Jesus does the impossible

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Pentecost 9, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 2, 2020
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Think about a time you felt overwhelmed when you face a task that just seems so big…so intimidating.  Pretty sure this is the feeling a child gets when he is told he needs to clean his room. Moving does it for me.  Moving from one house to another gives me that feeling of being overwhelmed.  There was a time that Jeannette and I were moving about every two years or so and it is just overwhelming to think about getting everything packed up again and into the truck and then unloaded on the other end.  Facing a move I felt overcome by everything that has to be done.  But, as with many of life’s overwhelming tasks, it gets accomplished one step at a time.  Although, I have to say that after all the moving before coming to Hamilton, it has been nice to stay put here for 19 years, although now we help the kids move.

There is the feeling of being overwhelmed, but then there is the feeling of facing the impossible.  Not just a big, overwhelming task that can be overcome, but the impossible. That’s where Jesus has the disciples in our Gospel reading today in six impossible words.  Matthew 14:16 (ESV) 16 …you give them something to eat.”[1]

These words are not necessarily impossible depending on the context.  If you are sitting with two siblings and you have a whole pizza and they have none and they are complaining that they are hungry mom may say, “You give them something to eat,” and it’s no big deal.  You shouldn’t eat the whole pizza anyway.  But the disciples are surrounded by thousands of hungry people and the twelve disciples have only five loaves of bread and two fish. That’s not even enough for themselves. Matthew 14:16 (ESV) 16 …you give them something to eat.”[2] It’s impossible.  It can’t be done.  What are they supposed to do?  Imagine yourself standing there with the disciples looking out at a sea of thousands and thousands of faces and knowing that you are supposed to feed them.  It is hopeless; it is impossible.

And this is the culmination of a very bad time for the disciples.  The voice of one calling in the desert has been silenced.  John the Baptist, the prophet who heralded Jesus’ arrival, prepared the way for Him, and baptized Him in the Jordan River, is beheaded by Herod Antipas because of a drunken promise made at a party.  Not only was John killed, but his head was brought to the party on a platter in a final humiliation.  It has been a bad time for Jesus and His disciples.

They try to take a break.  They go by boat to a desolate place to grieve in peace but the crowds follow them and get to the place ahead of them.  Instead of getting angry, Matthew 14:14 (ESV) [Jesus] had compassion on them and healed their sick.[3]

It has been a terribly long day and Jesus and the disciples still have not gotten a chance to grieve.  The disciples are ready to send the people away and be done, but Jesus gives them the impossible task of feeding all these thousands of people.  I’ve got to imagine that the disciples just want to quit.  They must just want to ignore the hungry crowd and get back in the boat and sail away because they face an impossible task. They cannot do it.  But Jesus can.  And Jesus has compassion on the people.  He has already healed the sick, now he is going to feed all of them.  Jesus can heal the sick and feed the hungry with just His words. He can do it because Jesus is not just a teacher or a prophet.  Jesus is God. Jesus is God in flesh.

You are a sinner and you cannot change that.  As hard as you try you cannot stop sinning.  All you have to do is to perfectly love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.  That’s all.  But you cannot do it.  It is impossible.  You cannot stop being a sinner.

Jesus tells the disciples to bring Him the five loaves and two fish.  He orders all the people to sit down on the grass and then looks up to heaven and blesses the food.  He breaks the loaves and gives them to the disciples and the disciples start handing out the food and they keep handing out the food.  They hand out bread and fish to all of the thousands of people.  How long would it take for twelve people to distribute food to 5,000 plus people?  The disciples do not run out of bread and fish until everyone has eaten and is satisfied.  Jesus has done the impossible through the disciples, and to top it off they collect twelve baskets full of leftovers.  With the disciples facing the impossible, Jesus, the Son of God, God in flesh, in His compassion, provides.  And He provides in abundance.

In life you will face many overwhelming things.  This whole pandemic and its effects are pretty overwhelming and looking at how to reopen schools is overwhelming.  Raising children is overwhelming.  You face many overwhelming things, but there is one thing you face that is impossible. You are a sinner and the wages of sin is death; eternal death in Hell.  You are a sinner and you cannot change that.  As hard as you try you cannot stop sinning.  All you have to do is to perfectly love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.  That’s all.  But you cannot do it.  It is impossible.  You cannot stop being a sinner.

Jesus does the impossible.  Jesus has compassion on you.  He loves you, and with His words, “I forgive you all your sins,” He declares you to be sinless.  He pours out forgiveness upon you in abundance with His Word–with the waters of Holy Baptism–with His own Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  He forgives you to overflowing.  Jesus’ pours our His love and forgiveness on you and fills you.  He fills your cup to the brim and then His love and forgiveness overflow to those around you in your love and forgiveness of others.

In His miracles, in His life, His death and His resurrection, Jesus shows that He is the Son of God; God in flesh.  As John the Baptist declared, Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Jesus’ sacrifice on the altar of the cross is enough to pay for all your sins.  His suffering and death is credited to you.  His resurrection is your resurrection as you are born again of water and spirit and you will be raised from the dead on the last day.

In this life you will be assaulted by temptation and sin and by the devil himself trying to convince you that you must do it on your own, all the time knowing that you cannot.  He will tempt you to despair.  He will tempt you to give up when you face difficulties.  But you are not alone.  You have the armor of God.  You are covered by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus has done the impossible.  He declared you to be righteous, innocent and blessed and if Jesus says it, it is true, because Jesus is the truth.

There are many things in life that are overwhelming.  And as we starkly learn from the death of John the Baptist, being a Christian is no guarantee of an easy life.  Jesus never promises to make this life easy, but He does promise to be with you; to never leave you or forsake you.  He promises you eternal life with Him.  Jesus is God. Jesus does the impossible.  From nothing He speaks the world into existence. He speaks water into wine.  He speaks sight to the blind.  He speaks life to the dead.  He speaks five loaves and two fish into enough to feed thousands. He speaks you from darkness to light; from sinner to sinless saint in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus does the impossible.  Amen.

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

You are God’s treasure; His pearl of great price

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Pentecost 8, 2020 Proper 12
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 26, 2020
Deuteronomy 7:6-9, Romans 8:28-39, Matthew 13:44-52

 

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Today, in our Gospel reading Jesus teaches us four parables.  The challenge of these parables is that a couple of them do not have an obvious explanation.  When Jesus finishes the first three, He asks, Matthew 13:51 (ESV) 51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.”[1]  So it is entirely possible that Jesus never gave an interpretation of these parables.  Now that would be fine if the meaning was as obvious to us as it was to the disciples.

The first two parables are both very short, and the themes are similar: a man discovers something of great value and then sacrifices everything that he has in order to obtain it.  In the first parable, the item of great value is a treasure.  In the second, it is a precious pearl.  Despite the simplicity of the two parables, faithful theologians have come up with two possible interpretations.

One interpretation is that the Kingdom of Heaven is the item of great value … the treasure…the pearl.  In this case, the parable teaches that we should be like the man or the merchant, and give up everything to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven.

The other interpretation is that the Kingdom of Heaven is the main actor in the parable…the man or the merchant. In this case, both the treasure and the pearl represent the Holy Christian Church.  The idea is that the Kingdom of Heaven suffers all, in the person of Jesus Christ, in order to redeem you…His treasure…His pearl of great price.

The fact that good, solid, faithful theologians can, in all honesty, come up with two valid, reasonable interpretations of these parables does illustrate one point.  Unless the Bible itself gives the explanation to a parable, we should not base any teachings on parables.  We can use parables to illustrate teachings that are clearly expressed in other parts of the Bible, but we should not rely on parables alone as a source for doctrine.

But what should we do with the parables that we heard from Jesus this morning? Although I am not nearly as smart as the great theologians of the church, I am going to give you something to think about when you hear these parables.

Jesus begins the first of these parables and says, Matthew 13:44 (ESV) 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. …[2]  This sounds like the Kingdom of Heaven is the treasure hidden in the field.  In that case, Jesus is indeed illustrating that the Kingdom of Heaven is precious.  In fact, it is so precious that Jesus goes on to say, (ESV) 44 “…Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. [3]  This implies that there is no price that is too much to pay for the treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Because our sin has corrupted our human nature, we do not recognize the value of the Kingdom of Heaven.  We are certainly not inclined to surrender everything in order to obtain it.  And even if we wanted to obtain it, we are not able to pay the price required by so great a treasure.  So, we are beyond hope.

Now this would be great if it weren’t for one important detail.  As the Apostle Paul writes, Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV) 1… you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[4]  

Because our sin has corrupted our human nature, we do not recognize the value of the Kingdom of Heaven.  We are certainly not inclined to surrender everything in order to obtain it.  And even if we wanted to obtain it, we are not able to pay the price required by so great a treasure.  So, we are beyond hope.

But now we hear the second parable from the mouth of Jesus.  This time Jesus teaches, Matthew 13:45 (ESV) 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,[5]  In this parable, the Kingdom of Heaven is the merchant who searches for fine pearls.  With this parable, Jesus portrays the Kingdom of Heaven as the one who does the searching.  The Kingdom of Heaven is the Reign of God who searches for excellent pearls.  But what are these excellent pearls for which the Kingdom of Heaven searches?  At another time, Jesus Himself says, Luke 19:10 (ESV) 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”[6]  You are the excellent pearl.  In this second parable, Jesus is the merchant who sold all that he had…even his body to death on a cross…in order to obtain you…His precious Pearl.

Consider Jesus’ words this morning.  Matthew 13:44 (ESV) 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. …[7]  In this parable, the Kingdom of Heaven isa precious treasure … beyond anything that we could pay.  Nevertheless, in the second parable, Jesus said, Matthew 13:45 (ESV) 45 “…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,[8] In the second parable, the Kingdom of Heaven searches for you.  You are the precious pearl for which Jesus Christ gave His all.

So, what difference does it make that you are the precious pearl of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Well, that becomes apparent in the next parable.

The Parable of the Net makes it very clear what will happen to all people on Judgment Day. Jesus compares the people of this world to the contents of a net full of fish.  Just as a net gathers up all things from the water, so Judgment Day will gather up all things.  Just as fishermen sort the contents of the net into trash and good fish, so God will send His angels to separate the evil from the righteous.  The righteous are those who have the righteousness of Christ through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith.  They are God’s valuable treasure – His precious pearl.  The evil are those who refuse the Holy Spirit’s gift and rely on their own righteousness for salvation.  They may be valuable and precious in their own sight, but that means nothing in God’s eyes.

The Bible tells us that we are sinful creatures.  The psalmist says, Psalm 51:5 (ESV) 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.[9]  From this we learn that we are sinners the instant we come into existence at conception. The prophet Isaiah says Isaiah 64:6 (ESV) 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.[10]  From this verse we learn that nothing we do in our lives can change our sinful status.  Paul tells us, Romans 3:23 (ESV) 23 … all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,[11]  From this we learn that no one can escape from this sinful condition.

From today’s parables, you learn that God still considers you precious in spite of your sinful condition.  You learn that God will spare nothing to ransom you from this sinful condition.  Instead, He will give all that He has in order to purchase and redeem you from sin, death, and the power of the devil.  Peter writes, 1 Peter 1:18-19 (ESV) 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.[12]  From this we learn that Christ gave it all.  He paid for you with the currency of His holy, innocent blood … a shedding of blood leading to death.

You know that Christ’s payment is sufficient.  He does not remain in the grave, but rises on the third day.  His resurrection assures you that you are indeed God’s treasure.  You are His precious pearl.  His resurrection assures you that you also will rise from the dead.  It assures you that you, and all believers; God’s Holy and precious people, will enjoy heaven with Him forever.  Amen

 

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds

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Pentecost 7, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Hilber Kamps
July 18, 19, 2020
Mathew 13: 24-30 36-43

 

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Our sermon text for this afternoon is our gospel lesson which is commonly called “The Parable of the Weeds in the Wheat” or “The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.” The earthly side of this parable is based on a very nasty way to attack or take revenge on an enemy.  Keeping that in mind please pray with me and especially for me. Gracious Lord God, Heavenly Father, help us to accept the fact that that in this world good and evil will grow side by side.  Lead us also to count on Your wise timing and judgment.  Amen

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN

In the Concordia Study Bible, the note from verse 25 indicated the weeds Jesus was speaking about was a specific type.  Bearded Darnel.  I had never heard of it.  Maybe because we never planted wheat on our farm in Wisconsin.

However, there is a plant that many people call darnel rye.  It looks like wheat, it grows like wheat, it competes with wheat for resources, but it is not wheat.  The point is that most people can’t tell the difference between this plant and real wheat.  That is, until the seeds begin to ripen.

Sowing this plant in a wheat field would be devastating.  This false-wheat would compete with the wheat for moisture, soil nutrition, sunlight, everything.  No one would discover the damage until it was too late.  By the time that wheat yield would be reduced considerably.

Intentionally planting this seed in someone’s field indicates a very long-term and deep-seated hatred.  No sane person would have a stockpile of darnel rye seeds in their own storehouse.  Accidents happen.  The seeds could get loose and infect your own fields.  No one kept these weed seeds around unless they planned to do damage with them.  The planning for this type of attack had to begin during the previous growing seasons.  Servants had to go throughout the countryside collecting these seeds during the previous harvest.  Either that, or the enemy needed to set aside a patch of valuable ground to grow his own weed seeds.  Either way, sowing these seeds required long-term planning.  This is the attack of someone who is willing to risk harm to themselves in order to take revenge on another.

Jesus began His explanation of the spiritual meaning of this parable by comparing the wheat field to His church.  He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. (Matthew 13:37–38) Jesus often talked about Himself as the Son of Man.  So, Jesus is talking about Himself as the one who sowed the good seed.  He said the field is the entire world.  This means that His salvation is for all people in all places and times.  The meaning of this parable crosses all borders and transcends all cultures.  The Children of the Kingdom are those who believe that Jesus is their savior which is another way of saying The Holy Christian Church.

This has all been pretty good news so far, but nothing in this sinful world remains untouched by sin.  Jesus continued, “The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.” (Matthew 13:38–39) Here Jesus tells us that the devil sends his agents to infiltrate the earthly institutions of the church.  Just as darnel rye looks, acts, and grows like wheat, so these unbelievers look like Christians and act like Christians, but they are not Christians.  They are hypocrites.  In this parable, Jesus tells us that every church has hypocrites who are sons of the devil.

Martin Luther put it this way: “Wherever God builds a church, [the devil] builds his chapel or tabernacle next to it.” Daniel Defoe wrote a poem that says about the same thing.  Wherever God erects a house of prayer, The devil always builds a chapel there; And ’twill be found, upon examination, The latter has the largest congregation. 

You probably all know a hypocrite or two; and most of you probably remember back in 2011 when Jan and I moved here I was shaving my head bald.  Sometime later I began getting haircuts on the same day and very near to where Jan had her regular hair appointments.

Sometimes we talked about his church, sometimes about our church.  But I found a different shop when I realized the language was noticeably different when more people were present.

In retrospect, I should have made it known that I was going elsewhere because of his foul mouth. That’s what I did in writing, after patronizing ‘Jill the Barber’ for about three years.

That situation was a heated argument over the legalization of marijuana by her assistant; who got in my face while she was cutting my hair.  Now then I am not making this hypocrite analogy about “the weed,” but rather, about Christian Life-Style in the work place by Christians.

Even when Jesus Himself was the visible pastor of a congregation, there were hypocrites.  Think about it.  When Jesus sent the disciples out to do mission work among the lost sheep of Israel, Judas Iscariot was one of those disciples.  He cast out demons.  He preached the Word of the Kingdom of God.  He even held the office of treasurer. That is how much the other disciples trusted him.  They did not realize that he was a weed in the wheat field until after he betrayed Jesus in Gethsemane.  The early church had its weeds.  The Apostle Paul wanted to take the Gospel to the Gentiles and a group of weeds followed him everywhere he went.  They infiltrated the congregations that the Holy Spirit established through Paul and tried to teach that a person must fulfill the ceremonial law of the Jews before they could become a Christian.

Jesus’ parable helps me understand a very puzzling behavior.  There are people in every denomination of Christianity who want to change the teachings of that denomination.  These people would have the church to go along with the idea that suicide and elective abortion are valid solutions to life’s problems.  They want the church to promote the gay and transgender life style.  They want the church to treat the Bible as a quaint, but old-fashioned book of fairy tales. Don’t you just wonder, “Why don’t these people join an organization that agrees with them?  There are plenty of religious organizations out there that agree with what they want.  Why don’t they join them?  Why do they have to cause trouble and heartache among those who simply wish to follow the Word of God?” This parable helps understand these people.  They are the sons of the evil one.  It is not enough for them to have an organization of people who agree with them, but the evil one drives them to destroy all organizations who do not agree with them.  Of course, there are times that all of us have acted like weeds.  We often try to get what we want without checking the Bible to see what God wants.  Instead of loving God above all things, we love ourselves.  Instead of loving our neighbor, we seek to exploit our neighbor. When God’s Word specifically teaches something that we don’t like, we try to find a work-around that will let us do what we want instead of what God wants.  That part of us that acts like weeds should terrify us. Jesus teaching in today’s Gospel is clear.  He said, “The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:39–42) Jesus very clearly teaches that hypocrites in congregations will suffer an eternal fate that is like a fiery furnace … a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.  I imagine many of you are reacting the same way the disciples did when Jesus said one of them was a betrayer.  In Matthew 26 we read: When it was evening, [Jesus] reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:20–22)  Many of you are thinking to yourself, “Does Jesus mean me?” We all, like the disciples, know that we have been hypocrites.  As someone once said, “Saying that the church is full of hypocrites is a lot like saying that a hospital is full of sick people.” So, it is normal, it is natural for the true wheat to ask Jesus, “Lord, are You talking about me?”  The Good News is that Jesus died for all sinners.  That includes hypocrites.  He invites all hypocrites to come to Him for healing.  Where else can hypocrites go to receive healing?  Where else can hypocrites go to get rid of their hypocrisy?  This is the comfort we receive in God’s Word. There we learn that Jesus suffered and died on the cross for ALL sins.  The Bible says, “He died for all.” (2 Corinthians 5:15) The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7) He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2) There is no question that Jesus paid the penalty for every sin with His suffering and death on the cross.  There is no question that God the Father accepted that sacrifice as payment in full, for Jesus did not remain in the grave, but He rose from the dead.

Jesus offers forgiveness, life, and salvation to all people through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith.  By creating faith in us, the Holy Spirit quietly goes about the miracle of converting fake wheat into the real thing.  He converts the sons of the devil into the Sons of God.  Jesus ended His parable with the end of all things.  When the wheat matured, it was time for the harvest.  Jesus said, “The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:39–42)  For most of us, this Day of Judgment will come at our earthly death, but there will be some who live until the end of the world.  In either case, those who refuse God’s gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation will be gathered up and thrown into the eternal fires of hell.  In that place, they will cry and clench their teeth in pain.  Jesus also said, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matthe13:43) On that Day of Judgment, those who have the gift of faith that the Holy Spirit created in their heart will have the righteousness that Jesus earned for them on the cross.  They will share in His glory; a glory that shines like the sun. Jesus will share all things with them.  His kingdom will be their kingdom and His Father will be their Father.

There will be a day when Jesus will send His angels to remove the fake wheat and take the true wheat out of this sinful world to Himself in eternity.  There the true wheat, that is all those who truly believe in Jesus as savior, will live in joy forever, because He has forgiven all of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 21: The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999

Parable of the Sower

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Sixth Sunday After Pentecost 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kamps
July 12, 2020

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Our text for consideration this morning is the Gospel lesson and is commonly called The Parable of the Sower.

Grace mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This Gospel reading of the parable of the Sower this morning can also be found in Mark chapter 4 and Luke chapter 8.  In each case, the three Gospel writers not only record the parable itself, but its explanation as well. Because we have Jesus’ explanation, this parable is valuable on two levels.  Jesus’ explanation not only gives us the spiritual truth of this parable, but it also gives us guidelines that help interpret other parables. We know that a parable is the explanation of a Divine truth using the word picture of an earthly story. As many of us learned in Sunday School, it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.

The story in today’s Gospel is simple enough. As I read or hear Jesus’ words, it’s easy to imagine a first century farmer walking in a field with a bag of seeds slung over his shoulder. As he walks, he rhythmically grabs a handful of seeds from the bag. and scatters them onto the field. The idea of course was to distribute the seed over the whole field so that it would grow and produce a crop. It was probably a scene that was quite common during the planting season in that day.

What is different here in Jesus’ story, is that this farmer seems to be indiscriminate about where he sows the seed. I could see a farmer coming to the edge of a field and trying to cover every square inch of the field with seed. It is entirely possible that a few seeds then might overshoot onto the soil surrounding the field.  In this parable, however, the farmer seems to be throwing the seed willy-nilly everywhere – not only on the good soil, but also on the road, the rocks, the thorns – everywhere.  This farmer doesn’t seem very accurate in his distribution of the seed.

As Jesus explained the meaning of this parable, He asked His disciples to concentrate on the activity of the seed as it interacted with the variety of soils. The seed represents the word of the kingdom – the proclamation of the salvation that Jesus Christ earned for us on the cross. The scattering of the seed represents the preaching of the word of the kingdom.  The soil types represent the different types of people who hear the preaching of the word of the kingdom.  Jesus began with those who simply reject the Word. He said, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.” The Bible tells us that [1 Timothy 2,4] God our Savior desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Nevertheless, some people reject the Word and resist the Holy Spirit.  They remain in unbelief and under God’s judgment by their own fault.  Eventually, God allows the devil to take the Word away from them.  They have hardened their heart against the work of the Holy Spirit by simply refusing to believe.

The next scenario began on a hopeful note but ended in tragedy. Jesus said, “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”  Here the seed produces results for a while.  This type of person receives the word with joy.  He joins a local congregation.  He may even become quite active.  Then something comes along to test the faith and he falls away.

In Jesus day, many fell away when Jesus began talking about His future suffering, death, and resurrection.  They could not accept that teaching.  We often hear of those who, during the persecution of the early church, gave up their lives rather than deny Jesus, but there were others who fell away from the faith rather than surrender their earthly lives.  Today, there seem to be many who fall away when they find something in the Bible with which they disagree – they would rather forsake the Word than have it change them.  Six years ago, I preached this very same text at Mt. Calvary, in Dayton.  Back in 2014, The Lutheran Witness, The Voice of the Martyrs Organization, and many others were reporting world­wide Christian persecution by Muslims who were murdering Christians because they were converting from Islam.

I moved beyond that portion of my sermon to cite religious persecution in our public schools, where; school children have been disciplined for such things as distributing Christmas cards.  Students have received failing grades for submitting artwork and essays that included Christian themes. Today I would add the 1619 Project.  If you have not heard about it; 1619 is already curriculum in New York, Chicago, the liberal state of Virginia and many more to be added.  To close out that section of my thoughts regarding persecution I said something to the effect of: “We thank God that at least here in the United States, we don’t have to worry about the police or the National Guard breaking in on our service this morning and carrying us off to prison.”  OH-OH-OH. How rapidly things can change!  Because the public media continually portrays Christians as ignorant, bigoted, narrow-minded, self-righteous fools; the mainstream media of 2014 would rarely even mention outright bigotry or Christian persecution.  Christian persecution is now the order of the day and the covid-19 pandemic has given them free reign.  Case-in-point, in California churches NO SINGING ALLOWED.  Last Monday Pastor Samuel Rodriguez the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference addressed California Governor Newsom‘s order in part…” I believe Newsom‘s order regarding no singing is completely discriminatoryHow can you permit, not for one day, but for many days, tens of thousands to march in protest without wearing masks and then demand that 100 worshippers refrain from singing?”

My wife Jan’s brother and family from Wisconsin have spent the last few days with us and much of our conversation has been regarding local congregations’ actions and reactions of their responsibilities during this crisis. It is fair to say that while many members have been content with past worship practices, they now have differing opinions regarding what worship in 2020 should look like.  Who needs to sing hymns anyway?  Who needs the personal touch from passing of the peace anyway?  While we all should be certain of our deep Christian roots, what about those who are continually persecuting Christians? Persecuting our Judea-Christian history? Persecuting our congregations? Persecuting us as individuals? Jesus’ own words in verses 10-17 speaks of them; To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  Indeed, in their case, the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:  You will indeed hear but never understand and You will indeed see, but never perceive.

Our Gospel lesson is a great comfort for persecuted Christians everywhere.  Because in our soil the roots go deep.  We are not on rocky ground. One sidelight to this rocky ground type of soil is that it is the sun that dries out the rootless plant.  The same sun that provides energy for growth to the fully rooted plant withers the rootless plant. In a similar way, the same persecution that withers a rootless faith strengthens a well rooted faith.  So, for persecution which may come to where you live, stay in the word.

Notice though, that even the good soil is dead until God’s Word takes root in it.  The power comes from God and He uses His Word to distribute that power. God works in us as we read or hear the Word.  He brings us into His family as that very same Word combines with the water of Holy Baptism to join us to Christ in His crucifixion.  He sustains and strengthens our faith with the Word combined with bread and wine as He offers Himself to us in His body and blood.  These are the Means of Grace whereby God works the power of His Word in us.

The third scenario illustrates a similar tragedy. Jesus said, “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” Once again, the seed sprouts.  Once again, this type of person joins a local congregation.  The problem here is that the cares of this world are more important than the Word of the kingdom.  A late-night party or even late-night television is more important than being rested up enough to receive God’s Divine Service.  Basically, there are so many things to do in this world that God’s Word becomes an afterthought instead of a priority.  The types of people represented by both the rocky soil and the thorny soil have rejected God’s Word just as much as the people represented by the path. In the end, they have resisted the Holy Spirit and are under God’s judgment by their own fault.

The last type of soil illustrates the fruit that God’s Word can bear.  Jesus said, “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”  This time, the roots of God’s Word run deep. It thrives and produces a harvest.

Notice though, that even the good soil is dead until God’s Word takes root in it.  The power comes from God and He uses His Word to distribute that power. God works in us as we read or hear the Word.  He brings us into His family as that very same Word combines with the water of Holy Baptism to join us to Christ in His crucifixion.  He sustains and strengthens our faith with the Word combined with bread and wine as He offers Himself to us in His body and blood.  These are the Means of Grace whereby God works the power of His Word in us.

The fact that the farmer is reckless as he sows the seed illustrates the recklessness of God.  God is reckless with His salvation.  Let me repeat that and explain it.  God is reckless with His salvation!  He spreads His Word throughout the earth to all peoples in all times and in all places.  He withholds His Word from no one just as He withholds His Son from no one.  He does not aim it at any one people or any one place or any one time.  Jesus Christ died on the cross to take away the sins of all people in all times and in all places.       He rose from the dead to declare His victory to His disciples and He told them, in Acts chapter 1: verse 8; “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” In this way, God has promised to sow the seed of His Holy Word to the ends of the earth.

There is another reason that God sows the seed of His Word so generously.  Today’s Old Testament reading tells us, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth: it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.”  The church belongs to God.  It is His creation, and it is His work. He created it by the power of His Word.  When we want to see the Church living and thriving as God would have it thrive, all we need to do is faithfully hear His Word and proclaim His Word and share His Word wherever God has placed you in your vocation of co-workers, family, friends, and neighbors.        If we are faithful and live in and under the Word, then our families and our churches will be precisely what God intends them to be.  That is His promise for you as you become the SOWER and not the seed of the parable.

You see, as an earthly story, a parable has limits.  It can only illustrate a few spiritual truths at best.  So, it is with the Parable of the Sower.  Although there are many ways in which God’s Word is like a seed, there are some things God’s Word can do that seeds cannot.  A seed cannot change the soil on which it falls, but God’s Word can and does change the heart. The message of the salvation that Jesus earned for us on the cross can soften the hardest heart.  It can break up the rocks and overcome the thorns.  God does not sow His Word once and then give up.  He sows His Word generously season after season.        He sows His seed with a loving, reckless generosity.  We are all born hard, rocky, and thorny, but season after season, God applies His Word.  God sends parents, teachers, friends, and pastors to bring His Word to us.  Eventually, the word sends its roots deep and the Holy Spirit creates the faith that trusts in the crucified and risen God-man, Jesus Christ, for salvation.  The windows of heaven will open, and that faith will receive all the gifts that God wants to pour out on us.  He will give us the forgiveness, life, and salvation that last forever.  Through His Word, He promises to be with us here on this earth and that one day He will take us home to live with Him forever; all because you are forgiven of all of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Jesus is the loser King and King of the losers

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Pentecost 5, 2020 Proper 9
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 5, 2020
Zechariah 9:9-12, Romans 7:14-25a, Matthew 11:25-30

 

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

 

“Everybody loves a winner.”  “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”  “Winners never quit.  Quitters never win.”  There are a lot of inspirational quotes about winners and winning.  We want to be winners.  I want to think that I am doing it better than others.  I want to think that I am the best.  I want to believe that I am a winner.  We learn self-talk for winners, “I am good enough, I am smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”  Everybody loves a winner.

I so much want to be a winner.  I want to be the best pastor ever.  Today, in our Epistle reading we get some insights from arguably the greatest missionary of all times, Paul of Tarsus; St. Paul, the author of at least 13 books of the New Testament.  What can I learn from Paul that will help make me a winner?  What are his insights for living a victorious life?  What makes Paul tick?

Romans 7:15 (ESV) 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.[1] Whoa!  Wait a minute.  What is Paul talking about?  What kind of victorious life is this?  He cannot even control himself.  Romans 7:18 (ESV) 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.[2]

What kind of loser self-talk is this?  “I can’t do it.  I can’t control my own actions.  I’m a loser. I’m a wretch.”  This is St. Paul.  We name churches after this guy.  He is the one whose writings are God-breathed Holy Scripture.  And here he is, admitting that he is a wretched sinner; just like the rest of us.  Paul’s honesty here is amazing…and brutally accurate for all of us.  You so much want to be a winner, but you do not understand your own actions.  For you do not do what you want, but you do the very thing you hate; me too.  This kind of honesty regarding the battle with sin is a hard truth to face.  But you know it is the truth.  Romans 7:24 (ESV) 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?[3]

Who? Who will save me?  Oh, there He is, prophesied in Zechariah, chapter 9, coming down the mountain, in a majestic procession into Jerusalem.  Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.[4]  Here the Savior comes in His Palm Sunday procession; but hold on…wait just a minute.  What is He riding?  Is He proudly astride a large, powerful, warhorse?  No.  He is sitting humbly on a baby donkey taking awkward little steps down the path into Jerusalem.  What kind of King is this?  This is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.  He is a loser King, and King of the losers.  As we watch Him ride the little donkey colt into Jerusalem we know He is riding into a trap set by the winners of Jerusalem.  They are going to win in their conflict with Jesus even if it means killing Him; and that is exactly what they plan to do.

They arrest this itinerant preacher on Thursday evening and tie Him up, blindfold Him, bully Him and torment Him.  We watch the strong abuse the weak; the winners humiliate the loser.  In the morning the cruelty heats up as they bring Jesus to the Roman governor who is himself too weak to stand up to the Jewish leaders and He allows Jesus to be brutally flogged then dressed up as a king and mocked as He is crowned with thorns to cries of “Hail! King of the Jews!”  Pilate washes his hands of the whole affair and lets the Jewish leaders crucify Jesus.  The bloody, loser King is paraded through the streets to Calvary where He is stripped naked and nailed to a cross to slowly suffer and die in humiliation and agony as the ultimate loser.  Above His head is a sign mocking Him, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”  Everybody loves a winner and Jesus is the ultimate loser. He is king of the losers.

Who are the people Jesus reaches out to in His ministry?  Kings and princes?  The wealthy and powerful?  The popular, cool kids?  No.  Jesus seeks after tax collectors, prostitutes, foreigners, little children, adulterers, lepers, the blind, the lame, the hungry, the demon possessed.  Jesus comes for the losers of society.  He is the loser King who is king of the losers.

Authentic Christianity is tough to market. You want to be able to put on the church sign, “Come and learn how to be a winner and succeed in life.”  But to be honest the sign should say, “Come and learn that you are a loser.”  Everybody loves a winner and Christianity is not about being a winner; it’s about knowing; along with St. Paul, that you’re are a loser.  Romans 7:24 (ESV) 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?[5]

If you stay at Calvary with dead Jesus you are left in your sin; condemned by the law, dead in your trespasses.  But Jesus’ story does not end at Calvary.  Just as He said He would, Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus conquered sin.  Jesus conquered death.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! This makes all the difference.  Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again to save you.  Romans 7:24-25 (ESV) 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! … [6]  Jesus saves you, you, a sinner who struggles with temptation and gives in way too often.  Jesus comes to save sinners.  As St. Paul write in 1 Timothy 1:15 (ESV)  15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.[7]  You are a sinner, and you have been saved by Jesus.  You are, at the same time, a Sinner and a Saint.  Martin Luther coined this phrase in Latin; simul justus et peccator.  This is such great good news for the losers of the world who know they cannot be good enough; who know they need help.  Jesus saves sinners.

Matthew 11:25 (ESV)  25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;[8] Jesus comes for the weak and broken.  He comes to those who are outcasts of society; the sick and the suffering.  He comes for little children; those without status or standing; those without the wisdom and understanding of the world.  Matthew 18:1-4 (ESV) 1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.[9]

Jesus comes for hurting, helpless people who know their sin.  He comes for those burdened by their sin.  He opens his arms to them and says, Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [10]

Being bound to Jesus is having the weight of your sin lifted off.  Being yoked to Jesus means you are set free from the heavy load of the law.  As a baptized follower of Jesus you live knowing you are in Christ who is gentle and lowly.  In Christ you find rest and restoration.

The world believes that everybody loves a winner, and that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing, but they are wrong.  Jesus comes for the outcasts, the weak, those that know they cannot be good enough.  What people think is winning in this life will lead to eternal death.  The humble, loser King, King of the losers, came to save you and give you eternal life with God in the heavenly city.  In Christ you are a winner.  In Jesus you will rise from the dead to eternal victory.  1 Corinthians 15:54-58 (ESV)
54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. [11]         Amen

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Dead to the law

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Pentecost 4, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 28, 2020
Jeremiah 28:5-9, Romans 7:1-13, Matthew 10:34-42

 

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

 

Ever since Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from the Lord, people have had a difficult relationship with God’s Law. What is the purpose of the Law?  How does God’s law function?  What does it mean to me?

When we study Luther’s Small Catechism we learn that God’s Law shows us our sin.  We think S.O.S.;  “Shows our sin.”  The Gospel is also S.O.S. “shows our savior”.  This seems simple enough, but we have a complex relationship with the law as we learn in today’s reading from Romans 7.

Sort of strangely, one thing the Law can do is awaken sinful desire.  You have an inbred, rebellious nature, and when you hear that you should not do something it can make you want to do it more.  The joke is that if you want something done, you have to do it yourself, or forbid your kids from doing it.  “Whatever you do, don’t cut the grass.”  Forbidden fruit is sweet.  There is something in us to varying degrees that makes us just want to be mischievous.  I think school kids often can get involved in sex or vaping or drinking or smoking weed because they are attracted to the secretive naughtiness of it all.  The feeling that you are breaking the rules and getting away with it is, for many, a powerful attraction.  There is something in us that causes us to want to be bad.  That something is original sin, inherited from Great-Grandpa Adam.  Due to your sinful nature, God’s law can awaken sinful desire.  God’s law also shows your sin.

Have you ever cleaned your house by the light of a single candle?  Wouldn’t that be great?  Things look pretty good in the dark.  But when you turn on some lights you see what you were missing.  The hallway downstairs here by the boiler room used to have a single light bulb and the carpet in the hall looked okay.  Years ago, when we installed a new drop ceiling with 2×4 light fixtures suddenly the carpet did not look very good. God’s law functions this way.

The Law of God shines light on your life.  The more you study the Law, the more light shines and the more sinful you realize that you are.  The Law serves to curb bad behavior and it serves as a guide as to how to live, but it also serves as a mirror showing you the ugly truth about your sinfulness. The Law shows sin to be sin and shows you to be sinful beyond measure – and this is good.  This is a good function of God’s law.

Why is it good to know that you are sinful beyond measure?  It is good, because you want to be in charge.  Because, like a young child, you want to point to your own actions and say, “Look what I have done.”  But the Law takes that away from you.  The Law shows your sinfulness beyond measure.  The Law strips away from you any thought that you can be good enough.

When a child gets caught doing something wrong and is facing punishment and is negotiating for mercy what does he say?  “I won’t do it again!  I’ll be good. I promise.”  How many times have you said these same things to God when you are negotiating after sinful behavior?  “I won’t do it again!  I’ll be good. I promise.”  But for how long are your promises good?  The Law has made it clear, you are sinful beyond measure.

In the Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 step program of recovery, step one is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”  Knowing you are sinful beyond measure leads you to admit that you are powerless against sin and your life has become unmanageable.  Admit you are powerless.  That’s how we begin worship each Sunday; by admitting we are powerless. “I, a poor, miserable sinner.”  “We are by nature sinful and unclean…”  We “first consider our unworthiness and confess before God and one another that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed, and that we cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition.”

The Law is a brutal taskmaster making demands that you cannot accomplish.  You so much want to believe that you can be good enough, but the Law lets you know that you cannot.  This can lead to despair in which you just give up trying because you know you can’t do it.  Or it can lead to self-righteousness in which you start to believe that you are good enough because you are better than others. But these are both tricks of the devil. The law shows you that sin is sin, and you are sinful beyond measure.  Is there any hope?

AA step two is “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  For Christians convicted by the Law and knowing you are sinful beyond measure you also turn to a higher power, and you can declare who the higher power is.  “For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.”  “…For the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me.”  “Together as His people let us take refuge in the infinite mercy of God, our heavenly Father, seeking His grace for the sake of Christ, and saying: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

 In baptism you died to the law, and rose in the Spirit, to live in Christ, to bear fruit for God.  You were born again in water and Spirit.  You are free from the demands of the law.

You cannot free yourself from sin but Jesus can and Jesus does.  “Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins.”  The Law shows your sin and shows you your need for Jesus.  The Gospel shows you your savior.

The great Good News of the Gospel is that you have been released from the Law.  You have died to the Law.  You have died to the Law in your baptismal death and rebirth.  You no longer live under the tyrannical demands of the Law, but you live in the new life of the Spirit.  Romans 7:4 (ESV) 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.[1]

In baptism you died to the law, and rose in the Spirit, to live in Christ, to bear fruit for God.  You were born again in water and Spirit.  You are free from the demands of the law.

So many view the Law of God as if God is pointing a gun at your head demanding, “behave or else.”  Folks think that in order to be saved they need to be good enough.  They need to conquer sin in their life.  But the Law shows that you cannot be good enough.

In Christ, it is not about being good enough.  Jesus is good enough.  Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God who paid the penalty for your sin.  In Christ you have died to the law.

The struggle against sin is intense and ongoing.  The struggle becomes easier knowing that your salvation does not hang in the balance.  It is easier to battle sin when you know the war is already won.  It is difficult to believe that it is not about what you have done, and that is a wonderful, freeing truth.  Your salvation is not based on what you do, but based on what Jesus has done for you.

No longer do you obey God in order to be saved.  Now you obey God because you are saved.  This is a huge difference.  Obedience to earn salvation leads to despair or self-righteousness.  Obedience because you are saved is done in the peace of God and in the joy of salvation. Knowing you are already saved by the blood of Jesus frees you to live in love for God and love for one another. Knowing God does not have a gun to your head demanding obedience, but instead He died in your place, frees you to live for God.

God’s Law still serves you as a curb, a mirror and a guide.  It helps you to live the Christian life.  The Law serves you, but it is not the source of your salvation.  You have died to the Law and now you live in Christ in the new life of the Spirit.

Amen.

 


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

 

What is truth? Jesus is Truth.

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Pentecost 3, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 21, 2020
Jeremiah 20:7-13, Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:5a-21-33

 

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

 

What is truth? This is what Pontius Pilate asks Jesus when Jesus says to him, John 18:37-38 (ESV) …“You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”38   Everyone who is of the truth listens to Jesus’ voice.

What is truth?  The truth is that you live in strange times of evolving cultural truth.  What was true for society yesterday is no longer true today; fundamental definitions change rapidly.  What is marriage?  What is a man?  What is a woman?  What is right?  What is wrong?

The truth is that you cannot rely on culture to show you the truth.  The truth is that Jesus is the truth.  The truth is that Jesus declared, John 14:6 (ESV) 6 … “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.[1] The truth is that Jesus is the truth.  The truth is that you are a baptized follower of Jesus.

The truth is that even though you are a baptized follower of Jesus you still have ongoing sinful desires.  The truth is that you want to do things that you should not do.  The truth is that devil wants you to obey your sinful desires.  The truth is that the world wants you to obey your sinful desires.  The truth is that your own sinful flesh wants you to obey your sinful desires.  The truth is that there is abundant pressure to obey your sinful desires.  The truth is that it is way too easy and way too tempting to give in to your sinful desires and become obedient to sin; to become a slave to sin; to become a slave to unrighteousness.

But you do not belong to sin.  You belong to Jesus.  You are not unrighteous; you have been made righteous.  You have been set free from sin.  You are of the Truth.  You are called to obey Jesus.  You are called to use your body as an instrument of righteousness.  Romans 6:13 (ESV) 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.[2]

The truth is that you will obey someone.  You will obey sin, or you will obey God.  As a baptized child of God you are called to listen to Jesus and obey. Jesus paid the price for your sin. Jesus took your sin upon Himself and suffered and died on the cross for you.  He took you out of the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of light. He took you from eternal death to eternal life.  He took you from impurity to righteousness.  He took you from lawlessness to sanctification.  God loves you so much He sent His son to suffer and die for you.  God knows you.  God loves you so much that He knows more about you than you know about yourself.

How many hairs do you have on your head?  You don’t know.  It might seem that Mr. Schlade would know.  It looks like he doesn’t have any hair, but that because he keeps what’s there trimmed down.  How many hairs are growing on his head?  He doesn’t know, but God knows, because God cares that much about Mr. Schlade.

God cares about the sparrows at my birdfeeder.  God cares deeply for little birds and God cares so much more deeply for you.  Jesus shed His blood and died for you.

The truth is that you belong to Jesus.  And the truth is that this can bring you trouble.  Matthew 10:24-25 (ESV) 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. [3]

The people around Jesus call him Beelzebul; the devil. They think Jesus is a devil and you are not above your teacher, Jesus.  There are many people today who firmly believe that anyone who is a follower of the truth of Jesus is also a devil.  If you believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation, they will hate you. If you believe that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman you will be shunned as a hateful bigot. If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for the sins of the world, you will be considered to be an ignorant, dangerous fool.

The truth is that being a follower of Jesus will put you out of step with mainstream society in our nation.  Listening to Jesus and obeying Him will put you outside the inner circles of the cultural elite.  The truth is that being a Christian who believes the Bible is true can get you fired because some companies believe they cannot employ someone who is so backwards in their thinking.  Even if you show up and do your job well, that won’t be enough; you can be fired for not thinking the right things; and the right things to think change day by day.

Being a Christian can bring trouble.  Being a Christians can put you in difficult situations, but this is exactly what Jesus is warning us about today in our Gospel reading.  Matthew 10:28 (ESV) 28 …do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[4]

The truth is that is easy to be afraid of the cultural vigilantes who attempt to silence and marginalize anyone who disagrees with their ever-evolving truth.  The truth of Jesus is something they want silenced. They have great influence in our country, but it is worse elsewhere.  In some countries Christians are beaten, imprisoned or killed for proclaiming the truth of Jesus.  These forces of evil can kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul.  Pray for the persecuted Church throughout the world.

In this country there is tremendous pressure on individuals and organizations to adapt to the ever-changing societal truth.  The truth is that there are church bodies that have given in to the pressure and instead of being transformed by the Truth of Jesus they conform to the ever-evolving truth of the world.  In an attempt to be nice, and get along, they give up Jesus.  They are embarrassed by Jesus saying He is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.  In order to not offend those of other religions they give up the Truth of Jesus.  They stop confessing Jesus.  This is eternally perilous.  Matthew 10:32-33 (ESV) 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. [5]

The truth is that true joy is found in Jesus. People without Jesus chase happiness and joy in their passions and in the accumulation of wealth and belongings, but true joy and true peace is found in the Truth of Jesus.

The truth is that Jesus is the Truth and He knows you better than you know yourself.  So listen to Jesus.  Obey Jesus. He freed you from slavery to sin. You belong to Him, and He loves you, and cares for you.  By your sin you earned death, but Jesus gives you the gift of eternal life.  What is truth?  Jesus is Truth.  Amen.

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Control-Z

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Pentecost 2, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 14, 2020
Exodus 19:2-8, Romans 5:6-15, Matthew 9:35-10:8

 

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

 

Control-z.  Control-z is wonderful.  How many know what control-z does; or command-z?  I asked Olivia Pirn if she knew what control-z is and she said she learned about it a few weeks ago and it changed her life.  What is this life changing tool?  Control-z is the keystroke shortcut for the “undo” command on a computer.  Control-z takes away your mistakes.  For those who prefer, there is an “undo button” you can click.

As I am working on the computer and make a mistake, I just hit “undo”.  Boom!  Mistake gone. How wonderful would it be to have an “undo” button in life?  For those times when in anger or haste you said or did something hurtful that you immediately wanted to undo?

Have you ever tried to untangle a snarled mess of fishing line or string or a long extension cord?  It takes patience and perseverance–not my strong suits–to methodically work your way through the mess and get it untangled.  What happens when you get frustrated, lose your cool, and just give the whole knot a good strong yank?  Now it is nearly impossible.  You could use an undo button; control-z for life.

How many times in your relationship with someone do you find that you have a tangled knot of issues and instead of patiently working it out, you get frustrated and angry and yank hard on the knotted issues with your words or actions and turn the tangled relationship into an impossible mess.  It would be good to have an undo button.

Have you ever broken something? The ball goes through the window, you drop you cell phone on the concrete and shatter the screen, you wreck the car.  You want to be able to hit the “undo” button.  It is not good to break physical items, but they can often be repaired or replaced.  There are a lot of things that are much worse to break than belongings.  It is worse to break your promises.  It is worse to break free from self-control, lose your temper, and hurt someone with your words or your fists.  It is worse when you break from self-denial and give in to self-indulgence.  It is worse when you give up on God’s way and give into the temptations of the world and life gets broken.  Life becomes a tangled mess.  Sin tangles up your life into a jumble of brokenness and denials and justifications and regret and anger and guilt and shame and despair.  Sin makes a tangled, knotted mess of life.  If only you had an undo button.

Sin makes life a tangled, knotted mess, but worse than all of that, sin brings death.  St. Paul writes in Romans 5:12 (ESV) 12 …sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—[1]

Death is our great enemy.  In this Pandemic the great fear is widespread death.  We are warned repeatedly about the grave danger of Covid-19.  Even during normal times it seems like each day “experts” are coming up with something else for us to worry about in order to stay healthy and not die.

Adam broke life and turned paradise existence into a tangled, knotted, dying mess.  If only Adam had an “undo” button.

When you are young it seems there is more of a sense of immortality.  This sometimes can lead young people into risky behaviors because they think they will live forever.  The older you get the more you realize you will not live forever.  As the years go by and your hair turns gray, the more death stares you in the face.  You know it is coming.  Sin brings death, and there was sin in the world even before God gave the 10 Commandments. Romans 5:13-14 (ESV) 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.[2]

Even before Moses received the law, death reigned.  Death was king.  As Adam ignored God’s Word and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he tore a gaping hole in the fabric of life and brought sin flooding into the world; he brought death into the world.  Adam broke life and turned paradise existence into a tangled, knotted, dying mess.  If only Adam had an “undo” button.

What kind of regret and shame and guilt must Adam and Eve felt having broken life?  Adam broke the world.  He tore open the curtain that kept evil away.  He opened the floodgates of sin and death, and we still daily feel the effects.  Hospitals and cemeteries are monuments to Adam breaking the world.

Sin and death came through the first Adam who was a type for the one who is to come.  Jesus is the second Adam.  Adam broke the world by tearing the curtain and allowing evil to flood the world. Adam brings sin; sin brings death. Jesus becomes sin.  He enters into death and Hell.  He conquers all three; sin, death and Hell.  Adam broke the world.  Jesus heals the brokenness.  Jesus tears the curtain in the temple and the grace of God floods into the world from the throne of God.  Jesus undoes sin.  Jesus undoes death.  Romans 5:18 (ESV) 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.[3]

Now, death still has temporary power over us, but the power is limited.  Death’s power is fleeting.  Death’s eternal reign has been broken.  Death is no longer king.  Jesus is King and brings eternal life.  Jesus is coming back to raise the dead.

Romans 5:17 (ESV) 17 If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.[4]

Jesus tore the curtain in the temple and flooded the world with forgiveness and life.  Romans 5:21 (ESV) 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.[5]

Jesus is coming back to raise the dead.  1 Thessalonians 4:16 (ESV) 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.[6]

Jesus undoes sin. Jesus undoes death.  It was not easy.  It was not just hitting control-z and resetting the world.  It cost Jesus everything.  It came at the cost of Jesus’ blood; His suffering and death.  Adam brought sin and death.  On the cross, Jesus undoes sin and death and brings forgiveness and eternal life.  How amazing. For this we thank God and praise God. For this we serve Him and obey Him.

The world still suffers from the brokenness brought by Adam.  Sin and death make life a tangled, knotted mess.  Jesus has undone sin.  Jesus has undone death.  You live in the flood of grace, mercy and peace flowing from the throne of God out into this broken world bringing healing and restoration.  Rejoice that you live in that flood of forgiveness and love. Thank the Lord and sing His praise, tell everyone what He has done.  Let the forgiveness and love that flows into you from the cross of Jesus overflow out of your life to those around you living in this tangled, knotted world of sin.  Jesus has undone sin for you.  Jesus has undone death for you.  Amen.

 

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Racism, hatred & abuse of power is sin. Jesus saves.

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Trinity Sunday 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 7, 2020
Genesis 1:1-2:4a, Acts 2:14a-22-36, Matthew 28:16-20

 

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

 

Authority.  This is not one of our favorite words.  If someone tells you, “I have authority over you,” what does that mean?  How does it make you feel?  During the COVID19 Pandemic we have had to learn a lot about authority.  The governor exercised his authority and life changed dramatically.  Very often, for many of us, we don’t much like authority.

I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me not to do something, it kind of makes me want to do it.  From the time a little child first tells her mother, “No!,” the quest for autonomy, and the rebellion against authority has started.  With Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, rebellion against authority began and it has been accelerating ever since.

In 1981, Jeffery Stout, a professor of religion and philosophy at Princeton University, published a book called The Flight from Authority. In it, he described a social and philosophical trend in western society. Collectively, he argued, we have been on a, “flight from authority,” for several centuries. In the Reformation, we fled the authority of the Catholic Church. Under rationalism, we ran from the authority of the Scriptures. With Kant, we turned our backs on the authority of reason, and then morality. The flight continues in our own times as we resist conformity to governments, social norms, and institutions in general. Obedience is out. Autonomy is in. Simply put, we like to be charge.[1]

What does the Bible say about authority?  When we study the fourth commandment it is all about authority; “Honor your father and your mother.”  Parents have authority by virtue of creating or adopting a child. We have a lot of authorities in our lives.  Parents, teachers, bosses, coaches, pastors, police, government.  All individual authority, however, comes from one authority. Authority comes from God so that His Kingdom comes and His will is done.  Those in authority are masks of God, doing Jesus’ work of service, in love for their neighbor.

In our Gospel reading from Matthew today Jesus talks about authority.  Matthew 28:18 (ESV) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.[2] How much authority does Jesus have?  All authority.  Jesus is in charge.  What does he tell you to do?  Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[3]

Jesus’ authority comes from who He is.  Jesus is the Son of God, begotten of the Father from eternity.  He is God in flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.  Jesus’ authority is confirmed at His baptism with the presence of the Holy Spirit and the voice of God the Father, Matthew 3:17 (ESV) 17 … “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”[4] His authority is shown in His miracles such as when Jesus calms the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Luke 8:25 (ESV) 25 …[the disciples] were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” [5]

Jesus has all authority.  He has the authority to forgive your sins because He takes responsibility for all sin.  He who knew no sin became sin for you and offers Himself as the atoning sacrifice upon the altar of the cross.  Jesus is God in flesh and all authority has been given to him.  At His transfiguration, God the Father says, Matthew 17:5 (ESV) 5 … “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”[6]  Listen to Jesus.  Do what He says.  Obey Him. He has authority over you.  He has all authority.  He exercises His authority with Divine perfection.

As you exercise the authority given to you by God, as a parent, teacher, boss, coach, pastor, police officer, government official, or in any other way, remember that you are a mask of God for good in the Kingdom of God.  You are a servant of God serving your neighbor. Also, remember always, with authority comes responsibility.

Parents have authority over their children, but also responsibility for their children.  The State of Ohio recognizes both.  Children can be arrested for not obeying their parents.  Parents can be arrested for not caring for their children.  With authority comes responsibility.

In our world there is the temptation to seek autonomy instead of obedience, but there is also the temptation for people with authority to abuse their authority and ignore their responsibilities.  You can all think of examples from your own life where someone in power overstepped their authority:  an abusive manager, pastor, parent, teacher, police officer, government official.

Over these last couple of weeks we have seen the horrifying video of a Minneapolis police officer abusing his authority.  Instead of using the least force necessary to arrest a suspect, he applied deadly force in a slow, brutal, deliberate way, taking the life of George Floyd.  This former officer’s abuse of power caused the death of a fellow human being.  This is a great evil and now we trust those with authority to bring justice.

Protests and demonstrations have been staged all over the country and the world, including here in Hamilton, to call out this deadly abuse of power and speak against racism.  According to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, citizens have the right to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  The people have a right to peaceably assemble, but those who bring violence, looting and destruction into the demonstrations are abusing their right to assemble.  They are overstepping their authority and neglecting their responsibilities.

This is a challenging time for our nation and, as Christians, we need to be careful how we respond.  This particular case is one in which there is nearly universal condemnation and calls for the former officer to be punished.  This is a time we should, as a nation, be able to unite to work for real solutions to end the abuse of police power.  But there are those in our nation who abuse their authority and use vague charges to divide us and promote in us hatred of others.  There are those who for power and political leverage take the actions of the few and indict the many.  There are those who strive to have us categorize people into groups and dismiss them. Abuse of power is evil.  Racism is evil.  Division and hatred are evil.  These are sins that we can all be drawn into, and these are sins for which we must repent.

When the actions of a few are magnified and applied to an entire group that is evil.  To be identified as a victim, or an abuser, simply based on the color of your skin, is wrong because we are each individuals with unique experiences.  It is wrong, but there is great power in division and there are those across the political spectrum that want to emphasize distinctions and differences, and drive wedges between us.  We must reject these divisions and hatred, and work together to stamp out the abuse of power at all levels for those in authority.  Christians are called to abhor racism, division, hatred and abuse of authority.

As a Christian, as a baptized child of God, you are under the authority of Jesus and He has instructed you to love your neighbor.  He has commanded you to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you; to turn the other cheek, and go the extra mile.  Racism in all forms is contrary to Christianity.  In the Bible there are no races.  There is no mention of red and yellow, black and white; the only division is Jew and Gentile which is undone in Jesus.  St. Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-28 (ESV) 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.[7]

In the Kingdom of God there is no place for any type of racism or hatred or division.  When you fall prey to these temptations, repent and receive forgiveness in the blood of Jesus shed for you.

We all have room to improve in understanding people who come from different backgrounds.  We can all benefit by empathetically listening to those who look different from us; who come from different places, and who have different experiences. I have never been pulled over for driving while black, but I know people who have.  I am a fourth generation American with family roots and support.  Others are new immigrants, alone in this country. Honor others’ perspectives even if you don’t share them.  Racism and hatred have no place in our nation and certainly have no place in the Church. Here we are one in Christ.  Here we kneel together and confess our sins and receive forgiveness from Jesus.  As the old Christian Folk song says, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.”

Every person on earth is someone for whom Jesus died.  In Christ, you cannot hate someone for whom Jesus died.  Each person is someone to be loved and cared for as Jesus would love and care.

These are difficult times.  We are struggling to find the best way forward. We struggle because we are all natural born sinners who rebel against authority.  We struggle because there are many who abuse their authority and do great evil.  We struggle because we can abuse our authority.

These are difficult time, but the call from Jesus is clear for all who exercise authority.  Love and serve your neighbor.  Jesus commands that we make disciples of all nations.  All nations.  All people groups.  And how do we make disciples?  Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 19 … baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” [8]  Jesus wants all to be united in one baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Learn from others.  Love and serve your neighbor.  Fight racism and hatred and division and abuse.  Obey Jesus.  Obedience may be radically counter cultural, but it is not optional.  Jesus has all authority; listen to Him.  Love God.  Love your neighbor.  Amen.

 

 


[1] Peter Nafzger www.1517.org/articles/gospel-matthew-2816-20-trinity-sunday-series-a

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

You have the breath of God

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Pentecost 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 31, 2020
Numbers 11:24-30, Acts 2:1-21, John 7:37-39

 

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

 

Last week we celebrated Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of God the Father to reign over all creation.  Before He ascended, Jesus told the disciples to stay in the city until they are clothed with power from on high.  Acts 1:8 (ESV)  8 …you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”[1]

Soon, the Holy Spirit will come upon the disciples in a powerful, public way. Forty days earlier, on the evening of the day of His resurrection, Jesus bestowed the Spirit on His disciples in a quiet, private way.  John 20:21-23 (ESV) 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” [2]  On Pentecost, 10 days after Jesus’ ascension, the Spirit comes to the disciples in wind and fire.  Who is the Holy Spirit?  What do we know about Him?

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. Coequal with God the Father and God the Son, and yet He is the person of the Trinity that we hear the least about.  We hear the least about Him because the Holy Spirit is not about promoting the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit points you to Jesus, your Savior; the Lamb of God sacrificed for you on the cross of Calvary.

            As a baptized child of God you are one Spirit with Jesus.  The Spirit dwells in you.  The breath of God gives you faith to know your sins are forgiven through Jesus.  You no longer belong to yourself.  You have been purchased and won by Christ.  You are in the Kingdom of God.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the breath of God.  “Spirit” in Hebrew is ruach; in Greek, pneumatos. Both these words mean spirit, wind; breath.  In English we have similar words with similar roots such as pneumatic or pneumonia which have to do with air or breath.  In our word, respiration, the root of the word is the same as spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the breath of God and the Holy Spirit dwells in you.  St. Paul explains this when warning against sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:17-20 (ESV) 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.[3]

As a baptized child of God you are one Spirit with Jesus.  The Spirit dwells in you.  The breath of God gives you faith to know your sins are forgiven through Jesus.  You no longer belong to yourself.  You have been purchased and won by Christ.  You are in the Kingdom of God.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

But the Holy Spirit’s presence is not something that you are even aware of most of the time.  It is sort of like breathing itself.  You don’t really notice that you are breathing unless you just ran up the stairs or have a stuffy nose some other breathing issue.  You have been born again in water and the Spirit and yet you don’t feel the Holy Spirit dwelling in you.  The spirit doesn’t shout out His existence.  You don’t know the Spirit is present, except by the result.  The Spirit is the breath of faith.  You can feel that when in the depths of darkness you remain in Christ.  You have faith.  You know Jesus is your Savior.  You know your sins are forgiven.

Ephesians 2:8 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…[4]   Faith can be a struggle because we are so tempted to want to make faith about us and something we can do.  We want it to be about our strength; our determination.  We want to tightly hold onto the gifts of God so that we can control them.  But it is all a gift.  You do not firmly grasp God’s gifts in your closed fist; rather you hold the gift of forgiveness, life and salvation in an open hand.

Through the Holy Spirit you have faith that Jesus is your savior.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Through the Holy Spirit you know that Jesus is Lord and that through Jesus you have access and knowledge of God the Father.  Jesus teaches in John 15:26-27 (ESV) 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.[5]

The disciples are given the task to bear witness about what they have seen.  This is clearly shown on the day of Pentecost.  On the day of Pentecost the Spirit comes in the wind and in tongues of flame, but what does the Spirit empower the disciples to do?  The Spirit empowers them to preach and teach about Christ crucified and risen from the dead for the forgiveness of sins.

On that Pentecost day when the disciples receive the Holy Spirit and begin preaching and teaching in many different languages there are those who speak against them.  “What is going on here?  What is this teaching in different languages?  What is all this talk about Jesus?  These men must be drunk.”  Peter denies this and preaches about Jesus.  Peter preaches repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  Acts 2:38-42 (ESV) 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.[6]

The work of the Holy Spirit in the Church does not fit into our rational categories in life.  There are many today who think that what Christians do is just foolishness. How ridiculous?  What a waste of time gathering together each week.  The pastor declares sins are forgiven, but what is that?  It is just words.  They splash some water on a baby’s head and think something happens; but it is just water; it is just words.  They eat a little cracker and take a sip of wine and think that makes everything okay with God; but it is just bread and wine; it is just words.

Without the Holy Spirit, Christianity is just foolishness.  1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.[7]  With the Holy Spirit, the truth of Christianity is the most important thing in all creation.  It is the source of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life with God.

Lately, there is a great temptation for the Church to give up on preaching Law and Gospel and instead try to meet people where they are; to adjust what we do to fit the “new realities.”  There is tremendous pressure to give up on the authority of the Word of God and to follow your feelings.  There is great pressure to conform to this new way, but this would have the Church cease to be the Church.  The Church trusts the Holy Spirit.

We trust the Holy Spirit to work.  We proclaim the word of the cross.  We continue the work of the apostles; preaching and teaching God’s law and God’s Gospel; confessing and forgiving, baptizing, and receiving the Lord’s Supper.

You have received the Spirit of God; in your baptism, and over and over again in God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper.  Your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit, the breath of God, dwells in you and gives you faith to know you are a forgiven child of God.  Hold these gifts in an open hand and live your identity in Christ. Amen.


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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