Really

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Sanctity of Life Sunday 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 23, 24, 2021
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

“Really” … it is such an interesting word. It can be used in so many ways. There is the “really” said as a question: “Really?” The “really” formed by gossip: “REALLY.” The “really” that expresses interest: “Really.” The “really” that reflects doubt: “Really?” The “really” as a punctuation of belief: “Really!” “Really” is simply a really interesting word.

It can alternate between reflecting disbelief and belief, between “really?” (said quizzically) and “really” (said with conviction). Yet, the “really” said with conviction is often simply a belief in your own “truth”.  And, this goes a long way back.

God creates.  He places our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the garden, saying “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth …” (Genesis 1:28a ESV). The instructions to them are clear: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16). The word is clear to the crown of His creation. Our first parents are not to determine for themselves what is right and wrong. They are not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they do, they will die.

Clear. Straightforward. Simple. They are to “do this” and “not do that.” God means what He says. Really.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). No. That is not what God really said, and Scripture reveals that Eve correctly received God’s message. There is no hearing or comprehension problem. Message sent; message received. 

Yet, with the seed of doubt planted, the soil is prepared for depositing the lie. “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4-5). The lie is clear. Straightforward. Simple. Satan’s message is sent. The message is received. 

Rationalization leads to Adam and Eve’s own “really” of conviction. It just really seems right to them to eat from the forbidden tree. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6).

That sense of “really” (conviction) born out of the certainty of your own thoughts is woven deep inside each of you. It started in the garden. It continues in the desert landscape of your sinful existence. It started with the pluck of the forbidden fruit. It continues with the harvest of your own sin. God is really clear in what He desires for you. Yet, you prefer your own clarity. 

After the fall Adam and Eve realize they are naked. They took their eyes off of God and notice themselves. They move to cover themselves, fashioning fig leaves together. In your sinfulness, you become comfortable in the nakedness of your sin. With your gaze fixed on yourself, you are convinced of the reality of your own convictions. You can be so sure of your own truth. It is woven deep inside of you and transmitted to the next generation.

The “really” (conviction) born of our own thoughts can be ever present. It is seen in the conversation between a couple as they grapple with the news of a pregnancy. Many other couples long for this news, but for this couple, it invokes fear. The pregnancy is not seen as a blessing, but a curse. The “problem” must be dealt with. A family member suggests an abortion. “After all,” the couple is counseled, “it isn’t really a life, just a blob of tissue.” Instead of looking forward to embracing their child, the “solution” to their problem is grasped. “Really,” they reason, “it isn’t life yet.” Their “really” sounds so true to them.

In another home a man is given the news. The woman timidly approaches the topic, afraid of the response. She shares that she is pregnant. Instead of pictures coming to mind of him playing with the child, he sees bills piling up. Instead of thinking about the baby crawling for the first time, first steps, catching a ball, and squealing with delight when he comes home, all he sees is an empty bank account. “We can’t afford a baby,” he exclaims. “You need to take care of this. You are not having this child!” he yells. “Take care of it. Now. Really!” he demands.

In another home, the conversations take a different turn, but the “really” born of one’s own thoughts continue. The woman discovers the child will have special needs. That doesn’t square with the image she held of life after the pregnancy. She doesn’t have the extra time that will be required to care for such a child. She doesn’t want a child who is different than the rest. She sees a challenging future and wants to start over.  She starts to think about terminating the pregnancy she now sees as a problem. The conviction regarding her solution forms into a resolute “really.”

We remain confused about truth. It starts in the garden, continues in biblical times, and persists today. Satan’s question: “Did God actually say … ?” (Genesis 3:1) is still a favorite question. We ask this question. We are confused.  In all the confusion what is God’s response?

The “really” of convictions born of one’s own thoughts has an impact on not only the youngest but also the oldest among us. “Quality of life” becomes a governing principle regarding the elderly, opening up the conversation about euthanasia. The concern is raised about older people “burdening the limited resources of society.” The conversation occurs among the young, while the old are excluded. Soon the conversations become monologues. The “really” of conviction is formed. The course of action seems so right when the only one you have to convince is yourself. 

We remain confused about truth. It starts in the garden, continues in biblical times, and persists today. Satan’s question: “Did God actually say … ?” (Genesis 3:1) is still a favorite question. We ask this question. We are confused.  In all the confusion what is God’s response?

In the story of Elizabeth and Mary the angel gives Mary the message that she will bear the Messiah. Along with this amazing news, she is told her relative Elizabeth is sixth-months pregnant. Mary goes quickly to Elizabeth. Luke 1:41a records: “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.” 

Fast forward to the birth account of our Lord. Luke 2:12: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” The same Greek word for baby, brephos, is used for the baby inside and outside of the womb. Clarity. God values life in all stages, from birth to natural death.

God’s value of life extends to all eternity. The baby carried in the womb of Mary and born in Bethlehem grows. The toddler Jesus learns to walk. As an adult, He walks to Jerusalem. There, He is crucified for your sin, including devaluing life and being quiet about protecting the most vulnerable among us. Jesus is raised from the dead. The sacrifice for sin accepted. You are washed in His victory in the life-giving waters of Baptism. Eternal life is given to you. Peter says to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life …” (John 6:68b). And those words of eternal life are declared to you. Really! 

The world needs your voice to declare Jesus’ words of eternal life. The world needs your voice to declare God’s value of life in all stages. The world needs your voice to declare God’s convictions born of His Word. The world needs your voice to declare that God’s word of forgiveness extends to all of us sinners, including those who have chosen abortion. The world needs your voice! Really!  Amen.

Is your body a playground or a temple?

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Epiphany 2, 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 17, 2021
1 Samuel 3:1-10, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, John 1:43-51

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

            How about this idea?  As a way to make money for the church we could turn the sanctuary into a heavy metal nightclub on Friday nights.  We could have the band up here, move some pews for a dance floor, set up a bar in the back; maybe in the narthex.  We could set up some table service in the balcony and have a bouncer out front under the awning.  Does this sound like a good idea?  Why not?

            It is a terrible idea because this is sacred space set apart for the divine service of God.  We don’t even like to have voter’s meetings in here.  This is God’s house.  We would never turn God’s house into a nightclub.

Last Sunday we learned about the baptism of Jesus and how at your baptism you put on Christ.  You are united with Christ.  You have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Titus 3:5-6 (ESV) 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,[1] 

In baptism you are kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, separated from the multitude of unbelievers.  Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead have been credited to you.  As a baptized believer in Jesus you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Your body is a sacred vessel of God.  God used to dwell in the temple in Jerusalem, now God dwells in you.  You have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. You have received Jesus’ forgiveness. You have taken Jesus’ Body and Blood into your body.  You have put on Christ.  You are holy. Your body is sacred.  It is God’s house.  What you do with your body matters.

            The trouble is that you live in a world that believes that your body is a playground and that your focus in life should be the constant pursuit of pleasure regardless of how it affects others.  The fact that people are obsessed with their own selfish pleasure-seeking is not a surprise. It is the default position.  It is who you are as a natural born sinner.  You are a natural born sinner, but now you are a new creation in Christ.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  What you do with your body matters. 

            In our Epistle lesson today St. Paul specifically addresses sexual sin.  There are those in the church in Corinth who are engaging with prostitutes and apparently justifying their behavior by pointing out that food laws have been undone in Jesus so what you eat does not matter because… 1 Corinthians 6:13 (ESV) 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. …[2]

            So…..if it does not matter what you eat, it should not matter who you are intimate with. It is just doing stuff with your body and your body will eventually die and decay.  The Corinthians and so many people today say, “It’s my body — I can do what I want with it.”

            St. Paul corrects the Corinthians.  1 Corinthians 6:13-17 (ESV) 13 “… The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.[3]

            Your body is not just for this life.  On the last day your body will be raised from the dead imperishable.  What you do with your body matters.  The two becoming one flesh sexual union is meant for marriage because marriage is a holy union.  It is a sacred act designed by God Himself as a part of His command, Genesis 1:28 (ESV) 28 … “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it …”[4] The union of husband and wife is a picture of the union of God and the Church. Ephesians 5:31-32 (ESV) 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.[5]

The highway of life is littered with the damage brought by sexual immorality.  Diseases bringing infertility, broken marriages, broken families, struggling single parents, exploited children and adults, millions addicted to pornography, hundreds of millions of aborted babies sacrificed on the altar of so-called sexual freedom which is actually slavery.

            The world around us encourages sexual intimacy with anyone who consents. And too often, not even that.  Child sexual abuse is rampant.  Human trafficking is booming.  Pornography is big business.  There are apps you can download for your phone to find someone to hook up with for a one night stand.  The idea of waiting until your wedding night is thought of as medieval. 

St. Paul’s message was incredibly counter-cultural in the prostitute-filled port city of Corinth 2,000 years ago and it is even more counter-cultural in our sex-soaked world today.  Inside the bonds of the marriage-union of a man and woman sexual intimacy is sacred.  Outside the bonds of marriage, intimacy desecrates God’s plan and brings trouble and confusion.  Sexual intimacy is significant.  It is meaningful.  It is sacred. It is only to happen within marriage. Your body is not your own to do with it what you like.  Your body belongs to the Lord.  Your body is not meant for sexual immorality.

The highway of life is littered with the damage brought by sexual immorality.  Diseases bringing infertility, broken marriages, broken families, struggling single parents, exploited children and adults, millions addicted to pornography, hundreds of millions of aborted babies sacrificed on the altar of so-called sexual freedom which is actually slavery.

            1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (ESV) 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. [6]

            This is a radical message in a world of people that treat their body as a playground instead of as a temple of God.  This message of the sacredness of intimacy is considered hateful and evil and oppressive.  The world rebels against this message and that is understandable because they do not know Jesus.  They are not one with Jesus.  They have rejected Jesus. 

            You have a choice each day.  Live as a baptized child of God who has put on Christ and whose body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, or, live as a friend of the world.  Heed the Bible’s warnings.  James 4:4 (ESV) 4 …Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.[7]  Romans 12:2 (ESV) 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [8]

            This is a difficult and challenging teaching.  Nobody has any high ground here from which to look down on others.  We all have a lot to repent of; sins of youth and sins of the not-so-young.  Sins of thoughts and desires — words and deeds.  Repent of being friends with the world.  Make the changes in your life to conform to the will of God.  Live out your identity in Christ.  Your body belongs to the Lord. 

You are a baptized child of God.  You have put on Christ.  Your body is not a playground.  It is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Blessed Flood

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Baptism of our Lord 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 10, 2021
Genesis 1:1-5, Romans 6:1-11, Mark 1:4-11

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

            In so many ways we are do-it-yourself people.  The big box hardware stores are full of folks working on home projects. There is a great sense of accomplishment when you finish and see your completed work.  Job well done.  In spiritual matters there is a great temptation to make salvation into a do-it-yourself proposition.  If you want it done right you have to do it yourself. 

When it comes to salvation we want assurances, we want guarantees.  We want proof.  We want control.  We want to be able to point to something in ourselves to know we are saved.  We want to point to a decision made, a commitment, a manifestation of the Spirit, a spiritual experience, a feeling, a list of the good things accomplished. It is so tempting to have it be something about you. 

            The trouble is that if you are looking to something in yourself it leaves you with unending doubt.  Relying on yourself leaves you with a world of uncertainty because you don’t do things perfectly; because you are a sinner; because your thoughts and words and actions are tainted by sin.  When you look to yourself you are only left with questions, “Have I done enough?  Am I sincere enough?  Am I good enough?”  And the answer is always, “No.”

            This is why the baptism of Jesus is such an amazing thing. Mark 1:4-5 (ESV)
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.[1] 

            The people are baptized for repentance.  The people are baptized by John confessing their sins.  Jesus comes to the Jordan to John to be baptized.  Jesus?  God in flesh? The sinless Lamb of God goes down into the waters of baptism.  And then what happens?

            Mark 1:10-11 (ESV) 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” [2]

            Immediately the heavens are torn open.  Schizomenos in Greek.  This is the same word used by Matthew to describe the curtain in the temple being torn in two at Jesus’ death.  Jesus tears open the temple and He tears open heaven for you.  There is no barrier to keep you away from God.  In baptism Jesus gives you the gift of eternal life in heaven with Him.  

            In our rite of Holy Baptism we pray, “Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin. 

Jesus, the sinless one, goes into the water at His baptism.  At your baptism you pull Jesus out of the water. Galatians 3:27 (ESV) 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.[3]

            Romans 6:3-5 (ESV) 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.[4]

      Being baptized covers you with Christ.  In baptism you die with Christ and you rise with Christ.  You put on Christ.  Your sinfulness is covered by Jesus’ holiness.  You are a sinner but you have been declared a saint because of what Jesus has done for you. So, saint, what do you do?  How do you live as someone who is a sinner but is at the same time a saint?  How do you live as someone who declares, “I am baptized?”  What does such baptizing with water indicate?  Luther tells us in the Small Catechism.  It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.[5]

      As a baptized child of God you learn to hate sin and be saddened by your sin.  You continually turn away from sin because of who you are in Christ.  You have put on Christ. You are a new creation in Christ.  Heaven has been torn open and in your baptism you are brought into the Kingdom of Heaven. Colossians 1:13-14 (ESV) 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. [6]

            Assurance of salvation is yours because you are baptized. You can trust this because this is not something from yourself, it is from God Himself.  You can be confident in your forgiveness and salvation because it comes from outside of you.  It is a gift from God. 

            God’s own child, I gladly say it.  I am baptized into Christ.

There is nothing worth comparing
To this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring:
Even there I’ll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ;
I’m a child of paradise!

            Amen. 


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

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

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

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

[5] Luther’s Small Catechism, CPH 2017 page 24

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

We two kings of Israel are…

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Epiphany 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 2, 3, 2021
Isaiah 60:1-6, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12

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

            “We three Kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar.”  This Christmas Carol was written by Episcopalian musician John Hopkins Jr. in 1857 in Pennsylvania.  For almost 100 years this was thought to be the only American contribution to English language Christmas Carols.  It has that unique, plodding rhythm that transports you to the top of a camel’s hump as it sways back and forth moving across the desert following the star to Bethlehem.

            Now we don’t really think that the Magi were kings, although this idea has been floating around since around the 3rd Century as a fulfillment of Psalm 72:11 (ESV) 11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him![1] Around the 8th Century names were attached to the three.  They have become known most commonly as BalthasarMelchior, and Gaspar (or Casper). According to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia or sometimes Ethiopia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India.[2]  In many nations January the 6th is celebrated as Three Kings Day.  Three kings is one of those traditions that assume a lot more detail than we actually have in the Bible. 

            The magi from the east are sort of a mystery.  Who are they?  Wizards, Astrologers?  Magicians? What do they really know about the one they are seeking?  How many are there?  We don’t really know.  There are three gifts, but we’re not sure how many magi.

            We don’t know much about the magi who often called the three kings.  What we do know for sure about this Biblical account of the magi is that there are two kings.  “We two kings of Israel are, enemies in spiritual war.”

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  Herod the Great and Jesus of Nazareth.  One looks like a king, one does not.  One wears royal robes and a crown and lives in a palace that He had constructed in Jerusalem.  One is a helpless young child living with His parents at someone else’s house in Bethlehem due to a census ordered by Caesar.  

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One is powerful and protected with soldiers and secret police and 2,000 bodyguards.  One is a small boy protected by His father who is guided by angels that appear to him in dreams.

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One pretends to be a Jew for political purposes.  The other is the definitive Jew; all Israel reduced to one. He fulfills what the children of Israel were unable to fulfill.  He comes to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel and then grafts all nations into the root of Israel. 

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One is a political appointee who is declared King of the Jews by the Roman Senate in 40 BC.  One is a descendant of King David who is declared heir to the throne by the archangel Gabriel, and called King of the Jews by mysterious magi from the east who followed a star to find the newborn king.  He is not again called King of the Jews until questioned by Pontius Pilate, one of Herod the Great’s successors.  Pilate’s soldiers mock Jesus by crowning Him with thorns and dressing Him in a robe and saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.”  Pilate has written on a sign above Jesus’ head on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  The magi bring to one king word of the birth of the new king.  Their message brings anxiety and fear to Herod and therefore to all Jerusalem.  To the other king the magi brings gifts fit for a king; gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One is paranoid, merciless and bloodthirsty, willing to kill anyone who threatens his rule. He kills one of his wives and her sons and anyone he thinks threatens him.  He will kill another of his sons before his own death.  The other King is full of grace and mercy and will heal the sick and raise the dead.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He gives Himself into death in order to conquer death for all people.

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One is an agent of Satan and one is the Son of God.  One seeks to do the devil’s work of eliminating the newborn King of the Jews and orders all baby boys 2 years old and younger to be slaughtered in Bethlehem. The other is the Son of God who will do His Father’s will by being obedient to the law.  He is baptized into the sin of the world and pays the price for those sins with His own suffering and death on the cross.  He then rises from the dead to crush the head of the devil.

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One lives in a magnificent palace that he has built for himself.  The other comes to that palace thirty some years later to face Roman authority.  At that magnificent palace the other King is beaten and mocked and whipped and sentenced to death in order to please the unruly crowd assembled by the Jewish religious leaders.  They want to kill Him so He does not mess up their relationship with Rome. 

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  The chief priests and the scribes tell Herod that the Christ is to be born in Bethlehem but they do not go with the magi to see the Christ child.  They choose to stay with Herod the Great rather than meet the other king.

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One, at great expense, rebuilds the temple in Jerusalem to be more glorious than ever so his name will be remembered in history.  One of the support walls of that temple still survives in place today and is known as the Western Wall or Wailing Wall in Jerusalem below the temple mount.  The other King later visits the Temple and clears it of those selling animals and changing money.  He teaches at the Temple and upon His death He tears the curtain in the temple in two from top to bottom.  The separation between God and man is undone in Jesus.

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One is temporary, a blip on the radar of history.  The other is the eternal King of the Jews. 

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One lies dead in his grave buried at his Herodium fortress 7.5 miles south of Jerusalem. The other’s grave in Jerusalem is empty. 

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  Who is the true King of the Jews?  It is the unexpected one.  The baby in Bethlehem who has to flee to Egypt is the true King.

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One is temporary, a blip on the radar of history.  The other is the eternal King of the Jews. 

Jesus is your King who at your baptism adopted you as child of God; an adopted son of Abraham.  You have been grafted into the tree of Israel and Jesus is your King. Jesus reigns, He rules not with force, not with 2,000 bodyguards, not by killing His opponents.  Jesus rules in grace and mercy.  Jesus rules in sacrificial service to His people.  Jesus rules by paying the price for the sins of the world on the cross and conquering death by rising from the dead.  Jesus rules by giving you forgiveness in His Word to you.  Jesus rules by giving you His own Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  We learn from the magi that things are not always as they appear. Water, words, bread, wine; what we see with our eyes does not show the whole truth. 

“We two kings of Israel are, enemies in spiritual war.”  Jesus wins the war.  Jesus is the eternal King of the Jews. 

Herod the Great turns out not to be so great.  He has been dead a long time and is remembered not so much for his buildings, but for shedding the innocent blood of Bethlehem boys.  Jesus of Nazareth, the true and eternal King of the Jews, lives victoriously and is worshipped for having shed His own blood to save you. Jesus is King.

Amen.


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

[2] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Magi

Ready to die means ready to live

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BULLETIN

REPLACEMENT SERMON HYMN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Christmas 1 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 26, 27, 2020
Isaiah 61:10-62:3, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:22-40

Sermons online: 

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

            The presents have been opened, the wrapping paper is bagged up for the Rumpke man, there is a sense relief that the busyness of Christmas is over, a sense of disappointment that it is 363 days until next Christmas and maybe a bit of dread for the coming credit card bill. 

            In the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold, who is expecting a large cash bonus, opens his Christmas gift from his company to learn that he has been enrolled in the jelly of the month club.  His brother-in-law Eddie helpfully remarks, “Clark, that’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.”

            There is another Christmas gift that keeps on giving the whole year that is infinitely better than Jelly of the Month.  It is, of course, Jesus Himself.  Jesus keeps on giving to you from the moment of your baptism for your whole lifetime, however long that is. 

            We have funeral planning forms on file for a number of church members, but I have not filled one out.  I really don’t need to, because I am not going to die.

As hard as it is to accept sometimes, life is, for all of us, a journey from the womb to the tomb.  1 Peter 1:24-25 (ESV) 24 … “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” … [1] 

            Psalm 90:10 (ESV) 10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.[2]

            Death is the enemy, the result of the fall into sin in the Garden.  Death came with the Fall and now life is a journey to the grave.  For those who do not know the peace of Christ, death hangs over them like a giant weight held up by a tiny string that could break at any moment.  It could come at any time.  And then, they believe, it is all over.  Curtains.  

Indeed the curtain closes in death, but it is not the end, it is just an intermission before the next act.  Jesus prepares you for that day no matter your age.  Jesus gets you ready to die.  That is what Simeon says in our Gospel reading today.  Luke 2:27-32 (ESV) 27 And [Simeon] came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”[3] 

Seeing baby Jesus prepares Simeon to die.  Now you are letting your servant depart in peace.  Being baptized prepares you to die.  Hearing the Good News about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection prepares you to be declared worthy at the judgment based on what Jesus has done for you.  Receiving the Lord’s Supper readies you to be received into the arms of the Lord on the day of your death and to live forever with Jesus.  Lord, now let your servant go in peace.

It is not a happy thought to think that life is a long process of dying, but there is encouragement in being ready.  Being ready to die means that you are ready to live.

            When I regularly visit a nursing home I start to recognize some of the residents and I find it sad to see them just sitting and watching television every week.  I think to myself that they are just watching TV waiting to die.  But then I realize that is what we all are doing.  We are all doing whatever it is we are doing, waiting to die. 

            It is not a happy thought to think that life is a long process of dying, but there is encouragement in being ready.  Being ready to die means that you are ready to live. Psalm 23:4 (ESV) 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.[4] 

            Watching the television news it seems the networks make their money trying every day to scare you that something else is going to kill you.  COVID has been a field day for the media to come up with never ending new things to fear.  As a follower of Jesus you are free to live without fear of death because you know that death is not the end, it is only the transition to a new eternal life with Christ. 

Now life is God’s gift to you so you don’t seek death; you don’t tempt death.  You take care of God’s gift to you of your body and life.  You take precautions to stay safe, but you are also under no delusion about mortality.  You know that death is coming and while it is still the enemy, the enemy will not be victorious.  The Church, the people of God in Christ Jesus, move through the years, the decades, and centuries without fear because they live with the confidence that they are ready to die.

            Romans 8:31-39 (ESV) 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [5]

            Not being afraid of death empowers you to live.  It lifts the weight of the dread from you and frees you to use your time to do what you are given to do while you have time to do it.  You do not have to waste time chasing after futile promises of eternal youth, but rather use your days to love and serve the people you are given to love and serve in your daily life.  For married couples who are able, have children, and raise them in the fear of the Lord.  Grandparents, if you are able, help your children raise their children.  Care for the people that you encounter each day.  Care for the parts of creation under your control.  Fight back against the dirt and rot and decay in your body and life, in your property, in the community, and in the world.  Take care of what you have been given to care for. 

Live charitably.  Give generously.  Hold what God has given you in an open hand and not in a closed fist.  Knowing there is more to existence than just this life frees you to live life in the joy of Jesus regardless of your circumstances.

            Being ready to die has emboldened the Church for 2,000 years to continue even through times of persecution as the forces of darkness have tried to smother the light of Christ.  Matthew 5:10 (ESV) 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.[6]

            The devil wants to extinguish the light of Christ in you and in the world.  He attacks the Church and he attacks Christians.  He wants you to live selfishly for yourself and always in fear.  In order to counter the darkness you stay ready to die so you are ready to live.  You gather together each week to receive God’s Word and His Sacrament and stay ready to die so you can focus on living life for others. 

            You have the ultimate gift that keeps on giving.  You are an adopted child of God in Christ Jesus. Galatians 4:6-7 (ESV) 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. [7]  

You know you are ready to die and that makes you ready to live.  For me to live is Jesus, To die is gain for me.  So when my savior pleases, I meet death willingly.  Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.  Amen.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Test of Human Reason

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Christmas Day 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Hilbert Kamps
December 25, 2020 
John 1:1-14

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

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

John 1 verse 1 In the beginning, was the word,…..and the  Word was with God and the Word was God…..so far  our text.  Will you please pray with me, and especially for me?

Oh WORD made flesh, be present with us this most Holy Day, and fill each of us with Your limitless grace, mercy and peace!  And to that end may the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight Oh LORD, Amen

            Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Heavenly Father, and from Jesus Christ His Son, born to us this day in the little town of Bethlehem.

The Gospel of St. John has been called a crown of pure gold, and our Christmas  Day’s Gospel reading, has been called “the central jewel-set  in that crown.” This opening reading sums up the contents of the entire Gospel of John. He attests to the humanity of the Son Jesus fully and completely as to the divinity and godhead of this same human Jesus, the Christ the miracle of the ages is that the “Word became flesh and dwelt  among us.”

Many find the entire Gospel of John so very impressive, because he uses simple words to proclaim some very profound theology. Using the entire first chapter as an example of this simplicity: The entire chapter has 224 words; just over 200 of them are one syllable words. Less than 10 of them have more than two syllables. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit worked through John’s simple words to proclaim some very sophisticated theology. He proclaimed the WORD so plainly, that even children are able to understand, and comprehend by FAITH. Don’t you just love to hear the very young voices singing Away in a Manger, and O Little Town of Bethlehem? And how about the humble theology of God Loves Me Dearly? The beginning of this Gospel begins with the same, simple, elegant beauty.

Here we learn that there is a Word that is more than simple information. Here we learn that there is a Word that is a living, thinking being. Here we learn of an eternal living Word that has come to live with us. In the beginning was the Word. It is not an accident that the first words of this Gospel account are the same as the first words of Genesis. This special word that John tells us about is eternal. In the beginning……before anything was created…this Word already existed.

The only way to BE in the  beginning is to be eternal. The only thing that existed in the beginning…..before anything is created…..is God,            this eternal, Christ

Jesus is the reason why we Christians celebrate Christmas – that should probably go without saying. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ, He and He alone is the reason for the season – but remember His reason for the season is you – Jesus wasn’t born for His  own good. He was born for you. The part of the celebration of Christmas where people get together with friends and Family is simply, and hopefully, a logical, happy by-product of the celebration of Jesus’ birth for you. However God’s logic and man’s logic are as far apart as the East is from the West.

When we are born into this world, our human reason is very limited. For example, if you hide a toy from a very young child, the child will forget about the toy. He or she hasn’t reasoned that the toy is simply behind your back. But, as the child grows, and his or her ability to reason grows, the child will know that all you did is hide the toy behind your back.  The Lord has blessed each one us with the ability to grow in reason and understanding. There are many people who have been blessed with a great deal of knowledge. However, it is unfortunate that many have taken human reason, and placed it above all things, including God’s Word. Such people reason: “If I can’t understand it, then it must not be true.

That’s why so many “scholars” of the Bible question teachings found in God’s Word such as the creation of all things in six days, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead or the fact that one-day all people will rise from the dead.

In verse 14 of John chapter 1, we find another teaching of the Bible that we will never fully understand with our limited, human reason. Listen again as I read this verse of Scripture for us from the Gospel of John:  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.

Today, as we celebrate “that word coming in the flesh”, you and I will see from the Bible that “Christmas Puts Human Reason to the test”, based on this portion of God’s Word, we will see that our human reason is not able to understand fully that Jesus Christ, our One and only Savior, had to be both True God and True Man. BECAUSE-IT COMES BY FAITH! The Lord has given you and me the ability to understand what needs to take place for a new life to be born into this world. But, put your human reason to the test. Are you able to understand fully what the Holy Spirit led John to write here?           “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Your human reason would tell you that Jesus was simply a special man, who became “a son” of God, because of the kind of life he lived. But John does away with that line of reasoning back in the first verse, “In the beginning was the Word [John is talking about Jesus as the second person of the Trinity], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” And again… we read about this Word…. Jesus, “and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Gospel writer John was an eyewitness of the fact that Jesus is true God, who has taken on human flesh.

John our gospel writer quotes John the Baptist in verse 15, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.”‘ Both John’s testify that Jesus existed before His incarnation (His birth). One of the major teachings found in the Bible is the fact that this baby born in Bethlehem is not just another human child.  He is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. But is this really such an important point that we should spend so much time talking about it?

Let’s put your human reason to the test. How does your human reason tell you that you can get to heaven? It’s because I can do something to win my way into heaven. Now let’s look at that reasoning in light of God’s Word. The Bible tells us that we are sinful from the time we are conceived with-in the bodies of our mothers. Each one of us moments ago confessed to God “all of my sins and iniquities with which I  have ever offended You” and

Then asked His forgiveness.

How does your human reasoning tell you that this baby born in a stable (????) brings the power of forgiveness??? That same little one in the manger is the one who created grain and grapes and He has promised to give Himself to you in bread made from the grain and wine made  from the grapes. His true body and true blood are present; IN,WITH,&UNDER the bread and wine at this altar. Eternal life, the light of the world-it’s so near to you that you can touch it and taste it. God is given into your mouth, taken into your body. He makes Himself known to you with forgiveness, life, and salvation. God’s Word commands our human reason to step aside. The Bible makes it so clear that there is absolutely no way you and I are able to get ourselves into heaven. So, in his great love for you and me, God the Father took action. He sent his One and Only Son, Jesus Christ to be our substitute. Jesus took on human flesh. In our place, the Savior lived the perfect life you and I will never be able to live. Our loving Lord willingly offered up his perfect life as the full payment price for all your sins and all my sins.

Because Jesus rose again on Easter Sunday, because the Holy Spirit has used his Word to put faith in your heart and mine so that you and I believe in Jesus as our one and only Savior, you and I are given the credit for the perfect life he lived. Through the God-Man, Jesus Christ, you and I enjoy the forgiveness of all sins.       While Christmas puts human reason to the test, rejoice in the fact that Jesus Christ, your substitute, is true God and also true Man. There are many people today who hear the birth of Jesus at Christmas as just another “story” that is told at that time of year. It is important for you and me to remember that the only way anyone is saved is if they know that Jesus is their one and only Savior. Whether right now, you are sitting in a pew in front of me; or if you viewing us at a later time; each and every one of us knows of someone who needs to hear the message of God’s Word: his Law and Gospel. I am sure you are able to think of someone in your family, a friend, or a neighbor, who needs to hear about their need for a Savior, and how the gracious Lord gave us that Savior, in the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ.

May we leave here this morning empowered by the Words of God that we have heard read, the Christmas hymns we sang and go out and share the message of the Christ Child.

The fact that you and I are able to reason is a blessing from our Lord. This morning, while we are thankful for this blessing, if we try to use human reason to understand what Christ’s birth says to us, we will quickly see our human reason fail us. So, put human reason aside. Rather, listen to God speak to you in the retelling of this miracle from some 2000 years ago. As we said, it started long before that. In the beginning was the Word.

So….trust the Lord when he tells you that Jesus Christ is true God and true Man.

Trust the Lord when He tells you the Good News that through Jesus Christ you are forgiven of all of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Christmas Eve The Unexpected Savior

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Christmas Eve 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 24, 2020
Various Lessons

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

            2020 has been quite a year.  One year ago who would have thought that now you would be sitting here socially-distanced, wearing a mask or having one close at hand?  Who could have imagined that many would be sitting home watching Christmas Eve service on YouTube; infected, quarantining, isolating?  The world has been overwhelmed by an invisible virus.

The world is broken and our instinct is to fix it. We do not like the feeling of being helpless.  We have to do something…anything.  Politicians try making this new rule and that to try to control the virus.  Money is thrown at the problem.  We try to fix things, but despite our best efforts this virus is still causing no end of trouble all over the earth.  Two weeks to slow the spread has turned into a year. Vaccines are bringing some hope on the horizon but it remains a very difficult time. 

            Now, as bad as this pandemic is, it did not break the world, it only clarified the truth that we live in a broken world.  COVID19 reminds us that we are not in control.  This year in the United States there have been over 300,000 deaths related to the pandemic, but in a normal year there are almost three million deaths from many different causes, plus another 800,000 deaths from abortion. That people are dying of COVID19 is tragic, but death is nothing new in 2020.  You walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  The world is broken.

            The world broke, and sickness and death flooded in when Adam and Eve listened to the lies of the Prince of Darkness and sought to be like God. His first lie is still one of His favorites, “Did God actually say?”  Genesis 3:1-4 (ESV) 1 … “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.[1] 

Our first parents believed the devil’s lies.  They were one with God but then their rebellion broke that relationship.  And now all people, the offspring of Adam and Eve, are by nature, spiritually blind, dead and enemies of God. 

            There is so much brokenness in the world…so much darkness.  So much disease, injury, violence, starvation, warfare, and poverty.  The powerful abuse the weak.  Families are torn apart by lust and strife.  Children are exploited for profit.  Death separates you from your loved ones.  The darkness of this world is oppressive and this virus reminds you how helpless you are against the brokenness.

            This year there has been a dramatic yearning for Christmas.  There is a longing for hope in the darkness of despair, peace in the chaos of the pandemic, joy in the midst of the sorrow of sickness and death, and love in times of division and struggle.  This year folks were more anxious than ever to put up the tree and decorate the house and try to find some hope, peace, joy and love in Christmas.  There is desire for some kind of contentment in the familiarity of Christmas.  Because…the world is broken.  Because…you need a savior. 

            This unexpected savior’s birth is not announced to kings.  It is not proclaimed to the rich and powerful.  It is not heralded at the temple to the religious leaders.  The birth of this unexpected savior is announced to rough and tumble working men on the night shift watching sheep out in the fields.

            You need a savior.  You are looking for a hero to save you from the brokenness of the world and the brokenness in you.  You want someone to come and make it all better.  You need someone with the right connections to make things happen.  You need a mover and shaker to get things done. And so you come here tonight in the midst of brokenness looking for savior.  You have come to the right place. 

            What kind of glorious, powerful, connected, awesome champion do you find tonight?  As you dig through the lights and garland and trees and presents and songs and food and all the trappings of the season you find the savior.  But you find that the savior is a seeming nobody.  He is just a poor, Jewish, newborn boy wrapped in rags lying in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem six miles away from the important city of Jerusalem.  What kind of savior is this?  He is not glorious.  He is not powerful.  He is not politically connected.  He is not awesome.  He is not a champion.  He is a helpless little baby who needs His mother.  This is not the savior that you expect.

            This unexpected savior’s birth is not announced to kings.  It is not proclaimed to the rich and powerful.  It is not heralded at the temple to the religious leaders.  The birth of this unexpected savior is announced to rough and tumble working men on the night shift watching sheep out in the fields.

            The others with Mary and Joseph at the birth of their baby boy just see a normal baby.  They are confused when these shepherds come and tell them about angels announcing to them Luke 2:11 (ESV) 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.[2] They wonder at this, but Mary, the mother, has been told the truth about this baby by the angel Gabriel, and she treasures the shepherds’ words in her heart. 

This unremarkable little baby is the savior of the world.  The unexpected Savior does things in unexpected ways.  He quietly grows to be a man in a backwater hill town and then be baptized into your sin and carry that sin to a Roman cross in Jerusalem where He is beaten and pierced and killed for your brokenness and the brokenness of the world.  He enters death to destroy death.  He is laid in a tomb to sanctify the graves of all those who believe in Him.  He rises from the dead to declare victory over death and the grave.  He is the unexpected savior. 

Still today He is the unexpected savior forgiving in unexpected ways.  In the simple water and Word of baptism Jesus gives you eternal life in the Heavenly City where He will be the light.  He continues to deliver forgiveness to you in His Word, and in His Body and Blood in the bread and wine.  He is the humble servant king who calls you to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. 

            This is one of the proofs for me that Christianity is true.  This is not the kind of God someone would invent.  A God who comes to earth as a helpless infant. A God who quietly preaches and teaches and feeds and heals the lowly people of society.  A God who rebukes the religious leaders and eats with the outcasts. A God whose greatest glory is suffering in humiliation on a cruel cross.  A God who enters into the brokenness of the world to bring reconciliation with God the Father.  A God who does not solve every problem of the world — not yet — but solves the biggest problem.  A God who gives His life as ransom to forgive the sin that separates you from God.  A God who, in water, word, bread and wine, restores your relationship with the Creator that was broken in the Garden of Eden.   

            You come tonight looking for a savior in this broken world.  Your savior is come.  Your savior unexpectedly comes to you in the flesh of that little Jewish boy lying in a manger in Bethlehem.  He comes to ordinary people in ordinary places.  He comes to save sinners like you and me.  He comes as the Holy Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He comes as Immanuel, God with us, who offers Himself as the sacrifice to save you.  He promises to come again on the Last Day to fully undo the brokenness of the world.  He will abolish pandemics and sickness and death and evil forever and raise the dead in Christ to live with Him in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem for eternity.  In Jesus you find the hope, the peace, the joy and the love you seek.  Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. 

            Merry Christmas.

            Amen. 


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

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

Advent 4 — St. Mary Lutheran?

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Advent 4 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 20, 2020
2 Sam. 7:1-11, 16, Romans 16:25-27, Luke 1:26-38

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 ever visit Dresden, Germany you cannot help but be awed by the towering dome of the Frauenkirche, The Church of Our Lady with a big statue of Martin Luther out front.  This is a church with interesting history.  The original church was built in the 11th Century and then rebuilt in 1727 after the Reformation as a sign to the prince that even though he converted to Catholicism the people of Dresden remained Lutheran.  The 315 foot high dome collapsed on the morning of February 15, 1945 after two days of firebombing Dresden by Allied forces. The stone pillars holding up the dome became so hot they exploded destroying much of the building.  The church remained in ruins for 47 years as a war memorial during the time of Communist rule of East Germany.  In 1992, after reunification, rebuilding began. Builders used as many of the stones from the rubble piles as possible back in their original positions.  You can see these black stones amidst the lighter yellowish stones.

            Lots of St. Paul, St. John, St. Peter, and the like, but no St. Mary. Why?  I would guess that it would seem “too Catholic”.  And Lutherans, over the years, have desired not to look “too Catholic” even though we are reformed catholics.  For a long time we resisted making the sign of the cross or having a crucifix because it would seem, “too Catholic.”

Also interesting is the name; Frauenkirche, German for “The Church of Our Lady”.  It is Our Lady Lutheran Church.  It is named after Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Now the Frauenkirche was named when it was a Roman Catholic Church before the Reformation and kept the name afterwards.  You do not find too many Lutheran Churches with names like Our Lady or St. Mary.  In the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod I searched but did not find one St. Mary Lutheran. 

            Lots of St. Paul, St. John, St. Peter, and the like, but no St. Mary. Why?  I would guess that it would seem “too Catholic”.  And Lutherans, over the years, have desired not to look “too Catholic” even though we are reformed catholics.  For a long time we resisted making the sign of the cross or having a crucifix because it would seem, “too Catholic.”

            And I can certainly understand that after the Reformation Lutherans wanted to be clear that they have a different understanding of many things, including Mary. The cult of Mary in the Roman Catholic Church has grown since the Reformation.  A few years ago I was at a Catholic retreat center in Illinois and they had a parade with a statue of Mary on a bier carried on the shoulders of four men. It can seem that devotion to Mary starts to supplant devotion to God.  And there are a number of teachings in the Roman Catholic Church about Mary that are not in the Bible but have become dogma; teachings you must believe in order to be Catholic.  That Mary was conceived without sin, that she was a virgin her entire life, that she ascended into heaven in her body. 

            Now, while Roman Catholics can err in elevating Mary to almost being God, Lutherans can err by ignoring Mary and not giving her enough honor; not viewing her as a great hero of the faith alongside others in the Old Testament and New Testament.  We certainly should have a St. Mary Lutheran Church somewhere in our synod. 

            Like other Bible heroes, Mary is not without fault.  It would seem that there were times that Mary and her other children tried to rescue Jesus from Himself.  She likely did not always fully grasp what Jesus was about.  Mary has flaws the same as every other Biblical character except Jesus.  We know this because Mary is a descendant of Adam and Eve and she has original sin just like Moses and David, Peter, James and John, and just like you and me.  Mary is a sinner.  But this is what makes Mary a remarkable example of faith.  Mary believes the angel Gabriel.  In a Martin Luther Advent sermon on the annunciation he writes:

            “There is such richness and goodness in this Nativity that if we should see and deeply understand, we should be dissolved in perpetual joy.  Wherefore Saint Bernard declared there are here three miracles: that God and man should be joined in this Child; that a mother should remain a virgin; that Mary should have such faith as to believe that this mystery would be accomplished in her.  The last is not the least of the three.  The Virgin birth is a mere trifle for God; that God should become man is a greater miracle; but most amazing of all is that this maiden should credit the announcement that she, rather than some other virgin, had been chosen to be the mother of God.  She did indeed inquire of the angel, “How can these things be?” and he answered, “Mary, you have asked too high a question for me, but the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you and you will not know yourself how it happens.”  Had she not believed, she could not have conceived.  She held fast to the word of the angel because she had become a new creature.  Even so must we be transformed and renewed in heart from day to day.  Otherwise Christ is born in vain.  This is the word of the prophet: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).  This is for us the hardest point, not so much to believe that He is the son of the Virgin and God himself, as to believe that this Son of God is ours.  [1]

            Mary heard the message from God and she believed it.  Luke 1:38 (ESV) 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. [2] 

            Mary is a wonderful example of simple, trusting faith even in the midst of things she does not understand.  There are many things about God that you do not understand and still you trust His promise to you in your baptism.  God has chosen you to be His.  God has marked you as His own child.  Jesus takes your sin and your guilt and trades them for His righteousness, His holiness and His blessedness.  Jesus declares through the mouth of the pastor, “I forgive you all your sins.”  Jesus gives to you His own Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  This is His message to you.  This is His promise to you.  Jesus declares you are forgiven.  Jesus has chosen you to live with Him forever in the Heavenly City.  Believe it.

            There is great danger lurking when you elevate your own reason and understanding to be greater than the mysteries of God.  Just because you do not understand something does not mean that it is not true.  I do not understand how Jesus’ Body and Blood are present in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.  This troubled me when I was at seminary.  But then I realized I do not need to understand because I know it is true because Jesus said it is true.  I know Jesus has chosen me because He promised that to me in my baptism. 

            Meditate this week and throughout the year on Gabriel’s words to Mary and Mary’s humble faith.  Treasure Mary as one of the great cloud of witnesses that encourages us to… Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV) 1 … lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [3]

            Each week as you confess in the creed that Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, remember what a great example of faith Mary is to you.  Marvel not only at the miracles of the Virgin birth, and the incarnation, but ponder also the greater miracle of Mary believing that she was chosen by God. And know that you too have been chosen by God.  Amen. 


[1] Martin Luther’s Christmas Book, Roland H. Bainton, 1948, pp. 15-16

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

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

Advent 3 – The devil hates the light

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Advent 3 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 13, 2020
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, 1 Thess. 5:16-24, John 1:6-8, 19-28

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

John 1:1-9 (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. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.[1]

            You are running late for an appointment.  You are in an unfamiliar building hurrying down a hall looking for a right office.  Suddenly all the lights go out and you are plunged into complete darkness.  What do you do?  Do you keep hurrying?  Of course not.  You stop. You put your hands out in front of you and you slowly grope along the walls looking for an exit to get outside to the light.  What had been a clear and straightforward journey is now full of danger and uncertainty. 

            Darkness is dangerous.  The Hamilton Fire Department wants to make sure that if power goes out in this building you are not plunged into darkness and so they come around each year to test our emergency lights.  Emergency lights are important, because as powerful as darkness is, it is undone by light. So normally it is very unusual to be in place of total darkness because just a little light undoes the darkness. 

            The language of the Gospel of John is profound and heavy laden with imagery and significance.  In these first verses we have the Word.  John 1:1 (ESV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.[2]  We have Life. John 1:4 (ESV) 4 In him was life… And we have the light. John 1:4 (ESV) 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.[3][4] 

            Who is this who was there in the beginning and is the Word, life and light? We look to John 1:14 (ESV) which is essentially the Christmas story in John. 14 … 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.[5]

            Jesus is the Word. Jesus is the life.  Jesus is the light.  John 1:5 (ESV) 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.[6] 

            Since Adam and Eve’s fall into sin the world is a spiritually dark place.  By nature you are sinful and unclean.  By nature you hate the light.  Jesus overcomes your nature.  The light drives out the darkness.  Jesus tells His disciples on night before His crucifixion, John 12:46 (ESV) 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.[7] The light has come into the world and yet there are so many in the world who are fumbling around in spiritual darkness not sure which way to go or what to do.  They grope around in the dark for something to hold onto but only because they have their eyes closed.  The light has dawned.  The light has come.  The light is here. 

            So many are stumbling in darkness, but the light surrounds them.  What do you tell them?  Open your eyes.  The light has come!  Jesus has come!  He has come for you!  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out.  And yet people choose to remain in the darkness because they love the darkness. 

            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 deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.” [8]

            There is an ongoing battle between darkness and light. The darkness wants to extinguish the light.  The light has come and yet so many hate the light and flee from the light.  They want to silence anyone who speaks about the light. You see this in the world as governments and groups attempt to snuff out the light by attacking those who bear witness to the light.  Isaiah 5:20 (ESV) 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter![9] 

The devil is the prince of darkness and he hates the light.  The devil tries to extinguish the light of Christ wherever he finds it.  The devil tried to extinguish Jesus, the Light.

You feel this in your own life as the cloud of the darkness of sin and despair creeps over you trying to extinguish the light of Christ in your life. You feel it as you give in to the temptation to ignore the light and explore the darkness of your lust, your anger, your envy, your pride. 

The devil is the prince of darkness and he hates the light.  The devil tries to extinguish the light of Christ wherever he finds it.  The devil tried to extinguish Jesus, the Light.  That awful Friday afternoon it certainly seems that the darkness overcomes the light. Even the Mark 15:33 (ESV) 33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.[10]

            Three hours of darkness envelopes the land as the devil extinguishes the light of Christ on the cruel cross as gravity and fatigue slowly suffocate the light until… it is finished.  The snuffed out light is sealed in a dark grave.  It looks like the devil has won.  It appears the darkness has put out the light. 

            But the darkness does not win.  The light reignites on Sunday morning and goes forth from the grave.  God of God, light of light shines in the darkness.

            John the Baptist is witness to the light.  He is not the light but comes to bear witness to the light.  John the Baptist proclaims the light has come.  Isaiah 60:1 (ESV) 1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.[11] 

            What John the Baptist started we continue here in this place.  We, as a church and school, bear witness to the light of Christ.  The light shines in what we preach and teach, but also in what we say and do to each other, and to others.  You bear the name of Jesus.  You are baptized into the light of Christ.  You are a Christian; a little Christ.  You bear witness to the light in your words and deeds.  And the prince of darkness hates you for it.  He wants you to stop.  He wants you to act like you don’t have the light of Christ.  He wants you to return to the darkness of the world. He wants to separate you from the light and have the light of Christ fade from your life.  Know your enemy and his lies.  James 4:7 (ESV) 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.[12]

            Darkness comes in like a cloud to cover up your Gospel light. The darkness wants to snuff out the light of Christ in you.  Do you let the darkness win?  Hide it under a bushel?  No!  I’m going to let it shine.  You are in the light.  You live in the light of Christ.  You daily repent.  You turn from sin and turn back to God.  You humble yourself and receive the gifts of the light; forgiveness and eternal life. And you give thanks for all God has done for you. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.[13]

            The light has come into the world.  The darkness hates the light but the darkness cannot overcome the light.  Colossians 1:13 (ESV) 13 [Jesus] has delivered [you] from the domain of darkness and transferred [you] to the kingdom of his beloved Son,[14]

Give thanks.  Rejoice always.  The Light has come to you.  Amen.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advent 2 Good news in the wilderness

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Advent 2 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 5, 6, 2020
Isaiah 40:1-11, 2 Peter 3:8-14, Mark 1:1-8

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

            The church is decorated.  Here are the trees, and the lights, and the garland and stars.  There is a familiar comfort to it all.  It is calming.  It brings a peaceful feeling.  On dark December evenings it is nice to drive around and see houses brightly illuminated with colorful twinkling lights.  Peace on earth, good will to men.  Into this scene of calm bursts John the Baptist on the second Sunday of Advent dressed in a garment of hair with a leather belt around his waist like the prophet Elijah, and eating food he foraged in the desert.  John is not some slick, fancy pants preacher living in luxury, sipping wine and having subtle intellectual conversations about the meaning of life.  This is John the Baptist, the new Elijah promised by the prophets Malachi and Isaiah blasting in full strength to fulfill Old Testament prophecies.  Mark 1:2-3 (ESV) 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ”[1]  John gives it to you straight.  John calls people to repentance because the reign of heaven is near.  People hear this message and respond.  Crowds come from Judea and Jerusalem to be baptized by John in the wilderness.

            John is the voice calling in the wilderness.  Now the wilderness is not a happy, comfortable place.  It is desolate and dangerous.  Isolated and abandoned.  John is preaching the Good News of the coming of King Jesus in difficult circumstances in a dangerous location.  Lately it can certainly feel like we are in the wilderness in these unending days of pandemic.  We pray for this to end, but the virus is spiking and we have more and more people we know infected and quarantining; sick and dying.  The virus continues to ravage the world and makes everything feel out of sorts.  The voice crying in the wilderness still speaks to us today.  John is the voice in the wilderness bringing the Good News of Jesus’ arrival.  The one promised from of old has come.  John’s cry in the wilderness still resonates today.  It is still Good News in the wilderness that Jesus has come in the flesh to be God with us, Immanuel.  It is still Good News that God in flesh is born in Bethlehem and grows to die on the cross for your sins and rise from the dead.  It is still Good News in the wilderness that you look forward to Jesus coming again on the Last Day to raise the dead and bring all believers in Jesus into the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem.  It is still Good News in the wilderness that Jesus comes to you today in His Word, and in His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  In the wilderness of this world and in the wilderness of the pandemic, you still need to hear the call to repent and follow Jesus. 

            John breaks the calm on this second Sunday of Advent calling you to repent.  Now this can sound like John is trying to make you feel guilty for a bit, but repentance is not something Jesus needs from you, repentance is something you need in order to know where you stand. 

            John is a good preacher because while he is kind of a rock star of his time with people coming out to him from all over, John does not teach about John.  John does not promote John.  John does not preach sermons about how cool John is.  John knows he is a sinner who needs Jesus and so John minimizes John, and preaches about Jesus.  Mark 1:7 (ESV) 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.[2]  John preaches about Jesus.  A wise seminary professor once said that any preacher worth his salt sends his people home talking about Jesus, not talking about the pastor.

            John breaks the calm on this second Sunday of Advent calling you to repent.  Now this can sound like John is trying to make you feel guilty for a bit, but repentance is not something Jesus needs from you, repentance is something you need in order to know where you stand.  To know you are a sinner who needs forgiveness.  To know you are a sinner who needs Jesus.  To know you are not God.  To know that you should fear, love and trust in God alone.  Martin Luther in his book the “Bondage of the Will” writes, “…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.[3]

            Repentance despairs of yourself and looks to God for salvation.  Repentance admits you cannot save yourself; you need Jesus. Repentance takes the kings crown off your own head and returns it to Jesus.  Repentance is a call to remove those things from your life that keep you from welcoming the King to reign over you.

            John the Baptist is the voice of one crying in the wilderness to prepare the way for Jesus’ arrival.  Jesus arrives to take center stage, but he ministers in a surprisingly humble way with healing and forgiveness.  Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.  He cares for the weak and lowly.  Mark 10:45 (ESV)45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”[4] 

            Today in the wilderness of this world; in the isolation and desolation of the unending pandemic, take heart.  Jesus has come as the sacrifice for your sins.  Jesus comes to you today in His Word, and in His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  Jesus will come on the Last Day to raise you from the dead to live with him forever.  This is the great Good News that John the Baptist brings to you today.  It is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

            Amen. 


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

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

[3]Luther, M. (1999, c1972). Vol. 33: Luther’s works, vol. 33 : Career of the Reformer III (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (33:62). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

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