The devil wants you to move to the desert

nullEpiphany 6, 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 17, 2019
Jeremiah 17:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, Luke 6:17-26

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

When I go for a walk around here I encounter thousands of big, tall trees.  On my vicarage year in high desert of Eastern Oregon, when I went for a walk there were trees in town, but once I got out of town there were no more trees; just sagebrush and other low shrubs.  Why is that?  Why is there a giant oak tree right here next to the church, but there are no giant oak trees in the desert?

It is a pretty simple reason.  Water.

This Oak tree has unlimited access to water.  The water table is just under the basement floor of the church.  This tree has grown that big in 70 years.  But in the desert there is nothing by short, twisted sagebrush.  The difference is water.

Spiritually, there are those who are like the tall oak tree and there are those who are like short twisted sagebrush.  What is the difference?  The object of belief.  What does the person believe in?  Sometimes we talk about believers and unbelievers, but everyone is a believer.  Everyone believes in something.  But it matters eternally what you believe in.  It makes the difference between a tall strong tree and a weak twisted shrub.

There are many who trust in themselves and other people.  Many look to politicians to save them and bring them joy.  Others look to celebrities; movie stars, YouTubers, and sports heroes.  They make these people the object of their hope and trust.  Many people trust in themselves; their own strength; their own intelligence; their own abilities.

Jeremiah 17:5 (ESV) 5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.[1]  Cursed.  People that trust in man are cursed.  They are lost…forever.  They will spend eternity separated from God in the torments of hell.  Life trusting in man is a dry life.  It is a dry life when you seek after peace and fulfillment in man.

            The object of your belief makes all the difference.  Do you believe in yourself, or do you believe in the Lord?  Where are your roots?  Are your roots in the dry desert sand of trusting in man, or are your roots in the living water of the truth of Jesus Christ?

“Jeremiah 17:7 (ESV) 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.”[2]  The Lord God is the source of true peace and strength.  When you trust in the Lord you are like a tree planted by water and you can endure the storms of life.  And there are a lot of storms.

Life in the world is hard.  There is a lot of trouble.  The doctor makes you come back in to hear the test results in person.  The boss calls you to her office and there is a security guard standing there with an empty box.  Your child is struggling and you cannot fix it for them.  You are caught up in an addictive bad habit and you struggle to find the strength to break free.  Your relationships are full of conflict.  The pain and suffering of getting older just gets worse and worse.  Life is hard.  There are a lot of storms that blow through your life.  Some have already come and some are still brewing out there waiting to strike.  In this life you will not always be happy, but in Christ you can always have joy.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV) 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”[3]

The object of your belief makes all the difference.  Do you believe in yourself, or do you believe in the Lord?  Where are your roots?  Are your roots in the dry desert sand of trusting in man, or are your roots in the living water of the truth of Jesus Christ?

You are a baptized child of God gathered here today to hear the Good News of forgiveness of sins and to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Your roots are in the living water of Jesus Christ.  You believe in the truth of Jesus.  Each week you proclaim the object of your belief over and over in the Divine Service.  And this means that this life is not all that there is.

You declare in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in…the resurrection of the dead.”  You declare in the Nicene Creed, “I look for the resurrection of the dead.”  The truth is that because Jesus rose from the dead, you will rise from the dead.

You declare the truth that, in Christ, death does not have the victory.  You confess that because Jesus rose from the dead, you too will rise from the dead on the last day.  You speak the truth, that as painful as death is; as final as death appears, Jesus defeats death.  Our Epistle lesson today gives a beautifully concise description of this truth.  1 Corinthians 15:16-20 (ESV) 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.[4]

Jesus rose from the dead as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  Death will not have the final victory.  On the last day Jesus will return and the cemetery will be emptied.  It will be a resurrection garden.

The truth is that you are a baptized child of God planted by the water of the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.  God has made a promise to you in the blood of Jesus.  You are connected to Christ.  You have the living water of His Word and His Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.  You can get through the storms of life and remain fruitful and alive in Christ Jesus.

Stay connected to Jesus.  Remain in the Body of Christ, the Church, and keep the object of your belief the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Know that you will be raised from the dead on the last day.  You are planted by the water; what a great place to be; strong in the Lord able to withstand the storms of life.  But not everyone is pleased with this.

The devil knows the power of being planted where you can access the living water of the truth of Jesus Christ.  The devil wants to uproot you from the place where you are well-watered and move you to the desert.  The devil whispers lies to convince you that you will be just fine in an arid environment away from the waters of the truth of Jesus; away from the Word of God, and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.  “You don’t need to go to church.  You are just fine by yourself.  You have better things to do.  You’re busy.  Sunday is your day to relax.  Besides, those people and that pastor can be so annoying.  You don’t belong there.  Come out to the desert where life is easy.”  The devil really wants to convince you that you don’t need to hear the Word of God.  You don’t need to receive forgiveness of sins.  You don’t need to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  You don’t need to be planted by the water.  But remember, the devil trying convince you that you don’t need the Church is like telling a tree that it doesn’t really need water.  “Don’t worry little tree, you will be just fine here in the dry, warm sand.”  And for those who leave the church, for a while it feels like everything is fine but they are slowly drying up and the joy of salvation found in trusting in Christ Jesus is being replaced by a growing trust in man.

Reject the sales pitch for a desert home.  Reject any pull to move you from the living waters of Christ to the parched lands of trust in man.  Reject the devil and all his works and all his ways.

Trust in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Keep the Lord Jesus as the object of your belief.  Gather as the Church.  Stay planted by the water.  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

 

Jesus loves bottom feeders.

nullEpiphany 5 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 10, 2019
Isaiah 6:1-8, 1 Corinthians 14:12b-20, Luke 5:1-11

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

There is hope in these days of winter because the nights get shorter and the days get longer. The sun rises earlier each morning and stays up longer each night and the light lets us know that Spring and Summer are coming.

As Jesus preaches and teaches in Galilee, the light of God shines in dark places. The prophecy comes true which said, “The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light.”

In today’s Gospel we find Jesus by Lake Gennesaret, also called the Sea of Galilee. The people are crowding around Jesus to hear the Word of God.  Jesus is teaching the people that He is the promised Messiah, the Son of God sent to save God’s people.

The crowds are pressing in on Jesus to hear the Good News and Jesus sees two boats nearby that had fished all night and caught nothing.  What happens next shows how the light of Christ will continue to shine in this world until the last day.

Jesus gets into Simon Peter’s boat and has him push out a little from shore and Jesus sits down and uses the boat as His pulpit to preach to the crowds gathered on the edge of the water.  Afterwards Jesus tells Peter to go out into the deep water and lower his nets.  Peter protests that they worked all night and caught nothing, but because Jesus said to do it, they will do it.  And you know what happens next.  As they pull up the nets they are so full of fish they began to break and Peter and his crew have to call to another boat to help with the great catch. There are so many fish that both boats are ready to sink.

We can learn from this miracle. Through the centuries Christians have come to associate the details of this story with the way the faith spreads throughout the world. The sea represents the world, the fish, people; men, women and children. The net and the hands that lower it is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the boat is God’s Church, the gathering place of his people caught by the gospel.

This shows us that Jesus intends the world to come to him through the preaching of his gospel. As the net of his word is drawn through this world, people hear the voice of God and are caught alive. They are brought from their hiding places in the depths up to the light of Jesus himself. They come to see him as their savior and are brought into his kingdom to live.

When Peter sees this miracle of fish he is overwhelmed. He too has been caught up in the net and brought into the light of Jesus. But the light shows some things about Peter that he would like to keep hidden.

Luke 5:8 (ESV) 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”[1]

Peter is right. He is the kind of fish that stays at the bottom; out of the light but Jesus loves this bottom feeder, and has use for him.

Isaiah has the same reaction when he sees the throne of God and the angels flying about, he says, Isaiah 6:5 (ESV) 5 … “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”[2]

God still has use for Isaiah and he purifies Isaiah’s lips so he could speak the secrets of what he saw.

When you come to the realization, like Peter and Isaiah, of how short you fall in obedience to God, you can be overwhelmed with grief and despair. But God purifies you as you are drawn into his presence. His word to you is forgiveness. It gives you new life, a new reason for living. “You are forgiven,” says Jesus.

When God’s word shines upon you, you can have the same reaction.  Being brought into the light of Christ exposes parts of your life you don’t want exposed.  We recognize this each week as begin worship.  When we begin the Divine Service we invoke God, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  What do you do next?  You get on your knees and plead guilty of being a natural born sinner who is unworthy of God’s love.  And yet God loves you anyway.

When you come to the realization, like Peter and Isaiah, of how short you fall in obedience to God, you can be overwhelmed with grief and despair. But God purifies you as you are drawn into his presence. His word to you is forgiveness. It gives you new life, a new reason for living. “You are forgiven,” says Jesus.

Jesus forgives Peter with the words, “do not be afraid, from now on you will catch men.” Peter is in Jesus’ net, brought to the surface and exposed to the sun’s light, but he will live forever. God will use Peter to fish for men.

For twenty centuries the fishing has gone on. People have become hearers of the word through the preaching of the word of Christ, how he died to remove our unworthiness. The light continues to shine in every place as the preaching goes on. People are united with Christ in the washing of baptism, and he visits them in the Lord’s Supper to sustain their souls.

The light continues to shine today as we are brought out of the darkness by Jesus’ net to live in the light, and like Peter, to fish for men.  We fish for men when we invite others to hear the word of God among us.  When we teach the children, guide the teenager, strengthen the family, comfort the sick, and console those who mourn the death of loved ones.

There is a story of a young man who used to pick up hitchhikers in the days when it was safe to do so.  One young man he gave a ride to who asked what the man did for a living. “I’m a sort of salesman,” he said. “What do I sell? Only the greatest product in the world. Everyone needs it. Do I make a lot of money? Oh no. I give it all away. Would you like a sample?”

You see, this man was a minister to the deaf. He drove the highways of northern Wisconsin catching souls, bringing light to people who lived in darkness.

The miracle of bringing fish into the boat is the miracle of bringing the bottom feeders up into the light.  It is making the unworthy sinner fit to stay in the presence of the holy God. It is the miracle of the forgiveness of sins. Not only does Peter receive the forgiveness of sins, but he will be catching men alive and bringing them into God’s boat; the church. He will lower the net by preaching about Jesus Christ. He will declare the kingdom and bring them into that kingdom through preaching about Jesus’ work, through baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Catching souls for Jesus is not only Peter’s work.  All of you share in his work by hearing the word, by being a part of this congregation, by bringing your families, by the sacrifices you make in order to bring an offering today out of the thankfulness in your heart.  Thankfulness to God for the net of the gospel that has pulled you out of darkness and hoisted you into the light of God’s boat. Most importantly, you continue in the fishing for men by your witness to the word of God, the light of Galilee. By your words to a friend, “Is there something I bring to God in prayer for you?” By your readiness to explain the faith in your own way.  To tell how Jesus brought you out of darkness and into eternal light.

It is tempting to think that your career, your family, your enjoyment is the most important thing in your life’s journey.  But, we know that the work of God, fishing for men, is the ultimate reason God keeps us in this world. We’ve wasted enough time. There are so many fish in the deep sea, but God has given a strong enough net in the word of Christ, and a big enough boat in the Christian Church, to accommodate all who will believe.

Through the Church of Jesus Christ, the light is shining on those who live in dark places. The light has shined on us and revealed us to be the forgiven and restored children of God. God calls us to offer this light to the whole word, starting right here. 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

 

Love is the antidote to the devil’s temptations

nullEpiphany 4 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 3, 2019
Jeremiah 1:4-10, 1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13, Luke 4:31-44

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

Let’s begin today with a quote from chapter 2 of “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis, in which a senior demon, named Wormwood, is giving instruction to a junior demon named Screwtape.  When he refers to the “enemy” he means, “God”, when he refers to “Our Father” he means “the Devil”, when he refers to “the patient”, he means the man Screwtape is tempting.  This is a passage where Wormwood is giving Screwtape instructions as to how to tempt his patient to turn his back on the Church, the Body of Christ.

               ‘You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like "the body of Christ" and the actual faces in the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy's side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.[1]

Our Epistle lesson today is from 1 Corinthians 13.  This text is one that is often chosen for weddings, and it is a nice wedding text as it is all about love, and husbands and wives should love each other, but this text is not actually about married couples.  This text is about how we are supposed to act as the Church; how we are supposed to treat one another in the Body of Christ.  How we are to combat the devil’s temptations to tear us apart and leave the Church.  Last week’s epistle reading was the previous verses about unity in the Church.  1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (ESV) 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.[2]

You are the Body of Christ; all of the baptized together.  You have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus shed for you on the cross.  You have been given the gift of Jesus’ perfection and holiness.  Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  This is who you are in Christ.  You are a vital part of the Body of Christ even though your life is messy, and mixed-up, and you continue to struggle with anger and greed and lust and hatred and selfishness.  Still you are a part of the body of Christ with all the other sinful, selfish, mixed-up, messy people around you.  As you look around here on Sunday morning each person you see is a fellow member of the Body of Christ on earth.  That person that you see is someone for whom you are to care.  This is what St. Paul is telling the Church in Corinth in our reading today.

So you see that person that just annoys you.  You know.  The one that can’t stop talking about things you don’t care about.  What do you do?  How are you supposed to deal with each other?  With love.  What kind of love?  Selfless love.  The kind of love God has for you in Jesus; the kind of love you have been given as a fruit of the Holy Spirit bestowed on you in baptism.

The great Good News is this is the kind of love you will naturally have for each other in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem after the Judgement Day.  Through Paul’s words God calls on the people in the church at Corinth and He calls on you in Christ’s Church today to love one another… to love one another as if the last day has already come.  Love each other now like you will love in the Heavenly City, for the Church is a preview of the Heavenly City.

In Corinth, like in the Church today, folks get confused as to what is important.  Love is important.  Without love for one another nothing else you do matters.  The church in Corinth was having problems with some believers thinking they are better than others.  Paul gently corrects them by giving examples about himself.  He says, I could speak in the language of angels or be the greatest prophet, or have great knowledge, or great faith, I could give up everything, but without love none of it matters.  What is this love like?  St. Paul defines this love.  We get two things that love is and eight things that love is not.

Love is patient and kind.  Patience is so hard.  I joke that it is a bit dangerous to pray for patience because God may grant you a lesson.  Patience is being able to accept and tolerate delay, trouble, suffering, and frustrations without getting angry or upset.  Patience is an emotionally freeing practice of waiting and watching and knowing when to act and when not to act.  Patience does not let the frustrations of life take control of your mood and make you an irritated person.  Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Being kind is to be friendly, generous and considerate.  Kindness gives others the benefit of the doubt.  Kindness puts the best construction on other’s actions.  Love is patient and kind.

Love is not envious or boastful, it is not arrogant, it is not rude, it does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Love is not envious or boastful.  Love is not about keeping score with others about who has what; it does not get jealous of someone’s abilities or possessions and it does not brag about its own abilities or possessions.

Love is not arrogant.  Love does not think it is more important than someone else.  Love does not think that it is too good to take out the garbage.

Love is not rude.  This might be better translated, “love does not behave indecently.”  Love does what is right.  Love cares for others as fellow redeemed children of God and not as objects for fulfilling selfish desires.  Love doesn’t look at websites that you wouldn’t want to share with your mother.  Love waits, and keeps intimacy inside the bond of lifelong marriage.

Love does not insist on its own way.  Love realizes that others may have a different idea or approach to solving an issue.  Love knows it is not always right.  Love listens to others.

Love is not irritable or resentful.  This goes along with love is patient.  I know, for me, I can feel irritability creeping up.  I get snappy.  I get short-tempered.  It does not help the situation; it just makes things worse.  When you feel yourself getting angry with someone; look at the other person and ask yourself.  How will I love them after the last day?

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  This is beautiful.  What is the opposite of wrongdoing?  The truth.  Do not celebrate sin, but instead rejoice in the truth of Jesus.  Love does what is right because it is what is right.  Love does what is right because it is the truth.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV)  7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.[3]  This does not mean that love is stupid or blind, but more that love supports without limits; trusts without limits; hopes without limits.  Love is without bounds and love is permanent.

Love is not an efficient program or strategy.  Love is messy.  Love is inefficient.  Love is vulnerable.

This is how the body of Christ works; it works with love.  In love, God the Father sent His Son Jesus to love you all the way to the cross.  He gives you His love and calls you to love.  The 10 commandments are summed up in five words.  Love God; Love your neighbor.  In Christ you are love.  During the offering and when you get home, reread 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Except replace the word “Love” and “it” with your name.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)  4 Kevin is patient and kind; Kevin does not envy or boast; Kevin is not arrogant 5 or rude. Kevin does not insist on Kevin’s own way; Kevin is not irritable or resentful; 6 Kevin does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Kevin bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

[4]  Read that a few times.  Ponder it, then live out that love each day with the people you live with, go to school with, work with, worship with.

As you worship and live with others in the Church, and in life in general, love them today as you will love them after the last day because in Christ you are love.  The Devil and his demons want to destroy this love.  Be on guard against the devil tempting you to puff yourself up in order to treat others badly; to look down on others.  Be aware of the Devil trying to make you think that you are better than the person in pew in front of you.  The Devil will use this to tear apart the Body of Christ as C.S. Lewis masterfully captures in his devilish book.  Be aware also of the Devil accusing you of being too great a sinner for Jesus to forgive.

In Christ we are one.  One body; one spirit; one baptism.  We eat together of the Body of Christ and drink His Blood.  We are one in Christ.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Love like the last day has already come.  Amen.

 


[1] C.S. Lewis, “Screwtape Letters” Chapter 2 online version

[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

 

This is not the messiah you are looking for.

nullEpiphany 3 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 27, 2019

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 exciting day as the small town boy made good has returned home.  Everyone comes out to get a look at him at Him and see what He is going to say and do.  The local hero arrives and comes to the town worship service where everyone is gathered to praise God, and… to get a glimpse of the returning native celebrity.  They have heard stories of all the great things that He has done in other places and the question on everyone’s mind is “What is He going to do here?  What is He going to do for His own people?”

It is Saturday in Nazareth and everyone is assembled at the synagogue.  Jesus is there; the son of Mary and Joseph.  He has been gone for a while and the reports coming back are amazing.  He has been preaching and teaching and healing and doing miracles.  He was baptized in the Jordan and the heavens opened and the voice of God spoke.  This Jesus guy is amazing and now He is back in His hometown where He grew up.  This is going to be something to see.  What is He going to do here?

Jesus stands up in the synagogue to read and the attendant hands Him the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah.  Jesus finds the place and reads, “Luke 4:18-19 (ESV) 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[1]

Jesus then rolls up the scroll and hands it back to the attendant and sits down.  Everyone is watching Him.  Is that it?  Is that all He is going to do?  Everyone is staring at Jesus waiting for Him to say or do something.

“Luke 4:21 (ESV) 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”[2]

What is that?  What did He say?  Did He say that He is the one who is fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy?  He is the one to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives to make the blind see and free those who are oppressed.  This is Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah and Jesus just said that Isaiah is talking about Him.  He is the coming Messiah.  And He is here with us, proclaiming this great good news.

And the people marvel at what Jesus just said.  Could it be?  Is this really the Messiah?  Is God fulfilling His promises right here with us?  The mood in the synagogue must be just surreal; the people marveling at what is happening; the long promised Messiah is here with us.

But then someone speaks and breaks the wondering, marveling mood.  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”  The people come back to the reality of life in Nazareth.  All of the pregnant thinking about the marvelous things Jesus has said deflates as the people remember who Jesus really is.  We know Jesus.  He is the son of Mary and Joseph.  We know His family.  We watched Him grow up.  Who is he to claim that He is something special?  We’ve heard about what He did in other places, but all He has done here is talk.

Now the people doubt Jesus.  They want Him to prove who He is by doing some miracles.  “You say you are the Messiah, prove it!”

Jesus, actually being the Messiah; actually being God in flesh, knows what they are thinking.  Luke 4:23 (ESV) 23 And he [says] to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”[3]

This may be more clearly translated, “Physician, take care of your own.”  Jesus knows what the people want.  He knows they want Him to do in Nazareth what they heard He did in Capernaum.  But Jesus does not perform on demand.  The purpose of Jesus’ miracles is to help reveal who He is; that He is indeed the Son of God come to take away the sin of the world.  Miracles are not to entertain or to convince doubters.  Miracles are done to reveal who Jesus is, and what He has come to do, but they are not done to prove anything.

Jesus tells them, Luke 4:24 (ESV) 24 … “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.”[4] And then He relates a couple of Old Testament accounts of prophets who do not do great things for their own people, but rather help foreigners.

So, is that how it is going to be?  Jesus of Nazareth isn’t going to help the people of Nazareth.  Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph thinks He is such a big deal, but He is a traitor to His own people. And what moments before was a sense of marvel turns to a murderous anger.  The people heard what Jesus had to say and they rise up in the synagogue against Him.  They came in anticipation of welcoming Jesus home, but they are now filled with such anger they want to send Him to the grave.  The people of Nazareth, filled with wrath in the house of God, rise up and drive Jesus out of the synagogue and out of Nazareth to the edge of a cliff so they can push Him off to His death.

And then they get their wish; Jesus does a miracle.  The crowd surrounds Jesus at the edge of the cliff and Jesus miraculously passes through their midst and goes on His way.  It is not yet His time to be killed by His own people on a hill outside Nazareth; that will come later on hill outside Jerusalem.

The people had been excited about Jesus coming until Jesus did not do what they wanted Him to do.  Jesus is the Messiah, but Jesus is not the kind of Messiah they are looking for.

I fear that this is a great danger for us.  People are excited to hear about Jesus until Jesus doesn’t do what they want Him to do.  Then they make up a new Jesus.  There are so many voices out there telling you who Jesus is and what He is doing.

There are many who will tell you that Jesus is the Messiah; the Christ, but then will preach and teach about how God’s main purpose is to help you achieve health and success and wealth, and the only reason for sickness, tragedy or poverty is because of your lack of faith.

            The people had been excited about Jesus coming until Jesus did not do what they wanted Him to do.  Jesus is the Messiah, but Jesus is not the kind of Messiah they are looking for.

There are those who teach that Jesus is the Messiah, but His main focus is on social justice for oppressed groups of people.  They teach that Jesus’ came to eliminate poverty and promote sexual diversity and fight climate change, and whatever the newest current issue might be.

There are those who say that Jesus is the Messiah, but you need to finish what He started by doing enough good works to really merit God’s favor.

Many have faith when things are going great and the bills are paid, health is good and the kids are doing well, but then when money is tight and illness strikes and the kids are straying, folks get angry at God and demand that Jesus be the right kind of messiah and make everything easy again.

It is part of our sinful human nature to want to dictate to Jesus what kind of messiah He is supposed to be.  But when we try to dictate to Jesus it means we are taking authority over Jesus.  It means that we are rejecting Jesus as God and Lord and reducing Him to our servant to do our bidding.  This is a great danger.  Rejecting Jesus has eternal consequences.  Nazareth rejected Jesus and He moved on.  Many of the Jewish people rejected Jesus and He moved on to the Gentiles.  We have seen this throughout history; people rejecting Jesus and Him moving on.  Areas of the Middle East that were once deeply Christian now are Muslim.  Europe was once the heart of Christianity and it is tragic to see how few Christians remain.  In Eastern Germany, the Land of Luther, only about 2.5 percent of the population strongly believes there is a personal God according to a 2008 survey put out by the University of Chicago.[5]

Martin Luther warned the people of that land, “O my beloved Germans, buy while the market is at your door; gather in the harvest while there is sunshine and fair weather; make use of God’s grace and word while it is there! For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been.”[6]

As a nation of people from around the world, the United States has been a place where God’s word and grace has been raining down and we must gather in the harvest while it is there.  Tragically, so many people are turning from the true Jesus; the Messiah revealed in the Bible, and creating their own false Jesuses that they think will meet their needs and expectations.  Be aware.  Already it seems the rain shower of God’s word and grace is moving away from North America to Africa, Asia and South America.  Repent for the times that you have rejected the true Jesus and remain on guard that you do not create false expectations and demand that Jesus be the Messiah you are looking for, rather than the Messiah that he is.

The true Jesus is the Messiah you need.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He is the Messiah who is baptized into your sin, carries your sin to the cross, and dies for your sin.  He is the Messiah who has power over sin, death and the devil, but does not promise to make you healthy, wealthy and wise.  He is the Messiah who calls you to live a Holy life in an unholy world.  He is the Messiah who truly is God in flesh who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  He is the Messiah who comes to you in His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  He is the Messiah who tells you who He is.

Jesus may not be the Messiah you are looking for, but He is the Messiah you need.  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

[6] LW 45:352

Redrawing the lines of self-defense.

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Life Sunday 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud[1]
January 20, 2019
Isaiah 46:3-4, 8-10, James 1:17-27,  John 10:7-11

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

Whenever pastors teach confirmation students about the Fifth Commandment, we always have to take a moment to explain the exceptions. So, when God tells us, “You shall not murder,” this isn’t a universal prohibition against taking human life. It’s a prohibition against taking human life unjustly, without God’s calling and command. And, as the Bible teaches us in Romans 13 and elsewhere, there are times when God gives certain people the vocation of taking certain lives under certain circumstances—namely when evil people threaten the lives of the innocent. So when a soldier kills an enemy combatant in a just war, for example, he’s not breaking the Fifth Commandment. He’s not murdering. He’s killing in order to defend the lives of the innocent that are threatened by the enemy. Likewise, if someone threatens your life and the only way to stop him is to use deadly force, you haven’t sinned if you kill him in self-defense. But, of course, if someone isn’t threatening your life, you aren’t justified in taking his. This seems like a pretty simple distinction between murder and killing, between breaking the Fifth Commandment and keeping it.

And yet, our sinful nature loves to blur the lines. Or, to put it another way, our sinful nature loves to redraw the lines, loves to convince us that God’s definition of “self-defense” is too restrictive, and that we are justified in killing our neighbor, not only if he threatens our life but also if he threatens our pride or our comfort.

This is precisely what happened in the first murder. Cain imagines that he is greater and more important than his brother Abel. But when God has regard for Abel’s offering and not for Cain’s, Cain finds his pride under attack. When he looks at the face of his brother, he doesn’t see the face of someone loved and cherished by God. He sees the face of some worthless afterthought of a person, some fool who had the audacity to take the divine favor and status that belonged to him. In the midst of his anger, Cain decides to redraw the lines of self-defense. He puts his pride on the same level as his life and decides that he is justified in killing anyone who threatens it. He decides that the only way to preserve his sense of self-satisfaction is to kill the one who has threatened it. And that’s exactly what he does.

When King David is enjoying the comfort of prosperity, he seeks pleasure in the wife of another man. When she becomes pregnant, he tries to cover it up but fails. So David’s comfort is threatened. It’s challenged by Bathsheba’s husband, a man named Uriah who could very well take away that peace, that palace, that pleasure in pursuit of justice. David decides that God’s definition of self-defense is too narrow. He decides that those who threaten his comfort have forfeited their right to life. He has Uriah put on the front line of battle and then abandoned. Indirectly, but indefensibly, David murders Uriah.

And throughout every generation of our history, we sinners have been doing the same thing. We have constantly expanded God’s definition of self-defense. We’ve convinced ourselves that we have the right to take the life of anyone who threatens our pride, our comfort, or anything else we don’t want to give up.

We prayed to false gods like Molech and Baal who convinced us that our children were a threat to our crops and our dinner tables. Blinded by fear and idolatry, we sacrificed our little ones to these idols, the price they had to pay for taking away our peace of mind.

We sailed to foreign lands and slaughtered those who sat on piles of gold and Congo rubber plants and other precious resources. We traveled to the coasts of Africa and declared that those we put in shackles were not sufficiently human. We convinced ourselves that we were better, purer, and more essential to the betterment of mankind than those of other tribes. In all of this, we justified putting these supposedly inferior people in chains, in gas chambers and death camps, or leaving them to starve on reservations. We declared that they had no right to freedom, to dignity, to life itself because they obstructed our right to live as proudly and lavishly as we pleased.

In 1973, we returned to the worship of Baal when the US Supreme Court declared that a woman’s right to privacy was greater than her unborn child’s right to life. So, in effect, we have declared that self-defense means a woman can kill the child God is still forming in her womb because that child poses a challenge to his mother’s job, her ambitions, her social status, her dream of having a perfectly formed and healthy baby, her bank account, or even just her mood. “How do I tell my parents? How am I going to finish school? How am I going to afford a child?” These are the kinds of things that vulnerable, terrified men and women would ask themselves in response to an unplanned pregnancy. And preying upon their worries, Roe v. Wade convinced them they didn’t have to find answers. Abortion would let them rewind the clock and pretend that the baby never happened.

Today, advocates of euthanasia insist that we have every right to kill ourselves when our bodies break down on us. And more of us are believing these advocates because our pride will not endure the humiliation of adult diapers or assisted living. And soon we’ll apply that logic to our neighbors. We’ll insist that it’s merciful to end the suffering of our parents, our friends, or anyone who’s medically reliant on our tax dollars. But in truth, we’re just repeating ourselves. Once again, we’re insisting that God’s definition of self-defense is too narrow, that it ought to include the right to kill those who have the audacity to burden us, to take away our time or our money.

We also follow this same mindset when our hands remain unstained with blood but our hearts are corrupted with hatred. As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).

When we burn in anger against those who have challenged our pride, when we curse and slander those who threaten our comfort, we join the ranks of sinners who have tried to expand God’s definition of self-defense. But we have only succeeded in making murderers of ourselves.

In John chapter 10, Jesus speaks these words. He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11). Behold the great difference between Christ and men. When we killed and destroyed to keep what we had, Jesus was crucified and killed to give us everything He had.

At the cross, Jesus had no desire to expand the definition of self-defense as we so often do. He didn’t contemplate eviscerating those who threatened His life, nor did He consider pouring out His wrath on those who merely challenged His authority. In fact, Christ had no interest in self-defense at all, because He understood his role in fulfilling the Fifth Commandment.

As Luther explains in the Small Catechism, “You shall not murder” means “we should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.” And Jesus knew that His Father had sent Him to help and support us in every physical need by dying in our place. Jesus knew that His Father had sent Him to lift us up out of spiritual death by taking our place in the jaws of the wolf. Jesus knew that He was the Good Shepherd who would restore His sheep to life by laying down His life for them. And that’s exactly what He did.

From the cross, the Good Shepherd defended us by pouring out the blood that took away our hatred, our cruelty, and every other sin that brought us death and condemnation. From the cross, Christ looked out upon a sea of sinners, a sea of murderers who had despised the gift of life, and there, in that moment, He loved us all, cherished us, valued our lives more than His own, valued us more than the breath from His lungs and the beating of His heart.

At the cross, Jesus had no desire to expand the definition of self-defense as we so often do. He didn’t contemplate eviscerating those who threatened His life, nor did He consider pouring out His wrath on those who merely challenged His authority. In fact, Christ had no interest in self-defense at all, because He understood his role in fulfilling the Fifth Commandment.

From the cross, Jesus looked upon those who had earned death from God by sacrificing their children, and He agreed to be sacrificed in their place, to take that death sentence upon His own head and to give eternal life to all who believe. From the cross, Jesus looked upon the slave holders, the ethnic cleansers, the bloodthirsty exploiters of lands and tribes. He looked upon the abortionists and euthanizers, and there, with the words “It is finished,” He responded to their murder with His mercy.

And with those same words, Christ had mercy upon you. When you took part in the sin of abortion, Jesus responded by making you a part of God’s family through His bleeding mercy. When your heart was filled with hatred, Jesus filled you with the love of God by claiming your hatred as His own and accepting the death sentence you had earned. There, at Calvary, the Son of God chose selflessness instead of self-defense. There the Good Shepherd chose to lay down His life instead of taking yours. There at the cross, Christ gave up everything in order to give you back the life you threw away.

And on the third day, when the Good Shepherd rose from the grave, God the Father proclaimed that He had accepted the selflessness and sacrifice of His Son. There He proclaimed that you would never need to defend yourself from His judgment on the last day because there was no wrath or anger or condemnation left for you to face. Christ had taken all of that into His grave and left it behind Him when He left the tomb victorious.

Now, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, because of the Good Shepherd who died for you instead of defending Himself, you now have the gift of life eternal. In the waters of your baptism, you were given that gift when you were claimed by the Triune God. When God looks at you through those waters, He doesn’t see the face of a sinner who deserves to die for threatening His righteousness or His reign. He sees the face of a saint who bears His restored image, a saint who deserves to live forever, a saint who is worthy to dwell with Him in His kingdom for all time because of Christ’s blood. Now when God looks at you, He sees a saint worthy of that saint’s life and worthy of God’s own love.

May we see the same thing when we look upon those for whom Jesus died. When we look upon the images of the poor and the lowly, the weak and the oppressed, may God bless us to see the face of those who instantly deserved every ounce of our protection and love and charity and mercy the moment Christ died for them. When we look upon sonographic images of the unborn, may God bless us to see the faces of those who are worthy to be called our beloved sons and daughters because Jesus gave them the right to be called sons and daughters of God when He breathed His last for them upon the cross. When we look upon the faces of the aged and the sick, may God bless us to see what Jesus saw upon the cross—the faces of those who deserve not to be cast aside or coaxed into the grave, but who deserve for us to befriend, feed, and clothe them because, at the cross, Jesus befriended them with His love and fed and clothed them with His forgiveness.

When Jesus looked upon your face at Calvary, He didn’t see any reason to engage in self-defense. He saw every reason to give you selfless love. May we see the same thing when we look upon the faces of our neighbors today.   Amen.


[1] from Rev. Hans Fiene, River of Life Lutheran Church, Channahon, Illinois   www.lutheransforlife.org

The unlikely King

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SERMON AUDIO

Epiphany 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 6, 2018
Isaiah 60:1-6, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12

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

Today is January 6.  It is Epiphany; the end of the 12 days of Christmas.  It is the day we remember the magi from the east coming to visit baby Jesus in Bethlehem.  Today we celebrate that Jesus came not just for the Jews but also for us Gentiles.  In our Gospel reading this morning we hear about the magi and Herod the Great and the scribes and chief priests and Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus.  This is a familiar text but sometimes in the familiar texts there is a temptation to tune out and not dig into the details.  This text has so much going on and so many kings.

We have King Herod who is King of Judea.  He lives in the palace in the capital city of Jerusalem.  He has lots of advisors and servants and soldiers at his disposal.

Now this world is fascinated by people who have temporary power and authority.  People that are here one day and gone the next.  We are impressed with the trappings of power; wealth, control, intrigue.  But the people and things that we are impressed with today are like the flowers in the field that bloom one day and are dried up and blown away by the wind the next.

King Herod the Great was a shrewd politician who served at the pleasure of the Roman Emperor.  Herod was first allied with the Roman politician Mark Antony who was a supporter of Julius Caesar.  Antony married Octavian’s sister but still carried on a love affair with Cleopatra which caused Antony to lose power as Octavian becomes emperor.  Octavian is then known as Caesar Augustus who we hear about in the Christmas readings.  Herod had to do some tricky maneuvering to move from being allied with Mark Antony to being accepted by Octavian.  Herod was called king, but he is just a vassal for the Roman emperor and he had to work hard to please the right people.  He was also always on the lookout for threats to his power and authority and many times resorted to murdering his enemies and even family members in order to hold onto his throne.  What kind of king is this?

Then we have the visitors from the east.  The wise men, the magi, the three kings.  These mysterious figures have perplexed Biblical scholars since they showed up in Jerusalem.  We know the song, “We three kings of Orient are….”  Epiphany is called Three Kings Day among Hispanic cultures.  In Germany people still write the three letters C, M and B over their doorways for the traditional names of the three magi, Casper, Melchoir, and Balthasar.  Children dress up as kings and carry a large star and go door to door caroling and singing a three kings song.

Magi?  Sages?  Wise men?  Kings?  We really don’t know too much about these folks.  The idea of them being kings comes from Psalm 72:10, “may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.”  We sing “We three kings,” but we aren’t really sure there are three of them, just that three types of gifts were brought.  We don’t know where they come from.  Maybe modern day Iraq, or Iran, or India, or somewhere else.  We call them the wise men, but they apparently weren’t too wise because instead of going to Bethlehem, they miss it by six miles and go to Jerusalem where they alert blood-thirsty Herod that there was someone else claiming to be king of the Jews.  Herod then tries to use the magi to locate the newborn king and report back so Herod could go and “worship” Him…with his sword.  The three kings, the wise men, the magi, whatever we call them, are, to this day, mysterious characters.  They are surely Gentiles, non-Jews, and we rejoice that Jesus has come for all people, including us.  We celebrate that Jesus is not only King of the Jews, but King of all.

Jesus’ birth is marked by the appearance of an unusual star and these magi from the east follow that star to find the king they seek after so they can give Him gifts and worship Him.  The ones called the three kings believe they are worshipping a king, but what kind of king?  They bring gifts fit for an earthly king to the infant Jesus but do they know that they present them to the infinite God almighty in the finite flesh of a child.  We do not know if they realize as they bow down to worship that they are worshipping at the feet of God.

Kings. Kings everywhere, but only one has true power.  And it is the one you least expect.  It is not Herod the Great.  It is not the mysterious sages from the east.  It is the little boy in Bethlehem no more than a year or so old.

The baby Jesus is the one with the real power and authority, but it is present in such an unlikely person and it is the unlikely people who seem to be the only ones who recognize it. On the night of Jesus’ birth it is announced to unlikely shepherds.  The shepherds come and see Jesus and return to their sheep “glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, as it had been told them.”

A star appears and reveals the birth of Jesus to the unlikely magi; the astrological wizards from the east.  They follow the star seeking the one born king of the Jews.  They may not fully understand who Jesus is, but they do come to worship Him.

Herod the Great learns about the birth of Jesus from the magi.  Herod is an unlikely person to care about the birth of a child in the little town of Bethlehem.  And yet, while he does not fully recognize who this child is, He believes the birth to be significant enough to be a potential threat to his throne and Herod tries to have the baby boy assassinated.

            Kings. Kings everywhere, but only one has true power.  And it is the one you least expect.  It is not Herod the Great.  It is not the mysterious sages from the east.  It is the little boy in Bethlehem no more than a year or so old.

The likely people to care about this baby born king of the Jews would be the religious leaders in Jerusalem; they should certainly understand.  But they don’t.  The Chief Priest and the Scribes should recognize the greatness of the coming messiah, but they ignore him.  When called on by Herod to consult, they relate what the scriptures say about where the Messiah is to be born, but they don’t go along with the magi to worship the newborn king.

The can recite the scriptures, but they are not interested in the possible coming of the Messiah.  They know the words of scripture but they don’t really believe them, and so they do not go to Bethlehem.

There are a lot of folks today who claim to be Christian and can even recite scriptures, but they don’t know Jesus.  They are far from Bethlehem.  There are many who use the Bible just as a tool to get what they want or justify their actions.  Politicians on the right and the left like to cherry pick Bible verses to try to show God is on their side; regardless of the issue.

There are a lot of people who have heard about Jesus, but do not recognize who Jesus is. They know the words of the Bible, but reject the Christ. They are far away from Bethlehem.  There are a lot of very smart people who believe they know better than God.  They have God’s Word given to them, but they demand to take authority over God’s Word.  They will determine what is right and wrong for themselves.  They try to usurp authority from God so they can be in charge.  We see this in people rejecting anything in the Bible that is contrary to their own desires and we see it in people taking authority over life and death.  We see this clearly in our nation’s horrible practice of abortion on demand.  God creates life in the union of a man and a woman and people are adamant that they have authority to end that life because it threatens the parents’ position in life.  We are tempted to be like King Herod who believed it to be appropriate to try to kill a baby if the baby was a threat to his power.  But we do not have that authority.  We do not have the authority to make our own rules; we do not have authority to take a human life.  We are not king.

On this day of the Epiphany, the revealing of Jesus to the Gentiles, and throughout the year, let us humble ourselves and go to Bethlehem. Let us meekly go to Bethlehem and worship the King, Jesus, and recognize who Jesus truly is. He is a teacher, but not just a teacher. He is a healer, but not just a healer. He is a prophet, but not just a prophet. He is the King of the Jews, but not just of the Jews, He is king of all people.  Jesus is King of creation.  Jesus is God incarnate.  God in flesh. Jesus, the baby in Bethlehem.  Jesus, the Rabbi from Galilee.  Jesus, the criminal on the cross.  Jesus is God almighty.  He is Savior and Lord.  He is King of the universe. Jesus is the eternal King. He is your king.

The unlikely king is the one who does not act like a king.  Jesus does not order others to be killed to protect His throne.  Instead He takes His throne on the cross to sacrifice Himself to save others.  To save you.  Jesus is the unlikely king.  Amen.

God does things differently

nullAdvent 4 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 23, 2018
Micah 5:2-5a, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-56

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

The Angel Gabriel visits young Mary in Nazareth and lets her know she is going to have a baby Luke 1:30-33 (ESV) 30 And the angel [says] to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”[1]

It is hard to even imagine the overwhelming joy that Mary has at receiving this news.  She must be just bursting to tell others about what has happened.  But I am thinking that the reaction of other people must really be deflating for Mary.  Mary tells this unbelievable good news to Joseph, the man to whom she has been betrothed, and Joseph rejects Mary and seeks to break off their betrothal.  The news is truly unbelievable and Joseph does not believe it.

An angel appears to Joseph and confirms the good news and Joseph then is able to share Mary’s joy and he takes Mary home as his wife but they are not intimate until after Jesus is born.

What is the reaction of others in Nazareth to the news that Mary is pregnant?  I’m thinking that Mary’s great joy at being pregnant with the Son of the Most High is met with bitter scoffing and rejection by others in town.  They all know what “really happened.”  Joseph and Mary could not wait, or worse, Mary was fooling around with some other young man in town.  Shame, shame, shame.  The proud, good people of Nazareth likely look down on poor, pitiful, immoral Mary and her obviously disgraceful behavior.

Mary leaves Nazareth for a while and goes to visit her relative Elizabeth, an old, barren woman who must have endured a lifetime of people looking down at her and shaking their heads and saying, “I wonder what great sin Elizabeth committed that God has punished her by making her barren?  It must have been something truly shameful.”

And so here we find ourselves in our Gospel reading today up in the hill country of Judah with these two women who have been shamed; one old and one young, both bursting with joy as the new lives in their wombs are growing each day getting ready to be born.  At the sound of Mary’s greeting John leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb.  The four of them, Elizabeth, Mary, John and Jesus, are all together with no one around to shame them or try to decrease their joy.  And Mary’s joy overflows into her song; the Magnificat.

In these words from humble Mary from Nazareth we learn that God’s ways are so different from our ways.

The whole focus of the song is on the Lord God; God’s strength and God’s mercy.  Mary’s whole focus is on God and what He has done for Mary and all who follow the Lord.  Mary is blessed because of what God has done for her.

Luke 1:46-50 (ESV) 46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.[2]

In this world we are enchanted by people of power and influence; talent and fame, strength and good looks.  We have a magazine dedicated to these people, called People.  We are impressed with money and power and beauty.  We like to peek in at the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  We are told we should aspire to be like them.

In the meantime, the world wants you to judge yourself against people with less money, less power, shabbier clothes, not as good looking.  The world pushes you to be better than others.  To be more admired; more rewarded; more recognized.  The world encourages you to believe that it is important to be proud, mighty and rich, and look down on those who are not.

Mary’s song turns the world’s desires on their head.  God is full of strength and God is full of mercy.  Pay attention here to how God uses His strength and His mercy.

            In this world we are enchanted by people of power and influence; talent and fame, strength and good looks.  We have a magazine dedicated to these people, called People.  We are impressed with money and power and beauty.  We like to peek in at the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  We are told we should aspire to be like them.

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]

God uses his strength against the proud, mighty and rich.  At the same time God mercifully exalts the humble and the hungry.

Mary, this humble, young, virgin girl from the small town of Nazareth has been blessed to be the Mother of God.  Mary carries Jesus in her womb.  God has exalted her in her humble estate.

God has exalted you in your humble estate.  God did not wait for you to make something of yourself before He gave you the gift of Jesus’ holiness, perfection and eternal life.  For many of you God lifted you up while you were still a small baby unable to do anything for yourself.  In your utter helplessness and humility God marked you in baptism as His own and bestowed on you the Kingdom of Heaven.  God has exalted you and filled you with good things.

In this success-driven world it is hard to remember that your value does not come from who you are.  Your value does not come from anything you have done.  Your value comes from what Christ Jesus has done for you.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”

There is great temptation to judge others and their situations.  If a young, unmarried woman comes to church pregnant it is tempting to start climbing up on that high horse to look down, but Christians do not belong up there looking down on anyone.  Christians are called to love and support; to bring Jesus’ Good News of forgiveness to a world that is hurting and in need of forgiveness and mercy.  Jesus is the source of great joy as He reaches into this sin-sick world and lifts you up and declares you to be right with God.  This baby growing in Mary’s womb is the sinless Lamb of God being readied for the once and forever sacrifice for sin.  The promise that God made to Abraham is fulfilled in Jesus, and you, the adopted children of Abraham have God’s promise given you in Christ.  Mary is blessed by God and carries the Savior in her womb.  In baptism Jesus blesses you and lifts you up and marks you as His own.  As a child of God He fills you and shows you mercy.  In Holy Communion you are fed with the Body and Blood of this same Jesus.  You have been given forgiveness and eternal life.  In Christ you can declare with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord and My spirit rejoices in God, my savior.”  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

 

Be prepared. Do the right thing.

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Advent 2, 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 9, 2018
Malachi 3:1-7b, Philippians 1:2-11, Luke 3:1-20

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

We have made it to the second Sunday of Advent and now John the Baptist has come on the scene.  John is that wilderness prophet who is the last of the line of the Old Testament prophets warning the people to repent.  He is in the model of the prophet Elijah and John is foretold by Isaiah and Malachi.

John is preparing the way for the Messiah.  John is the voice of one calling in the wilderness, he is the one making straight the path for the Lord.  John is making mountains low and filling in valleys.  John is getting people ready for Jesus to come into place to begin His public ministry and John’s message is harsh.

Here you now sit, 2,000 years after John was preaching in the wilderness in order to get people ready for Jesus.  Jesus now has already come.  He was born in Bethlehem. Thirty years later Jesus had three years of preaching, teaching, healing, feeding and caring for the people. Jesus entered into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday as a king and by the end of the week had been arrested, tortured, crucified and laid in a tomb.  Jesus then rose from the dead and ascended into heaven promising to return.

This is the era you are now in; Jesus has come and gone and you are waiting for Jesus to return.  This is different from the crowds going out to John the Baptist that day by the Jordan River.  You are not the offspring of snakes believing that because you are descended from Abraham that you can live life as if you are a pagan.  You do not believe that your ancestry guarantees that you are good with God even while you live a life of evil; oppressing people for your own gain.

You are not a brood of vipers.  You have been baptized into Christ; you are a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, God in flesh.  You are not waiting for the Messiah to come to earth to save you from your sin, but you are waiting for the Messiah to return on the last day to conquer evil forever.

Now John’s message of repentance is still valid.  You still need to live a life of repentance.  You still need to struggle against sin.  When you fail and fall into sin you must again repent.  You cannot live in unrepentant sin because it will destroy your faith.  As a Christian you cannot live as if you are an unbeliever because that is what you will become.  Embracing sin is to turn your back on God.  To embrace sin is to reject God.  You need to reject sin and embrace God.  So repent.  Have sorrow over your sin and turn away from sin and turn back to God.  Reject sin, embrace God, and live life in preparation for Jesus’ return on the last day for judgement.

You are indeed in a different situation from the crowds that day with John the Baptist, but some things are still valid.  The question the crowd asks John that day is still an appropriate question for you currently.  “What then shall we do?”  “Knowing Jesus is going to return, but we don’t know when, how then do we live?  What do we do?”

John the Baptist gives his answer.  Luke 3:11 (ESV) 11 … “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”[1]  Those who have extra should share with those who do not have the basics.  It is a call to live generously.  Our natural way to live is to live selfishly and worry about what is in it for me, me, me, me?  John’s words are a call to live in lavish selflessness rather than miserly selfishness.  It is a call to give to others in need.

After the crowd’s group question, “What then shall we do?” we hear from a couple of subgroups, the tax collectors and the soldiers, each asking the same question, “What shall we do?”  And John answers the tax collectors, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” To the soldiers he says, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

So the big question everyone asks John is the same question many people have today about life as a Christian; “What shall I do.”

This is not a question related to salvation.  The question is not, “What shall I do to be saved?”  Salvation is finished.  That has been taken care of by the Lord Jesus himself.  The question is; “Now that I have been saved, how shall I live?”

If you are a teacher, what should you do?  Teach well and love your students.  Put in the time to do the necessary preparation and grading.  Be patient and kind.

If you are an insurance sales person, what should you do?  Sell people the right coverage based on their needs and not on what has the highest commission.

If you are a worker in a restaurant preparing food, what should you do?  Wash your hands well and prepare food properly in a clean, sanitary environment with fresh ingredients.

If you a pastor, what should you do?  Prepare well for Sunday worship.  Put in the needed time on the sermon.  Visit the sick.  Care for the people.  Don’t waste time or money.

This is not a question related to salvation.  The question is not, “What shall I do to be saved?”  Salvation is finished.  That has been taken care of by the Lord Jesus himself.  The question is; “Now that I have been saved, how shall I live?”

If you are a student, what should you do?  Do your homework.  Prepare for tests.  Put in the effort to learn the material and don’t cheat or take shortcuts.

If you are a husband or wife, what should you do?  Remain faithful and committed to your spouse.  Love, honor, keep and cherish them deeply.  Don’t flirt with others.  Don’t complain and find faults.  If you are having trouble, work on the trouble.

We could go one for another half hour of various vocations and what to do, but instead let’s sum it up.  In whatever it is that you are doing, do it well and do it honestly.  Do it like a baptized child of God should do it.

Don’t cheat.  Don’t steal.  Don’t complain.  In this life there are is a great deal of temptation to take shortcuts; to be lazy; to take bribes and kickbacks.  There is temptation to complain about your situation, your boss, your teacher, your wages, your life.  Instead, be content in whatever your situation and stay prepared for Jesus’ return.

Jesus is going to return and you don’t know when, so how do you prepare?  Should you retreat up to a mountain top and start a commune?  Should you get rid of all your earthly possessions and become a monk?  No.  That is not what John the Baptists says to do.  John says you should do what you should be doing.  In your life, with you being you, do the right thing because it is the right thing.  Follow the Ten Commandments because God tells you to follow the Ten Commandments.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Do the right thing, not in order to earn God’s favor, but because you have already been redeemed by God through the blood of Jesus.

And as you do the right thing because it is the right thing, don’t expect to be rewarded.  I think well-meaning people sometimes have messed things up by rewarding us for just doing what we are supposed to do.  You have already been rewarded for something you didn’t do.  You have already received the gift of eternal life that is yours in Christ.  By doing the right thing you are not going to earn extra points in heaven or extra benefits on earth.  You are not going to earn a candy bar or a trophy for doing what you are supposed to do.  Do the right thing anyway.  Because it is the right thing.  Because it is your duty.  As we hear from Jesus in Luke 17:10 (ESV) 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”[2]

Appropriately the second candle on our Advent banners say, “Prepare!”  So, as the Boy Scouts used to say, “Be prepared!”  Stay in Christ.  Stay connected to His Word and Sacraments in the church.  Do what you are supposed to be doing.  Do the right thing because it is the right thing because you have been made right in Christ.

Amen.


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

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

 

Jesus is coming into place for you.

nullFirst Sunday in Advent 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 2, 2018
Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 19:28-40

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

Happy New Year!  We have made it to the beginning of another year on the church calendar.  The paraments have changed to blue.  The candle wreath is up and one candle is lit.  We have left the 27 Sundays after Pentecost and entered the season of Advent.  This is a season of anticipation.  Advent means, “A coming into place.”  In Advent we look forward to celebrating Jesus’ first coming into place as a baby in Bethlehem and, at the same time, we look forward to Jesus’ last coming into place on the judgement day.

Today’s Gospel reading looks at yet another Advent of Jesus; Jesus coming into place in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in preparation for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  In both Jesus’ first Advent in Bethlehem and His Palm Sunday Advent in Jerusalem we find amazing contrasts.

In Bethlehem we encounter this marvelous scene of a multitude of angels shining forth the Glory of God and singing praises to the newborn Savior; Christ the Lord.  We have this amazing, magnificent sight, but as our view pans out we see that this astonishing scene is being played out to a field full of sheep and a few lowly shepherds.  And we learn that this one they are singing about, the Savior, Christ the Lord, is a little newborn baby boy wrapped up in cloths and lying in an animal feed trough.  The angels sing about this baby’s birth, Luke 2:14 (ESV) 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[1]  Gloria in Excelsis Deo.  Glory to God in the highest.  And on earth peace.

Fast forward 33 years and we find Jesus riding into Jerusalem.  Jesus is coming into place as King of the Jews riding a colt that has never been ridden down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem.  Crowds are welcoming Jesus; they are spreading their cloaks on the road so the colt doesn’t have to step on the ground.  This is a majestic scene, the King coming to be crowned.  The crowds cry out with an echo of the angels announcing to the shepherds, Luke 19:38 (ESV) 38 … “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”[2]  Gloria in excelsis.  Glory in the highest.  Peace in Heaven.

When Jesus came into place in Bethlehem as a baby, the angels announce peace on earth.  Now, as Jesus comes into place in Jerusalem to be arrested, killed and to rise again, the crowds announce peace in heaven.  It is the full cycle.  Peace on earth and peace in heaven.

Just like at Jesus birth, on Palm Sunday there are great contrasts.  He enters with great pomp and the crowds praising him, but then Jesus weeps over the city knowing it will be destroyed.  Jesus is going to be crowned king, but the crown will be a torturous crown of thorns.  He will be enthroned, but enthroned in pain and humiliation on a cross with a sign above Him reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”  On Sunday Jesus rides into town on a colt on which no one has ever ridden.  By Friday afternoon Jesus is dead and lying in a tomb which no one has ever used.  Jesus’ great glory is revealed in His great humility.

There is such a great contrast between Jesus being God Almighty and all the glory and honor and power we expect from that, and the humble reality of Jesus as God in flesh as a baby in a manger, and the harsh, humiliating truth of Jesus as a pitiable tortured figure gasping for breath on the cross.

You have experience with these types of contrasts.  You are a baptized child of God.  You have been given forgiveness, life and salvation.  You are in the Kingdom of Heaven right now.  Right now you have eternal life in Christ.  This is your identity.  And yet, as you well know, life in this world is so very difficult, so very sad.  There are such struggles in this life.  There is illness that attacks your body.  There is short term sickness that many experience throughout the year, colds, flu, stomach viruses, strep throat, and there is long term, devastating illness that threatens to destroy you.  What a contrast.  You have the promise of eternal life, and your body is breaking down and you are destined for the grave.

You are a follower of the Prince of Peace and yet you live in a world that is full of conflict and violence.  Jesus comes to bring peace on earth and peace in heaven and that promise of peace is for you, but, for now, you live in a world of conflict.  One of the devil’s favorite tools to tear people apart is conflict.  You see it in families, in school classrooms, in businesses, in government, and in church congregations.  Conflict gets in the way of people working together for good and instead has them spend their efforts and abilities in looking for methods to stand in the way and destroy.  In this life, conflict will come, but you are called as a follower of the Prince of Peace to calm conflict and help bring peace in this world.  As a Christian, called to be salt and light to the world, you are called to live life reducing conflict.

You are a baptized child of God, a follower of the Prince of Peace.  You have the peace that passes understanding and yet you live in a world of sickness, violence, sadness, death and conflict.  Such great a contrast.

There is such a great contrast between Jesus being God Almighty and all the glory and honor and power we expect from that, and the humble reality of Jesus as God in flesh as a baby in a manger, and the harsh, humiliating truth of Jesus as a pitiable tortured figure gasping for breath on the cross.

You even see the contrasts in your own experience with God.  You gather on Sunday to hear of God’s glory and power and might.  You hear how great and wonderful God is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  You hear about God’s magnificent glory.  You sing

Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth adored;

Heav’n and earth with full acclaim shout the glory of Your name.

Sing hosanna in the highest, sing hosanna to the Lord;

Truly blest is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

You sing the words of Isaiah the prophet and the words of the crowds in Jerusalem on that day of Jesus coming into place.  You sing of Jesus being YHWH Sabaoth.  The Lord of the heavenly armies.  Heaven and earth shout the glory of His name.  And then you come forward to the altar of the Lord and you receive the Lord Jesus in a simple wafer of bread and simple sip of wine.  What a great contrast.

But in these contrasts we gain deep insight into the truth about Jesus.  Jesus came as Lord to serve, not to be served.

The contrasts we encounter with Jesus coming into place in Bethlehem and into place in Jerusalem give us insight into Jesus’ true character.  Glory and majesty are contrasted with humility and sacrifice.  The mind-blowing truth is that Jesus is both true God and true man.  Jesus is God in flesh.  He is the sinless Son of God and He becomes sin to save you.

St. Paul gives us a wonderful description of who Jesus is in Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV) 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.[3]

The fullness of God dwells in Jesus.  The fullness of God comes into place and lies in the straw of the manger in Bethlehem.  The fullness of God comes into place in Jerusalem and hangs in excruciating agony making peace by the blood of His cross.  The fullness of God is coming in place again to take you home.  Christ has died.  Christ has risen.  Christ will come again.  A blessed Advent to all.  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

 

How to lose your faith.

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Last Sunday of the Church Year 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
November 20, 2018
Isaiah 51:4-6, Jude 20-25, Mark 13:24-37

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

On this last Sunday of the Church Year a good question to ask is, “when is Jesus coming back?”  2,000 years ago Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives and He promised to return.  So…when is He coming back?  The unsatisfying answer is…we don’t know.  No one knows.  If anyone tells you that they know when Jesus will return; they are lying.  Remember what Jesus says in Mark 13:32 (ESV) 32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.[1]

Jesus is coming back, but we don’t know when, so, Jesus tells us,  Mark 13:33 (ESV) 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.[2]

Now, it is hard to maintain vigilance over a long period of time.  For 2,000 years Jesus has not returned and so it is difficult to stay awake.  It is like being a night watchman in a place where nothing ever happens.  After a while it is easy to become complacent.  It is easy to neglect your duties.  Companies with watchmen have systems to track their security guards to make sure they are doing their duty; walking their rounds and checking what needs to be checked.  When I was a guard one summer they had a watchman clock the guards carried and there were keys at various locations that they need to turn in the clock to show they were making their rounds.  Now there are electronic systems and GPS.  The companies paying the guards want to make sure the watchmen are staying on guard and keeping awake.

For Christians it can be hard to remain vigilant over the long haul and there is no GPS system to track you.  No key system to make sure you stay awake and do your duty.  So, how do remain on guard?

Maybe a different question is what do you do in order to let down your guard and fall asleep?  For a security guard working nights just sit down and lean back and close your eyes for minute.  Next thing you know.  You need a new job.  What about for a Christian?  How do you let down your guard?  How do you fall asleep?  How do you lose faith?

You should forget that you are a baptized child of God.  Go through the day without remembering that God has made a promise to you through the blood of Jesus.  Forget that you have been set apart from the world to delight in God’s will and walk in his ways and instead reject God’s will and walk in your ways.

Let bitterness and hatred build up in your life.  Stay aggressive and belligerent.  Never back down from an argument with someone you disagree with.  Stop loving your enemies and stop praying for those who persecute you.

How do you let down your guard?  Separate yourself from Word of God.  Don’t read the Bible.  Don’t engage in any study of the Bible.  Don’t feed on the Word of God.  Instead feed on the things of this world.  Look at porn.  Read trashy books.  Watch junk.  Let your Bible disappear from your life and gather dust.  Start to accept as true that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something.  Design your own god who is there for you when you want it but does not interfere with anything that you want to do.

How do you fall spiritually asleep?  Feel no need for the body and blood of Christ.  Forget that you have sinful flesh and you live in a sinful world and are tempted by the Devil himself.  Start to believe that you are more than good enough and more than capable enough and you don’t need Jesus.

And if you do something and you feel shame and guilt about it do not confess the sin.  Do not admit your guilt.  Just try to rationalize the sin.  Make excuses.  Blame others.  Compare yourself to really bad sinners.  And if that doesn’t work numb the guilt with alcohol or drugs or casual hook ups.

Act like an unbeliever.  Conform your life to the ways of the world.  If you see it on TV or in the movies, it must be okay.  If everyone else is doing it, join in.  If others are cheating; cheat.  If others are lying; lie.  If other people are getting drunk and getting high; go along.  If others are engaging in sexual intimacy outside of the marriage of a man and a woman; it must be okay.  It is so hard to swim against the current; just give in and go with the flow and conform your life to fit in with everyone else.

How do you lose faith?  Stop praying.  Don’t set aside time to go to the Lord with adorations, confessions, requests and thanksgivings.  Quit acting like you are dependent on God and assert your independence.

Stop giving an offering to the Lord’s work.  Find some excuse or perceived way that the church is wasting money and instead keep that money for yourself.  You are better at using it anyway.  You could pump up your retirement or buy a car with the money you give to church.

And whatever you do, stop coming to worship services.  Stop gathering with those weak-minded people who think they need Jesus.  Come up with an excuse that works for you.  I worked too late.  I partied too late.  The pastor did something I don’t like.  It is my only day to sleep in.  I don’t have the right clothes.  Come up with some excuse and stop coming to worship on Sunday.  Coming to worship and confessing your sins and hearing you are forgiven just shows how dependent you are on God.  Who needs that?

This is what you can do in order to let down your guard and fall spiritually asleep and lose your faith.  You know this can happen.  You have seen it happen to members here; family members; friends.  They lean back in their chair close their eyes and fall asleep.  They are taking a spiritual nap.

But the end is coming.  Jesus is going to return and you don’t know when.  Those who have let down their guard and fallen spiritually asleep will be judged with the unbelievers.  At the judgment Jesus will deny He knows them and they will be forced to spend eternity with the devil and all his angels in the lake of fire.  So stay on guard.  Stay awake.  The end is near.

Remember who you are in Christ.  Remember you are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Stay in the Word.  Read the Bible.  Study the Bible.  Hear the Word.

Stay hungry for the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion.  It is a meal for sinners; you are a sinner; Jesus is here for you.

Confess your sins and receive forgiveness.  If a particular sin troubles you confess it privately to the pastor and know that sin is also forgiven.

Act like a follower of Jesus.  Be salt and light to the world.  Delight in God’s will and walk in God’s ways.

Pray.  Pray together here.  Pray alone in your room.  Pray throughout the day.  Bring your needs and concerns to the Lord along with thanksgivings for all He has done for you.

Give generously to the Lord’s work.  Matthew 6:21 (ESV)  21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.[3]

Come to church.  Kneel down and confess your sins.  Sing the truth about Jesus.  Hear the words of forgiveness.  Receive the body and blood of Christ.  Know you are not alone in the struggle against sin, death and devil.

Be on guard.  Stay awake.  Jesus is coming back and you do not know when.  But living in the anticipation of Jesus’ return is not like being a security guard watch an empty building through the long, dark night.  Living life as a Christian waiting for Jesus’ return is living out your ordinary life in an extraordinary way.  Living out your life in your various vocations of child, parent, grandparent, worker, employer, citizen, church member according to God’s will.  Living out the Ten Commandments, not in fear, but because you are already a child of God marked for salvation in your baptism.  Repent when you sin and struggle against sin.  Jesus is coming back to save you.  You are His baptized child of God.  Be on guard.  Stay awake.

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