Repent! For the Reign of Jesus is Here

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Advent 2 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 4, 2022
Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12

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

            Today you will be able memorize the sermon word for word.   When you go home you will take the sermon with you; fully memorized.  Don’t doubt yourself.  You can do it.  Now, I am not talking about my sermon, but John the Baptist’s sermon.  God’s prophets often were men of few words. 

The Prophet Jonah, once God’s whale convinced him to do it, preached this rousing sermon to the people of Nineveh. Jonah 3:4–5 (ESV)  4 … “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.”  Apparently short sermons can be effective.  Eight words in English, just four in Hebrew and the people of Nineveh believe God and repent.

            John the Baptist also is brief in his wilderness preaching.  Matthew 3:2 (ESV)  2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Nine words in English, seven in Greek and the people confess their sins and are baptized in the Jordan River.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  We learn in Matthew 4:17 that Jesus also uses this same, simple message. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  This is a short enough sermon that you have already memorized it.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

            There are not many words, but the words carry a lot of freight.  Repent means to turn; to turn away from sin and evil and unbelief, and turn to God. 

People come from all around to hear John’s message and respond by repenting and being baptized in the J0ordan.  Others do not repent.  The religious leaders; the Pharisees and Sadducees come out to John’s baptism and John questions their repentance because John knows they trust in their lineage. They are children of Abraham; God’s chosen people, but do they fear, love and trust in God above all things? Do they love God and love their neighbor?  Do they know that they are by nature sinful?  Do they show the fruit of good works flowing from faithful repentance?  John warns them, Matthew 3:8 (ESV)  8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.  Matthew 3:10 (ESV)  10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 

            This word, “repent”, is devastating to your ego.  To repent is to admit that you have a problem. To repent is to admit you are not perfect.  To repent is to admit you are wrong.  To repent is to admit you are not independent; you cannot do it on your own. To repent means turning from selfishness to selflessness.  Too easily and too often, you walk the wrong path, do the wrong things.  You follow the false gods of your own feelings and ideas. The call to repent knocks you flat and leaves you gasping for air because you know the truth about yourself and the truth is not pretty.  Repent!

            “Repent”, however, is not the end of the story.  The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.  The King-dom.  The domain of the King.  Who is the king?  God is king. Jesus is king.  The Kingdom is where Jesus does His Jesusing.  It is where Jesus reigns as Lord.  The Kingdom of Heaven is the reign, the rule of God in Jesus.  God in flesh, God with us.  The Kingdom of God is not a place, it is an action.  It is the activity of kingly rule.  God is beginning to act.  God is coming near.  The long expected Messiah of God is at work in the world.  His rule, His reign, His authority has come.   

            How does King Jesus rule?  He rules in humble service and sacrifice.  He reigns by lifting up repentant sinners, washing them clean, and clothing them in the robe of His own righteousness.  King Jesus rules by connecting to the sins of the world in His baptism in the Jordan River.  Jesus rules by becoming sin for you and dying on the cross to pay for your sins.  He rules by saving sinners and bringing them into His Kingdom. 

            King Jesus rules in humble service and sacrifice but make no mistake — do not be fooled by His humility — Jesus is King.  Repent, for the gracious reign of God is here.  Repent, for the glorious reign of God is coming.  The complete, total reign of God is coming when Jesus returns in glory and ultimate authority and the fruitless trees will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 

            On that day Jesus will gather the good wheat and bring you into his barn; into the heavenly city to live with Him forever.  The fruitless chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.

            “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  Be brutally honest about who you are.  Know yourself.  Know you are indeed a poor, miserable sinner.  Know you are by nature sinful and unclean.  Know you are poor in spirit.  And know King Jesus promise to you, Matthew 5:3 (ESV)  3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

            You, poor in spirit, repentant sinner, yours is, present tense,the Kingdom of Heaven.  You are — right now — in the reign of King Jesus.  Jesus is your Lord and master.  This truth is hard on your independent, rebellious side that wants to be in charge, but this truth is truly wonderful.  Despite what “rebellious you” thinks, what a relief to know that you are not in charge.

       On that day Jesus will gather the good wheat and bring you into his barn; into the heavenly city to live with Him forever.  The fruitless chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.

It is hard for children to live in a house where there is constant turmoil and tension and rules are unclear and always changing.  It is troubling when parents threaten punishment but don’t follow through.  Or when a parent just ignores the rules sometimes and other times comes down severely for the same offense.  The kids end up walking on eggshells not knowing what is acceptable and what is not. Children do better when rules are clear and parents follow through when rules are broken.  With Jesus as King you have a good ruler with consistent rules and abundant grace and forgiveness.  This is a great blessing. 

You are subject to King Jesus, you submit to His authority.  You do not have figure out what is right and wrong.  You do not have to make the hard decisions.  You are not the judge.  You just live out God’s commands under Jesus’ rule and authority.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Life is still hard.  You still live in a sinful world.  The devil, the world and your own sinful flesh will continue to try to separate you from King Jesus.  You will still struggle mightily with sin and temptation.  So you continue to listen to John the Baptist and continue to repent, for the reign of Jesus is at hand. 

            You are in the gracious reign of Jesus who forgives all your sins waiting for Jesus to return.  For now He is being patient, wanting all people to be saved and this can lead some to grow weary of waiting and to think Jesus is not king.  But know for certain, the day is coming when Jesus will complete His rule and come in power and glory and destroy all evil.  He will come in judgement and separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, the fruitful and the fruitless.  In Christ, you are wheat, you are sheep, you are fruitful.  Do not let the devil lure you out from the reign of Jesus.  You have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to Kingdom of Jesus, in whom you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  You are a subject of King Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven, now in its gracious incompleteness and forever in His total, complete glory.   

      And so you pray, “Thy Kingdom Come.”  In his catechism Martin Luther explains, “What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.”  You pray for Jesus to be your ruler and for you to submit to His reign. 

How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

            You are safe in His Kingdom for eternity.  As you live your life in the light of Jesus’ gracious Kingdom, surrounded by evil and darkness, remember your Kingdom is not of this world.  Remember you belong to Jesus.  Remember, Jesus is coming soon.  So each day when you are tempted to think you can do it on your own, when you are tempted to think Jesus is not in charge, remember John the Baptist’s sermon, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

            Amen.

Victorious Victor

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Advent 1 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Vicar Kaleb Yaeger
November 27, 2022
Is. 2:1-5, Rom. 13:11-14, Matt. 21:1-11

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

­­­Victorious Victim

They hail Him as a victor; as a king who has marched out to war and returned in triumph. They hail Him as a general who has destroyed His foes and brings with Him the spoils of war. They spread cloaks and palm branches before Him, covering the street so that even His mount would not dirty its foot on the city streets. They welcome Him with gladness and joy, crying 

Hosanna! 

Meaning “Save us!” They cry to Him for their salvation. They recognize Him as their Messiah, the One who has come to fulfill that which was spoken by the prophets. They call to Him because He has been victorious, and now He will rule over the people in peace. 

Hosanna! They say.

Hosanna to the son of David

For this man, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee, this Jesus is truly a son of David. He rides into Jerusalem on a colt, on the foal of a donkey, just as Solomon did when David crowned him king. Jesus enters Jerusalem as a king. As a victorious king. As the Prince of Peace who has come to ascend His throne. 

Son of David, they call Him. And they welcome Him with one of David’s Psalms. They welcome Him with a Psalm that spoke of God’s steadfast love. David writes that enemies surrounded him, but the LORD fought on his behalf. David praises the LORD, thanking Him for His great deliverance. 

The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

But the part of the Psalm that the people are quoting says

Hosanna, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!

With these words, the people of Jerusalem welcome Jesus into the gates of their city. Another part of the Psalm says: 

Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.

This Psalm is ringing in the ears of the crowd as they welcome Jesus into the gates of Jerusalem. This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. Indeed, the only man who was righteous has just entered through it. Blessed is He! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the LORD! 

The crowds hail Jesus as a conquering king. They hail Him as a victor. They hail Him as a general who has won on the battlefield and returns now, bringing with him the spoils of war 

But they’re wrong. 

Jesus hasn’t won yet. Jesus is riding out to war. He is not returning with the spoils. He is riding to a battlefield that has yet to be soaked with blood. He rides to battle, not on a warhorse, but on a donkey. On a colt, the foal of a beast of burden. Just as the prophets foretold.

Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the LORD. 

Blessed is He who comes to do the LORD’s work. Blessed is He, They cry to the king who is  riding out to war. Blessed is He, they cry to the Son of David who was the Son of God. Blessed is He, they said, as they hailed the man whom they would crucify. For this is the work of the LORD.

The Psalm the people were quoting says Blessed is He that comes in the name of the LORD! it continues. 

We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!

Bind the sacrifice of the feast to the horns of the altar! This feast is passover. The very same feast the people of Jerusalem were about to celebrate. Bind the sacrifice! Bind the lamb! Bind Him to the horns of the altar! For Blessed is He who is about to do the work of God! Blessed is He! Blessed is the victor! 

Blessed is the victim. Blessed is the sacrifice. Blessed is He! The One who is riding to war. Blessed is the One who is about to soak the battlefield, not with the blood of His enemies, but with His own. Blessed is He who will make war at the place of the Skull. Blessed is He who is bound and sacrificed. Blessed is He. Blessed is His work. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the LORD to die on a cross. 

Hosanna to the Son of David. Hosanna to the Son of God. Hosanna! LORD, save us! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Save us now, O LORD! Save us now! 

It was these very cries that Jesus would answer just a few days later. He would do the work of the LORD. The Son of Man would be lifted up. The people would mock Him, telling Him to save Himself, but He would not listen. For He heard their cries of Hosanna when He rode into Jerusalem and this Son of David had mercy on them. He had mercy on Jerusalem. He has mercy on you. The work of the LORD is finished. Jesus died. Victor and victim. Son of David, Lamb of God. Priest and sacrifice. For you. 

Jesus rode out to battle that Good Friday and He won. He sacrificed Himself to save the world. Death swallowed Him up so that the world might live. But on that day, when death swallowed a body, it choked on God. It couldn’t swallow the Author of Life. It couldn’t hold Him down, so Jesus was hurled from the tomb three days later, victorious and alive. 

So now, we hail Him as a victor. As a king who has marched out to war and returned in triumph. We hail Him as a general who has destroyed His foes; bringing with Him the spoils of war. So we sing

Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He! Blessed is He! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest! 

Together, we cry Hosanna to the LORD! Lord, save us! Save us now! Save us from the terrors of our enemies that surround us. Save us from pain and sorrow! Save us from sin, death and the power of the devil! Hosanna, LORD, save us now! 

Jesus already answered that cry on the cross. But He also answers it before your very eyes. Behold, O children of God, your King is coming to you. Humble, in the simple bread and wine which is His body and blood. These are His spoils of war. These are His battle scars. His body, bound as a sacrifice on the cross. His blood, poured out there for you for the forgiveness of sins. 

We cry Hosanna! Lord, save us! And the very Son of Man who was lifted up and sacrificed once for all, draws near and answers. He comes in humility. The victorious victim’s body and blood will be given to you to eat and to drink. 

Blessed is He. Blessed is He. Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the LORD! 

We sing these words as Christ draws near in answer to our Hosanna. We sing them to the victorious victim. We sing them to the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, for He has mercy on us. He has washed us in His own blood, the blood of the Lamb and made us white as snow. We cry hosanna, faithful that He will answer. 

Jesus answers your cries of Hosanna here on the altar. But He will draw near to His church once again. This time, He will return to reign in glory. On that day, wars, pestilence, sickness and famine will not ravage the earth any longer. On that day, sin, death and the power of the devil will forever be locked away. On that day, we will say once again with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, 

Blessed is He! Blessed is He! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the LORD! 

Come soon, Lord Jesus. 

Amen. 

No Mushy Middle

 

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Last Sunday of the Church Year 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 20, 2022
Malachi 3:13-18, Colossians 1:13-20, Luke 23:27-43

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

            There is a television show I like that often depicts people being rescued from dire circumstances.  Innocent people are being held hostage by well-armed, evil men who do not care who they kill.  The good guys, a team of Navy Seals, infiltrate the target, shoot the bad guys, rescue the innocent people and move them to safety.  The people were in great danger, now they are safe.  So far from the episodes I have watched no one ever asks to stay in the middle between danger and safety.  No one says, “Thanks for the rescue, but I don’t want to get to safety, I will just stay in the middle.” 

            There is a great temptation to try to live life in between, but we learn from our readings today that spiritually, there are only two categories.  You are safe, or you are in great danger.  You are righteous or you are wicked.  You are one who serves God, or you are one who does not serve Him.  There are those in the domain of darkness and those in the kingdom of Jesus.  There is a distinction.  You belong to the Lord, or you belong to the devil and his darkness.

            This stark contrast is a difficult teaching.  Our sinful nature does not like the sharp distinction.  We want there to be a muddled middle area.  We want there to be some gray area.  We want to live in the mushy middle where we try to convince ourselves that we are not under the authority of darkness and we are not under the authority of Jesus.  We claim to be our own authority.  We declare that we are in charge because if we are in charge, we can rule by our feelings and not by the Word of God. 

For centuries people have sought to mold and shape God’s Word to fit their desires instead of having their desires molded and shaped by the Word of God.  People want to reject that Jesus is only way to the Father because they want every way to be a good way.  But there is no other way.  Jesus is the Way.  Jesus is the light.

            Jesus is the Way and He has delivered you from the domain of darkness.  He delivered you from the rule and authority of the devil and transferred you to the reign of Jesus; the kingdom of light.  You live in the light of Christ. 

From John 3:19–21 (ESV)  19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” 

            In today’s Gospel reading we witness someone being delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the Kingdom of Jesus. Jesus is being crucified on Golgotha, the Place of a Skull.  He is dying in a way carefully designed to be utterly humiliating, agonizing and slow. He is not being crucified alone; there is a criminal to His left and another to His right.  All three are slowly being tortured to death in excruciating pain and while He is dying, people ridicule Jesus.

            The rulers scoffed at Jesus, Luke 23:35 (ESV) 35 … “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”   The soldiers mocked Jesus,  Luke 23:37 (ESV) 37 … “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  They all think that if Jesus is Christ the King He should save Himself, but Jesus did not come to save Himself.  He came to save you by dying on the cross for your sins.  

            Luke 23:39 (ESV)  39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” This criminal has at least heard that Jesus is the Christ, but, he along with the rulers and soldiers wants to stop the Christ from doing what the Christ came to do.  Even Jesus’ disciples wanted to stop Jesus from going to the cross. 

            Earlier, Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ; the Son of the Living God and Jesus blessed Him.  But then Jesus goes on to explain what it means to be the Christ. Matthew 16:21 (ESV)  21 … that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

            Matthew 16:22 (ESV)  22 … Peter took [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”  Peter is not going to let Jesus go to the cross.  So Jesus rebukes Peter, Matthew 16:23 (ESV)  23 … “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  

            The Son of God dying on a cruel cross is not the way you would think that God would save the world, but it is God’s way to save. The first criminal views Jesus through eyes of the world.  Luke 23:40–41 (ESV) 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Do you not fear God?  This second criminal knows he is a lowly, justly condemned, criminal.  And he knows who Jesus is.   

            Luke 23:42 (ESV)  42 And [the second criminal] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  And Jesus replies, Luke 23:43 (ESV)  43 … “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 

            In the literal darkness of Good Friday, this man is delivered from the domain of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of Heaven.  He does not deserve to be in God’s kingdom, but he is transferred in by Jesus Word. 

            You have witnessed this very thing happen many times, right here at this font as someone is delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the Kingdom of Jesus through water and the Word of God.  We renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways and declare faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jesus said, Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)  19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. …”  Jesus said to do it, so this is what we do.  We baptize and we teach.  Baptism is Jesus’ command and it delivers from the domain of darkness and transfers into the kingdom of Jesus.  Your deliverance is refreshed and strengthened by Jesus’ Words each week, “I forgive you all your sins,” and by receiving Jesus Body and Blood into yourself.

            In the literal darkness of Good Friday, this man is delivered from the domain of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of Heaven.  He does not deserve to be in God’s kingdom, but he is transferred in by Jesus Word. 

            Jesus, God in flesh, offers eternal life to all people through His life, death and resurrection.  This is the greatest Good News of all time, and yet there is an entire cottage industry of theologians trying to remake Jesus so that He is not the eternal, incarnate, Son of God.  They want to deny Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary, because those things don’t make sense. They want to deny that Jesus rose from the dead because dead people don’t rise.  They want to deny Jesus is the only way to the Father because they think that is mean.  They want to make Jesus into just a nice teacher who encourages people to love one another.  They want to change Jesus’ identity into a powerless but nice prophet.  But that is not who Jesus is. 

            Colossians 1:15–18 (ESV)  15 [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” 

            Jesus is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary.  He was crucified, died and was buried and He rose from the dead.  We have eyewitness accounts, but so many want to deny it because they are afraid.  They are afraid because if Jesus really did rise from the dead it means that He really is God and if Jesus is really God then He is the Lord.  If He is Lord that means He is in charge.  Folks hate that the idea that someone else is in charge, but what they should hate is that are in the domain of darkness.

You have been delivered by Jesus.  You live in the reign and rule of Jesus.  Jesus is Lord. For now, you live in this fallen world and life is still a struggle.  You will be called to do difficult things.  You will be rejected by the world, you will struggle with a fallen world, but you have joy in the struggle because you are in the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus and He rules with grace and forgiveness and love.  In the Kingdom of Jesus you have eternal life. 

            And who is welcome in Jesus’ Kingdom?  Who does Jesus invite?  Is it an exclusive club for middle class “good” people?  Is it limited to certain people in certain places? Today, in our Gospel reading, we have a fascinating example of who Jesus reaches out to and invites.  Jesus is being crucified.  The Jewish leaders cried out for blood and stirred up the early morning crowd to chant, “Crucify him, crucify him!”  Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, washed his hands of the affair, had Jesus flogged and sent for crucifixion.  The Romans soldiers at Golgotha stripped Jesus and drove nails through His flesh to affix Him to the cross.  What is Jesus’ response to these people?  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Jesus welcomes even those who crucify Him; He offers words of forgiveness.  All are invited into the reign and rule of Jesus.  

            You are a baptized child of God.  You have been transferred into the Kingdom of God.  You have been delivered from the domain of darkness and you live in the light of Christ.    Your sins are forgiven.  You are safe. Amen. 

Blessed Brokenness

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All Saints’ Day 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 6, 2022
Revelation 7:9–17, 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

        Two men walk past each other on the sidewalk, they know each other, but are not that close.  The one man says, “Kent, how’s it going?” and Kent replies…… “fine, you?”  “Fine.”

        Kent says he is fine, but that is a lie.  Kent is broken.  Kent struggles each day.  His dad recently died and his mom has early dementia and is going to need lots of care. Kent gets up and goes to work each day but he does not like his job and his new boss is awful.  There is a woman in accounting that keeps trying to flirt with Kent and he keeps politely discouraging her, but she doesn’t get the hint and Kent finds himself wondering what would happen if he flirted back.  Kent wants to just quit and run away.  When driving he sees highway signs to distant cities and imagines just turning down the interstate and disappearing. 

Kent brings the stress of his job home and too often takes it out on his wife and children yelling at them in a way he would never do at work.  There is so much turmoil and trouble.  It is hard to keep up with everyone’s schedules and there is hardly any time for romance.  Kent worries that his wife doesn’t love him anymore as he has gotten older and heavier. Money is always tight.  Yesterday the check engine light came on and won’t stop blinking and Kent is afraid it is going to be another $1,000 that he doesn’t have.  Too often the words to the folk song really ring true, “Another day older and deeper in debt.”  Kent does not pray like he should or read the Bible regularly.  Often it feels like God is so far away.  Kent is tired, weak and worried. 

        But when someone asks, “How’s it going?”  Kent says, “Fine.”

        And in many ways that is okay.  It would be exhausting to tell each passing person about all of the troubles of your life, and, if you did, soon no one would dare ask, “How’s it going?”

        In order to get the things done in life that you need to get done you hide your brokenness and pretend that everything is okay.  Pretending everything is fine is a survival skill during the work week, but the truth is that we are broken people living in a broken world. 

Sunday morning you stop pretending.  Sunday morning you come to this place of healing and get on your knees and admit that you are broken.  You confess that you are by nature sinful and unclean.  You have sinned in thought, word and deed.  You deserve immediate punishment from God and eternity in Hell.

Sunday morning you recognize the brokenness inside yourself and those around you.  Sunday worship is the gathering of broken people seeking peace with God in the midst of their brokenness. 

        In our Gospel lesson today Jesus proclaims that your brokenness is blessed with eternal blessings for the last day.  Your brokenness is blessed by God.  In your brokenness Jesus declares that you have eternal life and will live with Him forever at the resurrection.

        Matthew 5:3–6 (ESV)  3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 

        Poor in spirit. Mourning.  Meek, lowly, weak.  Hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  These are not positive virtues which you should strive to achieve, these are marks of brokenness.  Jesus declares brokenness blessed…blessed with a blessing for the judgement day. 

        In the midst of all the trouble of this life Jesus declares that all your brokenness will be undone. You gather here each week, a collection of broken people in a broken world, seeking peace with God and Jesus grants you peace.  Our time together is an oasis in the midst of the great chaos of the world.  Now, in this oasis there is the blessed sound of lots of wiggly kids and that is wonderful because together, young and old, united in Jesus, we get a glimpse of what is to come. 

        Each week you retreat from the chaos of life and gather together in this place to hear once again that you are blessed in your brokenness.  You intentionally take a break from the busyness of life to be refreshed and renewed by hearing that your sins are forgiven by the blood of Jesus shed for you on the cross, by hearing God’s Word, by singing praises to God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and receiving a foretaste of the feast to come in the body and blood of Jesus. 

What a wonderful idea to have a day set aside to rest and be refreshed, a day to confess your sins and receive God’s forgiveness, a day to return thanks, a day to be with your church family and loved ones for a day of worship and meals and recreation, a day to be together without the intense hurriedness of a normal day.  What a great idea to have a day set aside for all that.  I wonder who came up with this idea, a day of rest each week? Hmmm.  God himself on the seventh day of creation.  After Jesus’ death and resurrection our Sabbath day has moved from the seventh day to Sunday, the eighth day, the day of new beginnings because Sunday is the day Jesus rose from the dead.  Christians have set the day apart to retreat from the broken world and know that you are blessed in your brokenness.  This is a Holy time together immersed in God’s Word and promises to strengthen you for life in this world.  And the devil hates it.

The devil hates a peaceful congregation gathering to hear God’s Word and receive His gifts.  The devil hates it, so, as a church, we need always to remain on guard against the devil’s attempts to sow division and discord in our midst.  Remain on guard against the devil trying to change our time together from a time of joy and unity in Christ to a time of struggle and strife.  Beware of the evil one prowling around looking to divide us and destroy us and to separate lambs from the flock of the Good Shepherd.  The devil hates our time together each week.

        A once a week retreat from the brokenness of the world for a few hours is good; but it is not enough. Each evening, when you return to your home, how wonderful it is when your home is an oasis from the chaos of the world; a refuge of love and forgiveness and joy; a place where the Word of God is central; a place of forgiveness and love. 

At the end of each marriage ceremony I pray, “Bless our homes that they may ever be a shelter for the defenseless, a fortress for the tempted, a resting place for the weary, and a foretaste of our eternal home with you…”  Your homes should be a respite from the brokenness of the world, but just like with churches, the devil loves to sow division and discord in families.  The devil wants to divide and destroy.  He wants to make your home a place you dread rather than a place you look forward to going each day. 

Now, home life will never be perfect unless there are no people at home, but you can each repent of what you do to bring turmoil into the home and instead seek to love one another and live together in peace and forgiveness.  Seek to make home a shelter, a fortress, a resting place and a foretaste of heaven. Children, obey your parents.  Life will go better if you just do what they say the first time instead of pretending you don’t hear them.  Parents, do not exasperate your children.  Beware of your tone of voice as you speak to the most beloved people in your life.  Leave the troubles of the world outside.  Before you open the front door to go in, take off the stresses of jobs and school and leave them outside.  Inside, work together to accomplish what needs to be done.  Take out the trash when it is full.  Unload the dishwasher.  Help prepare dinner and clean up afterward.  Put away the phones and the tablets for a while and spend time together as a family united in Christ.  Pray together.  Read Scripture together.  Love and forgive each other.  What a wonderful thing it is for your home and your church to be sanctuaries from the world and foretastes of eternity with God.

        You look forward to when your brokenness will be repaired, when you will be comforted from your mourning. When, despite your lowliness, you will possess the earth.  When, your hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.  When, you will be at peace with the Lord, forever. 

        Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day.  We remember those of our fellowship who have died in the faith.  They are now at peace with the Lord waiting for the last day when their bodies will be raised, and their body and soul reunited in perfection and they will go to live with Jesus forever in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem. 

Today you also look forward to the day when Jesus will return in glory and you will be taken up or raised up in perfection.  On that day, clothed in the white robe of Jesus’ righteousness, and waving palm branches you will march with the unnumbered masses through the pearl gates into the Heavenly City to begin eternity with the Lord in unbroken paradise. 

        You look forward to when your brokenness will be repaired, when you will be comforted from your mourning. When, despite your lowliness, you will possess the earth.  When, your hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.  When, you will be at peace with the Lord, forever. 

        For now, you live as a broken person in a broken world.  Jesus blesses your brokenness and makes you to be light and love as you live in His forgiveness — loving and forgiving each other. 

The last day is coming, but for now, stay alert. Beware of the devil’s deceptions and temptations to conflict and turmoil; division and destruction.  Find peace here, in this place, as we gather together, united in Christ.  Find peace in your home as you live in love and forgiveness.  Bring God’s peace to those around you as you live as the light of Christ. Rejoice that Jesus blesses broken people and gives eternal life.  Live in your blessed brokenness looking forward to the day of perfect healing.  Amen.

The Sound that Sums up the Reformation

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Reformation Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 30, 2022
Rev. 14:6-7, Romans 3:19-28, John 8:31-36

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 you had to sum up the Reformation in one word, what would it be?  Just one word.  Well, not even really a word, more of a sound.  What sound sums up the Reformation?  Shhhh.

            When I teach about the Ten Commandments students can get very frustrated when they realize that they cannot avoid sin.  As you study God’s law you realize that it is not just, “you shall not murder”, but you shall not be angry with someone.  You can struggle against sin but you are helpless to stop sinning and when it becomes clear that you sin in your thoughts as well as words and deed you think, “But that’s not fair, how can I control my thoughts?”  And so you try to justify yourself by making excuses, “I can’t help it.  It is human nature.” 

            Mom walks in as Jason is punching his younger brother Zachery in the stomach.  Zachery doubles up and starts to cry…probably a bit louder than necessary.  Mom looks accusingly at Jason and he says, “Zachery punched me first.”  Jason believes he is perfectly justified in his actions because he has a good excuse.

            It comes naturally to try to justify yourself; to come up with a good excuse.  Folks will come up with a good excuse for missing Sunday worship and then cling to that excuse for weeks, months, years.  I know I should be coming to church every Sunday, but… I have a good excuse. 

            Everyone likes a good excuse.  A good excuse can justify almost anything.

            You lose your temper and yell, but it is justified because that so and so really made you mad. 

            You cheat on a test at school, but it is justified because the teacher should not have made it that hard.

            You know that intimacy outside of marriage is wrong, but everyone is doing it.  “I know I shouldn’t do that thing, but it is okay, because I have a good excuse.” Shhh. 

            Along with excuses you also like to pretend that you have found loopholes in God’s law.  Honor your Father and your Mother, you shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal.  You say, “I know what the commandments say, but I declare there is a loophole in the law so the law does not apply to me.”  Shhh. 

            You try to blame others for your sins.  “It’s not my fault.  If only my mother treated me better…if only that person did not tempt me. It is their fault, not mine.” Shhh. 

You cannot justify yourself by your excuses, or loopholes, or by blaming others. Shhhh.   

            In our Gospel reading last week Jesus gives us another failed method of justification.  Luke 18:9–14 (ESV)  9 [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

            The Pharisee seeks to justify himself by talking about all the good things that he does and by thanking God that he is such a good guy, especially compared to the tax collector. 

            But, you cannot justify yourself by a list of your accomplishments.  Shhhh. 

You cannot justify yourself by comparing yourself to someone else.  It is very tempting to do this.  You say, “I may not be perfect, but, I am not as bad as that other guy so my little sins are okay.  I am not as bad as those really awful sinners.”  Shhh. 

            We learn in our lesson from Romans 3 that the law of God stops every mouth and the whole world is held accountable to God.  You want to make an excuse for your sin. Shh.  You want to talk about what a good person you are.  Shh.   You want to justify yourself.  Shh.  You have nothing to say to justify yourself. Justification before God does not come from your clever words or thinking.  So shhh. 

            As God says through the Psalmist in Psalm 46:10 (ESV)  10 “Be still, and know that I am God. …”  Be still and know that God is God and you are not. You are not in the salvation business.  You cannot save yourself, Romans 3:23 (ESV)  23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 

            All have sinned and you are part of all. When you open your mouth to make an excuse or to talk about how good you are…shhh. 

            Salvation is yours, but not because of youYou…Romans 3:24–25 (ESV) 24 …are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation [an atoning sacrifice] by his blood, to be received by faith. …” 

            You so much want to ask, did I do enough, did I give enough, did I pay enough, are my excuses enough?  God says…. “shhhhh.   Be still… and know that I am God.”  The law of God silences your excuses and hushes your bragging and leaves you mute before God. You stand before God in silent weakness. 

And it is in that stillness you find the peace that passes understanding. It is in that powerless stillness that you find salvation in Jesus. 

            In silent helplessness you understand what Jesus means when He says, Luke 18:17 (ESV)  17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  It is not about you.  It is all about Jesus for you. 

  Salvation is yours, but not because of youYou…Romans 3:24–25 (ESV) 24 …are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation [an atoning sacrifice] by his blood, to be received by faith. …” 

            The peace that is beyond understanding comes from knowing where to look when asked, “How do you know you are saved?”  You do not look to yourself because that is not where salvation comes from.  You look to Jesus.  You look to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for you.

            This is what Martin Luther rediscovered in the Reformation.  Salvation is not about what you do, or give, or pay.  You cannot buy a piece of paper signed by the Archbishop of Mainz to justify yourself.  It is not about what you earn.  It is about Jesus for you.  And knowing it is about Jesus for you, you can trust that it is true.  Jesus confirms His promise to you in the words of absolution, “I forgive you all your sins.”  Jesus confirms His promise to you in the waters of baptism as we see this morning with little Guinevere.  He confirms His promise in His Body and Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.  The Reformation is about repenting of thinking you can save yourself and rejoicing that Jesus is your Savior. 

            So, Shhhh.  Be still and know that your sins are forgiven by Jesus.  In silence, understand the amazing Good News.  If the son sets you free, you are free indeed.  Amen

A Shepherd’s Blood Cries Out

(Due to tech difficulties, no video this week)

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Pentecost 20 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
Vicar Kaleb Yaeger\
Gen. 4:1-15, 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18, Luke 18:9-17

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 earth is soaked with blood, flowing from the man’s broken head out onto the ground. Black dirt becomes red mud. The body lies on the ground, limbs splayed; his head twisted at an odd angle. His dead eyes stare accusingly at his killer. Abel, the shepherd son of Adam will never again  tend his flocks. 

Cain is out of breath and  soaked with sweat. He wipes his brow, leaving a crimson stain across his forehead. He looks down at his hands, which are red with his brother’s blood. He whips his head around, making certain there are no witnesses. His heart pounds. His hands shake. He checks again for witnesses. Seeing no-one, he finds a big, flat rock and begins to dig a shallow grave for his brother in the blood-soaked earth. 

The first murder. A grim scene. Brother turned against brother. Blood spilled on the earth. Why? Why this crime? Why this murder? To understand, we must go back to the beginning. 

Adam and Eve had two sons. The first they named Cain. Cain, as the firstborn son, soon was involved in his father’s business. Adam was taken out of the ground in order to work it, so it was right that Cain should work the ground. Cain’s role was to grow food for his family. He was to plant seeds in the ground so that he and his family could live. 

The second son Adam and Eve named Abel, meaning breath. In time, they would know that name to be prophetic. Abel was a keeper of flocks and herds. 

Eventually the time came for both sons of Adam to make offerings to the LORD. Cain offered from what he had reaped, but Abel offered the firstborn of his flock. Abel’s offering, because it was of the firstborn, because it was of the best, was accepted by God. God looked with favor upon Abel. Cain only offered some of his crops. He did not offer the firstfruits, he did not give God the best of what he had. So God did not look with favor upon Cain. 

Cain sees that God favor’s Abel’s offering and not his. He is jealous. The Bible tells us that his face fell. Cain’s reaction to God’s rejection is anger. He is not repentant, he is angry. God confronts him for his anger. God warns Cain, saying:

“…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

God sees the danger that Cain’s fallen face poses. He warns him, exhorting  him to repent, to turn from his wicked ways and do what is right. How often we receive the same warning! Anger comes easily to us as children of Adam. We have inherited Adam’s sin. As we sang in our hymn of the day, in Adam we have all been one. One huge, rebellious man. Our anger is a symptom of that sin. Often, like Cain, we are angry with our own family members. 

Anger is dangerous. Things done in anger are often things regretted. Things said in anger can hurt. Anger divides. Anger turns you against your family. When you are angry, beware! For sin is crouching at your door. Rule it, for its desire is against you. 

Cain didn’t heed God’s warning. In the very next verse, Cain walks out with his brother into the field. The two of them are alone. Cain strikes. He beats his brother down. The sharp crack of rock against bone sounds over and over again. Cain’s hands shake as his brother’s blood soaks the earth. Black dirt becomes red mud. Cain stands over his brother’s body, sweating. With shaking hands, he digs a shallow grave for his brother. 

Cain was a worker of the field. He did his father’s work. He brought life from the ground so that he and his family could eat, and live. But now, instead of seeds, he has planted his brother’s body in the earth. He has sown death. Adam was formed from the dust, and now Abel has been returned to dust. Abel, true to his name, lived as but a breath. Cain returned him to his father’s ground. 

Sin was crouched at Cain’s door. Cain did not rule it. He let his anger rule him. He heard God’s warning, but refused to listen to it. As a result, he inflicted pain upon his family, death upon his brother, and guilt upon himself. This should sound familiar. Too often, anger overtakes us. Anger, which leads to a multitude of sins. God’s law is clear. We too hear it, and refuse to listen. In Adam, we have all been one. So too in Cain. We fled God’s law, and in losing him, we lost our brother too. Each singly sought and claimed his own, each man his brother slew. 

Jesus tells us that to hate our brother is to murder him in our hearts. Anger and hatred are twin siblings. Anger is a powerful force. It motivates us to move, even against our own family, even against the very word of God. In Cain, we have all been one. Murderers. We neglect our vocations and twist them for petty vengeance. Like Cain, we have sown death. What shall we reap? 

What shall Cain reap? He has finished burying his brother. Some time has passed, and he has cleansed his brother’s blood from his hands, though his heart remains guilty. He thinks he has gotten away with his crime, when the LORD speaks to him. 

“Where is Abel your brother?”

Cain’s heart pounds. He hears the crack of rock against bone. Blood on the dirt. Crimson mud. 

“I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

God confronts Cain. Like his father Adam, he deflects and denies. He lies to the LORD. Adam found that hiding from God was useless. Now Cain finds  lying to the Almighty  equally useless. 

“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.”

God knows of Cain’s crime. The voice of shepherd Abel’s blood tells God the story. His blood demands justice. It demands repayment. Blood has been shed. Blood is required. A murderer should give what he has taken. Cain deserves death. The first murderer should be the first man executed for his crimes. 

“And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength.”

Like his father before him, Cain receives the curse of sin. But Cain’s curse is worse than his father’s. He has sown death into the ground, so he shall never again reap life from it. Still, this seems a punishment too small. Sin requires death. Blood requires blood. Cain’s life is in jeopardy. But God does not kill Cain. Instead, he says: 

“You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 

Cain, at least, recognizes what he deserves. He recognizes it, and desires to be free of sin’s punishment. But Cain does not repent. He says to God “This is too much! I will get the very thing I deserve, I will be killed, like I killed my brother. I cannot bear it!” We’d expect God to answer “Yes, O Cain, first murderer, you will get what you deserve, you have sown death and so you shall reap it!” 

That would be the just answer. That would be the right thing to do. Blood requires blood. But God listens to Cain. He says: 

“Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.

The first murderer is marked so that he may not die at the hands of another. Blood has been shed. Blood is not required. Cain walks free. He is cursed to wander the earth, but vengeance will not be taken for the blood of Abel. Why? Where is the justice of God? Where is His righteousness? Why does He let this murderer go free? 

God desires that Cain repent. God brought Cain forth from Adam and Eve. God formed Cain in his mother’s womb. God knew Cain. God loves Cain. He does not want to see him dragged to hell by the weight of his sins. God desires Cain’s repentance. 

We do not know if Cain ever repented. Later in the chapter, we are given a brief genealogy of Cain, but we are never told his age at death. The first son of Adam mentioned in the genealogy of Adam to Noah is Seth, Adam and Eve’s third son. Abel is dead and Cain has disinherited himself. 

Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Like his father before him, Cain flees from God. He takes the mercy of God and runs. Where is justice? Blood was still shed. Abel’s blood still soaks the soil of  the field. It still cries out for justice, yet Cain still lives. Cain is marked, protected by God, but Abel is still dead. Blood for blood. Life for life.

Blood pours out onto the dirt. A son of Adam becomes a corpse. Crimson rivers flow from His head mixing with the earth, forming crimson mud. The shepherd’s dead eyes are vacant, staring into the sky. His jaw is slack. His body limp. He breathes no more. His blood cries out. It drips from his hands. It gushes from his side. It pours out of the wounds in his feet. Vengeance has been taken, for the Shepherd dies. His blood pours onto the ground at the foot of the cross. 

His blood cries out from the ground: “It is finished!” Abel’s blood accused Cain and demanded vengeance. Justice demanded blood. A life was taken, so a life must be paid. And a life was paid. A Son of Adam paid it. Not Cain. Jesus. Son of Adam. Son of God. 

Justice was done that day, on the cross. The righteous wrath of God was poured out on Jesus. Cain’s death was given to Christ. Your death was given to Christ. Jesus took the death that all the world deserved and was buried with it. Death was put into the ground. Jesus was planted, like a seed, in His tomb. But He stepped forth, three days later, leaving death behind. The death of Cain. The death of Adam. The death of all children of Adam who fell in Adam’s fall. 

Sin crouches at your door. You do not rule it. You deserve death. Yet God has mercy. God has mercy on you. He marks you, like He marked Cain. 

Cain’s mark was temporary. It protected him from the vengeance of others while he walked the earth. But God has given you a mark much better than Cain’s. He has marked you with the sign of the cross upon your forehead and upon your heart. He has put His name on you, the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. He has washed you in the font. He has sealed you as His own. Cain’s mark lasted for his earthly life. Your mark lasts forever. 

The blood of the Shepherd cries out before God. It cries out that justice is done, that wrath need not be poured out on all mankind. Christ’s blood was poured out on the ground for you, for the forgiveness of sins. It was poured out on the cross, so that it may be poured into you. Here, on this altar, we are about to eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus. The blood of the shepherd. The death which brought forth life. 

Cain was supposed to bring life from the ground, but he sowed it with death. Jesus, by dying in Cain’s place, finished his work. Christ planted the ground with His own blood. Rising, He gives you the fruit of His salvation to eat and to drink. Come, dear Christian, and take the cup of salvation, poured out for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.

Amen 

Pray always, do not lose heart

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Pentecost 19 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 16, 2022
Gen. 32:22-30, 2 Tim. 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8

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

Being persistent can really pay off. The salesman ignores your first four objections and presses on to close the deal.  Children wear down Mom and Dad until they finally relent and give in. Many dogs and cats owe their cushy lives to the persistence of children.  Children get worn down by persistent parents and finally do their homework or cleantheir room. Persistence can get you what you want.

It is still dark outside when the widow gets up, lights a lamp and gets ready to make her way through the early morning streets to the courts to be first in line to see the judge. She is in a long standing dispute but as a widow she has no protection, no influence, no one to speak up for her and no money for a lawyer.  All she can do is to beg the judge to rule in her favor.

She has come here many, many times before.Time after time she gets up early to be first in line so she can speak to the judge. And every time, the judge refuses to rule in her favor and sends her away.  The judgeis his own man; he does what he wants. He does not care who he hurts,or whether it is right or wrong. He does not fear God or respect men.  That morning he takes his seat in court and looks up and groans. There at the front of the line is that bothersome widow — again.  She is again standing there waiting to be heard. He has heard it all before and he doesn’t want to have to hear it all again.He’s had enough, and so when the widow comes forward he says, “Okay, okay, I give up. I can’t take it anymore. I rule in your favor. Go now and leave me alone.” Even though he doesn’t fear God or respectmen he gives in so that the widow will causehim no more trouble. 

So, what does this parable mean? When we want something from God should we just be persistent and we will receive it? It would be easy to take this lesson and say that you need to be persistent in your prayers and if you continue in persistent prayerGod will eventually give in and grant you your request.

Lord, grant me a big raise. Lord, grant me a promotion at work. Lord, give me a biggerhouse, a bigger television, a bigger car. Lord, give me an A on this test I didn’t study for. Lord, please have this girl like me. Lord, give me the newest, latest, greatest iPhone.

There are many popular churches where this is the main message.  If you are faithful and pray the right prayers God will open up the storehouse of blessings and pour them out on you.  They teach that the reason you do not have big things is that you don’t prayer for big things.  They teach that your faith activates the power of God. 

Those who reject God altogether also believe basically the same thing.  In the book The Secret,The author, Rhonda Byrne, teaches that there is a law of attraction and your thoughts become things. By visualizing something you canput in an order with the powersof the universe and the universe will deliver. You don’t even need to pray to God, you can just picture what you want and it will be provided.

Is this what the parable is about? Is it teachingyou to be persistent in asking for stuff from God and if you are persistent, God will deliver?Let’s take a closer look.  What does this widow want? Does this widow want money or belongings? Does she want power or privilege?  No, she wants vindication against her opponent.  She wants justice.She wants things to be right. She is not asking for stuff, she is asking for justice.

So, pray for justice.  Pray for vindication over your adversaries.  Pray for an end to sin and evil.  Pray for the devil and his angels to be destroyed forever because they bring so much trouble and heartache into the world.

The evening news can feel like a report on the workings of the devil; wars and violence; threats to use nuclear weapons. A madman killing little children at a daycare center in Thailand.  Serial killers on the loose.  There are huge, violent, criminal organizations flooding our cities and towns with drugs.  And if that wasn’t bad enough sometimes the drugs are laced with fatal doses of fentanyl.  We watch coverage of trials where whole families were slaughtered.  We hear about children being abused in unspeakable ways by adults in positions of trust.  We hear about sin and perversion being promoted and encouraged.  We see the anger of people protesting that they cannot end the life of their unborn children without restriction.  We can see the devil’s work watching the evening news.  Pray for restoration.  Pray for justice.  Pray for evil to be overcome by good.  

So, pray for justice.  Pray for vindication over your adversaries.  Pray for an end to sin and evil.  Pray for the devil and his angels to be destroyed forever because they bring so much trouble and heartache into the world.

We can see the devil’s work amongst our family and friends.  We see alcoholism and drug abuse devastating families. There is anger and conflict and infidelity between husbands and wives. Two people who have pledged to love one another forever instead live in resentment and bitterness and betrayal. Far too often we hear about yet another family devastated by divorce as the devil works his evil; tearing people apart.  Pray for healing.  Pray for peace.  Pray for justice. 

          The devil hates Christianity.  Around the world Christians are being persecuted because they are followers of Jesus.  On a recent Sunday morning 25 Hindu extremists entered Pastor Arjun’s church in India and beat him for an hour leaving him hospitalized.  When the pastor’s landlord heard about the beating he evicted the pastor and his family leaving them homeless.  In Afghanistan, Christians are being hunted down and killed. The Church there is now completely underground.  There is open persecution in North Korea, Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, Pakistan and so many other countries around the world.  The world is hurting.  Pray for freedom. Pray for righteousness. 

In your life you face illness and injury;pain and disability. People you love are taken from you in death and there is so much sadness and mourning.  Pray for comfort. 

Life is hard and you struggle to resist great pressure to conform to the pattern of the world. You struggle against the constant messageto give in to the ways of the world and reject Jesus as your Lord and become lord of your own life. There is tremendous pressure to stop struggling and just give in to your everydesire and find true peace and happiness in self- indulgence and self-centeredness.  The struggle is real and too often you give in to this pressure to conform and you indulge your desires in ways contrary to God’s will. But you do not find peace and happiness.  Instead, you are left feeling empty and agitated.  And the world tries to tell you that you just need more of what has left you empty.  Repent of your failures.  Confess your sins.  Receive Jesus’ forgiveness.  Pray for righteousness.

There is so much trouble and heartache in the world; so much sin, so much persecution, so much death, so much influence of the devil. When will it end? When will enoughbe enough? When will Christians get the reward promised by God? When will God give justice by eliminating evil in the world? Why does God even allow evil?  How long, O Lord? How long will the devil be allowed to continue to prowl like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Come, Lord Jesus! Come now!

            Come, Lord Jesus! Come back and bring justice. End all of the trouble and heartache and violence and death.   Come, Lord Jesus!Bring justice for your people.As a Christian you recognize that you are a poor, miserable sinner; weak and powerless. Like the powerless widow coming to the judge, you come before God without any resources and plead for mercy and justice.

            Jesus has promised to return.  He has promised to bring justice.Matthew 5:6 (ESV) 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Be persistent. Be patient.  Jesus ascended into heaven 2,000 years ago and you can get discouraged, you can lose heart.  You can start to think that Jesus is never coming back.  But He will.  So pray and do not lose heart. 

God has promised to conquer evil and lift up those made righteous by Jesus Christ.  This is why you gather togethereach Sunday morningto confess your sins and hear the words of forgiveness and to cry out to God for mercy.

In one of the communion liturgies, I proclaim. “As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” And you cry out, “Amen, Come Lord Jesus.” You pray “Thy kingdom come.”You gather together to eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus Christ given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. You receivethe forgiveness won for you by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross.  You receive a foretaste of the feast to come.  You are made right with God as you look for Jesus to return and the whole world to be restored. 

Pray you remain safe in the ark of the Christian Church; pray you remain awake and faithful until the day of the Lord’s return so that He will find faith on earth. Get up out of bed on Sunday morning and come before the judge and plead for justice and righteousness to come to you and to the world. Do it week after week after week. Be persistent. Don’t give up.  Continue to gather togetheras a family around the gifts of the Lord. Rememberwho you are. You are a baptizedchild of God, redeemed by the blood of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Cry out for justice. Cry out for rescue from this veil of tears. Cry out for Jesus to return to judge and destroyevil. Be tireless. Continue to cry out for your need for Jesus to come back. Stay faithful, stay together, remain in Jesus. Be persistent.  Pray and do not lose heart. 

Amen.

Forgive foolishly

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Pentecost 17, 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 2, 2022
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:1-10

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

            There is a question that is so easy to ask, but which is so much the wrong question.  We hear this question from the rich ruler in Luke 18, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  It is a simple question.  “What do I need to do?”  Just tell me what to do so I can do it, and get back to my life.

            But it is not that simple, and it is the wrong question.  Eternal life does not come from what you do; it comes from what Jesus has done for you on the cross at Calvary.  It’s not about you.  It’s about Jesus for you. You cannot just do something and get back to your life because being a redeemed child of God is your life. 

            Children well understand the idea of being given things that they cannot repay.  It is a child’s life.  Children receive everything in their lives as a gift and never think twice about trying to pay back what they receive.  The older you get, however, the more you think about having to pay back anything that is given to you.  But that is not how it works with God’s forgiveness.  Jesus teaches Luke 18:17 (ESV)  17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  Jesus knows it is a great temptation to believe you must do something. 

            There is also an opposite temptation which is to believe that since Jesus has done it all and forgiven all your sins that it does not matter what you do.  You are tempted to believe that since you are a baptized child of God and Jesus forgives sins, that you should not think about sin and just sin more.  You are tempted to believe that since your spirit is set free by Jesus’ that it does not matter what you do with your body.  You are tempted to say, “I like to sin, Jesus likes to forgive, that is a good deal.”  And so, instead of fighting temptation, you just ignore God’s law, and give in to your every lust and desire.  St. Paul condemns this thinking in Romans 6:1–2 (ESV) 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” 

            So two errors.  What do I need to do? And, it doesn’t matter what I do.

            In our Gospel reading today St. Luke covers a lot of ground.  Luke 17:1–2 (ESV) 1 And [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”  Here the Greek word skandala in the ESV is translated “temptations to sin”, but it can also be translated as “stumbling blocks” or “traps”, more along the lines of false teaching.  The root word skandalon is the origin of our English word scandal.  

            Is Jesus here referring to temptation to sin, or temptation to false teaching, or both?  I believe it is both.  I believe He is warning against anyone teaching that you can earn your salvation, and anyone teaching that as a follower of Jesus it does not matter what you do.  The warning here is direct and it is harsh.  It would be better for you to be drowned and die than for you to cause a follower of Jesus to stray.  Why is it better to be drowned?  Because false teachers are bound for hell.  False teaching is an eternally big deal.  False teaching leads children of God away from the truth and into condemnation. 

As a follower of Jesus you have no choice but to live in the truth.  Jesus has forgiven all your sins.  You are a new creation in Christ.  So, as a baptized child of God, struggle each day to live out your new life, loving God and loving your neighbor.  Strive each day to live as salt and light in the world delighting in God’s will and walking in His ways.  Live as someone whose sins have all been fully forgiven by the Lord even though you do not deserve to be forgiven.

            One of the difficult things about following Jesus is that He does not act the way you would expect Him to act.  We have a saying, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”  The idea being, that you don’t let someone hurt you more than once or you’re just being dumb. But then we have Jesus who forgives you over and over and over again for that same stupid sin.  Jesus forgives extravagantly.  Jesus forgives recklessly.  Jesus does not put you on probation and tell you that you have one more chance and if you mess up you’re finished.  Instead, Jesus foolishly gives you chances to repent over and over and over. Jesus forgives you foolishly and he teaches you to forgive others just as foolishly.

            Luke 17:3–4 (ESV)  3 … If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 

            If your brother sins, rebuke him.  Don’t ignore sin or redefine sin; call sin what it is. Speak the truth in love.  If you find your baby playing with a bottle of poison you don’t let her keep it just because she might cry if you take it away. You keep her safe.  If your brother sins, rebuke him; warn him.  If he repents, forgive him.  How many times should the church forgive someone when they repent of their sins?  The Church must forgive extravagantly, recklessly, over and over and over. Seven times a day if needed.  Even more than that.  You are to forgive foolishly, forgive even if they don’t deserve it – forgive the way Jesus forgives you. 

            The disciples are aghast at this teaching.  You are aghast.  How can you forgive like this?  You cannot do it.  You cry out along with the disciples, “Increase our faith!”  Jesus replies, Luke 17:6 (ESV)  6 … “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

            You plant your faith by forgiving lavishly; forgiving like Jesus.  Others see the light of Christ in your generous forgiveness and forgiveness multiplies and grows. 

            What does this mean?  If we turn back a few chapters in Luke we learn about mustard seeds. Luke 13:18–19 (ESV)  18 [Jesus] said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” 

            Faith, like a grain of mustard seed, seems tiny and insignificant, but when planted, it grows to great size.  Your faith can seem foolish and futile.  What is it all about?  Just words, just water, just bread, just wine.  It looks like nothing and yet these words and water and bread and wine change the world.  These simple things change the world.  They change you.  Faith planted in you by the Holy Spirit grows.  These things change us as a congregation of followers of Jesus.  The foolishness of faith is the light of Christ which grows and pushes back the darkness.  Tiny, foolish faith causes people to reject selfishness and serve others. It brings peace in a world of hurt. It brings hope in desperation.  It brings forgiveness out of sin, life out of death.  Tiny, foolish faith grows and pushes back darkness and sin. 

            You plant your faith by forgiving lavishly; forgiving like Jesus.  Others see the light of Christ in your generous forgiveness and forgiveness multiplies and grows. 

The last part of our Gospel reading emphasizes again that your salvation is not about what you do.  Luke 17:10 (ESV) 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”  Salvation is not about what you do, but about what Jesus has done for you.  Jesus is the one-time, perfect sacrifice for your sin.  He did it all and gives it all as a gift to you.  Even though you can do nothing to accomplish your salvation, as a saved follower of Jesus, you still do what you have been given to do. As a redeemed child of God you are set free from the curse of the law in order to freely follow the law in love and service to others.  Do what you have been given to do in your various vocations as a parent, child, grandparent, sibling, worker, employer, teacher, student, citizen, neighbor.  Do it well, not to earn awards and recognition but because it is what you have been given to do. 

Life as a follower of Jesus is a beautifully messy life.  It is a life of being, at the same time, a saint and a sinner. It is a life of wearing the robe of Jesus’ righteousness that covers all your sins.  Live, with God as your Lord.  Strive to do God’s will in all that you do.  Live your life immersed in God’s Word and Sacraments.  Cling to the truth of God’s Word and do not give in to false teaching. Live your life in repentance for sins of thought, word and deed.  Live your life forgiving others recklessly.  Live your life as an unworthy servant, who has been declared worthy of eternal life. 

You cannot do anything to save yourself, Jesus has done that completely. But it does matter what you do.  Live your life as a redeemed follower of Jesus because that is who you are.  Amen. 

The Master’s Mercy

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Pentecost 15, 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Vicar Kaleb Yaeger
September 18, 2022
Amos 8:4-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-15, Luke 16:1-15

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 parable in our Gospel text today is interesting. When you look at the actions of the steward, there’s not a lot that seems good. Not a lot that deserves kudos. Not very much that’s commendable. At the start of the story, the steward is accused of squandering and wasting his master’s possessions. The rumor says that he’s spending his master’s money, like the prodigal sons spent his inheritance. Whether it’s true or not, the master comes to him and says, 

What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager

The stewards mind starts racing. What shall I do? He says to himself, I could dig but no, I’m too weak. I could beg. No, I’m too ashamed. I know what I shall do. 

So then the steward, at least from what we see, it looks like he cheats his master. He calls in his masters debtors and slashes their bills, one by 50%, another by 20%. And at the end, his master commends the steward for his wisdom. That’s odd. The steward doesn’t seem to have really learned anything. He seems to have acted very dishonestly. What did he do that earned his Masters respect? 

Well, you see, the master has been put in a very awkward position. He could call in his debtors. He could say to them, “Look, the steward when you talked to him, was already fired. He had no authority to slash your bills and half. I’m sorry, but I’m going to require the full amount when that bill comes due.” 

If you’ve ever been shopping and grab an item off of the clearance rack, but when you bring it to the cashier and the cashier charges you full price, you might get an idea of how these debtors might feel about the master in that case. Not good. Upset. They might accuse him of being greedy. 

But the master has another option, the one that the steward hopes he will take. The master could just let it lie. Take the financial hit and be regarded as a merciful and generous man. The steward wants this because he wants some of this impression of mercy and generosity to fall on him. He wants his master’s debtors to say “Ah, that master was merciful. His steward did me a favor. Now that he’s put out of house and home, I will receive him into my house.” 

That is the wisdom the master commends. It’s a clever plan. The steward got one over on him. 

From the Masters point of view, though, there seems little difference between the steward squandering the wealth and forgiving debts. if the steward squanders the master’s wealth, the master loses but the steward gains. If the steward forgives deaths, the master loses money and the steward gains. 

But the master knows something. He knows that money and profit isn’t the point. People are. Mercy is. This is an eternal truth. And it’s what the parable is teaching. People before profits. Have mercy on others, cost yourself some money, gain some friends. It’s worth it. The steward realized this, but his gambit only works if the master is merciful. If the master is not merciful, if the master is a cruel and jealous man, then the master is going to go to his debtors and tell them to pay the full amount undermining the stewards entire plan. The steward might even be thrown in prison for fraud. But the steward recognized the master’s mercy and in so doing, he realized the truth about money. 

If the accusations against the steward were true, and he was squandering his master’s possessions, then money was his master. Money was his ruler and he could not serve his master the way that his master wanted. The master’s goal was to have mercy. If the steward served money, then his goal would be to get more and more wealth. The goals of money and the goals of the master are opposed. They are mutually exclusive. In order to serve his master, in order to be a steward, the steward had to rule money, not the other way around. He had to subdue money and use it to the ends that his master wanted. 

This is why Jesus says at the end: No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

We are to use money, mammon, unrighteous wealth, to serve God. Make money God’s slave, not your master. Let the Lord be the Lord. Don’t try to twist things around. Don’t put the cart before the horse and hold up money over God. 

Now this parable does teach us this valuable lesson about the small things of wealth, power and money. But it also teaches us about the large things. It teaches us how God works. The earthly master in the parable realized that cutting into his profits to gain friends was a good idea; but God, our heavenly master, He doesn’t just cut into his profits a little. He doesn’t just give us a discount. He doesn’t cut the debt in half, a third or even a quarter. He erases them. He destroys His profit margins in order to gain brothers and sisters. Jesus gave up everything to gain you as brothers and sisters. He came down from heaven and became a little baby in Bethlehem. He walked the earth for 33 years. In the end, He died on the cross, giving up His very life for His friends, for his family. God doesn’t see profit margins. The true treasure that God seeks after is people. It’s you. Brothers and sisters. 

And brothers and sisters in Christ, you are like the steward. You are like him in the obvious way, that God has given us his possessions to manage and we should manage those well. We should manage those to the ends of mercy and not to the ends of money. But the steward said right at the beginning of the story, right after his master fired him, that he was too weak to dig. He recognized that he was at the bottom of a pit. He was too weak to even lift a shovel. Even if he could, the only way he could go is down. We are the same. Our sinful condition is so severe that we cannot free ourselves from it. 

We are also like the steward in another way. The steward went through his options and came up with the only one that would get him out. He recognized his only option, which was to cast himself on the master’s mercy. His only option was to bet everything on the fact that his master was a kind and generous man. The steward might have said he was too ashamed to beg, but he was not ashamed to rely on the mercy of his master. 

The steward was dealing with small things, so he only slashed the debts in half. He didn’t obliterate them. He hedged his bets, since the master’s mercy couldn’t really extend that far, could it? Dear brothers and sisters, we are not dealing with small things. We are not dealing with small debts. We are dealing with large things. Thanks be to God that His mercy is larger than any earthly master’s could be. Like the steward, we recognize that we have only one way out. That way is the mercy of God. Unlike the steward, we are not ashamed to beg for God’s mercy. 

This image is most clear in baptism, especially the baptism of a baby. Babies are too weak to dig. Whether you give them a shovel or a backhoe, they’re not going to give you a ditch. It’s a baby. Babies are weak. But just ask any parent, babies are not ashamed to beg. Begging is all they do. Their childlike faith guides them. Babies beg at all hours, day and night to be fed to be changed to be comforted. Babies cry out for mercy. 

This is how we are before God. crying out for mercy. We are too weak even to lift a shovel, let alone dig our way out of our sinful condition. Our only option is to beg to throw ourselves on the mercy of our heavenly Master. God answers your cries. He answers them here. At the font with water and Word. He answers your cries in baptism where He seals you and calls you as his own. Where Jesus becomes your elder brother. Here we do no work. Here we only beg. And God answers with only mercy. 

Amen

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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Pentecost 13 2022 Proper 18
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
September 4, 2022
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Philemon 1-21, Luke 14:25-35

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

            You are here.  You have gathered together this morning to once again hear the Good News that your sins are forgiven by the blood of Jesus.  You are a baptized child of God in the family of faith and that family [will be] is one bigger this morning as we add little Lydia Whitaker. You are in.  You are forgiven.  You are redeemed.  You are part of the Lord’s Church.  You have the gift of eternal life.  You are moving through this life in the ship of the Church.

            As we have talked about before, this area of the building is called the nave.  It is from the Latin word Navis which means ship.  It is the same word from which we get Navy.  You are in the ship of the Church, the ship of faith.  As a part of the Lord’s Church, as a member of God’s family, in His ship of faith you ride out the storms of life, the joys and the struggles until the day comes when you are wheeled in here one last time to be laid to rest to await the resurrection of the dead. 

            You are in.  You are in.  You know the truth of the forgiveness of sins through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  You have been rescued from the darkness of sin, death and the devil and transferred to the Kingdom of God.  You are in. You are a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.  You have been given unending gifts.  You are blessed by God for eternity.  You are destined to live forever in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem. 

            You are here.  You are in.  So you get to ask yourself.  “Should I stay or should I go?”  This is a question posed by Mick Jones of the Clash in a song written in 1981.  “Should I stay or should I go?  If I go there will be trouble, if I stay there will be double.”  The Clash is talking about a relationship with a girl.  Your question is about your relationship with God through His Church. “Should I stay or should I go?”

            As Jesus teaches in our Gospel reading today you have to count the cost of following Jesus.  What are the costs?  What are the benefits?  Jesus teaches, Luke 14:27 (ESV) 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”  Jesus then talks about building a tower and going to war and how you have to count the costs.

            Should I stay or should I go?  Being a disciple of Jesus has its costs and its benefits.  Is it worth it?  Being a part of the Lord’s Church has its costs.  Being a disciple of Jesus….

            Costs you a few hours on Sunday morning each week.

            Costs you money — a sacrificial first fruits offering

            Costs you time in prayer and Bible study. 

            Costs you your time in service to the church

Costs obedience to God

Costs you having to love people you may not like

            Costs you not being able to join Sunday morning sports leagues. 

            Costs you the freedom to be your own master.

            Costs you the freedom to follow your feelings. 

Costs you being annoyed about something at church and still keep coming. 

Costs you trying to keep wiggly kids quiet and still. 

            Costs you submission to God’s will

Costs you the option of trading in your spouse on a newer model.

Costs you having to keep intimacy inside the marriage of a man and a woman.

            Costs you friends who do not want to around someone who believes the Bible is true. 

            It can cost you your job

            It can cost you family members

            It can cost you your physical freedom as many in the world are jailed for following Jesus.

            In some counties it can cost you your life

            Should I stay, or should I go?  Is the benefit worth the cost? 

            Some folks, I fear, think, “I’ll stay in the church, but only if it does not cost me too much.  I’ll stay in the church but not if it affects my sex life, or my money, my schedule, my business practices or my recreation.”  Then the cost would be too high.

Being a disciple of Jesus has costs.  Luke 14:27 (ESV) 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” 

            Should I stay, or should I go?

            Set before you are life and death, good and evil, blessing and curse.  Choose life. Choose to stay in the Lord’s church. Stay, knowing there is a cost, so it is never a surprise.  Stay, because.  John 6:68 (ESV)  68 … “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…”  Stay, because you are the salt of the earth.  You are salt preventing the rot of evil from destroying lives and leading people into the fires of Hell.  You are salt — loving and serving others.  You are salt — preserving lives through the Good News of forgiveness of sins in Jesus. 

            Stay.  Resist the desire to give in to the ways of the world. 

            The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment is a test of impulsivity and delayed gratification where a child is seated at a table with one marshmallow in front of them.  They are told they can eat the marshmallow but then they will not get any more, or, if they can wait a bit, they will get an additional marshmallow. Can the students delay their gratification? 

            I am relatively good at resisting impulsivity and delaying gratification when it comes to food… during the day.  But once the sun sets and the clock hits 10 PM or so, something switches off and I become an expert in impulsivity and gratifying my every snacking impulse.  There are times when I am strong and times when I am weak. 

            When it comes to the question about being a follower of Jesus, “Should I stay or should I go?”  There are times when you will be strong and able to easily resist temptations and there will be times when you are weak and more prone to give in and think that the cost of following Jesus is too high.  The devil knows your weaknesses and he will exploit them.  Be on guard.  Know your own weaknesses and protect yourself.  And when you fail, do not give in to the devil’s temptation to despair, instead live out your true identity as a baptized child of God, get on your knees and repent of your sin and know that your sin has been forgiven by your dear Lord Jesus.

            And if you do choose to leave do not give the Devil the satisfaction of having you slowly drift away into unbelief as if you do not know what you are doing.  Be bold, declare what you are doing.  Set before you are life and death, good and evil, blessing and curse.  Declare, “The cost is too high.  I choose death.  I choose evil.  I choose to be cursed.” That way you will know what you are doing.  You will know what you are choosing. 

            There is a cost to following Jesus because it is following Jesus.  Jesus is the Suffering Servant.  Jesus carries His own cross and suffers and dies at the place of the skull.  Jesus is God in flesh who is the Lamb of God who offers Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for sin.  There is cost to following Jesus but the benefits are eternal. 

            Should I stay or should I go?  Weighing the costs and the benefits, you should stay.  Jesus is… John 14:6 (ESV) 6 … “… the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him].

            You are a baptized child of God moving through life in the ship of faith; the Lord’s Church.  Stay.  It is worth the cost for eternity. Count the cost and know that eternal life with Jesus is a treasure beyond compare.  Amen