Jesus welcomes sinners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.


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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.


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

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

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

 

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

nullPentecost 12 2019 Proper 17
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 1, 2019
Proverbs 25:2-10, Hebrews 13:1-17, Luke 14:1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.


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

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

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

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

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

 

Those who think they are good enough are wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.


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

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

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

 

Peace can be dangerous

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Pentecost 10 2019, Proper 15
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 18, 2019
Jeremiah 23:16-29, Hebrews 11:17-31, 12:1-3, Luke 12:49-53

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

This past week was the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival.  Three days of Peace and Music at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York.  The Vietnam War was raging and the younger generation was rebelling against the social norms.  The hope was to have three days of peace and music in the country.

We really like peace.  Peace is good.  Peace is easy.  Peace feels right.

Who enjoys hearing their children fight?  Who enjoys fighting with their spouse?  Conflict is unpleasant.  We strive for peace in our families.  We strive for peace in the church.  And it is an ongoing struggle because the devil wants nothing more than to be able to tear families apart and tear churches apart over silly conflicts.  We must battle against foolish conflict because peace is good.  But peace is not always good.  Sometimes peace is dangerous.

You can make peace with your sin.

You can make peace with your laziness.  You can decide that you do not need to work hard in this life; you don’t need to do what you are supposed to do.

You can make peace with your anger.  You can say, “This is just who I am.  People need to accept it.”

You can make peace with your sexual immorality.  You can make peace with all sorts of intimacy outside the lifelong marriage union of a man and a woman.  You can convince yourself that pornography is not a problem; fornication is not a problem; adultery is not a problem.  You can make peace and say it is all okay.

You can make peace with your greed.  You can nurture your love of money and excuse it as just the way of the world.

You can make peace with your selfishness and tell yourself it is just human nature.

You can make peace with your separation from the Word of God.  You can say you don’t have time to read the Bible or get to worship.

You can make peace with sin in your life.

Peace can be good, but there is dangerous peace.  You can make peace with false teachers and false teachings about God.  Jesus warns about this in Matthew 7:15 (ESV) 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.[1]  Paul teaches that folks will seek something else other than Jesus on the cross for you.  He writes in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (ESV) 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.[2]

You life is an ongoing struggle to remain steadfast in Christ’s Church and the truth of Jesus.  You struggle to resist all the false teachings that surround you and appeal to your sinful, selfish human nature.

Peace can be good, but there is dangerous peace.  You can make peace with false religions.  There are those within churches today who desperately want to believe that there is no hell and that all people will be saved regardless of whether they have faith in Christ or not.

Many of you came to us from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the ELCA, and many of us have relatives who are still members.  The ELCA just held their national convention in Milwaukee August 5-10.  At their convention they passed a resolution that basically states that they do not know what God thinks about other religions that deny Jesus is the Savior.  A concerned delegate proposed to add language that indeed we do know what God thinks because Jesus is God and He told us, in John 14:6 (ESV) 6 … “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.[3]  A pastor from California spoke against this proposed amendment worried about offending the non-Christian religious leaders present saying, “Frankly I am embarrassed that we are having this conversation right now in front of all of our inter-faith guests.”  Debate was quickly cut off and the amendment was defeated with over 97% of the delegates voting against it.  The ELCA in convention voted that they do not know God’s position on other religions that deny Jesus.  They are making peace with false teachings and this is dangerous.

Martin Luther was sentenced to death by the Holy Roman Emperor because he refused to make peace with the Pope and his false teachings.  Luther is said to have declared, “Here I stand.”

There is a great temptation to make peace with falsehood and sin.  This is a dangerous peace.  And this is a deceitful peace because as soon as you make peace with your sin or with false teaching the goalposts will be moved and you will need to make peace with more sin and worse false teaching.  It is a dangerous peace.

Peace can be good and you should seek peace when it is proper.  You should never seek conflict for the sake of conflict.  Do not engage in conflict over unimportant issues.  Some people, it seems, seek out conflict and think that being in constant conflict is a sure sign of being faithful.  I know people like that on Facebook.  I may, at times, be that person on Facebook.  Being in constant conflict may not be sign of faithfulness, but instead it may just be a sign of being a jerk.  We should always seek for peace when possible, but we should never make peace with false teaching.  We should never make peace with false teachers.

Martin Luther was sentenced to death by the Holy Roman Emperor because he refused to make peace with the Pope and his false teachings.  Luther is said to have declared, “Here I stand.”

Each day you are called to take a stand against false teachers and false teaching.  Each day you are called to take a stand against sin in your own life.  You are called to not make peace with sin, but to be divided from sin.  Jesus comes to divide you from your sin.  He takes your sin to the cross and divides you from that sin as far as the East is from the West.  Jesus divides you from your sin and calls you to struggle each day to divide yourself from sin and false teaching.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  Jesus’ first words to His disciples after His resurrection is, “Peace to you.”  Jesus brings peace.  He brings forgiveness of sin.  He makes you right with God.  He gives you eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus says, Luke 12:51 (ESV) 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.[4]  Jesus brings peace between you and God, but He brings division between you and others.  Jesus brings division because He is exclusive.  There is only one way to the Father and that is through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth; God in flesh; God with us.  You know this is true through faith which is the gift of the Holy Spirit.  You have peace with God but this brings you into conflict.

Your trust in Jesus divides you from the devil because in baptism, you have renounced the devil and all his works and all his ways.

Your faith in Jesus divides you from the world because Jesus is not of the world.

Having Jesus as your Lord means that you are no longer a slave to the sinful desires of your own flesh.

You are a stranger in the world, but as a baptized child of God you are marked as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.  You have been washed clean by Jesus’ blood shed for you on the cross at Calvary.  You have died with Christ and you have been raised with Christ.  Jesus has set you apart from the world so you are not at peace with the world, but you are at peace with God and that is a peace that is beyond understanding.

Amen.


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

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

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

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

 

The big question.

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SERMON AUDIO

Pentecost 9 2019 Proper 14
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 11, 2019
Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-16, Luke 12:22-34

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

It really is not hard, and yet you can get so confused.  The simple truth gets easily obscured by the clouds of life’s worries.  And this is dangerous because you need to know the truth.  You need to know the truth because the day is coming.

The day is coming when you will stand before the judgement seat of God to answer for your life; to account for all of your sins.  You will stand there unprotected by all your go-to excuses.  There will be no more pretending your sin is not important.  No more rationalizations.  No more blaming others.  It will be you there before the throne of God having to answer for all your sins.  You face a big question.  How am I saved?

You have two options.  You can appeal to your achievement and success in life as demonstrated by your earthly treasures; your awards, your titles, your bank accounts and investments.  Or you can appeal to Jesus Christ on the cross for you; Jesus risen from the dead for you.

Judgement day is coming.  You will stand before the throne of God.  What is your choice?  Will you appeal to money or to Jesus?  It is an easy choice.  Money or Jesus?  Which has eternal value, treasure on earth, or treasure in heaven?

You all know the answer.  When it comes to “THE BIG QUESTION” you all know the answer.  The answer is Jesus.  Jesus is the one who has given you the robe of His righteousness that covers over all your sins.  Jesus is the one who gives you eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

Do you trust money or do you trust Jesus?  You know the answer.  Luke 12:33 (ESV)  33 …. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.[1]

The answer is simple and clear, and yet how easily this clear trust in Christ alone can get obscured by the fog of life.  How easily you can lose sight of the truth of Jesus in your day to day life struggling to deal with all that life throws at you.  Because life is indeed hard and it is full of trouble.  Life is not easy now and it is not going to get easy.

One thing that may contribute to frustration in life is the sense that if you can just get through this current phase of life and on to the next, then life will be easy.

Elementary school students can’t wait to go on to middle school and high school and then everything will be easier.  High school students cannot wait to graduate and go on to college, or trade school, or work, or the military where everything will be simpler.  College students cannot wait to graduate and get to work because things will be easier.  Workers in their careers look forward to retirement when everything will be easier.  But life never really gets easier.  Life is always hard.  Each phase of life has its struggles and in this life you are never going to arrive a station marked “Easy Street”.

            The answer is simple and clear, and yet how easily this clear trust in Christ alone can get obscured by the fog of life.  How easily you can lose sight of the truth of Jesus in your day to day life struggling to deal with all that life throws at you.  Because life is indeed hard and it is full of trouble.  Life is not easy now and it is not going to get easy.

Each day is a struggle to do all the things that you are supposed to and do them well.  In the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day struggles you can lose sight of what is most important.  There is so much stress and anxiety and worry about money and health and children and parents and family and work and school and sports and activities and housing and cars and food and exercise and safety and so many other things.  It is far too easy to find the dark cloud of worry settling down over your life and getting you to start to believe that those things are the most important things in life.

Worry is powerful.  Worry is an amazing example of the mind-body connection.  Worry is essentially a thought that takes on physical manifestations.  Worry begins with that little nagging inkling that moves into a headache, neck ache, grinding teeth, tense shoulders, churning gut, aching stomach.  It can lead to loss of energy, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart disease and so many other things.  Stress is dangerous and Jesus knows the futility of stress.  Luke 12:25 (ESV) 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[2]  Worry and stress actually bring harm.  They can move your focus in the wrong direction.  Jesus is the remedy for stress.

Life is hard.  But as much as the world pushes you to forget the truth, the truth is that you belong to Jesus and Jesus says, Luke 12:32 (ESV)  32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.[3]

Life is difficult and confusing, but remember, you know the answer to life’s greatest question.  You know Jesus is the Way.  You are a baptized child of God.  You are in the Kingdom of God.  You have Jesus’ promise to save you.

Jesus knows that there is a great temptation to trust in money and worry about money because money is a big part of life.  When I do pre-marriage preparation there is an exercise the couple completes to see how each thinks about money.  Do they view money as status, or as security, or as enjoyment, or as control?  I took the survey and came out highest as view money as security.  Money is powerful.  Money is necessary.  Money is a tool of life.  But do not love money.  St Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV)  10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. [4]  We hear in explanation of the Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13:22 (ESV)  22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.[5]  The deceitfulness of wealth; the lies about money choke out the truth of God.

Loving money…trusting in money is dangerous.  If you find yourself falling into the love and trust of money Jesus provides and antidote in our reading today.  Luke 12:33 (ESV) 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy…[6]

If you are beginning to love money then sell something and give the money away to those in need.  Consistently exercise the gift of generosity to avoid falling in love with money.

This is one of the great benefits of making a regular, sacrificial, gift to the Lord’s work here at Immanuel.  For me, giving ten percent off the top helps to have a healthy view of money.  Giving off the top to the Lord helps keep money in perspective.  Giving money that you will miss helps you realize that money is not the answer to the most important question; money is not the most important thing.

In last week’s reading from Luke Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool in which a man gets caught up in the pursuit of wealth and a life of ease but then suddenly dies.  He thought money was the answer, but he was dead wrong.  In the reading which immediately follows our lesson today Jesus warns about His return for judgment.  Luke 12:40 (ESV)  40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”[7]

So stay ready.  The day is coming.  Stay prepared to stand before the judgement seat of God.  Trust in Jesus.  Remember Jesus’ promise to save you and do not let the dark cloud of day to day worries and anxieties obscure the eternal kingdom truth, “Jesus gives you eternal life.”  You know the answer to the question, “What is most important?”  Jesus is most important.  You know the answer to the questions, “How am I saved?  The answer is, “Jesus saves me.”  Don’t worry.  Trust in Jesus.  Amen.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

You are awkward and out of step.

nullPentecost 7 2019, Proper 12
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 28, 2019
Gen. 18:20-33, Col 2:6-15, Luke 11:1-13

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

Picture for a moment an old fashioned ball room where everyone is dancing gracefully to the music of the band.  Handsome men in tuxedos lead beautiful women in evening gowns around the floor in an elegant waltz.  It is poetry in motion; everyone is moving together; everyone is in harmony.  There is a smooth, stylish, flow.  But then you notice a new dancer on the floor.  He is wearing shorts and sandals and is dancing to a rhythm that is completely different from the rest of the dancers.  He looks awkward and out of place.  The other dancers start to stare and shoot dirty looks at the out-of-step dancer.  He doesn’t fit in; he doesn’t belong.  One of the couples takes the man aside and tries to help him to get in step with the music and find him proper clothes so that he fits in.

There are the graceful, elegant, stylish folks and there is the awkward, out-of-step dancer.  Which do you want to be?  Would you rather be one of those dancing in harmony or the awkward one dancing to the beat of a different drummer?

Now it may be just a sentimental memory, but it seems like there was a time when being a Christian in this nation felt more like being one of the well-dressed people on the dance floor moving together in rhythm.  Unbelievers were the ones dancing out-of-step to the music.  That is the sentimental memory.  But that is not the current reality.  Things have changed.  Most people in this nation are not church-going Christians.  It is estimated that only 20 percent of the population attends church weekly.  The fastest growing religious group in the United States is the nones.  N-O-N-E-S.  No religious affiliation.

The number of nones is growing and we are daily shown by the mass media how wonderful it is.  How the world moves along just fine with all of its fads and fashions and technologies and everyone is quite happy with themselves, even though they have abandoned the truth of the Gospel.

This week, the United Nations issued its World Happiness Report, and declared that the happiest country in the world is Finland.  Interestingly, it seems that happiness does not have much to do with faith in Christ.  While about 80% of Finns claim to be Christian only about 2% of the population attends church weekly.  They are supposedly happy, but what the world calls happiness is a poor substitute for true peace.  Finland was once a deeply Christian nation made up mostly of Lutherans.  What happened?  The same thing that is happening here in the U.S.  So many have been taken captive Colossians 2:8 (ESV) 8 …by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.[1]  They had the truth of the Gospel and they have given it up for the lies of the world.

            As those around you more and more move to the rhythm of the things of the earth you will find that you are out of step.  You will appear awkward and out of place.  You will find that you don’t fit in with the world.

You have received Christ Jesus as Lord.  You are rooted in the Lord Jesus.  You are built up in Christ.  You are established in the faith.  You walk in Christ.

As you walk in Christ you move to the rhythm of the Lord Jesus.  You walk and move to the rhythm of things above.

As those around you more and more move to the rhythm of the things of the earth you will find that you are out of step.  You will appear awkward and out of place.  You will find that you don’t fit in with the world.

You won’t fit in because you walk in the truth of God; you walk in the free gift of salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  You seek God’s will in the words of Holy Scripture.  You have God’s law and God’s Gospel.  You have forgiveness, life and salvation given to you in the waters of Holy Baptism and given and shed for you in Christ’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  You have Christ Jesus for you.

But the world does not want Jesus.  The world does not want the true God.  The world does not want God’s law.  The world does not want God’s commands regarding good and evil.  The world does not want God’s sweet Gospel of forgiveness.  The world does not want a crucified and risen Jesus.  The world wants a Jesus that stays out of the way.  The world wants a Jesus that blesses sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  The world runs on lust and greed and selfishness and anger and slander and obscenity and lying.

The world chases after ever new and ancient teachings where they can find their god in nature, in crystals, in meditation, in yoga, in themselves, in some made up religion where there is no hell, and heaven is some kind of endless orgy.

So many churches cannot bear to be out of step with the world and they literally fly the flag to celebrate same-sex immorality.  They celebrate the identical same-sex immorality that brought about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah which Abraham prayed to prevent.  The world approves, recommends and encourages casual sexual intimacy; intimacy outside of the bonds of marriage.  The world thinks it quite strange if a couple does not move in together and instead waits until the wedding.  The world says you must not only accept, but celebrate, sexual immorality in so many of its various forms, and if you don’t, you are considered a hateful, judgmental bigot who should be forced to change.  The world wants to force you to dance along to their music and gets angry if you refuse.

Far too many churches are dancing to the world’s rhythm as they preach and teach a theology of prosperity in which they say God’s main purpose is to bless you with health and wealth.  These churches are very popular because they are preaching what people’s itching ears want to hear; not a message of sin and forgiveness, but the message of success.  The message of success fits so well with the rhythm of the world and people can feel at home in a world driven by greed and achievement.

The world promotes strife and anger.  This can infect Christians.  The world encourages division and wrath.  The world wants you to hate those with whom you disagree.  The world wants you to use spiteful, angry words towards them.  The world wants division to tear people apart and see others as the enemy because this stifles the spread of the Good News of Jesus.  When we treat those we disagree with like enemies we lose the opportunity to bring Jesus’ healing to people who are desperately in need.  Everyone needs Jesus but far too often we allow ourselves to fall into the rhythm of the world and instead of bringing the healing salve of Jesus’ forgiveness to people, we bring anger and vile talk.  We want to simmer in our hatred for others, but Jesus tells us, Matthew 5:44 (ESV) 44 … Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…[2]  Pray for those you disagree with.  Pray for opportunities to bring the healing salve of Jesus’ forgiveness to wounded souls around you.

You have been freed from sin.  Jesus canceled your debt.  He nailed it to the cross.  You are free from the guilt and shame of your sin to walk in Christ and bring His love to the world.  In baptism you have died with Christ and you have been raised with Christ.  Put to death earthly things and look to things above.

Colossians 3:12-14 (ESV) 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.[3]

There is great temptation to give up being different and join in moving to the rhythm of the world, but you do not belong to the world, you belong to Christ.  Knowing you are forgiven by the blood of Jesus, walk in Christ to the rhythm of things above.

Amen.


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

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

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

 

Good News on the lips of sinners

nullPentecost 4 2019 Proper 9C
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 7, 2019
Isaiah 66:10-14, Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18, Luke 10:1-20

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

God does not do things the way we expect.  If I had God’s power and His Good News, I would spell it out in the sky.  I would proclaim it on the lips of the angels above.  I would carve it into the mountains.  If I had God’s resources, I would use every supernatural means to proclaim the Good News.  But I am not God, and God has chosen the opposite way to get out the message.  God has chosen to get His message out through the very natural method of human proclamation.

In last Sunday’s Gospel reading you learned that Jesus is the one who, Luke 9:51 (ESV) 51 …set his face to go to Jerusalem.[1]  That means that Jesus determined that He is going to Jerusalem to sacrifice Himself for you on the cross.  When Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem, that is another way of Jesus saying, “I love you.”

As we follow Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, we learn that Jesus allows extra time to minister in the towns and places along the road.  In today’s Gospel we hear, Luke 10:1 (ESV) 1 …the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.[2]  Jesus uses seventy-two sinners to prepare people for His coming.  That’s right!  Jesus sends sinners to proclaim His Good News to the people.  How strange?  Jesus puts His most precious Good News into the mouths of filthy sinners.

Now before you start wondering if maybe I am over-stating the case here, think about who Jesus sends out.  Jesus sends out James and John.  Last week, you learned that James and John want to call down fire from heaven on an unsuspecting Samaritan village just because they don’t want Jesus to pass through their town.  Jesus sends out Peter … you know the one to whom He has to say, “Get behind me, Satan!”  There is doubting Thomas, and, let’s not forget Judas.  Judas … the one who betrays Jesus … the one who hangs himself in despair … that Judas!  Jesus sends Judas out to prepare the way for His arrival.  Each and every one of these disciples fail Jesus multiple times.  These are not the men that I would choose to get out the word if I were God.  But then, I am not God.

In spite of the fact that all of these men are sinners … in spite of the fact that we know Judas is a traitor, Jesus still entrusts His message to them.  He even says, Luke 10:16 (ESV) 16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”[3]  Jesus promises that even though they are sinners, His message will remain intact in their mouths.  People are to pay no attention to the sins of the messengers.  Instead, they are to pay attention to the truth of the message.

What is this precious, holy message?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, Luke 10:5 (ESV) 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’[4]  This is no ordinary peace.  This is the peace of God that passes all understanding.  This is the peace that Jesus will soon earn when He finishes His journey to Jerusalem and keeps His appointment with the cross.

Jesus also tells them to heal and preach.  Luke 10:8-9 (ESV) 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’[5]  The Kingdom of God is different from earthly kingdoms.  On earth, we say that someone is a king because he rules a kingdom – the king depends on the kingdom.  When it comes to the Kingdom of God, things are the other way around.  The kingdom is the kingdom because Christ the king rules it – the kingdom depends on the king.  When we say that the kingdom of God has come near to you, we are saying that the king has come near to you.  That king is Jesus Christ Himself.

There are great blessings for the people who receive these messengers from Jesus:  “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”  They will receive the blessing that we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer.  Thy Kingdom Come.

We sometimes forget that the coming of Jesus means two very different things depending on how He comes.  When Jesus comes near to you, He comes with grace and every blessing.  When Jesus only comes near, He comes in severe judgment.

So far, everything about this mission of the 72 sounds pretty good, but there is also a dark side to this mission.  It begins in the instructions.  Jesus began with a warning, Luke 10:3 (ESV) 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.[6]  As wonderful as God’s peace and His kingdom are, there will be some people who will attack you for it.  There will always be people who reject God’s peace and His kingdom.  There will always be those who hate God’s message and His messengers.

Jesus has stern words of judgment for the people who reject the words of His servants:  Luke 10:10-12 (ESV) 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. [7]

Sodom?  Sodom was the city that God destroyed with fire and brimstone back in Genesis.  Jesus clearly states that those who refuse to listen to God’s Word will suffer a judgment worse than Sodom.

We sometimes forget that the coming of Jesus means two very different things depending on how He comes.  When Jesus comes near to you, He comes with grace and every blessing.  When Jesus only comes near, He comes in severe judgment.

You see, Jesus Christ died for the sins of the entire world.  When Jesus Christ hung from the cross and shouted, “It is finished,” He meant it is finished for everybody.  Jesus Christ has earned the forgiveness of sins for every man, woman, and child who ever has or ever will live.  Jesus purchased the forgiveness of sins for all people in all places in all times.

This means that you can walk up to anyone in any place and tell them that you know for a fact that Jesus Christ has earned forgiveness of sins for them.  Think of the worst human beings who ever lived.  Jesus earned forgiveness of sins for them.  Nero burned Rome and blamed it on the Christians, but Jesus earned forgiveness for his sins.  Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Osama Bin Laden, whoever you can name, Jesus earned forgiveness for them.  Even Judas Iscariot, Jesus earned forgiveness for him.

Even though Jesus earned forgiveness for these horrible villains, the odds that they with the Lord are extremely low.  The problem lies in those two little words “to you.”  Jesus earned forgiveness for everyone, but some people reject that forgiveness.  It is not the Lord’s fault that anyone suffers forever.  He has brought His kingdom near.  He has earned forgiveness of sins for everyone.  The Holy Spirit offers that forgiveness through the Gospel to everyone.  The only thing the Holy Spirit does not do is jam the Gospel down people’s throats.  Some people resist the Holy Spirit and reject the Gospel.  The Kingdom of God has come near, but not to them.

In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther explains the Lord’s Prayer.  When He gets to the second petition, He says this: “Thy kingdom come.  What does this mean? The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself. But we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.  How does God’s Kingdom come?  God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”  We pray in this petition that God’s kindom comes to us.”

Two little words take the Gospel from objective fact to personal reality.  Those two words become the truth “when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word.”  The Holy Spirit’s gift of faith makes the difference.  Without that faith, the life of Jesus is just a collection of the objective facts.  With that faith, the life of Jesus Christ is the way of salvation for me … and you.

Two little words can make such a difference.  Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins can add two words to the objective facts.  Listen to the difference this makes.  Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary for you.  Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate for you.  Jesus died on the cross for you.  Jesus rose from the dead for you.  Jesus ascended into heaven for you.  From thence He will come for you.  Two little words … “for you” … They make all the difference here in time and forever in eternity.  Jesus is for you.   Amen


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thousands of demons

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Pentecost 2 2019 – Proper 7
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 23, 2019
Isaiah 65:1-9, Galatians 3:23-4:7, Luke 8:26-39

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

Today’s Gospel demonstrates Jesus’ power over demons.  This is part of the Bible’s teaching that Jesus is God and therefore has power over everything.  In other Gospel lessons we have heard that Jesus has power over sickness, injury, the weather, even death; today we see His power over demons.

Jesus and His disciples cross the Sea of Galilee into an area that is more heavily populated with Gentiles.  No sooner do they set foot on the shore than a demon-possessed man challenges them.  This demon possession is pretty intense.  The man lives among the dead, he wears no clothes, and the locals are unable to restrain him even with chains.

Jesus shows His power over the demons by conversing with them.  Although the demons are the sworn enemies of God, they must answer His questions.  They have no choice.  When Jesus asks “What is your name?” they answer, “Legion”, indicating the strength of the evil forces in this man.  A legion is an army numbering in the thousands.  Thousands of demons against Jesus, but it wouldn’t make a difference if there were a billion, Jesus is Lord over everything and even the demons must obey Him.

When the Lord commands them to leave the man, they have no choice but to leave.  The only question is where to go.  The demons ask to inhabit a nearby herd of pigs, but even for this they need Jesus’ permission.  The demons enter the pigs and the pigs promptly stampede into the lake and drown.  After that we aren’t told what happens to the demons.

The swineherds have a predictable response; they flee.  They flee into a nearby city for help.  When the people hear the news they go out to check on Jesus.  The scene gives us insight into the difference between people who are saved and people who are still slaves of the devil.

The man who is now saved is sitting at Jesus’ feet; he is listening as Jesus teaches.  The round trip to the city probably takes a few hours, so the man who is now free of demons has several hours of Bible class with Jesus.  He cannot get enough of Jesus.  He wants to go along when Jesus returns across the lake.

The people from the city are terrified of Jesus.  They ask Him to leave.  They are polite, but they still see Jesus as a problem … not as a savior.

Jesus complies with the people’s wishes.  He departs, but He leaves a missionary behind.  The man who is now demon free wants to go with Jesus, but Jesus sends him away, saying, Luke 8:39 (ESV) 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.[1]

When Jesus arrives, this man is full of demons and out of control.  When Jesus departs, this man is a missionary to the people on the east side of the Sea of Galilee.

Now whenever the topic of demons comes up, our imaginations tend to go wild.  Our culture has come up with all kinds of speculations about demons and most of them are wrong.

Since demons are angels, they are spiritual beings, that is, they do not have bodies.  They are not subject to the laws of the physical universe.  Since demons are fallen angels, they are enemies of God.

The Bible teaches us that demons were once angels.  God created them sometime during the six days of creation along with all the other angels.  Soon after the creation a group of angels rebelled against God and god condemned these angels to an eternity of punishment.  The Bible tells us that God created hell specifically for these evil angels and refers them as fallen angels, unclean spirits, evil spirits, demons, and so forth.

Since demons are angels, they are spiritual beings, that is, they do not have bodies.  They are not subject to the laws of the physical universe.  Since demons are fallen angels, they are enemies of God.

The problem with being an enemy of God is that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, unlimited by time and space.  Even though the demons are fallen, they are still God’s creatures and cannot win against God in a direct attack.  They must find some other way to express their hatred of God.  The battlefield they have chosen is the human race … us.

The demons’ main weapon is deception as Jesus says in, John 8:44 (ESV) 44… When [the devil] lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.[2]  It wouldn’t be much of a temptation if the devil appeared to us dressed in red body armor with horns and a pitch fork, and smelled like smoke, but the devil is much more clever.  Demons present temptation in ways that make sense … ways that seem like the right thing to do … ways that have a certain beauty.  As the Apostle Paul writes, 2 Corinthians 11:14 (ESV) 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.[3]

In Eden, the devil uses a serpent to tempt Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit.  Mankind falls to that temptation.  From that time on, every human being inherits a sinful nature at conception as David writes in, Psalm 51:5 (ESV) 5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.[4]  And Paul in Romans 8:7-8 (ESV) 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.[5]

The rite of baptism in the Lutheran Service Book states, “The Word of God also teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own.  We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.”[6]  Because we humans pass our sinful nature down from generation to generation, slavery to sin and Satan is our natural state.  We are by nature sinful and unclean.  Instead of loving God with all our mind, soul, and strength, we love ourselves.  Every human being by nature is terrified of God, resists him, and fears him.  Our lives apart from God show that we are disobedient.  The prophet Isaiah writes, Isaiah 65:2 (ESV) 2 I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices;[7]

The devil’s control over us at birth may not be as spectacular as the man in today’s Gospel, but we all enter this world at odds with God and slaves to sin.

Since demons deal in deception, they adapt their lies to the culture of any given time and place.  Rationalism has had a profound effect on our culture.  Many today don’t even believe demons exist.

That suits the demons just fine.  It doesn’t bother them one bit if we don’t believe in them.  Demons don’t care if the crime rate goes down.  They don’t care if charitable donations go up.  They don’t care if people give each other a helping hand.  They don’t care there is a cure for every disease.  They don’t care if we are one, great big, happy family, as long as we are one, great big, happy family on the wide road to hell.

The demons don’t even care if there are churches on every corner as long as the churches don’t talk about sin and its punishment, and Jesus and His salvation.  The demons don’t even care if we talk about god as long as that god is not the god who took on human flesh and died for our salvation.  The demons don’t even care if we talk about Jesus as long as that Jesus is just a great example or just a great moral teacher or just a great liberator or just a great unifier.  The only God – the only Jesus that the devil hates is the Jesus who died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins and then rose from the dead in order to certify His victory over sin, death, and the devil.

There is only one person who defeated the devil.  That person is Jesus Christ, crucified for the forgiveness of all sins and raised from the dead.  That person and that person alone is the only person who endured every temptation that the devil could throw His way and yet, never sinned.  That person and that person alone endured the forsakenness of hell for us as He died on a cross for our sins and He offers His victory to us.

Demons don’t always identify themselves by driving pigs into a lake.  Sometimes they quietly inhabit people who look like grandmas and grandpas.  They inhabit people who look respectable on the outside and seem very nice.  Just like dangerous strangers tempt children with candy, demons tempt us with all the things we like.  It is their goal to make us feel very comfortable and even righteous while traveling the path to hell.

The real lesson that we can take away from today’s Gospel is that Jesus is the one who exposes demons and deals with them.  The same Jesus Christ who demonstrated His power over demons in today’s Gospel has defeated the devil once and for all on the cross.  Trust in Him.  Trust in His holy life, His innocent suffering and death, His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven.  He is the only one who can protect you from the attacks of the devil.  He is the only one who can give you life everlasting.  Trust in Christ crucified and risen from the dead, and pray that the Holy Spirit will work that saving faith in all people.  Amen


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

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

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

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

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

[6] [LSB 268]

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

 

What shall we do?

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Trinity Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 16, 2019
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Acts 2:14a, 22-36, John 8:48-59

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

You know the feeling; that bowling-ball-size lump in the pit of your stomach that comes when you realize that you have done something terribly wrong.  You got caught up in the moment and went along with the crowd.  Instead of standing up for someone being abused, you stood by and said nothing, or worse you joined in the abuse of someone weaker by those who are stronger.  You went along with the group who was teasing the developmentally disabled boy.  You joined in making fun of the girl who was different.  Going along with the crowd you said something or did something and later you realized how wrong you were.  These can be bowling-ball-in-the-gut memories from childhood…but worse are these memories from your teens and adulthood where mistakes are bigger and the results are more permanent.  You were careless driving and caused an accident in which someone is hurt.  You made a big mistake at work and cost the company huge money; you cheated on your taxes,; you did things when you were drunk that you should never have done; you got your girlfriend pregnant; you cheated on your husband; you aborted your baby; your marriage fell apart.  You got caught up in the moment and fell into sin, and afterwards, as you come to realize what you have done, big, ugly bowling-ball-size regret starts to sink into your gut.  And you ask yourself, “What do I do?”

In our second lesson today the people of Jerusalem are feeling these same kinds of feelings; regret over what they have done.  Fifty-seven days earlier Jesus of Nazareth rides into the city on Sunday morning in Triumph.  The crowd waves palm branches and shouts, “Hosanna in the highest.”  On Friday morning the crowds shout again, but this time they cry out for Jesus’ blood.  In response to the cries Jesus is beaten and whipped and crowned with thorns before being led out to Calvary to be crucified.

The people to whom Peter is preaching were witness to this; some perhaps, caught up in the moment, joined in with the bloodthirsty mob’s call to, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  At minimum they did nothing and just stood by and watched it happen, maybe thinking, “He deserves to die since He is pretending to be God.  He is a fraud!”

And it would seem that that Friday was pretty much proof that this Jesus who claimed to be something special was just another nobody from Nazareth.  Christ?  What kind of Christ would let Himself die in such utter naked humiliation and suffering?  Now He is dead and buried and that’s that.  Done deal.  Another faker who got what He deserved.  Friday revealed Jesus was just a nobody.  But then came Sunday morning.  Jesus rose from the dead.  The guarded tomb is empty; the body is gone.  The guards say they fell asleep, but everyone knows that cannot be true because those guards would have been executed.  And there are reports all over the city that Jesus appeared to people in the flesh.

What shall we do?  That is the big question.  What shall we do?  We walk around with a heavy knot of guilt sitting in our gut; knowing we have done wrong, what shall we do?

So this Jesus who said He would rise from the dead, actually rose from the dead, which means that He is who He said He is.  He is the Christ, the Son of God.  The assembled crowd listening to Peter are the people of Jerusalem that crucified the Son of God.  They must have a haunting feeling of guilt growing in their gut as each asks, “What have I done?”

It is to these people that Peter is preaching the first sermon about Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Peter does not mince words in his proclamation, Acts 2:36 (ESV) 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”[1]  The people’s guilt is laid upon them.  Peter doesn’t tell them it is okay, you didn’t mean it, don’t worry about it.  No, Peter gives it to them full strength.  Peter tells the people that they crucified Jesus who is Lord and Christ.

Acts 2:37 (ESV)  37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”[2]

What shall we do?  That is the big question.  What shall we do?  We walk around with a heavy knot of guilt sitting in our gut; knowing we have done wrong, what shall we do?

The answer to that question is quite different depending on who you ask.  I have sinned against God, what do I do?

The Jews in Jerusalem that day and many people of various backgrounds would say that you need to try harder.  Try harder so that your good deeds will outweigh your evil deeds at the judgement.

Eastern religions would tell you that the consequences of this guilt and sin will take many generations to purge from your family.  But little by little you can strive to make amends for the evil with acts of love, or meditation, or simple suffering, and finally there could be escape from it.

Today’s man on the street may tell you that just need to do your best, live your best life, and just get over your destructive sense of guilt.

The people in Jerusalem weighed down by the guilt of crucifying Jesus ask…  People today who know they are sinners ask…  We who carry the guilt of sins past and present ask…  “What shall we do?”

Peter gives the answer, Acts 2:38 (ESV) 38 …“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.[3]  The answer is not something you can do; you can do nothing.  The answer is, something can be done for you.

The Word of God has already cut these people to the heart.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit they know their sin and are sorry for their sin.  The Law of God has worked on these people.  They are aware of their terrible dilemma, but they do not know how to fix it.  Peter tells them.  Be baptized, every one of you.  The solution to sin does not come from within you, the solution to sin comes from outside; from the Triune God.  Christianity is not a religion of “Do”; you’ve got to do this or that.  It is a religion of “Done”; it has been done for you.

Acts 2:39 (ESV) 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”[4]

You have been baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The Triune God has chosen you, claimed you; anointed you.  Jesus’ death and resurrection have become your death and resurrection.  You were given the gift of the Holy Spirit and your body is now a temple of the Holy Spirit.  In your struggle with sin you have been set free.  Your sin is covered.  Your guilt has been removed.  Jesus took your bowling-ball-sized lump of guilt and carried it to the cross.  Jesus solves unsolvable guilt.  Jesus forgives those who crucify Him and Jesus forgives you.  Connected to the Triune God you have forgiveness of sins and where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation.  So, daily repent and remember you are baptized.

Peter’s message to the people on that Pentecost long ago is counter intuitive; it is counter cultural.  It is not “do it yourself” salvation.  It is “done for you” salvation.  It is pure gift given to you in your baptism, and in God’s Word, and in the Body and Blood of Christ.  You are accompanied on life’s journey by a community of persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who together are the one and only living God.  When you wake up in the morning remember your baptism by making the sign of the cross, remember what God has done for you.

As you began Christian life at the font, we begin worship in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  We invoke the Trinity at least six times in our worship service.  This is the faith into which you are baptized; the same faith the 3,000 were baptized into that Pentecost when Peter preaches.

Today, as you come forward to the communion rail I invite you to remember your baptism by dipping your fingers into the font and making the sign of the cross, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Remember you are baptized.  Your sin is covered.  You belong to God.  Amen


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

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

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

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