out of options and missed the correct word, watch.  Normally I can use my reasoning skills to eliminate certain combinations and find the answer.  That’s the fun of the puzzle; using your reason to try to figure out the answer.

            Reason is good to use for puzzles, but it does not work so well with Jesus.  Jesus does not act reasonably.  Reasonable people give you what you deserve.  Your boss is a reasonable person and pays you what you earn.  Your teacher is a reasonable person who gives you the grade you deserve.  Jesus is not reasonable; He suffers what you deserve and gives you what you don’t deserve. Your reason wants to make God an angry, judgmental God.  A God who you need to appease or He will send you to hell.  Your reason desperately wants you to be a part of saving yourself.  But Jesus is not reasonable.

            The hymn, “O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken”, is a wonderfully poignant hymn which delves into the depths of God’s love for you in Jesus.  It was first published in German in 1630 written by a Lutheran pastor Johann Heerman. It is based on Augustine’s Meditations, Chapter VII, entitled, “An Acknowledgment that sinful Man was the Cause of Christ’s Sufferings.” 

Born in 1585, Heerman himself knew suffering.  All of his siblings died in childhood.  Heerman was a sickly child and his mother prayed that if he survived she would pay for him to study at the university.  Over the years Heerman had reoccurring, significant illnesses.  Once, while fairly ill, he was ordained and appointed as assistant pastor in Köben in modern day Poland.  The senior pastor died a few days later leaving the church to be served by sickly Heerman.  The plague came to Köben in 1613, a terrible fire in 1616 and then Heerman’s first wife died childless in 1617.  Heerman fell into a long-term illness and infection in 1623.  After writing this hymn in 1630 came the 30 years’ war.  Köben was plundered in 1632, 1633, 1634 and 1642; Heerman lost everything several times.  He died in 1647.

            Heerman was not a strong, independent, man.  He suffered from many illness and tragedies and plagues and war.  He was often weak and needy.  His poetic rendering of this hymn reflects a deep trust in Jesus whose love is beyond comprehension.  This hymn, entitled Herzliebster Jesu in German was translated into our English version by Catherine Winkworth in 1863.  Let us examine it, verse by verse.

Verse 1. If you happened upon Jesus on the cross, your first logical question would be, “What did this man do to deserve crucifixion?  What law did he break?  Crucifixion is such a cruel way to put someone to death it begs the question, “What did this man do to deserve to die in such a horrible way?”

            Crucifixion is horrible to observe by design.  The pain is disfiguring as one hangs naked, impaled on nails praying to die so the excruciating agony and humiliation ends. But death may not come for two or three days after your body is completely exhausted.  The Romans really knew what they are doing when it came to executions.  Hanging you from your wrists nailed to the cross forces you have to breathe backwards, laboring to exhale.  Hanging like that, you would fairly quickly suffocate from exhaustion.  But the Romans wanted to make an example of those being crucified so they would nail your feet to the cross also and maybe put a small seat under your backside so you could push up on your nailed feet to catch another painful breath and extend the slow, horrifying process.  The idea being, that if you saw a person being crucified you would say to yourself, “however I die, please don’t let it be like that.” 

Verse 2 Jesus was not just crucified, but first they beat Him and whipped Him and crowned Him with thorns and made him carry His cross out of the city to Calvary.  They offered Him an awful mix of vinegar and gall to drink.  It is a horror to observe. 

            Verse 3 Encountering Jesus on the cross you ponder what is the cause of such plagues on this Jesus?  Why is He suffering here?  But then it hits you like a brutal punch in the gut.  You know what this is about.  The Holy Spirit enlightens you through the Word of God and then the horror of the “Why?” dawns on you with a storm of guilt.  Literally from the German, Ah, my sins have struck you; I, my Lord Jesus, have caused what you are suffering. 

            This is profoundly convicting.  What did Jesus do to deserve this kind of suffering and death? Nothing.  You deserve this kind of death because of your sins.  It is horrible that Jesus is dying because of your sins but it is also quite marvelous that Jesus dies for your sins. 

            Verse 4 How wonderful is this punishment!  The good shepherd suffers for the sheep.  The lord, the righteous, pays the debt for his servants.

            Verse 5 Jesus, the pious one dies, who walks right and true, the wicked live who rebel against God

Man deserves death and has escaped.  God is caught. 

The horror that you experience because of what is happening to Jesus on account of your sin now turns to stunning marvel as you ponder the unbelievable, amazing depth of Jesus’ love for you. 

Verse 6 Your sin is total and complete.  There was no spot in me by sin untainted.  Nothing good could be found in me.  I should have gone to hell to atone for my sin.

            Verse 7 Jesus’ love is so marvelous, so wonderful, so deep as to be unfathomable. This love brings Him to the cross to suffer and die.  I live in the world with pleasure and delights and Jesus must suffer.  It is beyond reason.  It does not make sense.  Jesus is the servant king who pays the price of your sin. 

            Verse 8 You are the great King, O Jesus, how can I spread your faithfulness.  No human heart can think of what to give you. 

Verse 9 I cannot comprehend the height, depth and breadth of your mercy.  I have nothing with which to compare it.  How can I pay you back for your loving work?

               Verse 10 I cannot pay you back, but there is something else that pleases you:  when I subdue and tame the lusts of the flesh; lest they kindle my heart again with old sins.                 Verse 11 That would please the Lord, but I cannot do it.  So I fasten my desires to the cross.  Give me your spirit to govern me, to lead me to good.  Awash in the love and mercy of Christ I want to do better.  I want to be faithful — but I am so weak.                 Verse 12 So then Jesus I ponder your mercy, what you have done for me.  I count the world for nothing.  I will strive to do your will.

            Verse 13 Living in your mercy, O Lord, with the power of the Holy Spirit I will dare everything in your honor; disregarding any cross, or disgrace or plagues, or persecution.  I will not worry about the pangs of death.  This is what St. Paul calls for you to do in Romans 12:1 (ESV)  1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 

               But who am I kidding.  For all my good intentions I can accomplish nothing of real value.  For as much as I promise to be good I am still tainted by sin.  And yet…               Verse 14 All my feeble efforts. Lord, you accept because of your mercy.  You will not put me to shame.  This life is a struggle against sin and I will not be able to defeat it.  But you, Lord Jesus, have already defeated it.  In your unfathomable love you have paid for my sin and set me free.  You have promised me eternal life.                 Verse 15 One day I will be before your throne in heaven.  The crown of honor will be on my head.  The great multitude of the Saints will sing to you and I will be with them, singing your praises.                Jesus’ mercy and love overwhelm any sense of logic and reason that you might have.  Jesus does not make sense.  He is not rational.  He is not reasonable.  He is not logical.  Jesus is not a puzzle for you to figure out.  Jesus does not act like a regular person because He is not a regular person.  He is God in flesh, and He is a God of love, and God’s love is beyond comprehension.  This can make people uncomfortable.  You are used to the ways of the world where you get what you deserve but God does things in ways that you cannot understand.  God gives you what you can never deserve.                 You want to pretend that you are strong and independent.  You want to project the image that you are tough and free.  It hurts your heart to admit that you are weak and needy.  It is humiliating to admit that you are in bondage to sin and cannot free yourself.  It is crushing to admit that you cannot break free from your sinful nature.  It is so tempting to redefine sin and justify yourself.               Over the years many things have changed, but the horrifying truth that Jesus was crucified because of your sins is still true.  Also, the marvel that Jesus did it for you, in love, to forgive your sins still remains the truth.  And the end of the story remains the same.  As a forgiven follower of Jesus, baptized into the Kingdom of God, you are destined to spend eternity with the Lord Jesus in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem.  Jesus paid the price for you.  Amen. 

Speak the truth in love, no matter what

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2nd Sunday in Lent
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
March 13, 2022
Jeremiah 26:8-15, Philippians 3:17:4:1, Luke 13:31-35

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            Have you ever had this happen to you?  Someone tells you about their problems and you have the perfect solution, but they do not take your advice.  I have an Immanuel school student that I greet in the morning as she is dropped off in car line who, when I ask how she is doing, tells me, “I’m so tired.”  To which I reply, “You probably need to get to bed earlier.”  I am a master at giving advice.  She has a problem, I have a solution, and yet, it seems, she does not follow my advice and she continues to tell me that she is tired in the morning. 

            Teachers certainly have his issue.  You have a student that consistently makes poor choices and it leads them into trouble and gets in the way of their education.  You tell them how they can do better but they do not heed your advice.  It gets frustrating.  You just want to give them a hug and protect them from themselves and make it all better.

            Parents can relate when one of your children is having troubles.  Your beloved child makes the same poor decisions over and over and it is causing them no end of trouble.  You talk with them and counsel them but to no avail.  They refuse to listen to your guidance.  You just want to give them a hug and protect them from themselves and make it all better.

            You are offering advice in love to help them, to warn them, but unfortunately people are not always happy about someone telling them the truth about their situation, it can make them angry at you and drive them away. So what do you do?  You want to help, but they do not want your help.  Do you change your advice?  Do you lie and tell them that everything is okay?  Or, do you lament their rejection of your advice and continue to tell the truth?

            The prophets of God during Old Testament times have a rough job.  They are not just giving good advice.  They are called by the Lord to speak the truth of God to the people and their leaders. The prophets are called to go the people in power; religious leaders and political leaders and even kings to speak the truth in love.  A prophet’s job is difficult and dangerous.  There is great pressure when dealing with powerful people to simply tell them what they want to hear.  Kings have the power to execute you on the spot.  There is great temptation to not speak the truth in love but rather, in fear, tell them lies to make them feel good. 

            Jeremiah is feeling this pressure in our Old Testament lesson today.  Jeremiah 26:8–9 (ESV) 

8 And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! 9 Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.  

            The power brokers are bringing pressure to bear against Jeremiah.  They surround him and seize him and threaten him with death.  They want to continue in their vices and idolatry without having Jeremiah tell them that God condemns what they are doing and will send the Babylonians to bring God’s judgement and conquer Jerusalem.  They gather the king’s officials and the religious leaders and declare, Jeremiah 26:11 (ESV) 11 … “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.” 

            Jeremiah 26:12–15 (ESV)  12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. 13 Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. 14 But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. 15 Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”  

            In our Gospel reading from Luke Jesus finds Himself in a similar situation.  Jesus has been teaching in Galilee.  He has been speaking the truth in love, but the religious leaders do not love the truth. Jesus told them, Luke 11:39–42 (ESV) 39 … “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. 42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” 

            Jesus is warning the Pharisees to repent but they do not want to hear it.  They want Jesus to shut up and leave.  They come and tell Him that Herod wants to kill Jesus so He better leave.  We are not sure if Herod is really on the hunt for Jesus or if the Pharisees are just making up this threat.  Herod did, reluctantly, have John the Baptist killed, but on the morning of Good Friday Pilate sends Jesus to Herod and we are told, Luke 23:8 (ESV) 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him.” 

In any case, the Pharisees are using whatever they can to pressure Jesus to shut up, but, like Jeremiah and many other Old Testament prophets, Jesus resists the pressure.  He has to. If Jesus flees from this threat and stops speaking the truth of God He will be abandoning His mission.  He will become a false prophet.  It is better to die than to give up the truth. 

            The interesting thing is that Jesus has already set His face toward Jerusalem and the cross and He is already on His journey south to Jerusalem when the Pharisees confront him.  So Jesus tells the Pharisees how to respond to Herod.  Luke 13:32–33 (ESV) 32 … “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 

            If Herod really does want to kill Jesus he will not get the chance because Jesus is going to Jerusalem to die.  Jesus will continue to speak the truth in love in Jerusalem to call the people and their leaders to repentance, but they will reject him.  These are the children of Israel.  These are God’s chosen people that He delivered from slavery in Egypt.  These are Jesus’ own people, He loves them and wants to save them, but they will reject Jesus and kill Him. 

            Despite knowing that this will happen, Jesus expresses great compassion for the people of Jerusalem, Luke 13:34 (ESV) 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”  Jesus wants the people of Jerusalem to listen to Him; to repent; to believe the Good News. He wants to hug them and make it all better, but he knows that will not happen.  Jesus laments over the people of Jerusalem but then He continues on to finish His course at the cross on Calvary. 

            Before the Babylonian exile the people of Judah do not want to hear Jeremiah’s warnings about their sins and their worship of false gods.  They just want Jeremiah to shut up and threaten to kill him so they can continue in their vice and idolatry.

            Jesus is preaching and teaching the truth of God and calling people to repentance.  The Pharisees and others want Him to shut up.  They pressure Him by threatening His life so they can continue to make money exploiting the people using their religious positions.  But Jesus will not keep silent.  Jesus loves his people too much to stop telling them the truth

            These days there are many people who still want Jesus to be silent.  They do not want to hear what Jesus has to say about their own vices and idolatry.  Speaking Jesus’ truth in love is met with resistance and pressure to give up the truth and give in to the whims of society. 

            There is great societal pressure to not speak the truth in love but rather to lie to people to make them feel better.  When confronted with Satan’s old question, “Did God really say?” the easy answer is that God says whatever you want Him to say. The easy answer is that God does not care about sin.  That God is not going to judge you.  That the Ten Commandments no longer apply.  That God has no instructions for life beyond whatever you think will make you happy. 

            There is a lot of pressure for churches to adjust their preaching and teaching to fit the ways of the world and not offend anyone. There is great societal pressure instructing that if speaking the truth in love offends someone then you need to give up the truth.  The world says that it is better to be a false prophet than to offend someone caught up in unrepentant sin.  The pressure is quite real to eliminate the concept of judgment and hell and instead teach that any way is a good way to God.  The world believes that the idea that Jesus is the only savior from sin is offensive and anyone teaching that needs to be silenced. 

            These days there are many people who still want Jesus to be silent.  They do not want to hear what Jesus has to say about their own vices and idolatry.  Speaking Jesus’ truth in love is met with resistance and pressure to give up the truth and give in to the whims of society. 

            People have left Immanuel because of our teachings about marriage and abortion.  It is tempting to want to adjust our teachings so that they won’t leave, but we cannot.  So we lament their leaving and continue to speak the truth in love. 

            The pressure is real to get along with the world.  In some countries those speaking God’s truth in love are threatened with imprisonment and death.  In this nation there is social and economic pressure in families, schools and workplaces.  There are no threats of death, but it seems that, even so, many are giving into the pressure and becoming false prophets; wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Jeremiah felt the pressure and remained faithful to God’s truth.  Jesus was pressured to stop speaking the truth in love and just “be nice” and get in line with the Pharisee’s program.  Jesus did not concede, but continued to speak the truth. We feel pressure today to give up the truth of God but we cannot.  In love, we must continue the work of bringing the truth of God’s Law and the truth of the Good News of forgiveness of sins through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to a world that doesn’t want to hear it and thinks it doesn’t need it.  But they are wrong.  They really do need Jesus. 

We preach and teach what God has given us.  We baptize and celebrate the Holy Supper as Jesus tells us to do.  We do what Jesus has given us to do to bring forgiveness of sins to hurting sinners.  In Jesus’ truth there is eternal life.  Without it there is eternal death and hell. 

            Pray for me that I have the courage to speak God’s truth in love despite opposition and offense.  Pray that this congregation and school continue to preach and teach the truth of God in love.  Pray that you can resist the pressure to just tell people what they want to hear, and instead speak the truth in love to those in your life.  We do not have a choice.  We need Jesus.  John 6:68 (ESV)  68 … “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 

Amen.