God’s Call and Promise Show the Way

Epiphany 3, 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 26, 2020
Isaiah 9:1-4, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, Matthew 4:12-28

 

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 can’t see the forest for the trees.  You can’t see the big picture.  You strain out gnats while swallowing a camel.  We have a lot of clichés about being so caught up in the middle of the struggle that you lose focus on why you are doing what you are doing.

It is easy to get caught in the chaos of living.  There is so much to do and so little time to do it.  Your spouse is out of town and you’re on the phone with the manager of the auto repair shop who is telling you things are much worse with your car than they thought.  The baby is crying because she needs a diaper change, the four year old just dumped a box of cheerios on the floor, the 9 year old is chasing the dog around with a toy sword and the 12 year old has her headphones in and just rolls her eyes when you look at her with your eyes pleading for help.  You can lose track of why it is that you have children.

At work you can get so caught up in the details of the day to day grind and responding to crisis after crisis that you lose sight of the big picture of what it is you are trying to accomplish.

Today’s Gospel reading is from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  Jesus has been baptized and has been tempted by the devil in the wilderness, John the Baptist has been arrested.  Now Jesus is beginning His ministry.  He is calling His disciples.  It is an interesting story about fishermen; Andrew and Peter and their father, James and John and their father Zebedee.  “Matthew 4:19 (ESV) 19 …[Jesus says] to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”[1]  And the sons immediately leave their boats and their fathers behind.  They leave their lives as fishers of fish and follow Jesus.  It is an amazing story, but we can get lost in the details.  We wonder, what did Peter, Andrew, James and John already know about Jesus?  What did their fathers think of this?  How could they react so swiftly?  We love the human details, but the details are not important here.  This account is not about Peter, Andrew, James and John and their fathers.  The Gospel of Matthew is not about the disciples. It is about Jesus.  This account, from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, is about Jesus.  It is not about the disciples, it is not about you, it is not about me.  It’s not about what people know or what they feel.  It is about Jesus.  It is about Jesus and His call.  Matthew 4:19 (ESV) 19 …“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”[2]  Jesus calls them to give up catching fish for dinner and instead gather women and men, girls and boys for God’s eternal Kingdom.

The disciples do not know everything about Jesus when they are called, but Jesus’ call is powerful and they follow and they learn about Jesus as they go.  The disciples are not perfect followers of Jesus.  They stumble, they fall, and they are restored. They learn that Jesus is the one. They learn that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  They learn that Jesus came to give His life on the cross as a ransom for the sins of the world.  They learn that Jesus will die and rise again.  Jesus calls, and they follow; in fits and starts, in faith and forgiveness.

Jesus’ call is powerful.  The Word that brought the universe into existence turns people around.  His Word brings forgiveness and eternal life.  It does not matter what your knowledge of Jesus is at the time of your call.  Many of you received your call from God when you were just a tiny baby still getting used to breathing air.  You didn’t know anything about Jesus and yet He called you in the water and the Word of Holy baptism and you are still following Him.  Others of you received the call later in life after a time of wandering.  You heard the Good News call of Jesus and you followed Him. Your life now is not about you, it is about Jesus and His call to you.  You did not choose Jesus.  He chose you.

            The disciples do not know everything about Jesus when they are called, but Jesus’ call is powerful and they follow and they learn about Jesus as they go.  The disciples are not perfect followers of Jesus.  They stumble, they fall, and they are restored. They learn that Jesus is the one. They learn that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  They learn that Jesus came to give His life on the cross as a ransom for the sins of the world.  They learn that Jesus will die and rise again.  Jesus calls, and they follow; in fits and starts, in faith and forgiveness.

In the beginning it was very clear, it is not about you, it is about Jesus for you.  Here in the middle it is still very clear.  It is not about you, it is about Jesus for you and His call to you.  It is about Jesus and His promise to you.  “I will make you fishers of men.”  That is His promise to you.  You will be a fisher of men.  Sounds easy enough, but how does that happen.  What exactly does Jesus mean?  How do you bring people into the kingdom of God?  What does it look like for you to be a fisher of men?  I don’t know.  I don’t know what it all means for me.  It can mean different things for you each day depending on where life takes you. Living in the messy middle of things caught up in all the day to day tasks it is not always clear what exactly we are to do.  What is clear is Jesus wants you to be a part of His mission to bring more people into the kingdom through the call of God.  And God will make it happen through you.

Jesus promised that you would be fishers of men and this takes many forms; at home, at school, at work, with friends.  It does not mean the same thing for everyone.  However, for everyone who is a member of Immanuel, one clear way that you are fishers of men is through your ministry at Immanuel Lutheran School where for 6 hours each day 175 kindergarten through 8th graders are loved and cared for and educated and taught about Jesus’ love and forgiveness in word and deed.  Another 50 preschool students are here part of the day each week along with many additional children in our childcare center.  In recent years 74 students and family members have come to the waters of baptism.  They have received God’s call in water and the Word and the kingdom of God expands.

The impact of the Gospel on our students is immeasurable.  Seeds are planted and watered that we won’t necessarily get to see fully grow.  But we get to have a great impact in the formative years.  We are able to teach students about Jesus who do not know about Jesus.  We are able to speak the truth in love to students who do not have a church home. We baptize.  We gather at the altar of the Lord and eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ with those who are prepared to receive the sacrament. We are the church home for many students who have no other church to call home.  We strive each day to nurture our students to walk in repentant faith; loving God and loving their neighbor.

This is one of your missions.  It is a mission that you all have generously supported since 1896. You have supported this mission in lean years and it is a mission you continue to support as we have grown to be one of the largest Lutheran Schools in Ohio.  Your Lutheran School is one of only eight Lutheran Schools nationwide that has had continual growth over the past eight years.  You fishers of men made that happen.  You see the value of your mission and it is a mission I pray you will continue to support, and support to an even greater extent as we look for ways to be able to reach out to more and more students and grow our capacity to educate the whole child in a holy way until Jesus returns.

Every Sunday you support bringing God’s Word and Sacrament to your brothers and sisters in Christ gathered here.  Every school day you bring the light of Christ to students in your school with your support.  This week we will celebrate National Lutheran Schools’ Week with schools across the country with daily themes of Joyfully, Thankfully, Peacefully, Faithfully, Hopefully.  It is a week to give thanks to God for the amazing ministries of Lutheran Schools.  Where else do you get to spend five days a week teaching children about Jesus?

Right now we are in the middle of very real growing pains as a church and a school.  From the busyness of just trying to keep up with all the daily tasks it is sometime hard to see where we are going and what is the best way forward.  Where do we go next?  What is God calling us to do?  “What do we do next?” is not an easy question to answer from life in the messy middle, but we find clarity in knowing that we are each called by God and He has promised to make us fishers of men.  We know there are a lot of women and men, girls and boys in our community who have not heard the Good News of Jesus.  How do we reach them as a church and as a school?

We know that Jesus’ promises are certain and they do not change even when we get lost in the chaos of life in the middle.  God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  As fishers of men we will find our way to do God’s will.  Together, seeking God’s will, we will step back and see the forest; examine the big picture, and find our way forward in faith and obedience.  Together, we find clarity of purpose because Jesus’ call to follow Him and Jesus’ promise to make us fishers of men are the same as it was in the beginning, as it is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

 


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

 

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

 

Did God really say?

Sanctity of Life Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 19, 2020
Genesis 3:1-15, 2 Timothy 3:16-4:5, John 6:63-69

 

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

 

 

“It is good.”

This is the Lord’s refrain through the six days of creation. Light and dark, “It is good.” Land and sea, “It is good.” Stars and moon and sun, “It is good.” Birds and fish, plants and animals, “It is good.” And then there is Adam, and the Lord looks at him and says, “It is not good.” “It is not good for man to be alone.”

The goodness of creation is connected to life. If creation brings forth or supports life, it is good. Adam, alone, remains alone. He can have no children, no family. It is not good, not until Eve, and then it is very good.

Then, with the gift of marriage, the promise of children, the joy of life, God rests from His work.

And the devil gets busy.

He finds Adam and Eve in the Garden and begins to nudge them towards death, and the nudge sounds like this, “Did God really say?” Let’s not miss the point, “Did God really say?” is the sound of the devil’s death nudge. “Did God really say you are not supposed to eat any of this fruit?” “Did God really say if you ate the fruit then you would die?”

The devil deceived with these questions of doubt. And, we see, his chief lie was calling God a liar.

God’s Word is truth and God’s Word is life. If the devil wants us to die (which is what he wants), he will tempt us away from the Word of God. And death comes with doubt. Adam and Eve are tempted away from the word, away from life. They ate, and they died, and we and everything else in the cosmos are dying with them.

We often lament that ours is a “culture of death.” No doubt this is true. Life is vulnerable at the beginning and the end and devalued all the way through. We mourn the slaughter of babies and lament the medical murdering of the elderly, but it is important for us to remember that humanity’s funeral march began long before Roe vs. Wade and the push for legalized “euthanasia.” It began in the Garden. It began with “Did God really say?” And it continues to march to that same beat.

But it is this funeral march that Jesus came to stop. Jesus is not content with our dying. He is not happy to stand by and watch us fall into the grave and come to condemnation.

“I came that [you] might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus interrupts our death with His life. Jesus interrupts our sin with His holiness. Jesus interrupts our rebellion with His crucifixion. He takes our sin, our punishment, and the wrath we deserve, and He suffers in our place. His death is Adam’s death, and Eve’s, and ours. His agony is what we deserved. He bears our sin so that we would know God’s mercy, God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, God’s life that never ends.

And He gives all of this to us in His Word.

In John chapter six, Jesus is giving a difficult teaching. He is the bread from heaven. He is God and Man united in one person. He is the hope and life of the world. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:53-56). This was too much for the crowds. They could not accept this kind of teaching.

There were thousands who came to Jesus for bread in the wilderness, but these don’t stay for the teaching; they don’t stay for the word. Jesus sees that they are all leaving, and turns to His disciples, “Do you want to leave as well?”

Peter answers beautifully, and we with him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Praise God! Peter sees with a divine clarity what we must also see—Jesus has the words of eternal life. Jesus has the words that overcome death. Jesus has the words that will pull us out of the grave on the last day. Jesus has the words that cut down the old evil foe. Jesus has the words that forgive sin. His words are words of eternal life.

And, my brothers and sisters in Christ, you also have them. You have the words of Jesus. You hear His voice. You know His name. You believe what He says.

Now, it’s true, the devil comes to tempt us, the same as in the Garden, “Did God really say?” “Did God really say He loves you?” Yes! “Did God really say your sins are forgiven?” Yes! “Did God really say that you are saved by grace through faith, without any works?” Yes! “Did God really say that we will be raised on the last day, and that we will live forever with Him?” Yes, a thousand times yes! Jesus has the words of eternal life.

Those words and promises are ours.

That eternal life is ours.

God be praised! Amen.

What is Jesus doing at the Jordan?

Baptism of our Lord 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 12, 2020
Isaiah 42:1-9, Romans 6:1-11, Matthew 3:13-17

 

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

 

Geography can be important.  There is something powerful about walking in the footsteps of influential people who have gone before.  In the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach Germany there is a gathering room which has the original stone floor.  This stone floor is where St. Elizabeth of Hungry walked in the 1200s and where Martin Luther walked 300 years later.  In Wittenberg, visiting the Castle Church where Luther nailed the 95 theses and the City Church where he preached most of his sermons is moving.  Visiting the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen is depressingly poignant as you ponder the immense evil that happened in this place.

In our Gospel reading today we are at the waters of the Jordan River in Israel. This is a location rich with history. It is this Jordan River which Joshua leads the Israelites across to end their 40 years in the wilderness after he has taken over leadership from Moses.  It is this Jordan River where Elijah passes his cloak and his prophetic ministry over to Elisha.  It is the place now where John the Baptist, the new Elijah, is passing over his ministry of preaching to Jesus, the new Joshua.

Something big is happening here.  But it is not big in the way that we expect. It certainly is not big in the way that John the Baptist expects.  John knows the sin and evil that is pervasive in the land.  John has been preaching at the Jordan, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  People have been coming to John to repent and be baptized in the Jordan.  Sinner after sinner has gone down into the water in this baptism of repentance.  The Pharisees and Sadducees are hanging around and John calls them out for not repenting of their sins.

John sees Jesus coming near and must think that Jesus is going to do something amazing and powerful and bring down the wrath of God on the Pharisees and Sadducees and on all the sinners.  John knows all the evil in the world; he sees the sin.  He knows how the Pharisees and Sadducees pretend to be such pious, religious people and yet use their positions to take advantage of the poor and needy and to make money for themselves.  John has called them the offspring of snakes and has said that the axe is at the root of the tree.  John sees Jesus coming and wants Jesus to swing that divine axe and cut down these evil trees.  John wants Jesus to come with power and might to destroy evil and eliminate sin.

Jesus comes to John to be baptized and John rebukes Jesus. Matthew 3:14 (ESV) 14 … “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”[1]  Jesus isn’t doing things the way John expects or the way we would expect.  Jesus replies to John Matthew 3:15 (ESV) 15 … “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.[2]

Jesus also sees what is happening.  He knows the evil and the sin in the world.  He sees all the sinners gathered there by the Jordan.  He knows that the wages of sin is death; eternal death in Hell.  Jesus’ heart breaks for the people.  His gut aches with compassion for the people, for they are like sheep without a shepherd.  He sees the people and their sins and He knows they stand under God’s judgment.  And then He acts.  To fulfill all righteousness, Jesus immerses Himself in the sins of the people in order to save them from their sins.  Jesus does not swing the axe of God’s wrath.  Jesus does not wield His winnowing fork to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Instead, Jesus goes down into the sins of the people and immerses Himself in their sin.

Instead of eliminating sin and sinners Jesus identifies with sin and sinners.  Jesus takes ownership of the sin.  Jesus goes down into the waters of the Jordan River and takes upon Himself the sin of the world.  2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.[3]

Jesus immerses Himself in your sin.  He takes ownership of your sin and comes up out of the water tainted by your sin and the sin of the world and what happens?  Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” [4]

The spirit descends over the water like a dove reminiscent of the dove sent off by Noah that returns with a branch in its mouth and the promise of new life. Noah is a kind of new Adam.  Jesus is a new Noah and a new Adam.  Noah is brought safely through the waters in the ark with eight people signifying the number of new beginnings.  Jesus is brought through the waters of baptism.  It is a day of new beginnings.  In baptism you are born again in water and the Spirit.

            Instead of eliminating sin and sinners Jesus identifies with sin and sinners.  Jesus takes ownership of the sin.  Jesus goes down into the waters of the Jordan River and takes upon Himself the sin of the world.  2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.[3]

All your sins have been laid on Jesus and God says, “This is my beloved Son.”  Jesus has become sin for you and the Father says, “With whom I am well pleased.”  Jesus brings His people from the wilderness of sin through the water to the Promised Land.

John the Baptist wants Jesus to do big things like in Old Testament times with Elijah and the prophets of Baal, and Daniel in the Lion’s Den, and the parting of the Red Sea.  He wants Jesus to do big things.  We are a lot like John the Baptist.  We see all of the sin and evil and suffering which is rampant in the world and in our own lives and we want things to be better right away.  We see how terrible things are and we want Jesus to act with power and might and immediately eliminate sin and evil.  So many times in life it feels like God is so far away and does not care about helping us.  We want God to come with power and might and eliminate all evil, all sin, all sickness, all death.  We want a shortcut to the last day when the creation will be completely restored.  But we are not there yet.  The day is coming, but it has not come yet.  And so, like John the Baptist, you learn from Jesus.  Jesus humbles Himself to carry your burden and to carry it all the way to the cross.  And Jesus calls you to humble yourself and take up your cross and follow Him.  You live life quietly in meekness and love and service to others; doing the difficult things of life because it is what you have been given to do.

And God, today, still does not act the way we would want.  We are so desperate, at times, for God to act in big ways but He fulfills all righteousness in quiet, simple ways.  He comes to you in the waters of Holy Baptism bringing you to the banks of the Jordan River.  He comes to you in His Word bringing you to sit at His feet.  He comes to you in simple bread and wine bringing you to the upper room, and the cross and tomb.  It is in such plain, simple ways that Jesus comes to you, but what He does is monumental.  He makes you righteous.  Jesus takes away the filth and the guilt and the punishment for all your sins.  Jesus takes your sin upon Himself and, in exchange, gives you His holiness and righteousness. You are holy and righteous not from anything you have done, but because of what Christ has done for you in the waters of Holy Baptism.  In Christ, you have been brought through the water from the wilderness of sin into the Promised Land of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Live as a citizen of God’s Kingdom looking for the fulfillment of righteousness on the Last Day.  Amen.

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Mysteries of the Magi

Epiphany 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 5, 2020
Is. 60:1-6, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12

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

 

Today we celebrate Epiphany a day early.  The visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem which on January 6 marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas.

There are three mysteries in the story of the Magi. First, what was the star? What was this star which guided the Magi to Bethlehem? There are several theories to explain the star of Bethlehem as a natural phenomenon. Some people say that the star was a comet or meteor, because the text implies movement. Matthew 2:9 (ESV) 9 … And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.[1]  But as a meteor or comet, this does not make any sense because this is not how comets and meteors behave.  They move quickly and do not stop over a place on earth.

Perhaps one of the best theories is that of Johann Kepler, a seventeenth-century German astronomer. Kepler was a Lutheran, who once studied to be a pastor. In his work as an astronomer, Kepler found evidence to promote the ideas of Nicholas Copernicus, who proposed the earth, the moon and other planets revolve around the sun, not the sun, the moon and the planets revolving around the earth. Regarding the star of Bethlehem, Kepler proposed that it was an alignment of Jupiter and Saturn in the year of Jesus’ birth, to form a bright light in the heavens. According to the symbolism of the ancient Middle East, Jupiter, the greatest of the planets, was the king of the planets. Saturn was linked with the Jews. Therefore, the alignment indicated the birth of the promised King of the Jews, that is, the Messiah.

Another alternative is that the star was indeed a miracle of God,  God can use natural phenomena, but He can also suspend natural laws. What we do know from God’s Holy Scripture is that there was a star that guided the Magi to Jesus.

The second mystery is the Magi, the Wise Men.  Who were they? What were they?  Only the Gospel according to St. Matthew speaks of the Magi.  Matthew 2:1 (ESV) 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,[2]  In the pictures of Christmas, there are always three Magi, because there were three gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh. But in the text we do not find a specific number. The word, “magician”, is from the root of this word, Magi, which came to mean wise man. In the beginning, the Magi were a caste of priests in Persia and Mesopotamia who were also students of the stars and medicine. In time they became advisors to the kings of Persia and Mesopotamia, the countries to the east of Israel in the areas known today as Iran and Iraq.

We find the word for Magi in the second chapter of the book of the prophet Daniel. After Daniel interprets King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the king made him governor of the whole province of Babylon, and prince of the governors over all the wise men, the magi of Babylon. Because of Daniel and the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, the Magi knew something of the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, and therefore, traveled to Bethlehem to worship the Child Jesus.

The Baby Jesus Himself is the third mystery in the story. The Magi found Him in a house in Bethlehem sometime after His birth.  Contrary to many nativity scenes the Magi almost certainly did not arrive to worship the infant Jesus the same night as the shepherds.  A choir of angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.  The baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger is the sign for the shepherds, while the star was the sign for the Magi. The trip of the Magi to Bethlehem may have lasted more than a year which we glean from the account of their journey in Matthew.

The Magi came first to Jerusalem, where they asked, Matthew 2:2 (ESV) 2 …“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”[3]

Going to Jerusalem to ask about the new king was not a particularly wise move because there was already a king in Jerusalem; Herod the Great.  Matthew 2:3-8 (ESV) 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared.8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”[4]

But, this was, of course, a lie; Herod had no intention to worship the Christ Child.  His plan was to kill Jesus to protect his throne. The Magi did not return to Herod because they were warned by an angel and this made Herod furious. Herod knew that Bethlehem was the town where the Child Jesus was born, but he did not know which child in which house. Therefore, he ordered the slaughter of all the boys in Bethlehem two years of age or less. We remember this event each year on December 28, the Day of the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents.

How was the eternal Son of God made flesh? We do not understand this mystery. The greatest mystery is also the most precious gift for us.

The greatest mystery in this account of the Magi, and the greatest mystery of all is the Child who avoided King Herod’s sword.  He is the Word made flesh that lived among us. As St. John says in his Gospel, John 1:1-3 (ESV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.[5] John 1:14 (ESV) 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.[6]

The Word was made flesh, born of the Virgin Mary. He grew up as the son of Mary and Joseph. He was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist and began His public ministry; the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins by the blood of the Savior. He made this sacrifice Himself on the cross and was resurrected the third day. We are all sinners and cannot justify ourselves before God, but we have the promise of eternal life because of Jesus Christ; the Word made flesh.

How was the eternal Son of God made flesh? We do not understand this mystery. The greatest mystery is also the most precious gift for us.

When the Magi found Jesus they offered Him gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. The value of gold is obvious. It was a gift fit for a king. The incense was burned for its fragrance in the presence of a king, also in the temple in the worship of God. So, the incense was a gift for a king, also for a priest. We believe in Jesus as King of kings and our High Priest in heaven, the only Mediator between God and men. Myrrh was used as oil to anoint kings, prophets and priests, also to prepare dead bodies for burial.  Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes to prepare Jesus’ body for burial after His crucifixion.  Myrrh from the Magi is a glimpse forward to the cross and tomb.

The most precious gift of all is the Child Jesus Himself who brings to you God’s forgiveness and eternal life. Not only just for you, but for all people.  Epiphany means manifestation.  The manifestation of God in Christ, and the visit of the Magi was the first manifestation of the Savior to all nations. The Magi were foreigners; Gentiles; they were not men of Israel. But the Savior’s promise was made to all nations.

Jesus came first to the Jews, according to the promise that God made to Abraham and the patriarchs. But after his resurrection, He sent his church to proclaim the gospel to all parts of the world. St. Paul says in our epistle, Ephesians 3:6-10 (ESV) 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.[7]

The manifold wisdom of God in Christ Jesus has been made known to us Gentiles and like all those who have received new life in baptism, we are the church.  As the Church, we bring this wisdom of God in Christ to others. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we talk with our family and neighbors about the great mysteries of Christ and all He has done for us.  This baby in Bethlehem worshipped by the Magi, hunted by the King, is the Word made flesh.  He is God incarnate who has come to be the sacrificial Lamb to take away the sins of the world. He is the one who sets you free from your sins.  Jesus is the greatest mystery; the greatest gift of all.  He is God in flesh made manifest to the world; beginning with the mysterious Magi from the East and continuing today here and throughout this nation and the world.  Amen.

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

A message to you from God’s angels

Christmas Eve 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 24, 2019
Luke 2:1-20

 

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

 

Angels, angels everywhere.  This time of year there are a lot of depictions of angels all around us.  Cute little preschoolers dressed in white robes with sparkling wings and halos for the school Christmas performance; the angel on top the tree, angel ornaments, light up angels in the yard, angels on greeting cards; so many angels.  Some are cute, some are funny, a few look mighty…but just so many angels.

In Martin Luther’s morning and evening prayer we pray, “Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.”

We pray to God for angelic help, we talk about angels a lot at Christmas, but other than children in costumes and ornaments, I don’t believe I have ever seen or heard from a heavenly angel.  And I am ok with that.  It seems that angels bring dramatic change.

An angel appears to John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, and tells him that Elizabeth, his barren, elderly wife is going to have a child.  Due to Zechariah’s doubt he is struck mute until the baby is born and Zechariah writes, “His name is John.”

The Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she is going to conceive and give birth to a son and she will call his name Jesus.  This is radical change for the young virgin.  She goes from being an anonymous nobody from Nazareth to being the Mother of God incarnate.

The angel appears to Joseph in a dream to tell him to take his pregnant fiancée as his wife because the baby she is carrying is from the Holy Spirit.  The angel will appear to Joseph again to warn him of Herod’s plot to kill the baby Jesus, and Joseph immediately flees with his family to Egypt in the middle of the night.  An angel appears once more to Joseph in Egypt to let him know it is okay to return to Israel after Herod the Great’s death.

An angel appears to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem.  The angel rocks their world.  A Savior has been born; Christ the Lord.  Then an army of angels sings praises to God.

Angels dramatically change things, they are quite disruptive.  So I am thinking that having an angel appear to me is really not anything I want.  I am comfortable with the status quo.  Just leave me alone in my normal little life.

The word “angel” is interesting, however, because to us it means a heavenly being in a white robe with wings and a halo.  But the word in Greek simply means messenger.  Now, an angel of the Lord is a heavenly spirit who comes to bring a message or to help and protect you.  We are not sure if they really have wings and a halo, although at the tomb after Jesus’ resurrection the angels are dressed in white.  We know they are frightening because they generally have to tell people, “Don’t be afraid.”  In the Bible, angels of the Lord are messengers bringing a communication from God. That is what we see them do with Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.

            And while these encounters with God’s messengers are certainly not as intense as an angel of the Lord appearing to Mary, they are still important.  If the message is from God’s Word, it is no less true than what the Angel Gabriel tells Mary.  God has sent His angels to you.

You likely will never in your life have an encounter with a heavenly spirit bringing you a message directly from God, but that does not mean God has nothing to say to you.  There have certainly been earthly messengers of God bringing to you the Good News of Jesus’ birth, of His life, His death and His resurrection.  You have had earthly messengers of God bring you the Lord’s Word about sin and repentance and forgiveness.  Who are these earthly messengers bringing you a message from the Lord?

Parents?  Grandparents? Pastor?  Teacher?  Friend? Family member?  Who has spoken to you the Word of God?  The message also can come through the written word; through the Holy Bible and faithful devotional writings.

And while these encounters with God’s messengers are certainly not as intense as an angel of the Lord appearing to Mary, they are still important.  If the message is from God’s Word, it is no less true than what the Angel Gabriel tells Mary.  God has sent His angels to you.

And this is troubling, isn’t it?  You and I have received many messages from the Lord from many different messengers. Now, Zechariah and Mary and Joseph and the Shepherds receive a message from the Lord and they respond in faith and do what they are told to do.  They have remarkable faith.  How do you and I respond?

You and I receive a message from the Lord through His Word and we want to believe that we can take it or leave it.  We want to believe that God’s Word to us is optional; that God’s commandments are just old fashioned ideas; suggestions for living from a long time ago, in a place far, far away.  We want to believe that God’s Word is not our authority but rather our authority is our feelings.  We hear a message from God and want to ask, “What does that have to do with me?”

God’s Word is God’s word whether it is spoken by the Archangel Gabriel, or by a parent, teacher, or pastor.  Just because a heavenly angel of the Lord hasn’t appeared to you personally, it does not make God’s Word optional for you.

Tonight, as you hear the message of the angels proclaiming Jesus’ birth to the Bethlehem shepherds, know that the message is also for you, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Jesus Christ is your savior.  God took on human flesh and was born of the Virgin in order to take ownership of your sin and pay the price for you.  Jesus has redeemed you from sin, from death, and from the power of the devil. He has given you eternal life with Him in the heavenly city.  This message from God’s Word brings dramatic transformation.  It changes everything.  You are a new creation in Christ.  You are born again of water and the spirit.  The baby born in Bethlehem is your savior.  He is your Lord.  He is your King and you are His servant.

You are not in charge.  No longer can you live just for yourself because you now have Christ’s name and promise on you.  You are called to turn away from sin; to sorrow over your sin, to repent of your sin, and return to the Lord your God.  You are a natural born sinner and it is easy to fall into ongoing, unrepentant sin.  Tonight, you who have grown comfortable in your sin, are called to repent.  This is a radical call for you to no longer live as a citizen of this world, but to live in your new identity as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.

You are called by messengers of God to live in love and service to others. You are called to love and care for others as you love and care for yourself.  You are called to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Love is messy.  Love takes a lot of time and energy and patience.  Love often is all giving and no receiving.  It is hard to love and care for others.  That is the kind of love that God has for you in Jesus who has come to earth to forgive you all your sins.  Let the love that God has for you in Christ overflow to those around you.

Jesus comes as the light shining in the darkness.  In Christ you are the light of the world, driving back the darkness with God’s love; pushing back the gloom with the message that through the baby born in Bethlehem God and sinners are reconciled.

You are called to be a sponge for evil.  Instead of returning evil for evil, or anger for anger, you return good for evil, and kindness for anger.  If someone is evil to you; you return love.  That way, instead of increasing the evil in the world, you reduce it, little by little; one interaction after another.

This message from the Lord is such amazing Good News.  The sin which you inherited from Adam and that which you have committed since has been covered.  You have been redeemed.  Tonight is a night for great celebration, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  Let earth receive her king.  Amen

 

Who is that guy next to Mary?

 

Advent 4 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 22, 2019
Isaiah 7:10-17, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-25

 

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 Christmas story from Matthew does not make into many children’s Christmas programs.  It is a story of mysterious conception, unexpected pregnancy, shame, possible divorce, an angel, and a strong, silent man; Joseph.  It is a story of great faith, but it is not a cute story for children. Better for the kids to focus on shepherds and angels, the supposed uncaring innkeeper, and baby Jesus in the manger.  The wise men from the Gospel of Matthew may make their appearance in a Christmas program, but only the part about following the star and worshipping and giving gifts to baby Jesus, not the part about having to flee from the trickery of a homicidal king bent on infanticide.  Joseph’s story is kind of dark and pretty complicated for a children’s performance.

Matthew 1:18 (ESV) 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.[1]

We don’t know too much of the details of what betrothal or engagement was like 2,000 years ago, but it seems that it is a serious agreement between two families for their children to get married once they are of age.  It is likely a binding contract between clans that is not easily undone by anyone involved.

And so we are introduced to Joseph.  Now, Joseph is a good guy.  He is waiting for his fiancée, Mary, to be ready to get married.  We can be pretty certain that Joseph is looking forward to his wedding day when he will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.  Joseph and Mary will wed and the two of them will join the ranks of the respectable couples in town.  They will get to fully enter adulthood.  They will build a house of their own and raise a family together.  They will be fruitful and multiply, raise their children and grow old together.  It will be wonderful.

Joseph has an expectation of what life will be like with Mary, and then, all at once, that bubble of expectation is burst because Mary is expecting.  She is pregnant.  That’s all that Joseph knows, but that is enough.  Joseph is a good guy and he knows for sure it is not his baby and his planned future life with Mary evaporates in an instant.

Mary has brought great shame upon herself, and by extension, she has brought great shame upon Joseph.  Folks love juicy gossip.  The word of Mary’s pregnancy will spread quickly through Nazareth and the surrounding area.  Everyone in town knows they are betrothed and people will either believe that Joseph was with Mary before the wedding, or that Mary spurned Joseph and was sneaking around with someone else.  Joseph is either a cad, or some kind of wimp whose fiancée rejects him for another.  Mary was the one chosen for Joseph…there may not be another.

Joseph’s anger at Mary could be boiling over.  He could make a huge stink about this pregnancy and call Mary out in public.  He could amplify her shame at what she has done.  But Joseph is not going to do that.  Joseph is a good guy and he isn’t going to try to hurt Mary, but instead will break off their engagement quietly and he will go off by himself to lick his wounds and try to avoid the disapproving looks from others.

It is then that a messenger from God comes to Joseph in a dream.  I have never had an angel of the Lord appear to me in a dream so I don’t know exactly how that works, but apparently it is very clear. The angel brings a message from God. Matthew 1:20-21 (ESV) 20 … “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”[2]

Joseph has received the earth-shattering news that Mary is pregnant, now his world is rocked even further by this message from the angel.  The angel brings instructions from the Lord that Joseph is to care for Mary and this miracle baby.  We often talk about what great faith Mary has when Gabriel tells her what is happening, but Joseph also has great faith.  He hears the message from the Lord and he does what he is told to do. No questions asked.

Joseph takes Mary as his wife.  Taking pregnant Mary as his wife means that Joseph is covering her perceived shame.  From the outside it will look like Joseph was a cad who could not wait until his wedding night; the shame will be on him. Joseph willingly takes that shame upon himself in order to protect Mary because that is what God told him to do. This is a wonderful picture of Jesus taking your shame upon Himself; Jesus covering your shame and declaring you to be innocent.

The angel tells Joseph, this descendant of King David, what to name the baby. Matthew 1:21 (ESV)21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”[3] Jesus, ihsous, in Greek, Yeshua in Hebrew, Ye from YHWH, God’s name, I am who I am, and Shua meaning to save. Jesus means, YHWH saves, because He is YHWH and He will save His people from their sins.  In English we say Jesus from the Greek or Joshua from the Hebrew.

            Joseph likely does not understand all the implications of this name.  This will unfold once Jesus begins His ministry in 30 years.  Jesus tells what will happen in Jerusalem.  Jesus expands salvation to not just the Jews but also to the Gentiles, the nations.  Savior of the Nations, come.

Now, naming a baby can be an exciting, fun thing to do for expecting parents.  When Olivia and Jaan Pirn were expecting last year I very much encouraged them to use the name “Fern”.  I thought it would be funny; they thought better and named Paavo after a Finnish runner.

Jesus’ name is not funny at all.  It is deadly serious.  This cute little baby boy born in Bethlehem is given a name that points Him to the cross of Calvary six miles away.  YHWH saves is a death sentence.  Joseph is told that his stepson will save the people of Israel from their sins.

Joseph likely does not understand all the implications of this name.  This will unfold once Jesus begins His ministry in 30 years.  Jesus tells what will happen in Jerusalem.  Jesus expands salvation to not just the Jews but also to the Gentiles, the nations.  Savior of the Nations, come.

The Christmas story in the Gospel of Matthew is an amazing story of the faith of Joseph.  He is, indeed, the strong, silent type.  Joseph never speaks in the Biblical accounts.  He receives instruction from the Lord and He obeys; again and again.  He does what God tells him to do.  He loves and protects Jesus and Mary.

Today we remember and honor and celebrate the quiet nativity figure standing there at Mary’s side, keeping watch over baby Jesus.  I pray that Joseph’s example encourages you to know who you are in Christ and to cling to the promises of God and fulfill your vocations given you by God.  Be encouraged to do what you have been given to do in life; duties both expected and unexpected, according to God’s will.  Do it because you are God’s child, living in the reign of heaven, waiting for Jesus to return.  Amen.

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

Jesus does not meet John’s expectations

Advent 3 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 15, 2019
Isaiah 35:1-10, Jame3s 5:7-11, Matthew 11:2-15

 

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

 

I don’t remember if I was in middle school or high school at the time, but I was living with my family in Virginia and I distinctly remember a feeling of great disappointment about Christmas.  Teenagers can be moody and I know I was, but somehow Christmas did not meet my expectations.  I remember, however, not being able to understand or explain exactly what my expectations were.

As a young child the excitement of Christmas morning is almost overwhelming and I think that as a teenager I had somehow raised my expectations of Christmas to where it was somehow going to magically solve all my troubles.

Expectations can be problematic.  If you go to a restaurant and you expect it to be solid, simple food and you get solid, simple food it is all good.  If you go to a fancy restaurant and expect an extraordinary culinary experience and you get solid, simple food you are disappointed.  The food was the same; your expectations were different.

I have joked with Jeannette about life with me, “keep your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed.”

What about our expectations of Jesus?

In our Gospel reading today we learn something about John the Baptist’s expectations of Jesus.  John is the one sent by God to prepare the way of the Lord.  John is the bold prophet speaking God’s word to the people and calling them to repentance.  Last week he was the voice of one preaching in wilderness.  Today we find him sitting in Herod Antipas’s prison.  He is there for being a bold prophet, for calling Herod to repentance over being with his brother, Philip’s, wife, Herodias.

John, the bold one, the free spirit servant of God living in the wilderness is now chained to the wall in a dark cell with nothing to do except to wait for someone to come to the door.  And every time the door opens he does not know if they are bringing food, or coming to execute him.  John sits in the dark and waits for Jesus to free him from this bondage.Because of his situation John expects Jesus to free the captives as prophesied in Isaiah 61:1 (ESV) 1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,because the Lord has anointed meto bring good news to the poor;he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captives,and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;[1]

John waits in expectation.  The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  It is here in the presence of Jesus of Nazareth.  The axe is already at the root of the trees!  His winnowing fork is in His hand ready to clear the threshing floor.  As John sits in the darkness he must be very much wanting Jesus to swing the axe.  Cut down Herod Antipas, throw that fruitless tree into the fire and free John from prison.John wants a powerful Jesus to free him.And so he sends his messengers to ask, Matthew 11:3 (ESV) 3 … “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”[2]  John is kind of saying to Jesus, “You are not meeting my expectations.  Are you really the one that we are waiting for or is someone else coming to finish the job?”

Matthew 11:4-6 (ESV) 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”[3]

Jesus tells John that He is indeed fulfilling many of the promises of the Prophet Isaiah.  He is the one who is to come, but He is not yet proclaiming liberty to the captives and opening the prisons to those who are bound.

The reign of God has broken into history in the person of Jesus; He is the Coming One.  Jesus is King and yet the power of evil remains strong. Christ will not overthrow that evil…not yet.

Jesus encourages John and He encourages us.  “Blessed is the one who it not offended by me.”  Blessed is the one who is not scandalized by me; the one who is not caused to stumble by me.  Jesus causes people to stumble, Jesus scandalizes, Jesus offends, because Jesus does not meet expectations.  We see this so much today.  People are offended by Jesus.

We so much want Jesus to be who we want Him to be.  We want Him to play by our rules.  We want Him to fully deliver on His promises right now. But He does not fully deliver.  We live in this incredibly frustrating time of “Now and Not yet.”

Now you are a baptized child of God in the Kingdom of Heaven with Jesus as your Lord and Master.  Jesus is King right now.  And yet Jesus still has not yet swung the axe and cut down the fruitless trees.  Evil people still flourish.  Sin and evil still oppress the world. The devil is still active.  Jesus is going to destroy the devil, sin and evil, but not yet.

This is a great stumbling block for many.  People ask, “If God is all powerful and God is all good then why is evil allowed to continue?”  It is thought that either God is not all powerful or God is not all good.This is a massive stumbling block for people today.  It is a stumbling block for John the Baptist, “If you really are the Messiah, why haven’t you rescued me from this prison?”

            We so much want Jesus to be who we want Him to be.  We want Him to play by our rules.  We want Him to fully deliver on His promises right now. But He does not fully deliver.  We live in this incredibly frustrating time of “Now and Not yet.”

Jesus does not meet our expectations.  You hear this expressed by those who say, “I can’t believe in a God who would let this happen.” We want God to get rid of all evil and support all good. And He will, but not yet.  God is patient and that is good news because while God is patient with the evil in the world, He is also patient with the evil in you. He is patient in calling people to repent and confess their sins.1 Timothy 2:4 (ESV) 4 [He] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.[4]

Your expectations of Jesus can be colored by so many different things.  You want Jesus to help you out of difficult situations and illness and trouble.  You pray for help and relief; comfort and healing. Sometimes Jesus delivers what you ask for, sometime you have to wait.  Sometimes the wait is short.  Sometimes it is long.  Sometimes you will have wait for the perfect final renewal that is coming on the Last Day.Jesus is now the King, but He has not yet fully renewed His creation.

Remember, God’s ways are not your ways.  Remember that the reign of God; the kingdom of God, is yours to live in, but it is not yours to fully understand.

The day is coming when Jesus will swing the axe.  The day is coming; the great and terrible day of the Lord; judgement day.  Pray that your expectation of Jesus is that He has declared that you are blessed in Christ on that last day.  He has promised He will save you on that day and bring you into the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem to live in eternal peace.

In this season of Advent know that a holiday cannot solve all your troubles.  Keep your expectations appropriate.  Know that family and friends will still have conflicts.Know that others will disappoint you and you will disappoint others.  Keep your expectations focused on the anticipation of celebrating God coming in the flesh and look forward to Jesus coming back to save you from all the troubles of this life.  Keep this a season of anticipation and know that even though it is a long wait, Jesus is coming again to rescue you and to conquer evil forever.  We now live in the time of not yet, but Jesus is coming back.  Amen.

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What is this interruption?

Advent 2 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 8, 2019
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

 

Advent is a wonderful time of the year as we battle against the dark evenings with millions of twinkling lights on our trees and houses.  Not that I am a big part of the Christmas decorating at our house, but we have given up stringing outdoor lights and gone to the laser light projectors on the front tree and house.  It’s nice.  It’s pretty.It makes the darkness seem a little less dark.  Advent is our time of anticipating the celebration of Jesus coming as the baby in Bethlehem and looking forward to Jesus coming again on the last day as the returning King in Glory.  It is a busy time, but also a time for quiet nostalgia.

So you sit there quietly on the sofa with your cup of hot cocoa listening to Christmas music with all the lights out except for the Christmas tree, and suddenly there is a loud knock on the door.  Who is it?Is it another Amazon Prime box?  Is it a group of carolers from the local church?No, it is a wild haired, bearded man wearing rough, hairy clothes, munching on a grasshopper dipped in honey.  Here in the midst of the sentimental contemplations of Advent comes John the Baptist to interrupt the season with His message of preparation.  Matthew 3:2 (ESV) 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”[1]

John is sent by God to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.”John originally comes to prepare the way for King Jesus and His reign.  And that is what he is doing in our Gospel reading today; getting people ready for Jesus’ arrival by calling for them to repent and be baptized.

Many are convicted by John’s call to repent. They confess their sins and go down into the waters of the Jordan River to be baptized by John.

Others, the Pharisees and Sadducees, are coming for John’s baptism, but it seems they just to want to go through the motions of being baptized, but they are not repenting and confessing their sins.  John boldly confronts these religious leaders.  Matthew 3:7-10 (ESV) 7 … “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.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.[2]

It is not the act of baptism alone that will save you; it is not religious ancestry that will save you.  It is faith in God.  It is submission to the King.  It is living under the King’s authority and rule.  Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.  The reign of heaven is at hand.  It is coming quickly in Christ Jesus who is on His way down to the Jordan to be baptized by John along with all the people.  Jesus enters into the waters of baptism to connect Himself to His people and their sins.

Repentant faith produces fruits of faith.  Repentant faith in King Jesus changes you and yields the fruit of faith, Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)  22 … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control.[3]  Good works do not save you but humble trust in Jesus alone naturally shows forth good fruit.  Forsaking anything from yourself and trusting completely in the blood of Christ helps you walk in the will of God.

Martin Luther addresses this in his book, “Bondage of the Will.”  “God has assuredly promised his grace to the humble, that is, to those who lament and despair of themselves. But no man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will and work of another, namely, of God alone.  For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself, and therefore he is not humbled before God, but presumes that there is—or at least hopes or desires that there may be—some place, time and work for him, by which he may at length attain to salvation.  But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; then he has come close to grace, and can be saved.”  Martin Luther   LW 33:61

John the Baptist brought this message to the people of Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region around the Jordan and today he interrupts your Christmas preparations.  “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

John’s message, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” is a gut punch to your sinful pride.  It is not at all about you; it is all about Jesus for you.Repentance is knowing that you are totally helpless.  Repentance is knowing that you need Jesus.  Repentance is knowing you are totally dependent on God for forgiveness.  Repentance is knowing that the darkness of sin has no place in someone living in the light of Christ.  Repentance is knowing that Jesus is going to return for judgment and you need His forgiveness.

Now we are in a different time frame than those John was talking to in our Gospel reading.  Those people did not yet know Jesus.  They knew about a coming Messiah, but it was still shrouded in mystery.  You do know Jesus.  You know that He is the Messiah.  You know that He is Immanuel, God with us.  You know He is God in flesh.  You know that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. You know Jesus was sacrificed for you on the cross of Calvary and you know that He rose from the dead to show that He has fully paid for your sins.  You have much greater knowledge than the people being baptized by John in the Jordan, and yet His message still resonates today because we can still fall into the same errors.

There is a danger that you can get comfortable with your sin and not repent.  You can look to your baptism as God’s promise to you and then start to rationalize that since Jesus has forgiven my sin then my sin is not a big deal.  My issues with lust, with idolatry, with anger and fighting, with envy and drunkenness, these are just part of who I am.  I can’t help it.  It is how God made me.  We can begin to excuse our sin as human nature and that everyone is doing it.  I might have my problems, but I’m not as bad as that other person.  After all, my little sins are no big deal.  I do enough good things to make up for my sin.  I give enough to make up for my shortcomings.  I do enough.  I give enough.  It’s okay.And you can grow comfortable in your sin and learn to live with it.

John’s message, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” is a gut punch to your sinful pride.  It is not at all about you; it is all about Jesus for you.Repentance is knowing that you are totally helpless.  Repentance is knowing that you need Jesus.  Repentance is knowing you are totally dependent on God for forgiveness.  Repentance is knowing that the darkness of sin has no place in someone living in the light of Christ.  Repentance is knowing that Jesus is going to return for judgment and you need His forgiveness.

Everything depends on Jesus, nothing depends on you.  You are a sinner who needs Jesus.  I am a sinner who needs Jesus.  Thank God, Jesus is here today for you to forgive you your sins.

Jesus has chosen you in the waters of baptism to be marked for eternal life in the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus comes to be baptized by John and is connected with His people in the waters.  He is connected to you in the waters of baptism.  He comes to you in His Word.  He comes to you in His very Body and Blood in Holy Communion.

Here you gather together and get on your knees and plead guilty of all your sin.  Here you are strengthened to live a life bearing the fruit of repentance.  Here you delight in knowing Jesus has done it all for you and you belong to Him.

The crazy looking and very bold prophet, John the Baptist invades your Advent season today to bring you the truth about sin and forgiveness.  He prepares you for the true joy of Christmas; the joy of seeing God’s love incarnate, God’s love in flesh, lying in a manger, come to be the perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world.  The true joy of Christmas; God comes to be with us.  Immanuel.

Amen.

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

Judgment Day Risk Management

nullFirst Sunday in Advent 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
Dec. 1, 2019
Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 24:36-44

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

Judgement day risk management

There are a lot of clever commercials on television for insurance.  We have the gecko and mayhem and Aaron Roger’s agent.  What is the purpose of insurance?  Insurance exists to help manage the risks of life.  Insurance helps you to be prepared for large and small disasters in life and protect your family and belongings and your health in case of certain unfortunate events.  You can spend a lot of money on insurance.  I have car insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, health insurance, identity theft insurance; I even have insurance on my cell phone.  Some insurance cost a little; some cost a lot, but I am glad to have it.  Insurance is big business because individuals and companies and even churches want to manage risk.

What is your biggest risk?  An earthquake, tornado, flood, fire, car crash, health crisis, disability, death?  What is your biggest risk?  It is none of these.  Your biggest risk is that Jesus suddenly returns and you are not ready.  Your biggest risk is that Jesus comes back and finds that you have abandoned Him; you have forgotten His promises to you.  Your biggest risk is that Jesus’ second advent happens and He finds you living as if God does not matter and as if you mattered most.  This is your greatest risk.  This is the risk of you spending eternity in hell.  This risk makes all other risks seem insignificant.

What can you do to manage this risk?  Can you buy some kind of insurance plan?  Jesus knows that on the last day you will stand before His judgement throne.  He knows that on your own you will be found guilty and unworthy.  He knows that you are tainted by sin inherited from your parents and back down the line of your ancestors all the way to great-great-great grandpa and grandma Adam and Eve.  He knows that you are by nature sinful and unclean.  He knows you are a poor miserable sinner who justly deserves punishment now and for eternity.  He knows you deserve death and Hell.

But God so loves you that He sent His only Son Jesus to be your substitute; to be the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  God loves you so much He sent Jesus to wash you clean and take away your sin.

God delivers this forgiveness to you in the waters of Holy Baptism.  Baptism is depicted in our front window by the shell and drops of water on the lower right side.  You are baptized once for the forgiveness of sins and you have a baptismal certificate to prove that you were baptized.

God delivers this forgiveness to you in the Word of God; the words of Holy Scripture and the Words of absolution spoken to you by the pastor who speaks on behalf of the Church, “I forgive you all your sins.”  This forgiveness through the word of God is depicted in the lower left corner of the front window as a Bible and a cross.

God delivers this forgiveness to you by giving you the very Body and Blood of His Son Jesus.  You take Jesus’ body and blood into your body; into your blood, and Jesus and you are united as one.  This is shown in the lower center window as grapes and wheat, wafer and chalice.

Jesus loves you so much He takes your punishment and pays what you owe.  He suffers what you deserve and gives you what He deserves.  Out of love for you Jesus has totally and completely redeemed you from sin, death and the devil and He is coming back in glory to take you to be with Him forever.  God has sealed you as His beloved child destined for eternity with Him.  And so we pray, Lord Jesus come quickly.

Jesus has completely redeemed you and He promises that you are His forever, but you live in a world where there are endless temptations to give up on God’s promises to you and give in to the ways of the world.  As you wait for Jesus to return there is a very real, ongoing risk that you will grow tired of waiting for Jesus’ second advent and you will start to act like He is never coming back.  Right after our Gospel reading today Jesus tells a little story to illustrate what this looks like.  Matthew 24:45-51 (ESV) 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [1]

There is the faithful and wise servant who does what he is supposed to do and there is the wicked servant who falls into doing evil because the master is delayed.  Remain in Christ.  Be watchful for His return.  Be a wise and faithful servant of the Lord.

Jesus loves you so much He takes your punishment and pays what you owe.  He suffers what you deserve and gives you what He deserves.  Out of love for you Jesus has totally and completely redeemed you from sin, death and the devil and He is coming back in glory to take you to be with Him forever.  God has sealed you as His beloved child destined for eternity with Him.  And so we pray, Lord Jesus come quickly.

In our reading from Romans St. Paul warns us in light of Jesus’ impending return, Romans 13:12 (ESV) 12 …So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.[2]

You live in a world of darkness.  You live in a world where there is great pressure to cast off God’s armor of light and take up the works of darkness.  You live in a world where there is an almost irresistible pressure to give up on having the Word of God as your authority, and instead to follow your feelings.  You are by nature sinful and unclean, so following your feelings will lead to no end of immorality and sin.  Resist following your feelings; follow the Word of God.  Do what you are supposed to do.

As St. Paul writes, Romans 13:13-14 (ESV) 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. [3]

St. Paul warns that drunkenness, and sexual sins, and sins of anger and division are perilous to your being ready for Jesus to return.  Living a life of drunkenness is perilous to your soul.  Giving in to a life of sexual sin is eternally hazardous.  Living in anger and hatred can separate you from the Lord forever.  And the great danger is that you live in a world that is steeped in drunkenness and sexual sin and division.  You live in a world that celebrates drunken sin, and sexual sin, and encourages hatred and anger.  Each day remain alert; stay on guard against the snares of the devil.

Romans 13:11 (ESV) 11 …you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.[4]

As the hour nears for Jesus to be arrested and crucified He takes time to encourage His disciples that not only will He rise from the dead, but He will return one day in glory.  We are encouraged that Jesus will return and eliminate sin, evil, sickness and death.  But the encouragement is also a warning.  Stay awake!  Be prepared!  Do what you are supposed to do.  Love God and live in His love.  Love your neighbor and serve one another.

There is no insurance plan you can buy for the greatest risk in life; the risk of not being ready for Jesus to return.  And you do not know when it will be and anyone who says they know is lying because Jesus says, Matthew 24:36 (ESV) 36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.[5]

Jesus will return for judgement without notice and this is your greatest risk.  This risk is managed by living a life of humble sadness over your sin; by living a life of repentance.  It is a life of an ongoing turning from sin and turning back to God.  It is a life of knowing you are a sinner who needs Jesus.  This risk is managed by your continuing struggle against sin in your life.  By rejecting the ways of the world and following the will of God.  This risk is managed by staying close to Jesus; gathering with each other each week to receive God’s gifts and hear God’s word.  This risk is managed by being always aware of the threat, and not being lulled into a false sense of security that Jesus is never coming back.  The risk is managed by knowing that Jesus has already delivered to you the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is managed by clinging to His cross and promise.  Each day live in the promises of Jesus, flee from sin and the devil, and do what you are supposed to do.

Amen.


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

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

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

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

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

 

Remember what you are waiting for.

null

Pentecost 23 2019 Proper 28
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
November 17, 2019

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

In our Gospel reading today it is the week of Good Friday and Jesus is teaching His disciples and others at the temple in Jerusalem.  Jesus just commended to them a poor widow making a sacrificial offering of all that she had.  The disciples are instead admiring the majestic, beautiful temple.  Jesus uses this opportunity to warn them that this magnificent temple will soon be destroyed; things are going to be really bad.  Jesus is turning the world on its head.  He praises a poor, lowly widow and tells them the great temple will be torn down.

This text is a bit confusing because Jesus is talking prophetically about two things at once.  He is prophesying that in 40 years the Roman army will destroy the temple in Jerusalem and Jesus is talking about the Last Day, when He will return to judge the living and the dead.  And, as prophecies can be, it is kind of cryptic and Jesus switches from 70 AD to the last day without warning.  Many of the people to whom Jesus is speaking will experience the horrible Roman siege of Jerusalem, and then its capture and destruction.  The first part of Jesus’ prophecy has come to pass, but we still wait for the second part of the prophecy.

The Last Day is approaching.  Jesus will return in glory for judgement.  Each day we get one day closer, but we do not know when it will happen.  And so we wait.  We wait for Jesus to return.  We wait like the church has been waiting for 2,000 years.

Now waiting is hard.  I recently had to go to the new Hamilton Westside BMV for a vehicle registration and there is now a big waiting area and you take a number and sit down.  So I go up and pull my number… 35.  I look at the sign on the wall and it says now serving number 18.  I sigh and take a seat.  The sign on the wall says no cell phone usage, but no one seems to be paying it much mind, so I pull out my smart phone and open the kindle app and read for a bit while I watch the number on the wall climb ever closer to 35.  I can distract myself from the waiting but I still stay pretty focused on the wait sitting there watching the number on the wall go up.  I know why I am at the BMV and what I need to accomplish and I know my turn will come.

We really don’t like to wait but we endure it because we can see the end of the line.  We have a number and know that our number will come up as we see the progress.  We also wait in a waiting room so we stay focused on what we are doing.

Waiting for Jesus to return is a different kind of waiting.  Jesus said He is coming back but He didn’t say when.  There is no sign on the wall with the number being served.  There is no line snaking towards the Last Day that you can see yourself getting closer.  You don’t know how long you will have to wait.

It is hard to wait when things are going well.  When everything is good it can be easy to be distracted by all the good things of this life.

It is hard to wait when things are rough.  When there is conflict and persecution and sickness and injury and people are dying.  It is hard to stay focused on what you are waiting for in good times and in hard times.  So remember what it is that you are waiting for.

You are waiting for the fulfillment of all that Jesus promised.  You are waiting for your full redemption.  You are waiting for an end to warfare and violence and terrorism and abuse and neglect and heartache and pain and death.  You are waiting for the day of perfect peace.  You are waiting for the dead to be raised.  You are waiting for Jesus to return and take you to be with Him to live in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem forever.  You are waiting for God’s Kingdom to come in its fullness.  You are waiting for the day when eternity with God begins.

Waiting is hard.  It is frustrating to wait in line at the store or an amusement park, to wait for the doctor, to wait in traffic.

Waiting for Jesus to return is the ultimate wait.  You have no idea if the wait will be one day, 10 days, 10 years, 100 years, 1,000 years, 10,000 years.  And life can be hard.  It is easy to get distracted.  Jesus warns of this at the end of our Gospel reading today.  Luke 21:34-36 (ESV) 34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”[1]

Together you stay on guard against giving into dissipation; sloppy living; laziness, drunkenness, sexual immorality.  Together with your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world you support one another through hardship and persecution.  Together you stay alert for Jesus’ return which will come suddenly, like a trap.  Together you wait.  You love.  You serve.

Watch yourselves.  Stay awake.  Pray for strength.  Be prepared for Jesus to return.  Remember what you are waiting for.  Come together here each week and think about this place as a waiting room for Jesus’ return.  Here it is easier to remember what you are waiting for.  Here you gather to receive the gift of God’s forgiveness, here you sing praises and thanksgiving to the Lord, here you receive the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God to strengthen you and keep you in the true faith until life everlasting.  Here you look forward to the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom.  Here, together, you wait for Jesus to return.  Here, together, you wait in humble service, bringing the light of Christ to a world of darkness.  Together you watch.  Together you stay awake.  Together you pray for strength.  Together you guard against idolizing the powerful and influential and instead you honor humble servants of God.  Together you resist the urge to love the beautiful, shiny things of this life instead of being thankful for God’s basic gifts.

Together you stay on guard against giving into dissipation; sloppy living; laziness, drunkenness, sexual immorality.  Together with your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world you support one another through hardship and persecution.  Together you stay alert for Jesus’ return which will come suddenly, like a trap.  Together you wait.  You love.  You serve.

The wait for Jesus’ return has been going on for 2,000 years.  It has been going on for 123 years here at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Hamilton, Ohio.  Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have died and their bodies are buried while their spirits have gone to be with the Lord to wait for the resurrection of their bodies on the Last Day.  They wait with the Lord, you wait here, we all wait for Jesus to return.  And while you still have breath in you, you use your time wisely; making the most of each day.  Live your life as a baptized Christian, redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  Do what a Christian should be doing.  Do what you are given to do in your various vocations.  Seek out ways to love and serve your neighbor.

Your waiting is not a time to despair or a time to distract yourself from the wait.  Your waiting time is a time to, in the words of St. Paul in Philippians 3:14 (ESV) 14 …press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.[2]

Your waiting is a time to persevere against the onslaughts of the devil, the world and your own sinful nature.  And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again and arms are strong.

There is great persecution against the church in many parts of the world.  Churches are being destroyed in China by the communists.  Christians are being arrested and imprisoned in many nations.  Christians are being killed for the faith in Nigeria and elsewhere by Muslim extremists. Here we can see dark clouds rolling in as the forces of the moral revolution in America are attempting to silence the truth of God and force their beliefs on everyone.  Standing on the solid rock of Jesus we watch and we prepare and we stay on guard and when things get tough we remember Jesus tells us to Luke 21:28 (ESV) 28 … straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” [3]

As you wait for Jesus to return, keep your head up, keep your eyes on the goal, stay focused on what it is you are waiting for, do not get distracted.  Live each day as who you are; a Christian waiting for Christ to return.  Amen.


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

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

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