Who is the least of these my brothers?

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Last Sunday of the Church Year 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 22, 2020
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, 1 Cor. 15:20-28, Matthew 25:31-46

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

            As we get towards the end of the church year we have a number of Sundays focused on the end times when Jesus will return for judgment.  We have the parable of the wedding feast where you need to be clothed in the correct garment, the parable of the ten virgins where you need to be ready and stay ready, the parable of the talents where you need to fear, love and trust in God.  Directly after the parable of the talents we get Jesus’ last description of the final judgment in our Gospel reading today. 

            Matthew 25:31 (ESV) 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.[1]  This is what we learn about also in Revelation 4:2-4 (ESV) 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.[2]

            Jesus is giving us a picture of the judgment day when He sits on His throne.  It has been long held that on the 24 thrones are representatives of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles.  Jesus promises the 12 disciples in Matthew 19:28 (ESV) 28 …“Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.[3]

            Jesus is on His throne and… Matthew 25:32-33 (ESV) 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.[4] Why the separation?  Why are the sheep blessed and the goats cursed?

Matthew 25:34-36 (ESV) 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’[5]

            On its face it seems that Jesus is teaching that your eternal destiny is determined by how well you care for the hungry, the thirsting, the strangers, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.  Now, we absolutely should care for people in need.  The summary of the Ten Commandments is love God and love your neighbor.  But being judged on your care for others contradicts the Bible’s other teachings about salvation.  When we encounter a difficult passage where do we look for guidance?  We let scripture interpret scripture.  We look to clearer passages to clarify difficult passages.   

            In Ephesians 2:8-9 we learn (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.[6]  So if the parable of the sheep and the goats is not Jesus teaching that you will be judged on how well you cared for others, what is He teaching?  The answer is found in the identity of “one of the least of these my brothers.”  Matthew 25:40 (ESV) 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’[7] 

            Who is Jesus talking about as “one of the least of these my brothers.”  Nowhere in scripture does Jesus refer to needy people as His brothers.  In fact he is very specific in Matthew 12:46-50 (ESV) 46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” [8]  To the women at the tomb Jesus says, Matthew 28:10 (ESV) 10 …“Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” [9]

            In Matthew 10 Jesus tells the disciples, His brothers, “Whoever receives you receives me.”  In Matthew 25 He says “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” 

            Jesus refers to the disciples as his brothers.  In Jesus’ final words in the Gospel of Matthew we hear Him give instructions to these brothers.  Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.” [10]

            The twelve disciples are sent to make disciples of all nations.  At the judgment all nations will be gathered before the throne of God.  We get insight on the verses about the sheep and the goats from Matthew 10 where Jesus is sending His 12 disciples to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.  Jesus concludes his sending by telling His disciples… Matthew 10:40 (ESV)40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.[11]  

            In Matthew 10 Jesus tells the disciples, His brothers, “Whoever receives you receives me.”  In Matthew 25 He says “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” 

            Those who receive and care for the disciples bringing the Good News of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to all nations are the blessed sheep.  Those who reject those who preach and teach the Good News are the cursed goats.  Being a sheep is having faith in Jesus and supporting those who bring the Good News to you and to the world.  Feeding them.  Giving them something to drink.  Welcoming them.  Clothing them.  Caring for them when sick.  Visiting them in prison.

            In the early days of Christianity, after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, those who brought the Good News to all nations faced great hardship and danger.  Those first missionaries were beaten, whipped, imprisoned and even killed.  It still happens today in many places in the world.  Those who care for those bringing the Gospel are blessed by God.  They are the ones who hear the Good News and believe.  They provide food, drink, clothing, shelter, and care for the disciples. They are blessed by God for eternity because they are in Christ.

            Someone first taught you about Jesus.  There are those who taught you over the years and there are those who continue today to teach you about Jesus.  Care for those who bring the Gospel to your ears.

            You trace your faith back to the original 12 disciples bringing the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection to all nations.  Through many generations and continuing today the Good News is proclaimed by faithful preachers and teachers and missionaries.  Receive them and care for them.  You do it together.  You continue the mission of the first 12 followers of Jesus, to make disciples baptizing and teaching.  You get to see another beginning step again today (tomorrow) at the 11 AM Sunday service with the baptism of baby Robert Whitaker. 

Together you gather to hear the Good News of Jesus and receive His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins.  Together you care for your pastor and staff.  Together you support those in your school who bring the Good News of Jesus to 230 students and their families.  Together you care for those in need with food and finances.  Together you support missionaries bringing the Good News to all nations.  Together you support those preparing for full time church work.  Together you work to increase what you are doing so that you do as much as you can. Together you continue the work of making disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching and look forward to the day when, with all nations, you are placed on the right of the throne of God and Jesus will say, Matthew 25:34 (ESV) 34 … ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.[12] Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[10]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[11]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[12]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Two kinds of fear

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Pentecost 24 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 14, 15, 2020
Zephaniah 1:7-16, 1 Thess. 5:1-11, Matt. 25:14-30

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

            The first commandment is “You shall have no other Gods.” What does this mean?  Martin Luther’s explains in the Small Catechism, “You should, fear, love and trust in God above all things.”  Fear, love and trust in God above all things.  The explanation of the other nine commandments all begin, We should fear and love God so that…we obey God’s commands.  Fear, love and trust. 

            The parable of the talents is kind of a confusing story. What is Jesus trying to teach us? A talent here is an amount of money; a large amount of money.  One talent is worth about 20 years wages, so even one talent is a great sum maybe like $1,000,000 in today’s money.  The word talent here refers to money, but in English, talent means ability, which can be confusing.  In this parable there are three servants, but only two types of servants.  There are two “good and faithful” servants and there is one “wicked and slothful” servant. What is the difference?  The master gives each servant a huge sum of money; some more, some less, but still a lot of money to each servant.  Why are two good and faithful, and one wicked and slothful?  The good and faithful servants fear, love and trust their master.  The wicked and slothful servant fears and despises his master. 

What does it mean to fear God?  What kind of fear should we have of God?  Philip Melanchthon, a close associate to Martin Luther during the Reformation, made the distinction of servile fear and filial fear.  Servile fear would be the kind of fear a slave has for his master; filial fear is the kind of fear a child has for his father.  Those who reject Jesus are unforgiven and should be in servile fear of God.  They should be in terror of God’s righteousness and holiness.  If you reject Jesus’ forgiveness, you should be in terror of God’s wrath being poured out on you.

            This is the difference between the two kinds of servants in the parable today.  The first two fear their master with a filial fear; a fear filled with respect, awe, love and trust.  The third servant fears the master with a servile fear; a fear of punishment which causes him to be paralyzed in terror and to have no desire to serve his master.

            As a baptized child of God you do not need to be in terror of God.  Jesus has taken God’s wrath upon Himself and has given you His perfection and His holiness. As a baptized believer in Jesus you are a beloved child of God.  You should still fear God but in the way a child fears a good father.  A fear of respect and awe.  A fear based in love and trust.  A fear that makes you want to please God; want to serve and obey Him. Jesus tells us to look to God as Father and teaches us to pray, “Our Father.”  In the catechism Martin Luther explains, “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”

            This is the difference between the two kinds of servants in the parable today.  The first two fear their master with a filial fear; a fear filled with respect, awe, love and trust.  The third servant fears the master with a servile fear; a fear of punishment which causes him to be paralyzed in terror and to have no desire to serve his master.

            It is far too common for people to see God as a harsh, demanding taskmaster who is always threatening punishment and damnation. For these people the law becomes a great burden; a list of impossible demands.  God is viewed as a constant nag who relentlessly tells you that you are messing up and you will never be good enough.  There are so many that see God as a vicious tyrant with a sword on your neck telling you, “Behave, or else.”  God is too often perceived as a vindictive taskmaster, but this is wrong.  Jesus invites everyone…  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.” [1] 

            As a monk, Martin Luther was tormented by his sinfulness and fear of God’s judgment and wrath.  The Roman Church taught that you must confess every sin to the priest or it would not be forgiven and so Luther would spend hours in the confessional booth trying to recall and confess every sin.  He lived in constant terror of God’s judgment.  He would starve himself and beat himself with a whip to try to control his sinful impulses.  Churches gain power by presenting God this way.  It is easy to manipulate people who live in terror of God’s judgment.  “Do what I say, or else God is going to get you.”

            By reading the New Testament Luther discovered the sweet, sweet Good News that Jesus’ death and resurrection is full payment for your sins and that, in Christ, you are declared righteous because of what Jesus has done for you.  You are indeed a poor, miserable sinner.  You are indeed, by nature, sinful and unclean, but Jesus died for real sins and real sinners. Jesus died for you because He loves you. He loves you so much He drank the cup of God’s wrath down to the bitter dregs so that you are free from the wrath of God.  You are liberated from the terror of God’s judgment.  You live in fear, love and trust in God above all things because He is your beloved creator, redeemer and sanctifier.  You live to serve and obey God by loving and serving your neighbor. You take the good gifts that God has given you and you generously use them to love and serve your neighbor in your various vocations in life.  You take God’s gifts of forgiveness, eternal life and salvation and you multiply these gifts in the world.

            Now you will never do this perfectly this side of the Judgment Day because you are a natural born sinner and you are sorely tempted by the devil, the world and your own sinful flesh.  You are not perfect, but you are forgiven, and you live in filial fear of God.  You live in love and trust of God and on the day of resurrection Jesus will look at you and say, “Matthew 25:23 (ESV) 23 … ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’[2] 

            The tragic, wretched truth about life in this sinful world is that so many do not know the sweet, sweet Good News of freedom in Jesus. So many are still in bondage to sin and live in servile fear of God.  They live in terror of God.  They take God’s good gift of forgiveness, life and salvation and they bury it because they live in terror of God.  They are so afraid of doing something wrong that they just don’t do anything at all. Instead of fearing, loving and trusting God, they fear and despise God.  They fear and hate God because they see God as a demanding slave master who only wants to punish.  They try to make up ways to negotiate with God and earn His favor by their actions. They give up hope and despair or they rationalize and minimize their sin and become self-righteous.  It is so heartbreaking that so many are missing the truth that God is a God of love who loves you so much He paid the price for your sins. 

            In the Parable of the Talents the master starts off by entrusting his servants with huge sums of money.  The master obviously loves and trusts his servants.  God obviously loves and trusts you.  He entrusts you with forgiveness, eternal life and salvation. Knowing your sins are forgiven in Jesus you fear, love and trust God.  You treasure His commandments.  You use His gifts to love and serve others and you look forward to the day when the veil of this life is lifted and you are raised up to live in the presence of the Lamb of God forever.  Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Be wise. Stay ready.

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Pentecost 23 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 6, 2020
Amos 5:18-24, 1 Thess 4:13-18, Matthew 25:1-13

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

            The door to the kingdom of heaven is open.  Jesus is the door and He invites all people to come into the kingdom to await the wedding feast of the Lamb.  Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world and wants all people to be saved.  Jesus reaches out to sinners.  A bruised reed He will not break.  A smoldering wick He will not snuff out.  Jesus wants all to be saved.  He calls all to repent and believe the Good News that sins are forgiven in Jesus.  The door is open and all are welcome.

            The door is open and all are welcome, but there are a lot of people who are milling around outside the door ignoring the invitation to come in. There are those who say they will come through the door someday…when they are not so busy…when they are not so caught up in living life.  I had a young man at juvenile detention tell me once that he would probably become a Christian when he was old, maybe 40 or so, but for now he wanted to party and sleep around.  Jesus? Maybe later.   

            There are those who come through the door into the kingdom of heaven and live there for a while, but the busyness of life and the deceitfulness of wealth lure them back outside the door.  They were under the reign of the Lord Jesus but now they reject His rule.  They intellectually know the door is there and they have some sense they should probably be back in the kingdom of heaven, but life gets in the way.  They had faith, but they neglected it and lost it; other things became more important; other gods snuck in to replace the one true God.

            There are so many today living in a spiritual land of opportunity where you can believe a little of this and a little of that and kind of make up your own god who cheers you on, but does not cramp your style or curtail your sexual adventures.  Folks seem to want a weak god who pretty much does what they tell him to do. 

            The parable of the ten virgins is a harsh warning blasting into our lives today. It is the lion of Judah roaring to let us know He is not a passive kitten.  Jesus is not a weak god of our own design.  He is God Almighty.  Right now the door to the kingdom of heaven is open and the God of mercy and grace pours out His forgiveness on sinners.  Now the door is open, but the day is coming when the door will be closed.  The day is coming when God’s mercy and grace will cease. The day is coming when Jesus returns and there will be no more opportunity to believe the Good News that Jesus died for your sins.  When Jesus returns there will be only two categories.  You either believe or you do not.  You are saved or damned.  These stark categories make us uncomfortable.  We want there to be some gray area, some mushy middle where we can muddle our way through life not fully committing one way or the other, and then figure things out on the Last Day.  But there is no gray area, and if you wait until the Last Day it will be too late.

            When Jesus returns the door will be closed and there will be no second chances.  For the five foolish virgins who did not have enough oil there is no mercy.  While they are off trying to buy more oil the bridegroom arrives and goes into the marriage feast with those who are ready and the door is shut.  The five foolish virgins arrive late and find the door already closed.  They cry out, Matthew 25:11 (ESV) 11 … ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’[1] These are desperate people in desperate need crying out for help.  The answer they receive is chilling.  Matthew 25:12 (ESV) 12 … ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’[2]

            Jesus is giving us a hard teaching.  There will come a day when it will be too late to come into the kingdom of heaven.  When Jesus returns and those who reject Him see Him coming in power and glory, they will know they were wrong about Jesus, but it will be too late.  The wise know they need to be ready.  The foolish think they can get ready if necessary.  Jesus is warning you today, be wise.  Be ready, stay ready.  Stay connected to Jesus through His body on earth, the Church.  Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV) 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.[3]

            In the busyness of life it is very tempting to give up gathering together to receive the forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ words and through His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  It is too easy to let yourself be separated from the fountain of forgiveness that you receive in worship.  Just a skip week here and a week there and weeks become months, and soon you drift away from God through quiet neglect.  We can come up with all sorts of reasons why we cannot make it to church.  As you make excuses you need to honestly ask yourself where receiving Jesus’ forgiveness is on your list of priorities in life.  The devil wants nothing more than to separate you from Jesus and have you give up the wisdom of God and embrace the wisdom of the world. 

            In our Gospel reading there are those who are wise and those who are foolish. Be wise.  And what is wisdom?  Psalm 111:10 (ESV)  10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…

Now, during this time of pandemic there are those who need to continue to stay away from in-person worship for health reasons, but it is still important to remain connected as much as you can and return in person when you are able.  If possible, come to the family unit communion if you are not able to attend in person worship.  If health reasons prevent you from attending in person worship let me know and we can bring the Lord’s Supper to you.  Stay connected to Jesus.  Attend worship, receive the sacrament, read God’s Word.  In the end there will not be time to get ready for Jesus to return, you need to stay ready.

            Be wise.  Stay ready. Now I get to preach this to you all who are here; you have gathered today to receive God’s gifts in Jesus.  Abide in Christ, stay faithful, do not drift away from the Church.  Remain faithful until the day you fall asleep in Christ.  

            In our Gospel reading there are those who are wise and those who are foolish. Be wise.  And what is wisdom?  Psalm 111:10 (ESV)  10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…[4]

            Stay ready.  Reject the wisdom of the world seek the wisdom of God.  1 Corinthians 1:20-25 (ESV) 20 …Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.[5]

            The door to the kingdom of heaven is now open.  Shout it from the mountain top.  Let everyone know.  Now is the time to repent and believe Jesus died for your sins.  Now is the time to know there is forgiveness in Jesus.  Now is the time to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.  Now is the time to be ready and stay ready for Jesus to return.  Remain in Christ.  Stay ready. Be wise.  Amen.


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

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Three stages of the Kingdom of Heaven

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All Saints’ Day 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 1, 2020
Rev. 7:2-17, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12

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

            A few years ago to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary Jeannette and I planned a trip to a resort in the Dominican Republic.  It was fun and exciting to plan the trip and for almost a year we looked forward to the adventure of going to an all-inclusive Caribbean resort.  It was a great trip and once we were there the days flew by and too soon it was time to come home.  The trip only lasted a week, but knowing that you have vacation coming up is exciting as you plan and make reservations and think about where you are going and what you’re going to do.  The holiday is planned, and God willing you will get to go.  For the time being though, you still live your normal day to day existence but you do it with the anticipation of the upcoming vacation; you have something to look forward to. 

            As a Christian you have an eternal vacation coming.  The reservation has already been made, everything has been booked; it is a done deal.  All is prepared, but it is not time yet.  For now you still walk in the valley of the shadow of death.

            The day is coming when you will be free from all of the sorrows and struggles of this life and you will live in the perfect peace and holiness of Jesus’ presence in the heavenly city.  The day is coming when everything will be perfected.  Revelation 21:4 (ESV) 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”[1] That day is coming, but you don’t know when. 

            On this All Saints Day we remember those who have died in the faith.  Today I want to talk about the kingdom of heaven because there is a lot of confusion.  What is kingdom of heaven?  Where is it? How do I get there?  The kingdom of heaven is not so much a place as a reign, an authority.  The kingdom of heaven is God reigning, ruling, in Jesus.  John the Baptist and Jesus both preach the same sermon, Matthew 3:2 (ESV) 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”[2] Jesus is King, and He comes into the world to be the sacrificial Lamb of God who dies on the cross for the sins of the world and rises from the dead to conquer death forever.  Jesus is King who reigns in humble, sacrificial, suffering service.  Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.  It is near in Jesus.  Turn from sin and follow Jesus.

            The kingdom of heaven can be a bit puzzling for us because it has three stages; the Church Militant, the Church at Rest and the Church Triumphant.  For simplicity I will call them the kingdom of heaven stage one, two and three.  There is the kingdom of heaven stage one in which you currently live as a baptized follower of Jesus.  Matthew 5:3 (ESV) 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.[3] Theirs’ is the kingdom of heaven; present tense. You are marked and sealed by God in your baptism.  Just as the houses of the children of Israel were marked with the blood of the lamb so the angel of death passed over them in Egypt, you have been marked by the blood of the Lamb of God for salvation on the Last Day.  You are poor in spirit.  You know you are not good enough.  You know you cannot do it yourself.  You know you need Jesus and have nothing to offer Him in exchange for His forgiveness.  You are poor in spirit.  Matthew 5:3 (ESV) 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.[4]

In the kingdom of heaven stage one you live under the reign of God.  You pray God’s will be done in your life.  You are most familiar with this stage because it is your life.  It is a life of being right now marked by God for salvation; destined for eternal life in the heavenly City of New Jerusalem, and at the same time of not yet being there.  Life in kingdom of heaven stage one is an ongoing struggle against the devil, against the world and against your own sinful nature.  As someone who lives under the reign of Jesus in this broken world, you feel the struggle everyday as you battle against your own sinful desires in order to delight in God’s will and walk in His ways.  It is a life of contrition and repentance.  Kingdom of heaven stage one has the joy of forgiveness in Jesus, and the ongoing sorrow of living in a fallen world where there is death, mourning, crying, pain.  Kingdom of heaven stage one is now and not yetNow you are saved but you are not yet in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem.  In stage one, the Church Militant, You have been redeemed, but you are still fighting against the spiritual forces of evil in this world.  Ephesians 6:11 (ESV) 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.[5]  1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV) 58 … be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. [6] 

When you die, your body is buried in the ground and your spirit goes to be with the Lord to wait for the day of resurrection when body and spirit will be reunited.  In death you are asleep in Christ.  This is kingdom of heaven stage two; the Church at Rest. We don’t know very much at all about this time between physical death and the resurrection of the dead.  The cliché tombstone inscription of R.I.P. is actually pretty good.  Rest in peace until the Lord comes to raise you from the dead.  “In its narrow chamber keep, my body safe in peaceful sleep, until thy reappearing.” (LSB hymn 708).  Too often we are tempted to overstate what happens to our loved ones who have died in the Lord.  We want to transport them fully to after the day of resurrection when the perishable will put on the imperishable and the mortal will put on immortality and they will walk on the golden streets of the heavenly city.  That day will come, but it has not yet come.  Our loved ones who have died now rest in peace while the whole creation groans to be set free from the bondage to decay.  Your loved one is at peace, but there body is still buried and you still live with sin and sorrow and struggle.  You live with disease and death.  You still mourn the loss of your loved ones while they are asleep in Christ in the kingdom of heaven stage two.

When Jesus returns in glory on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead He will usher in kingdom of heaven stage three.  The Last Day will be the First Day of eternal life in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem. The dead will be raised, the earth will be destroyed and restored, and then there will be…Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV) 1 … a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”[7]

The kingdom of heaven stage three is…1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (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?”[8]  On that day the dead in Christ will rise and death will be defeated forever.  On that day those who have rejected Jesus will be raised up and judged based on their own actions in this life while those in Christ; those covered by the robe of Jesus’ righteousness, will be raised up and judged based on Jesus’ perfection. On that day, as a baptized believer in Jesus, you will be part of the Church Triumphant, a… Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV) 9 … great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”[9]  On that day the dead in Christ will rise with imperishable, immortal, perfected bodies to live forever with Jesus.

            On that day the future tense blessings of the beatitudes from our Gospel reading will be fully realized in the kingdom of heaven stage three.  The mourning will be comforted.  The meek will inherit the earth.  Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.  The merciful will receive mercy.  The pure in heart will see God.  The peacemakers will be called the sons of God.  The persecuted will be rewarded. 

            That day is coming, but has not yet come, when evil will be altogether destroyed, and you and all the saints in Christ will go marching into the Heavenly City through the gates of pearl where you will live in the peace and presence of God forever.  That day is coming and so through these difficult days of the kingdom of heaven stage one, you can live with the certain knowledge that better days are coming. The struggle is easier when you know that this world is not forever.  The day is coming when you will get an eternal holiday; a permanent vacation from sin, evil and death.  Knowing you have an everlasting home in heaven strengthens you today to remain steadfast and faithful and fight the good fight. 

You have been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection and into the kingdom of heaven.  You are marked and sealed to live under the reign of Jesus.  You are destined to live in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem 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

Jesus isn’t who you think He is.

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Reformation Day 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 24, 25, 2020
Revelation 14:6-7, Romans 3:19-28, Matthew 11:12-19

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

            If God is really God why does He allow so much evil?  Why is there war?  Why is there human trafficking?  Why do people abuse children?  Why do people harm themselves?  Why is there sickness and disability and dementia and death?  Why is there abortion?  Why is there murder, rape, and robbery?  Why is there poverty?  Why are so many politicians so corrupt, making themselves wealthy instead of serving the people?  Why is there so much evil in the world?  You know there is a loving God who created this world and yet you look around and think, “Things don’t look right.”

            This is what John the Baptist and his disciples are thinking just prior to our Gospel reading today as John is languishing in Herod’s prison.  He must be thinking, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness.  I am a prophet of God.  I am the one preparing the way for Jesus, and yet here I sit in the darkness of this prison. “Things don’t look right.”

            John’s disciples go to Jesus to question what is going on. Matthew 11:3 (ESV)
3 … “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”[1] They are really saying to Jesus, “If you really are the Messiah, why is John still in prison.”

            Matthew 11:4-6 (ESV) 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”[2]

            Jesus is offensive because He does not meet the people’s expectations.  Proof of Jesus’ identity is not found in earthly power and glory, but it is found in the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, the dead and the poor.  Jesus commends John the Baptist as more than a prophet, but what does it mean to be great in the reign of God?  Matthew 11:11 (ESV) 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.[3]

            Later, when the disciples are arguing about which of them is the greatest Jesus teaches about true greatness, Matthew 18:3-4 (ESV) 3 … “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.[4]

            The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven is the one who knows he has nothing to offer.  Matthew 5:3 (ESV) 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.[5] Children…the blind…the lame…the deaf…the dead…the poor…these are the greatest.  This doesn’t look right.  What kind of greatness is this?

            And then we come to our Gospel reading today.  Matthew 11:12 (ESV) 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.[6]

            John has been arrested and imprisoned and will soon have his head cut off because he spoke God’s truth about marriage and adultery to Herod Antipas. Jesus will also soon be arrested and whipped and mocked and crucified.  There is violent opposition to the kingdom of heaven.  Ten of Jesus’ remaining eleven disciples will meet violent deaths because they preach and teach about His life, death and resurrection. Jesus is God in flesh, He is the King of the universe, and yet He and His people suffer violence.  Things don’t look right.

            People violently attacked Jesus, so it should come as no surprise to us today that there are many influential people that hate anyone who believes the Bible is authoritative and true.  They want to relegate us to the fringes of society labeled as ignorant extremists.  It should be no surprise when violence is used to try to silence the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  There are certainly many places in the world today where confessing Jesus is Lord will get you beaten, imprisoned or killed, lately especially in Nigeria.

            In this environment of violent opposition, Jesus talks about how the people are indifferent and inconsistent in what they are looking for in a messiah.  The people want a savior of their own design and they are disappointed when Jesus does not fulfil their desires and dance to their tune.  Matthew 11:16-19 (ESV) 16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 17 “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ …” [7] 

            Jesus and John do not meet the peoples’ expectations.  They are not doing what the people think they should be doing.  John is too harsh, Jesus is too loose.  John dresses funny and lives in the desert, Jesus hangs around with low-life sinners. The next line in the ESV Bible is Matthew 11:19 (ESV) 19 Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” [8]  A better, more natural translation is, “And so Wisdom was declared innocent of her own works.”  The people are familiar with the Wisdom of God but they assume God’s ways are the same as their ways.  What they cannot accept is that the Wisdom of God has sent John the Baptist and Jesus to do what they have been doing.  The people don’t like what they see.  They reject John and Jesus.  They want something different. 

The Emperor and the Pope wanted to burn Luther at the stake because He dared to teach that Jesus freely forgives sins.  Violence tried to snuff out the truth of the Gospel.

            It is an all too common thing for people to reject Jesus because He does not meet their expectations.  Today is Reformation Sunday when we remember that on the eve of All Saint’s Day in 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church, the Castle Church, in Wittenberg Germany to protest the sale of indulgences.  Luther wanted to get back to scripture alone and stop the abuse of faithful Christians by those who did not accept the Jesus of the Bible who freely forgives sins. The Roman church rejected the free grace of God in Jesus and instead worked out schemes to raise huge amounts of money by selling forgiveness certificates.  The leaders’ lavish lifestyles and the exquisite buildings of the Roman Catholic Church required a great deal of money and Luther was getting in the way of collecting from German peasants. 

            Luther was bold in challenging the authority of Pope Leo X, and he was found guilty of heresy and sentenced to death.  He became a wanted man, dead or alive.  The Emperor and the Pope wanted to burn Luther at the stake because He dared to teach that Jesus freely forgives sins.  Violence tried to snuff out the truth of the Gospel.

            Violence is used against the reign of heaven in many places but another more subtle enemy of the Kingdom of Heaven is your rebellious desire for a Jesus to meet your own expectations.  So many people want a Jesus to make all things look right, right now. They want a Jesus to do what they want Him to do and teach what they want Him to teach.  There is a great temptation to dismiss the real Jesus and create a false Jesus will do what you want.

            We live together in fellowship with Jesus in this world where we look around and say, “Things don’t look right.”  We look at our own lives and say, “things don’t look right.” We know things don’t look right and so we are baptized into the kingdom of heaven.  We gather together to confess our sins and receive absolution.  Together we hear the truth of God’s Word and receive Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.  Forgiven, we live together in weakness and lowliness in a world that doesn’t look right and look forward to the last days when Jesus will return in power and glory and destroy evil forever and makes things forever right. Come, Lord Jesus.  Thy Kingdom come.  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

Missing the truth standing in front of you

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Pentecost 20 2020 Proper 24
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 17, 18, 2020

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

            I pay federal tax, state tax, city tax, self-employment tax, real estate tax, sales tax and a tax on every gallon of gasoline. 

Recently there was a viral video going around on social media of a teenage boy excitedly opening the envelope containing his first paycheck.  The excitement turns to frustration and anger when he sees what is left after taxes.  His older brother helpfully tells him, “Welcome to the world.”  I haven’t met too many folks that like taxes. 

Now, taxes are necessary.  And in this nation taxes are sort of our own fault since we tax ourselves by voting for levies and voting for the people who write and administer the tax code.  We really don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves.

The people in Jesus’ time do not get to vote. Taxes are imposed on them by the Roman Empire and the local authorities.  The people have no say; they pay what Caesar tells them to pay, and probably more due to dishonest tax collectors.  There is a deep, ongoing tension between the Jewish people and their Roman overlords who enforce the laws through local, so-called Jewish kings and Roman governors. 

In our Gospel reading today it is shortly after Jesus’ triumphantly entered Jerusalem to the shouts of the crowd and cleared the Temple.  The Pharisees are working hard to nail Jesus down with His own words so that He will be caught up in the political abyss between the Jewish people and the Roman authorities and be discredited.  The Pharisees recruit their political enemies the Herodians who were in favor of the Romans to help trap Jesus in His words.  Such much political intrigue.  So much tension.  So much trying to get Jesus to condemn Himself.  The Pharisees have crafted a carefully prepared trap.  Matthew 22:17 (ESV) 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”[1]

            Over the years a lot of words have been spoken and a lot of ink has been spilled discussing what Jesus meant by “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”  We hear that Jesus is teaching that we should pay taxes to the government as if this is the main point of Matthew’s account of this confrontation. 

            Oh, those wily Pharisees, they’ve got Jesus right where they want Him. They are going to nail Him down on this question and that will be the end of Jesus.  But Jesus knows what they are doing.  Matthew 22:18 (ESV) 18 … “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?[2]

The Pharisees are hypocrites because they themselves wouldn’t answer that same question out of fear of angering the Jewish people or the Roman authorities.  Jesus quickly dismantles their argument by having them show him a coin with Caesar’s picture on it.  Matthew 22:21 (ESV) 21 … “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”[3]

            Over the years a lot of words have been spoken and a lot of ink has been spilled discussing what Jesus meant by “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”  We hear that Jesus is teaching that we should pay taxes to the government as if this is the main point of Matthew’s account of this confrontation. 

            But, this is not a sermon from Jesus about paying taxes; this is only Jesus disarming the trap set by the Pharisees and Herodians to nail Jesus down with His own words.  The important words here are “render to God the things that are Gods.”  Pay to God; give to God, the things that are God’s. 

            So what belongs to God?  This is a big, scary question.  What belongs to God?  This is a question that we really do not want to answer because the answer is overwhelming. Give to God the things that are God’s.

            Well, maybe it is just ten percent?  Ten percent of your money should be given to God?  Ten percent is a lot.  That’s a car payment.  Is Jesus telling you to give ten percent of your money to God?  Maybe He means ten percent of your time?  If you have a 40 hour work week then ten percent would be four hours a week.  Is Jesus saying to give four hours a week to God?

            Render to God the things that are God’s.  What belongs to God?  Not ten percent…100 percent.  Everything belongs to God.  God created the world in six days and set in motion the ongoing creation that created you and all that you have.  Give to God the things that are God’s.  Your entire life…all your money…all your possessions…all your time…it all belongs to God. 

            Jesus is teaching that you should listen to the words of John the Baptist as he prepared the way for Jesus.  Matthew 3:2 (ESV) 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”[4] Repent because Jesus is King. Repent because Jesus is in charge. Repent because Jesus is God incarnate; God in flesh.  Repent. Turn away from the influences of the devil, the world and your own sinful nature and be fully dedicated to God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Now, this does not mean that you should give away everything you own and run off to a monastery.  It does mean that you should live your life doing what you are supposed to be doing; loving God, and loving and serving your neighbor in whatever vocations that you have; parent, child, grandparent, employer, employee, student, teacher, citizen, pastor, parishioner, neighbor.  It means cutting out sinful behaviors from your life no matter how much it hurts.  It means using your money to serve and love those you have been given to serve and love, and finding ways to love and serve others.  It means that you do not get a partition off a part your life or your money that you can use for selfish indulgence and evil.  Everything belongs to God. 

            These idiot Pharisees are all worried protecting their political power and influence; they are so worried about making money from the Jewish people; they are so worried about the day to day political intricacies of life.  They are even using their enemies, the Herodians, to try to pull Jesus into a dispute about taxes, but they are missing the infinite, divine truth standing right there in front of them.  Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.  God, the King of the universe is standing right in front of them and they are missing it because they are so busy with their own stuff. They hear but do not understand. They see but do not perceive.  The Pharisees are so caught up in the politics that they miss out on Jesus’ identity.

            How many people today are like those idiot Pharisees missing the giant truth that Jesus is God?  In all the craziness of the world it is so easy to let the worries of day to day life blind you to the truth of Jesus.  Like the Pharisees so many do not understand who Jesus is but instead just want to manipulate Jesus in order to make Him say what they want.  So many reject the truth that Jesus is King. 

With the current 24 hour news cycle and ever present social media it is tempting to get so caught up in politics that you can start to believe that politicians are your savior.  This is especially true during the election season. Now, if you are a citizen you have a duty to stay informed and to vote, and as a Christian your duty is to vote in a way that loves and serves your neighbor.  You vote in a way that protects the vulnerable and weak.  You vote in a way that protects innocent life from those who would snuff it out.  You vote for taxes that are good for your neighbor.  Elections are important, but not eternally important. No matter who wins an election God is still God.  Jesus is still King and that is infinitely more important than who has temporary political power.

            Jesus has come to Jerusalem and is confronting the Pharisees and they are fighting back and are trying to nail Jesus down on a question of taxes but Jesus does not allow it.  Jesus does allow Himself to be nailed down on Friday morning.  The Jewish and Roman authorities team up to arrest Jesus. Beat Him.  Mock Him.  Flog Him. Crown Him with thorns and parade Him through the streets to the place of the skull where they nail Jesus down to a cross and lift Him up to suffer and slowly die in utter humiliation.  Jesus allows Himself to be the sacrifice for sin; your sin, my sin, the sin of the whole world.  Wearing a crown, Jesus allows Himself to be crucified to redeem you under a sign that announces to all that He is the King of the Jews.  Three days later He victoriously rises from the dead to conquer sin, death and hell forever.

            Jesus is King.  Jesus reigns; He rules.  Your whole being and everything you have belongs to Jesus.  Render to God the things that are God’s.  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

Why are some saved but others not.

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Pentecost 19 2020, Proper 23
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 11, 2020
Isaiah 25:6-9, Philippians 4:4-13, Matthew 22:1-14

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

            Matthew 22:14 (ESV) 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” [1]  This is the Gospel of the Lord??  Gospel means Good News and yet this does not sound like good news.  This sounds like a dire warning, which it is.  Today’s Gospel reading is a warning to the Jewish religious leaders and the people of Jesus’ time and the warning is still there for us today.  Many are called, but few are chosen.  You are left to wonder, “What about me?  Am I one of the chosen?”

This is an issue about God’s election of people to salvation and it begs the question, “Why are some saved and others not?” This question is called the Crux Theologorum, which is Latin for the cross of the theologian.  It is an impossibly difficult question.

            These three things are true about salvation.  First, Jesus died for the sins of all people therefore there is universal grace. Second, You are saved by grace alone. Third, Hell is real and people will go there.  We know from the Bible that these things are all true and yet it seems they contradict each other.  It does not make sense and we like things to make sense, and so some folks, in order to try to solve the Crux Theologorum, will just pick two of the three.

            Calvinists reject universal grace.  They teach that we are saved by grace alone, but they teach that Jesus died only for the elect, not for all people.  They teach that those whom God does not elect will go to hell.

            Synergists hold that salvation involves some sort of cooperation between God’s grace and our human freedom.  This is what Martin Luther rebelled against in the Roman Catholic Church and it is also present in many churches today that teach decision theology.  Synergists believe in universal grace; that Jesus died for all people, but they reject that you are saved by God’s grace alone.  They believe that people are saved partly because they have made a decision for Jesus, or because they have done the right good works.

            Many liberal churches, including many liberal Lutherans, reject hell.  They believe that Jesus died for all and we are saved by grace, but that no one is condemned.  They are becoming universalists.

            In order to make God make sense, Calvinists reject universal grace, synergists reject grace alone, liberal theologians reject hell.  We so much want to make God make sense, but we cannot. We do not get to change God’s teachings to fit our rationalizations.  God’s ways are not our ways. 

All three of these teachings are true even though it does not make sense to us.  Jesus died for all people.  You are saved by grace alone.  Hell is real and some people are going there.  The Bible teaches all three are true and we do not get to change the Bible’s teachings. 

            Why are some saved and others are not?  Calvinists say it is God’s choice to save some and condemn others. Synergists say that it is man’s choice to be saved or not.  Universalists teach that all are saved.  The Bible teaches, and Bible-believing Lutherans teach, that God saves and man condemns.  God chooses to save you.  People choose to condemn themselves by rejecting God’s grace; by rejecting Jesus as the Savior from sin.  So the Lutheran answer to the question, “Why are some saved but others not?” is an unsatisfying, “We don’t know.  God does not tell us.”

            The Gospel reading today is difficult.  In the first part Jesus is teaching against the religious leaders who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, but they are not interested.  They reject the Father and the Son and because of that they are destroyed.

            Then the king invites everyone to His Son’s wedding feast, both the good and the bad, and the wedding hall is filled with guests.  But one guest is not wearing a wedding garment and is speechless when asked how he got in.  That man is tied up and thrown into the outer darkness.  For many are called, but few are chosen.

            What does it mean to be “not worthy”?  What does it mean to not have the wedding garment?  The parable teaches that to be “not worthy” is to dishonor and reject the king and the wedding feast for his son.  This parable is about Jesus.  To be “not worthy” is to oppose, hate and seek to destroy God’s Son.  To not have a wedding garment is to reject Jesus and His forgiveness. 

            This parable is disturbing because it shows that God is indeed Almighty God and you are not.  God is in charge and God will judge those that reject Jesus.  The king destroys those people and their cities are burned.  God is also judgmental towards the man not wearing the wedding garment.  But, what is this wedding garment?  What does it mean to not have the wedding garment?  This man is thrown into hell and you ask yourself, “Could this be me?”

            What does it mean to be “not worthy”?  What does it mean to not have the wedding garment?  The parable teaches that to be “not worthy” is to dishonor and reject the king and the wedding feast for his son.  This parable is about Jesus.  To be “not worthy” is to oppose, hate and seek to destroy God’s Son.  To not have a wedding garment is to reject Jesus and His forgiveness. 

            Today is confirmation day for two of our young ladies at the 9:30 AM service. Confirmation is an opportunity for the young people to declare for themselves what was said for them at their baptism; that they renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways. That they believe in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

            They also will confess they believe the Bible to be faithful and true and they will promise to remain a faithful followers of Jesus for the rest of their lives. One question is: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” 

            Over the years I have presided over the confirmation of many young people. They each answered this question, “I do, by the grace of God.”  Sadly, for some of those young people, it was the last time I ever saw them at church.

            Now, I cannot know their faith.  But I fear that long term, voluntary separation from God’s Word and His Sacrament of Holy Communion can lead you to reject Jesus.  We all need Jesus and yet so many people live as if Jesus’ forgiveness is not essential; as if Jesus is an occasional accessory of life, but not necessary.  This parable is a warning about the spiritual dangers lurking that can harden your heart and slowly draw you away from a life of honoring the Son.  The Bible is full of these warnings.  1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.[2]  Matthew 13:22 (ESV) 22 As for [the seed that] 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.[3]

            Many are called, but few are chosen.  How do you know if you have been chosen?  You know you have been chosen because God has called you by name and you have been born again in water and the Spirit.  God has marked you as His own and made a promise to you in your baptism.  You have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross for your sins.  You hear the Good News of God’s mercy and grace in Jesus.  You receive Jesus’ Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins. 

            The confirmands today are wearing white robes, often at baptism babies are clothed in white, at a funeral the casket is covered in a white pall.  What do these symbolize?  They are a picture of the white robe of Jesus’ righteousness that covers over all your sin.  You need the robe of Jesus’ righteousness because there is no robe of your own righteousness.  You cannot make yourself right with God.  You cannot do it on your own.  You need Jesus and you have Jesus. 

            God has chosen you in your baptism to be His own child. He has given you a place at the wedding feast of the Lamb.  It is yours. You are in Christ.  You wear the robe of Jesus’ righteousness.  You know you need Jesus.  You know you need His forgiveness.  Resist the devil with his lies and accusations.  James 4:7 (ESV) 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.[4] 

Stay connected to Jesus and His Body the Church.  Remain in Christ.  Remember your baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Gather together in person or online, if necessary, to hear the Words of God’s forgiveness.  Receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  Live life as a forgiven child of God.  You have faith in Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Son.

            You are the chosen one of God. Amen. 


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

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

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

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

The rejected stone

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Pentecost 18, 2020 Proper 22
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Hilbert Kamps 
Oct. 4, 2020
Isaiah 5:1-7, Phil. 3:4b-14, Matt. 21:33-46

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

            It was early in the morning. Just the day before, Jesus had turned over the tables at the temple, as He drove out all who were buying and selling in the  temple area. He then went to Bethany where He spent the night, likely with Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary. We can’t be sure, but He may have gotten up very early seeking not to disturb His hosts.  Matthew tells us that Jesus was hungry. Did He get up early and slip out so that Martha and Mary would not need to make Him breakfast?

            In any event, it is on His trip from Bethany back to Jerusalem that Jesus will curse

the tree which had nothing but leaves to offer His hunger. Now you talk about being bold! Jesus not only goes back to Jerusalem, but to the temple where He had created such a stir with the whips, tables, and such. Immediately He is met by the chief priests and  the elders of the people who demand to  know by what authority He is doing these things.                                  He sets up a situation where He forces the Jewish authorities  to back down  or  get  in trouble with the people over John the Baptizer’s ministry. Then He begins a  series of parables, the first of this series we had last Sunday. Today our Lord speaks of the Landowner, vineyard, evil tenants, righteous servants and Son, and the stone rejected by the builders.

As the Lord Jesus talks about a vineyard, all of the Jewish leaderswould immediately start thinking of Isaiah 5. The prophet Isaiah was inspired to speak of Israel as a “vine,” tenderly cared for by God, and yet it produced no fruit.  Let’s just stop here for a moment and consider…. The disciples had just that morning watched how the Lord responded to fruitlessness: He curses it! As Jesus started this parable of the vineyard, just picture it…….. the disciples looking around at each other with knowing looks and nods… they knew that something really big was being said…. They knew that the Jewish leaders had no idea what they were up against in Jesus…. the Son of the Living God.

            The vineyard described by Isaiah was not only fruitless, it produced in its place

injustice and bloodshed. Therefore, just as Jesus cursedthe fruitless tree,so God curses fruitless Israel by removing its protection and stopping the blessings of rain and strength to the ground.

            Here we see a spiritual principle at work, one that we see over and over again in the

Book of Judges. God will not bless a godless land. He will  not favor a nation which practices injustice and takes innocent human  life. Such a nation God will not protect, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!”Hebrews 10:31

            Dear people of God, how about our own nation? How much security in God’s favor do you think that our nation can expect……. when Planned  Parenthood can legally kill innocent, preborn human life? Or when our streets are running red with blood coming from the nations ‘thin blue line’ of those whose job it is to protect us? Do you feel safe from our enemies when the institutions of law tell us that   (Isaiah 5:20 (ESV) 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, …[1])  evil is good, and good is evil, and seeks to  silence us when we dare to speak-out against sin on the  street  and human vice in the  public square?  God tended to our nation when it was formed as an infant, blessing it with very Godly, Christian leaders. In our Lord’s words today, God’s care for Israel is suggested by the meaning of the parable itself. When God cared for ancient Israel, He took care of all the details. There were very precise horticultural procedures involved in caring for a vineyard.

The hedge was carefully measured and trimmed. There were measurements for the trenches, the voids spaces, and the size of the winepress.  Careful descriptions outlined how to prune the vines, including directions on where and where not to plant vines.

            Ancient authorities even noted which were the best, and the worst, varieties of vines to plant or not plant. A lot of care went into the vineyard, even as God so carefully tended to His dear people, Israel. But….what did God get for all His loving care?

Injustice! Unrighteousness!  Bloodshed!  Shouts of disobedience! God could have cursed Israel to death even as our Lord cursed the barren tree, but no! Israel was not merely some sort of a thing to God. Israel embodied the children of God. God wanted the vineyard to prosper!                                       So He sent the prophets to His servants.

They beat one…..killed another….. stonedanother…..

BEAT ONE- figurative of any number of the early prophets who were faithful, but when the people received them, sometimes it was with a whipping.

            KILLED ANOTHER- Amos is believed to have been killed by the use of a club.

Isaiah’s martyrdom took place under the evil king Manasseh who sawed the prophet in two.

            STONED ANOTHER- Tradition says that Jeremiah was killed by stoning.

            As Jesus spins out the parable, the priests and people are beginning to recognize that they are the tenants who persecuted the past prophets of God. They know that the Nazerene has claimed to be the Son of God… and in several passages from the Bible we are told that they want to stone Jesus for that claim!

            Jesus continues with His parable as He turns their attention to the Son of the

Vineyard. Mark’s Gospel points to the “son’s” preexistence when Mark writes, “He  had still one other, a beloved son.Mark 12:6 God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son

There is something unreal about the story Jesus tells in the parable. How likely is it, that a man whose servants have been mistreated and killed by his tenants will then send his beloved son to try to collect his share of the harvest? But this unreal story illustrates the incredible patience of God. It is truly mind-boggling that God would send His Son into the world after He had seen how his people treated the prophets.

To our ears it also sounds unreal that the tenants who  murdered the son should expect to take possession of his inheritance…… especially while  his father, the vineyard owner, is still alive.  But selfish ambition and  greed all too often and all too easily cause us   to forget God’s presence.

            Did the tenants- the rulers of Israel- recognize that Jesus was the Son of God? The suggestion here is that they DID! So why did they crucify Him? Why do people continue to crucify Christ today through their sins that put Him on the cross! 

            Many today don’t want the King’s Son! They don’t want the Lord of Life to be the lord of their lives! We continue to live in a public square where the wants of the individual are valued to the exclusion of moral decency and justice. An increasing number of our leaders want Jesus and His followers out of the way, so that they can build America according to a godless standard.

            With many lies, and then even more lies, they failed in their attempts to ruin Brett Kavanaugh: as being morally unfit.  Now, they are determined to try and argue an opposite accusation. They also will most certainly fail in their efforts to paint Amy Coney Barrett as too dogmatic in her Christian faith to claim her rightful seat as a Supreme Court Justice.

            Some weeks ago in my sermon to you folks, I mentioned  the New York Times 1619 project. The project appears to be another attempt to reframe our countries history while at the same time making jabs at Christianity.

As I said then; this has become Public School Curriculum in thousands of school districts across  our country.  I got good  news last week from my daughter, who teaches 7th  & 8th grades in Central WI.; and has become my sleuth on the 1619 project. As of last Saturday anyway, she had heard absolutely  nothing  regarding this foolishness.  I told her to prepare by utilizing Bob Woodson’s 1776 project information instead. Woodson says….”(The 1619 Project) is a very corrosive and very dangerous challenge to the nation and her founding principles;” while, “1776 Unites is an aspirational and inspirational alternative to this diabolical message.”

            People of God, you know as well as I do, that it is not justthe Liberals of Washington DC; or just the Public Schools that are working 24/7 to erode Christianity. And it didn’t just start with my generation back in the 60’s. The Son of God is daily being rejected by our culture. By any secular standard, Jesus is the dominant figure of Western culture. Like much of what we now think of as Western ideas, inventions and values finds its source or inspiration in the religion that worships God in his name. Art and science, the self and society, politics and economics, marriage and the family, right and wrong, body and soul- all have been touched and often radically transformed by Christian influence.”

            Like the Jewish leaders standing before Jesus as he told this parable, a growing

number of our leaders want to get Christ out of the way. Note that our nation’s leaders are permitting all religious art and icons that speak of our Christian heritage to be systematically removed from our public buildings- get Christ out of the way!

            Jesus knew that then, and always, the multitudes with its leaders, would reject Him and His claim over the totality of their lives within the vineyard- God’s creation. He is the stone rejected!

            There was a tradition well known at the time of Christ that speaks about the building of the second temple. According to this tradition, a stone was brought to the builders and sent back again and again, until finally it was discovered to fit perfectly in the corner.

            The servants of Jesus in the Old Testament were rejected…. Jesus was rejected… Jesus is rejected today…. the servants of Jesus are rejected today… The Bible says that as the end of time draws close, the majority of people will reject Jesus as they also persecute His followers.

            But, not all…. there are many people today who have come to faith in Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit has moved year after year through the Word and through the Sacraments. Yes, you have suffered rejections… yes, you may suffer worse in the future….But one thing the enemies of Christ cannot do is to remove how perfectly God fits you into His eternal plan and Kingdom. Jesus, you see, is the cornerstone that knits us all together- so we are told by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. Eph. 2:19-22

            Jesus is the Servant King who came into the vineyard of this world, suffered and died for our sin, and then rose bodily from the grave so that He could prepare a place for us in heaven. May the Living Lord continue to inspire each of us not to push Him out of our lives, but to receive Him and all  His  benefits, so that we might have forgiveness of  sins, joy, life and salvation.

            For YOU, the workman of God, the way may be hard in this world. Never forget,

however, that what we are building will outlast the sands of time. To God in Christ Jesus be the glory and the honor and the dominion now and forever! Amen.


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

No if…then for Christians

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Pentecost 17 2020 Proper 21A
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
September 26, 27, 2020
Ezekiel 18:1–4, 25–32, Philippians 2:1–18, Matthew 21:23–27

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

            I was in high school in the early 1980s and computers were just starting to become more main stream.  When I was a freshman, the computer lab was still using punch cards for memory, but by my senior year we had the black 5-1/4 inch floppy drives that could hold 360 kilobytes of data.  I think I would only need 355,000 of these discs to equal the storage capacity of the tiny micro sd card in my phone.

            The personal computer was just dawning on the scene and if you took a computer class in school you were taught basic programming using the computer language called BASIC (Beginners’ All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code).  In learning to write simple programs, one of the fundamental lines of code was the “if…then…else” statement. 

IF number<0 THEN

  PRINT “Number is negative”

ELSEIF number>0 THEN

  PRINT “Number is positive”

ELSE

  PRINT “Number is zero”

END IF

            If…then analysis is also used all the time in things having nothing to do with computers.  Playing games, especially a game like chess, you have think, if I do this then they will do that, else this other thing with happen.  Many times each day you use if…then…else to make calculated responses to things happening in life. 

            We see if…then analysis in politics all the time.  A candidate is asked, “What do you think about black lives matter?”  The three words are not controversial, but if I say I am in favor then they may think I support the Black Lives Matter organization with its fairly radical agenda.  Politicians, it seems, don’t just tell you what they believe, instead they filter everything through thinking about how this could be used against them.  What do they actually believe?  It’s hard to know.  Are they telling the truth, or just saying what they think certain people want to hear.

            You would think that the Jewish religious leaders at Jesus’ time would be concerned about God; about sin and forgiveness, but the chief priests and the elders of the people at Jesus’ time are basically just politicians trying to balance the demands of the Roman authorities with the desires of the Jewish people.  There is a fine balance that the religious leaders try to maintain so they can remain in their places of prominence and continue to line their own pockets with money.  

Jesus, this radical preacher from Galilee, has come to Jerusalem and is stirring up trouble. He is messing up the good thing the religious leaders have going.  He almost caused a riot at the temple as He went around driving out animals for sale and flipping over tables covered with coins.  The chief priests and elders want to get rid of Jesus and so they attack Him by questioning His authority.  Matthew 21:23 (ESV) 23 And when [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”[1]

            Who told you that you could do this?  Where do you come from?  Who do you think you are?  If Jesus says He has human authority the chief priests and scribes have more authority. If Jesus says He has authority from God they will charge Him with blasphemy.  Jesus knows it is a trap, so He turns the question around on them.  Matthew 21:24-25 (ESV) 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” [2] …Now the chief priests and scribes are faced with an if…then analysis.  They don’t just answer the question and say what they believe, instead they consider their answer and what effect it might have.  … Matthew 21:25-26 (ESV) 25 … And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”[3] 

            The chief priests and the scribes are not worried about the truth, they are not worried about God, or sin and forgiveness.  They are worried about the political and social effects of what they say.  They are all about the if…then analysis of what they say.  They want to make the proper, calculated response. 

            As a Christian you are called to confess the truth regardless of the results and yet there are so many who call themselves Christians who are not concerned with God, sin and forgiveness, but rather with saying the right things so that no one is offended.  Entire church bodies are willing to give up on the truth of the Bible so that they can get along with the cultural elites.  When confronted with questions that might offend, they do an if…then analysis in order to make a calculated response to please others. 

            Is Jesus really God in flesh?

Is Jesus the only way to heaven?

            Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

            What is God’s plan for marriage?

            Is the Bible really true?

            Is Hell real?  Are people really going to go there?

            When confronted with these questions you are tempted to do the if…then analysis.  You are tempted to calculate your response in order to please others and fit in.  You are tempted to conform to the world and reject Jesus.  Resist the temptation.  Confess the truth.  Jesus is God in flesh.  Jesus is the only way to heaven.  Jesus did rise from the dead.  God’s plan for marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman.  The Bible is true and reliable.  Hell is real and people are choosing to go there by rejecting Jesus and His forgiveness. 

  Sinners rejoice at this good news.  Sinners know they are sinners who deserve death and Hell, but the Good News of the Bible is that Jesus came to save sinners.  

            Confess the truth of God and be honest about who you are in Christ.  It is easy for Christians to start to believe that they are better than others.  This is why we begin worship with the confession of sins.  You are, by nature, sinful and unclean.  Christians are not better; just forgiven.  Forgiveness is not something you earn, but is purely gift from Jesus to you. Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, life and salvation to you is the full gift that is given to all people who believe, not more to some and less to others.  Before God we are all equal.  We are all sinners needing forgiveness and Jesus pours out His forgiveness in His Word, in Baptism and Holy Communion.  Full forgiveness is found in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. 

            Sinners rejoice at this good news.  Sinners know they are sinners who deserve death and Hell, but the Good News of the Bible is that Jesus came to save sinners.  Jesus promises sinners will not get what they deserve.  Jesus offers the gift of forgiveness to all sinners everywhere.  It is a free gift for everyone and yet so many reject the gift because they reject Jesus.  They do not want to Jesus to be Lord of their life because they are more concerned with fitting in to the world than they are about God, sin and forgiveness.

We see this in the chief priests and the elders who are not concerned about God. They are not concerned about sin and forgiveness.  They are concerned with political power.  They are concerned with what other people think of them.  And so Jesus tells them Matthew 21:31-32 (ESV) 31 … “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. [4]

            Brothers and sisters in Christ, reject if…then analysis when speaking about faith.  Reject giving calculated responses to fit in with the world. The truth of forgiveness of sins in Jesus is more important than being liked by others.  You do not need to be liked.  You need Jesus. 

            This is not a call for you to seek out confrontation but rather in the Words of St. Peter, 1 Peter 3:15-17 (ESV) 15 …in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.[5]

            When it comes to the truth of the Bible do not do if…then analysis.  Don’t calculate your response to make it palatable to the world. You know the truth.  Confess the truth.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluua! 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

God is not fair!!!

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Pentecost 16 2020, Proper 20
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
September 19-20, 2020
Isaiah 55:6-9. Philippians 1:12-14, Matthew 20:1-16

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

            I enjoy getting into running every once in a while, but I have only ever run in one race which was when I was at seminary.  The seminary is very near to Forest Park in St. Louis which is a huge, beautiful park with Art Museum, Zoo and remnants from the 1904 World’s Fair. I generally ran four miles or so a few times a week and I felt pretty good about myself as a runner.  So when I saw the notice I signed up for the “Faster Pastor” 5K at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in the spring of 2001.  During the race I was doing okay, running my regular pace, but then this classmate of mine, Matt Thompson, who I thought was kind of out of shape, ran by me like I was standing still.  I tried to speed up, but I couldn’t catch him.  It felt terrible.  I enjoyed running when it was just me running and keeping track of the time, but it really messed it up for me when I started to compare myself to others. 

            In our Gospel reading today we see an example of how people get messed up by comparing themselves with others.  The men working all day in the Vineyard were content with their daily wage of a denarius until they found out that the men who only worked one hour also got a denarius. 

            This parable is one that I believe gives people a lot of heartburn because we completely understand the workers’ frustration.  It is not fair.  These guys worked 12 hours through the heat of the day…those guys worked one hour in the cooler evening…and got paid the same.  It’s not fair.  When you are working it is easy to be content with your pay until you find out the gal next to you, doing the same thing, is making 50 cents an hour more than you are. You were content, now you are upset. You were happy, now you are jealous.

            This is the way of the world.  You are in competition with those around you.  You are told you get what you deserve.  You get what you earn.  This is the way of the world, but this is not God’s way.  God’s way is different. 

God’s way is different.  This is the profound message of Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of Heaven; the Reign of Heaven.  God reigns, He rules, in ways very different from what you expect.  God does things that you do not understand.  God acts in ways that do not make sense. 

            God acts in ways that do not make sense and that is really disturbing in this parable, and yet this is where you find the beautiful Gospel truth.  Here in the midst of this troubling story, you get to see God’s mercy and grace so clearly because God does things differently than the way you would do them.  God’s mercy and grace are completely separate from your works.  God does not measure your accomplishments.  God does things differently.  Isaiah 55:8 (ESV) 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.[1]

            We are offended by the parable of the workers in the vineyard because we completely understand the position of the workers who worked all day.  It is not fair.  But as mom used to say, “Life is not fair.”  And an even greater truth is “God is not fair.”

            God is not fair.  And that is amazing, incomprehensible, good news.  God is not fair.  God is not going to give you your just deserts.  God is not going to give you what you earn.  Romans 6:23 (ESV) 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [2] 

At the beginning of the service you confessed that you are by nature sinful and unclean. You have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed, by what you have done and by what you have left undone. You have not loved God with your whole heart; you have not loved your neighbors as yourself.  And then you said that you justly deserve God’s present and eternal punishment.

            You deserve God’s punishment.  You deserve to be punished now, and you deserve to go to Hell for eternity.  You said that is what you deserve.  The great, Good News of the Bible is that are not going to get what you deserve; because God is not fair. 

            God is not fair.  God the Father punished His Son, Jesus, the Christ, God in flesh, instead of you. Jesus took the punishment for your sins. Jesus is the perfect, sacrificial Lamb of God who is sacrificed in your place.  Jesus takes your sin to the cross and suffers and dies because of your sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.[3]  God is not fair.  Praise God for that.

            Tell that liar that God is not fair and you will not get what you deserve.  This is incredible mercy of God.  You don’t get what you do deserve.  The genuine grace of God is that you get what you don’t deserve.  You get forgiveness and eternal life.

            Jesus got what you deserve, and you get what Jesus deserves.  In Christ you are the righteousness of God.  You are a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.  You are a child of God destined to inherit eternal life in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem.  You are on the narrow way to that leads to life.

            Now the devil wants to derail you.  The devil wants to get you off the narrow way and onto the wide, easy way that leads to eternal death.  The devil wants you to take your eyes off of Jesus and instead compare yourself to others. The devil wants you to forget about the prize.  Forget about the crown of righteousness.  Forget about eternity with Jesus.  Forget about all that and instead worry about other people.  The devil wants you to keep score in church about who does more and who does less.  The devil wants you to feel prideful superiority over that other guy, or, if not that, the devil wants you to feel fearful crushing inferiority next to someone else.  The devil does all of this to get you off the narrow way to life because he wants to destroy you.  The devil will try to convince you that you are not good enough.  You have not done enough.  You deserve death and Hell.  It is only fair.

            Tell that liar that God is not fair and you will not get what you deserve.  This is incredible mercy of God.  You don’t get what you do deserve.  The genuine grace of God is that you get what you don’t deserve.  You get forgiveness and eternal life.

            Don’t worry about the other runners in the race; keep your eyes on Jesus.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  It is not about what you or the others are doing.  God’s mercy and grace is all you need.  Forgetting what lies behind strain forward to what lies ahead.  Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Set your mind on the things of God rather than on the things of man.  Never forget, salvation unto us has come, by God’s free grace and favor.  Thank the Lord, God is not fair.

            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