This is not the Messiah you are looking for.

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Epiphany 3 2022
January 23, 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Luke 4:16-30

            It is a wild scene.  Mob violence.  First century vigilante justice.  The angry crowd surges and surrounds the man and through the sheer force of their mass they push the man outside and up the hill to the edge of the cliff.  They want to push the man off the cliff so His body will be crushed on the rocks below.  Mob thinking has taken over.  This man needs to die. 

What did he do?

Did he murder someone?  Did he hurt a child?  Did he steal from a widow?  What has this man done that has made the crowd so furious that they want to kill him?

He didn’t do anything.  That is really the problem.  He didn’t do anything He simply told them the truth.

What did this man say that has made them so angry that they are going to throw Him off the cliff?  Well, it turns out He is not who they want Him to be and He won’t do what they want Him to do. 

            This man, Jesus, has come home.  He comes to His hometown of Nazareth and He goes to the synagogue on Saturday and He reads to the people from the prophet Isaiah.

            Luke 4:18-19 (ESV) 

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, 

because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. 

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives 

and recovering of sight to the blind, 

to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[1]

            Jesus then sits down and tells the people that today, this prophecy is fulfilled in their ears.  Jesus announces to the people that He is the One.  The Spirit of YHWH is on Him as was clearly shown at His baptism in the Jordan when the Spirit descended like a dove.

            Jesus tells the hometown crowd that He is the one anointed to proclaim good news and liberty; to bring sight to the blind and freedom to the captive.  Jesus is the Christ of God.  He is the Messiah.  He is the chosen one; He announces this to the hometown crowd.  Small town boy made good.  Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ.  He has come to bring the good news of forgiveness of sins.  He has come to bring people out of spiritual darkness. He has come to free people from spiritual bondage.

            What an amazing announcement.  The people marvel at His words of grace, but the marveling soon turns to rebellion.  “Hey, we know this guy.  Isn’t this Joseph’s son.  We’ve known this guy since He was a child.  Who does He think He is?”

            And what is all this talk about being poor and captive and blind and oppressed?  Hey! Hold on just a minute.  He is talking about us.  He is saying that we aren’t good enough.  He is saying we are sinners.

            And Jesus knows that the people know that Jesus has done signs and wonders in other places and they want Him to do the same here.  Jesus knows that they expect a miracle show. But since they are going to reject Jesus He is not going to do miracles for them. 

            And hearing that Jesus will not do what they want Him to do the crowd goes wild — and not in a good way.  They want to kill him and the mob surrounds Him in the synagogue; the Jewish house of worship.  Jesus tells them that He is the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah, but that is not enough.  They want Him to do a miracle and since He won’t because they are going to reject Him; they indeed do reject Him and drive Him to the edge of the cliff in order to kill Him.

            And then, ironically, Jesus does perform a miracle as He moves through the angry crowd and goes away for it is not yet time for Him to die. 

            The people want to kill Jesus because this is not the Messiah they are looking for.  The people of Nazareth don’t want a Messiah that is going to call them sinners living in spiritual darkness.  They don’t want a Messiah who will save them from their sins, instead they want a Messiah to be a powerful force and do great signs and wonders and drive out the Romans and bring the people prosperity and glory; health and wealth.  This Jesus fellow claims He is the Messiah.  But this is not the Messiah they are looking for, and they react with violence.

            Not much has changed today.  Jesus can bring intense reactions from people and demands for a sign. Once, when I was talking about Jesus to an unbelieving friend, he demanded proof.  “If Jesus is really God then have him show up behind the Dairy Queen at 7 PM and we can duke it out.”  People want Jesus to give them a sign.  “If Jesus is real then He will do exactly what I tell Him to do when I tell Him to do it. If Jesus is really God then He will heal my sickness, He will get me the new job, He will get me the bigger house. If Jesus is really God…”  We can hear echoes of the devil tempting Jesus in the wilderness.  “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”  Folks look at Jesus and think, “This is not the Messiah that I am looking for.”

            Jesus may not be the Messiah you are looking for, but He is the Messiah that you need.  Jesus comes to tell you that you are a sinner who needs a savior.  You are, by yourself, poor, oppressed and blind. He comes to bring you sight in your spiritual blindness.  You need Jesus as the Messiah.  Jesus comes to you with His words.  His words of forgiveness come into your ears working the truth that they proclaim. Your sins are forgiven.  Jesus comes to you in the Words of scripture read and sung in worship proclaiming that He is the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Jesus comes to you in His Body and Blood in Holy Communion to bring you forgiveness, life and salvation.  Jesus comes to you here, in this place, to proclaim to you good news and liberty. 

            But there is a great temptation to believe that Jesus is not the Messiah because He is not the Messiah you are looking for. There is a great temptation to believe that you need a Messiah to do your bidding.  A Messiah to do what you want to do.  A Messiah to tell you that you are good enough on your own.  A Messiah who will bless your sin.  A Messiah who will bring you happiness and prosperity. A Messiah who will make you healthy, wealthy and wise.  This is the Jesus that people are looking for, but Jesus of Nazareth is not that Messiah. He is the Messiah of the truth; the truth about you, and the truth about Him.  You are a sinner and Jesus came for sinners.  But this truth is too much truth for so many. 

It is fascinating how much power the cross has to offend people who believe the cross is meaningless.  Jesus provokes people. 

            And so even today there are so many that reject Jesus and want to destroy him along with any of His followers.  There is blatant violence against the followers of Jesus around the world.  In North Korea if someone is caught with even one Bible verse they face years in a concentration camp or even execution.  In Afghanistan the Taliban have lists of Christians and those on the lists are being killed or are disappearing.  There are Christians around the world facing violence and death because of Jesus.  1 in 7 Christians in the world faces violent persecution for their faith.  In Western nations it is not so much violence, but there is tremendous push to silence the truth about Jesus.  People reject that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.  The elites of society push an ever new radical sexual agenda and any opposition must be silenced.  They want to silence Jesus when he says, Matthew 19:5 (ESV)  5 …‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 

Jesus is offensive.  The cross of Jesus is offensive.  So many in our nation are offended by the cross and seek to have the cross of Christ removed from public land and public places.  It is fascinating how much power the cross has to offend people who believe the cross is meaningless.  Jesus provokes people.  He provokes people to love and hate.  I worry that the opponents of Jesus hate Him more than we, as His followers, love Him. Jesus’ enemies are quite motivated in opposition while those in the Church can be complacent.  Jesus Himself was in the practice of weekly worship at the synagogue while today many find a couple of hours once a week to be far too great a commitment. 

            Thank God Jesus doesn’t play to the crowd.  He isn’t swayed by current trends or public opinion. Jesus remains the Messiah that we need. He is the one who comes to tell us we are sinners and He is the one who gives us the solution to our sin in His own suffering and death.  He is the unexpected Messiah who is glorified in His shame.  He is exulted in His death when the crowd goes wild and shouts for His blood and drives Jesus up the hill to crucify Him.  He takes from you your sin and gives to you His holy perfection. 

            Jesus may not be the Messiah that you are looking for. But He is the Messiah that you need. Amen.


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

Little Birth, Big Birth, Big Death, Little Death

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Baptism of our Lord 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 9, 2022
Isaiah 43:1-7, Romans 6:1-11, Luke 3:15-22

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 many times have you been born?  A seemingly simple question, but, maybe it is a trick.  My mother gave birth to me in April of 1966 in Indiana.  One birth, but the answer is not one, is it?  I was born once at the hospital that was my little birth.  My big birth was on May 1, 1966 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Valparaiso, Indiana.  On that day I was born again of water and the Spirit.  On that day, the day of my big birth, the Holy Spirit descended on me and God the Father declared, “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” I have been born twice.  I had my little birth at the hospital and my big birth in the waters of Holy Baptism. 

            How many times have you died?  Hmm.  Another trick question?  Since you are sitting here it would appear that the answer would be zero, but not if you take a close look at our Epistle reading for today.  Romans 6:8 (ESV) 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 

            As a baptized child of God you have already experienced your big death.  In baptism you died with Christ.  Romans 6:3–4 (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. 

            At a baptism I make the sign of the cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one who is redeemed by Christ the crucified.  Perhaps I should also make the sign of the cross upon your hands and feet and your side to show that in baptism you have been crucified with Christ. 

            In baptism you have died with Christ and been raised with Christ.  You have gone through the big death and been born again, so your little death; your physical death, now holds no great terror because you are in Christ, and Christ has conquered death.  In baptism, your old self, your sinful nature, your old Adam, has been crucified with Christ.  Because you have died with Christ and risen with Christ you are no longer a slave to sin. You have been set free.  You live with Christ, you live in Christ.

            Your sinful nature has been crucified but the devil knows that your flesh still desires to sin.  The devil uses this to try to pull you back into slavery to sin.  One powerful trick in the devil’s arsenal is to convince you that since you live in the grace of Jesus you are now a spiritual being and what you do with your body does not matter.  The devil wants you to believe that because Jesus has cancelled the condemnation of the Law that you are now free to sin.  He wants to convince you that since you like to sin and Jesus likes to forgive sins that this is good arrangement for everyone.  Paul addresses this head-on in our Epistle lesson.  Romans 6:1–2 (ESV) 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 

            Your sinful nature is a remnant of your past life before you died the big death and were born again in water and the spirit.  It was once your master, but no more.  Sin no longer enslaves you.  In baptism, you did not just get a change of status, but you received a new life.  You walk in newness of life to delight in God’s will and walk in His ways to the glory of His holy name.  You live now as a baptized child of God.  At your baptism the Holy Spirit descended on you and God the Father declared, “this is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”  You died with Christ and rose to new life. 

            Living out your new life after baptism is a great challenge.  The world around you does not want you to help you.  Your own flesh betrays your new life as the old sinful self still desperately clings to you trying to retake control.  The devil works against you at every turn.  He tempts you to forget about your new life in Christ by reminding you of your sin and accusing you of the sin you’ve committed so that you give up hope and despair.  He wants you to reject God’s will and abandon His way and instead give in to your every sinful desire.  The devil wants you to become self-righteous and think that you are good enough on your own; that you are better than those other bad sinners. 

Fight back against the devil with daily contrition and repentance.  Sorrow over your sin and turn away from your sin and turn back to Jesus. 

You are a new creation.  Your old sinful self is crucified with Christ.  Your old sinful nature is nailed to the cross with Jesus.  Your sin is taken away from you by Jesus and paid for on the cross of Calvary.  You are forgiven.  You are set free.  This is the most important thing in this life on your way to your little death.

            Jesus is baptized into your sin.  He enters into the waters of repentance and takes upon Himself your sin.  He takes your sin, and with your sin upon Him, the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove and God the Father says, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” In the waters of His baptism Jesus begins to die for you and in your baptism you die with Christ and rise with Christ to walk in newness of life in love for God and love for your neighbor.

            You are a baptized child of God.  This is the truth, but the devil wants you to forget this truth. So, each morning, remember who you are in Christ.  When you are tempted to sin, remember who you are in Christ.  Make the sign of the cross and remember you are baptized, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Perhaps make the sign of the cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart to remember you are redeemed by Christ the crucified. Perhaps even make the sign of the cross on your hands and feet and your side to remember your sinful self has been crucified with Christ. 

You are a new creation.  Your old sinful self is crucified with Christ.  Your old sinful nature is nailed to the cross with Jesus.  Your sin is taken away from you by Jesus and paid for on the cross of Calvary.  You are forgiven.  You are set free.  This is the most important thing in this life on your way to your little death.

            When you die your little death we will focus on this truth. At your funeral we begin with the invocation.  “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  This incomplete sentence that reminds you of how you first entered the Kingdom of God.  “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

            We will cover your casket with a white cloth to remember you have put on Christ and are covered by the white robe of Jesus’ righteousness, and we look to these verses from Romans, chapter 6. 

Remembrance of Baptism                                                                               Romans 6:3–5

P     In Holy Baptism [name] was clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covered all [his/her] sin. St. Paul says: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”

C    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. 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.

            I was visiting a member in hospice recently.  Hospice focuses your attention as to what is really important.  Politics are no longer important.  Economics are no longer important.  Entertainment is no longer important.  Belongings are no longer important.  Family is still important, but the most important thing is to know the truth that you are a baptized child of God who has died with Christ and has been born again.  Romans 6:5 (ESV) 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.”  In hospice you await your little death in hope and peace because you already have experienced your big death and your little death will transition you to eternal life. 

            You are a baptized child of God.  You have died with Christ.  You are a new creation.  Live in the newness of life.  Delight in His will and walk in His ways.  You are dead to sin.  You are alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Arise, Shine!

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Epiphany 2022 
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 2, 2022
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

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”  To whom is God giving this command?  Arise, shine! As we let the Scriptures do the talking, we find out it is Zion. Isaiah 60:14 (ESV) 14 … they shall call you the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”  In the Old Testament Zion refers specifically to Mt. Zion in Jerusalem and generally to Jerusalem and to all Israel.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come.” Zion is the recipient of these words.  Now, given that this is prophecy for the future, this means that Zion must also be understood in New Testament terms.  God is using Old Testament language here to speak New Testament realities.  Standing on this side of the manger and the cross and the empty tomb, just who is Zion?  Answer: We are!  The new Israel.  The Church. God’s holy Church is spiritual Zion.  As God’s Church, we are being commanded to arise and shine, for our Light has come.  Jesus has comes; our Savior, the very Light of the World has come in the flesh.  With the coming of our Lord and Savior in the flesh, the glory of Yahweh has been revealed and made known.  God so loved the whole world that He gave His only-begotten Son.  In Christ, God’s glory has been “epiphanized,” that is, manifested and made known for all to see.  We see God’s glory in Jesus. 

And how do we shine forth?  Why do we shine forth is probably the better question.  We shine forth as a light unto the world, not with our own light, but with the Light of Christ, for He is the Light of the world.  His Light, implanted in us in Baptism, implanted in us by means of His Word and His sacraments, shines forth through us.  We have this Word and Promise of Christ.  We are the lamp that He uses to shine this Light—His light—into the darkness.  Apart from Christ and His Word there is nothing but darkness; deep darkness; unbelief and death.

The light shines in the darkness.  The Lord desires the death of no man, this is why He uses us to make His life-giving Light shine.  Jesus has come to forgive sins and conquer death.  And it is here that we see this beautiful imagery of true worldwide, Christ-centered mission taking place, already being foretold 740 years before the birth of Jesus.  This Light of Christ, shining forth in the darkness; shining forth through us, draws nations and peoples from every tribe, every tongue, every place, near and far.  They are drawn, not to us, but to Christ, who shines forth through us.  Even kings and rulers will come into this Light and bow down to the Lord of lords and King of kings.

Our Lord commands us to lift up our eyes and look around at all that He is doing.  His ways work.  His means work!  He works through simple words, water, bread and wine.  We don’t always believe that though, do we?  We don’t always trust the power of the Gospel.  We don’t always trust God’s Word and Sacraments to produce fruit.  We can get distracted by the things of the world.  We can start to believe that there is a better way.  We can lose focus as to why this church and school exist.  We can be tempted to focus on something other than the light of Christ.  Why?  Because we sometimes think we need to help God out.  We want a new and improved wheel; a better mousetrap; something new that will produce more success in ways that the world measures success. There is a great temptation to redefine Church according to the ways of the world.  

The light shines in the darkness.  The Lord desires the death of no man, this is why He uses us to make His life-giving Light shine.  Jesus has come to forgive sins and conquer death. 

I am not one who is big on mission statements, but there is value in ensuring that we stay focused on the main thing.  We have been working on a ministry plan for the coming years which had gotten started and then interrupted by COVID.  Our working mission statement draft is “United in the Good News of Christ, we live together in love by caring for each other, and by welcoming all to repentance and forgiveness.”

We are going to reignite this ministry plan effort at a congregational lunch gathering on January 24.   We want to get as many Immanuel members together to look to the future and seek God’s will to best do what God has called us to do.  Arise, shine, for your light has come.  How can Immanuel Lutheran Church and School best use all we have been given to shine the light of Christ in the church, in the school, in this community and throughout the world?

Isaiah 60:4a (ESV)  4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you;”  God Himself tells us that all these nations and peoples are gathering together in the Light; the Light of Christ.  And yes, we should see this and be all the more radiant.  Our hearts should thrill and exult, for the Light of Yahweh is giving life to all peoples, and He’s using us to accomplish this great and mighty feat.  “Lift up your eyes and see.” Peoples are coming from all over; from the coastlands and the seas, from all over and afar, bringing the abundance of their offerings to the Lord; bringing their sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving into His holy Zion. 

On our last couple of trips to Germany we worshipped at Trinity Lutheran Church in Berlin on New Year’s Eve.  Trinity is a church that is overflowing with people from Iran and Afghanistan who are coming to Trinity to learn about Jesus who is the light of the world.  They learn about Jesus and are baptized into Christ.  They are brought from the domain of darkness into the light of the Lord.  These people travel great distances to get to a church where they can hear the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is our calling also to be a church and school that preaches and teaches the truth of God’s Word and shines the light of Christ in the darkness of this world. We rejoice to be able to shine the light of Christ.  We preach and teach the Good News of forgiveness of sins through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  We baptize and teach and make disciples of Jesus by shining His light.

Our Lord goes on to say that this worldwide coming to the Light of Christ will be so profound that we will be covered up in camels.  Again, our Lord is using Old Testament terminology to speak of New Testament realities.  Believing people from all over the world—pilgrims—will come to Christ, and their means of transportation will cover over us; that’s how great and efficacious this Light of Christ is.  The Good News of Jesus has spread throughout the world and many now have the light.  Our focus is to continue to always shine the light of Christ into the darkness even when the darkness rejects the light. 

We hear the part about gold and frankincense, and immediately think of the Magi coming to Christ.  This is referring to the Magi, but it’s not only referring to the Magi.  These Magi; these wise men from the east, are just the tip of the iceberg.  These Magi are the first Gentiles who come to bask and worship in the Light of Christ.  These Magi came and did what we do today—behold the Good News of Yahweh and to sing His praises.  These Magi did what all of God’s people in Christ have always done.  They went back out into the darkness, full of Christ’s Light, singing the praises of Yahweh, proclaiming His Good News, standing tall in that darkness as ones who’ve been raised up in Christ, letting His Light shine forth through them.  That was just the beginning. The Light of Christ has been shining forth throughout the world for 2,000 years.

Arise and shine, for your Light has come.  The glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  This is our truth, right here and right now.  May your hearts, filled with the Light of Christ, be radiant and thrill and exult in the reality of Immanuel, God is with us, now, and to the end of the age.  Arise, shine, for your light has come!  Amen.

Behold, The Lamb at the Temple

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Christmas 1, 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 26, 2021
Exodus 13:1–3a, 11–15, Colossians 3:12–17, 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 anticipation of the celebration of Christmas begins to build after Thanksgiving and continues to inflate up until Christmas Day morning.  Christmas Day afternoon you are left with torn wrapping paper, a sink full of dirty dishes, and a sense of being kind of let down that it is over.  It is as if the anticipation were a big, beautiful balloon but then on the day after Christmas so much of the air has been let out you’re left sad and deflated. 

            I remember as a teenager feeling very disappointed by Christmas.  I don’t think I knew what exactly was disappointing, but I remember thinking that the reality of Christmas did not live up to the anticipation.  Some of that I now blame on the retailers who push us to buy, buy, buy and tell us that we can find happiness inside the boxes under the tree.  Some of this I blame on myself of having unrealistic ideas of what we are celebrating at Christmas. Some of it may even be that the Church over-promises what we are celebrating at Christmas. 

            I think it is easy to get so into the celebration of Jesus’ birth that we can get distracted as to what is actually happening. With the trip to Bethlehem, the baby in the manger, the angels, the shepherds, the magi, the gifts, it is all very wonderful and supernatural and amazing.  The Son of God has become flesh and lives among us.  It is all so bright and warm and wonderful and perfect. 

            For the baby Jesus, however, life is not always so bright and warm and wonderful and perfect.  Eight days after He is born, Mary and Joseph bring Him to be circumcised and named Jesus, Joshua, YHWH saves, the LORD saves.  Baby Jesus, God in flesh, sheds God’s blood to fulfill the law. 

            Thirty two days later, forty days after His birth, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple.  The Temple was the place of the Lord’s presence with His people in the Holy of Holies.  Now the Lord is returning to the Temple in the person of that 40-day-old little Jewish baby boy.  This trip to the Temple is for Mary’s purification 40-days after giving birth to a male child and it is to redeem Jesus as the first born.  Normally, a lamb is sacrificed to redeem the firstborn to remember God sparing the children of Israel in Egypt whose homes were marked with the blood of a lamb.  Mary and Joseph offer two common birds instead.  This shows that they are humble people of little means and also shows that there is another Lamb present.  Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

            This is amazing, this baby is God’s salvation, a light for the Gentiles, the nations, the non-Jews.  What does that mean?  This baby has come for all people.  Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

            At the Temple there are two people waiting for Jesus; Simeon and Anna are waiting for the consolation of Israel; the redemption of Jerusalem. 

            Simeon takes the baby Jesus in his arms and blesses God and declares, “Master, now you are setting your servant free according to your word in peace; because my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.” 

            This is amazing, this baby is God’s salvation, a light for the Gentiles, the nations, the non-Jews.  What does that mean?  This baby has come for all people.  Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

            But then Simeon’s words take a dark turn.  Luke 2:34–35 (ESV)  34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” 

            Jesus will bring the fall and rising of many in Israel. Jesus, the Son of God, humbly takes on human flesh in the womb of Mary and is born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger. He looks like any other baby boy, but He is not.  He is God in flesh.  And because of that people will reject Him, hate Him, plot his murder, and kill Him. Jesus brings peace between God and man but brings conflict between the world, and Jesus and His followers.  He will later teach, Matthew 10:34 (ESV) 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 

            People hate Jesus because they do not want to admit they need a savior.  To admit you need a savior is to admit that you are a sinner.  To admit you are a sinner is to admit that there is sin.  To admit that there is sin is to admit that there is right and wrong and it is determined by God, not by you.  To admit you need a savior means that you cannot save yourself and there is such a temptation to think you can do enough to save yourself. To admit you need a savior is to admit you are a helpless sinner who is lost.  To admit you need a Savior is humiliating and people hate to be humiliated, so people hate Jesus.  And people hate those who follow Jesus. 

            A sword will pierce through your own soul.  The thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God and the Word of God in His law cuts through your soul.  It reveals your inner sinful self.  It reveals that you are, by nature, sinful and unclean.  The sword of God’s Word cuts deep and reveals that you are indeed a sinner; guilty and ashamed of your sin. 

            This guilt and shame brings us back to Simeon’s earlier words.  His eyes have seen the Lord’s salvation.  Jesus is salvation.  Jesus comes to save sinners.  God’s Word cuts with the law and reveals the sinful thoughts of your heart, and God’s Word heals by bringing the Good News of forgiveness of your sins through the blood of Jesus first shed when He was 8-days old, and shed again 33 years later on the cross of Calvary.

            Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  At your baptism you are marked with the blood of the Lamb, you are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to believe that Jesus is indeed Immanuel, God with us; your Savior from sin.  You know that the baby Simeon is holding is God for you.  You know the bread and wine in Holy Communion are God for you.  You know you hold the Body of Christ in your hand even though you do not understand how that happens.  You know it is God for you.  You know your sins are forgiven, and so, in Christ, you are ready to die.  You can sing with Simeon 

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word,

for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people,

a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Christmas Day

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Christmas Day
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 25, 2021
Isaiah 9:2–7, Hebrews 1:1–4,  Matthew 1:1–17

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

Planning for the school’s annual children’s Christmas program is quite an ordeal. There will be those who are conscripted to wear plain colored robes made of bedsheets and pretend that they know something about being shepherds. A dozen or so girls will volunteer to be angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven. Crepe paper and glitter will be combined to create colorful crowns for the magi who will undoubtedly sing off-key, We Three Kings of Orient Are. Others will be drafted to join the ranks of choirs who through the ages have memorized the lyrics to O Little Town of Bethlehem, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and Joy to the World. Then, the great controversy of choosing a boy and a girl to play Joseph and Mary. Add to this cast a newborn baby, an innkeeper, a few straggly sheep and presto—the program will be just about ready to launch! But one important component is still missing. Who will we get to direct the pageant? Weeks of rehearsals and costume making will lead up to the night of nights. Anticipation will fill the air! The unstated goal is that after everyone sings the final song they will return home saying, “This year’s program was the best yet!”

            Should we expect anything less from Matthew’s Christmas pageant? Why, if anyone can pull this off without a hitch it will be an organized and efficient tax accountant like Matthew!

            Looking at his genealogy, we are amazed! Matthew begins by impressively organizing his presentation of Jesus by employing three groups of fourteen (Mt 1:17). In all likelihood, Matthew’s three by fourteen pattern is a play on the name of David, whose Hebrew consonants daleth waw daleth add up to fourteen (daleth = four, waw = six). This indicates that Jesus is the Davidic son, three times over! Quite impressive theology!

            Studying his gospel more broadly, we see that Matthew plans to perfectly structure his narrative to highlight our Lord’s five teaching blocks (Mt 5:1–7:29; 8:1–11:1; 11:2–13:58; 14:1–19:1; and 19:2–26:1). “The old timers will love it,” we exclaim with great joy. “They will be reminded of Moses’s five-part book that we affectionately call the Pentateuch.” With great anticipation the meeting concludes on this high note. “If anyone is going to direct a great Christmas presentation it is going to be Matthew!”

            But at the next meeting we look at Matthew’s genealogy with greater scrutiny. Within moments the committee is shocked. Matthew has placed four huge eyesores into the program! Their names are Tamar (Mt 1:3), Rahab and Ruth (Mt 1:5), and a certain “wife of Uriah” (Mt 1:6). How dare Matthew go against the conventional wisdom of the day by letting women into his genealogy! One committee member sighs in frustration, “Well! If he has to include women, why not invoke the names of our three lovely matriarchs—Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel?” Another person adds this critique, “Doesn’t Matthew remember that lineage is traced through men, not women? And that the function of a genealogy is to give solemn honor to the final descendant, Jesus? Matthew breaks both of these time-honored rules!” 

            The chairman then asks the inevitable question, “Who picked Matthew to direct this program in the first place?”

            Someone grabs a Bible and reads from Matthew 9:9, “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” The room becomes quiet enough to hear a pin drop! The reading continues with these words of Jesus, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13).  Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba demonstrate how God chooses “what is foolish in the world to shame the wise” and how he chooses “what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor 1:27). Their presence in Christ’s lineage foreshadows Jesus’s love for other outcasts like a Roman centurion’s servant (Mt 8:5-13) and a Canaanite woman’s daughter (Mt 15:21-28).

            At the heart of Matthew’s genealogy is this grand gospel. Jesus loves people who are victims as well as perpetrators of family dysfunction and deceit (Tamar); who feel used and worthless (Rahab); who bury loved ones and endure the pain of leaving their homeland (Ruth); and who are used by others for pleasure only to witness the death of so many dreams (Bathsheba). In the end, these four women’s lives are amazing testimonies to what Joseph told his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gn 50:20).

            So Matthew knew what he was doing all along! Could this be the reason he includes this saying of Jesus, twice? “But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mt 19:30; 20:16). Matthew adds a fifth woman to his genealogy—Mary.

            Mary also knew about this good news that turns everything upside down. In Luke 1:52 she sings of her God, “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.” Just like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, Mary’s life began with extreme disgrace and angst. “She was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly” (Mt 1:18–19). But Mary’s life was vindicated. She became the very Mother of Immanuel, God with us (Mt 1:23; cf. Is 7:14).

            Matthew’s Christmas genealogy prepares us to follow his gospel and revel in the multitude of his messages of grace. Jesus chooses fishermen instead of Pharisees, sinners instead of Sadducees, and whores instead of Herodians. Climactically, Jesus chooses thorns for his crown instead of silver and gold, and spit and blood instead of sweetness and light. His choices lead to torment and torture and darkness and death.

            This led to the greatest shock of all. “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he is risen, as he said” (Mt 28:5–6). Jesus is Life overriding death and making all things new. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Mt 21:42; cf. Ps 118:22–23).

            Let’s face it. Try as we might, our Christmas pageants are never exactly perfect. Isaiah 9:2 may be misquoted, the babe’s swaddling clothes may slip off at the most inopportune moment, the Christmas tree may remind us of Charlie Brown’s sorry-looking stick, and the inn keeper may forget his lines, again! That’s okay.  Let it remind you of how Matthew introduces Jesus. It is not with glitter and Hollywood glitz. There are no fireworks or fine pedigrees. Matthew doesn’t incorporate the kind of people who are finalists on American Idol. Instead, Matthew selects four broken and outcast women, who in so many ways, are just like us. No wonder he records this stunning promise just after his genealogy; “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). Thank God for the Christmas story inspired by the Holy Spirit and penned by a man named Matthew. Merry Christmas! Amen.

Joseph’s Journey

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Christmas Eve 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 24, 2021
Matthew 1:18-2:23

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

            Have you ever returned home after being away a long time and you find that it feels like maybe the whole trip was just a dream. You were gone for a long time, but back home everything is the same.  As I sit by the fire in my little house it sort of feels like nothing has changed, and yet everything has changed – everything.

            My name is Joseph, I live in a little village called Nazareth about 25 miles west of the Sea of Galilee up in the hills.  I work construction by trade. 

            A couple of years ago I was sitting right here—–My life is all planned out.  I am engaged to be married to a girl named Mary.  We have been engaged since we were kids and now we have grown up and the time has come to get married.  I built this little house here and look forward to bringing Mary home as my wife and raising a family.

            But then I find out that Mary is pregnant.  It is devastating news.  I do not know who the father is — I just know that it isn’t me. There is a guy in the village I know who once told me that if his fiancée got pregnant from another guy he would drag her out into the middle of the village square, humiliate her and then stone her to death.  I could never do anything like that to Mary; one sin should not need to lead to another. I figure I will just break things off quietly and slink back here to the house with my tail between my legs to lick my wounds.  That is my plan when I lay down to sleep.  That night a messenger from God appears to me in a dream and tells me, 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.”  Isaiah the prophet wrote, “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”  Immanuel means, “God with us.”  I don’t know what to think.  This baby inside Mary is God with us?  This baby is from the Holy Spirit?  His name will be Jesus?  Jesus is Greek for the Hebrew name Jashawa which means YHWH saves.  The LORD saves.  I am not completely sure what was going on, but I know I should do what God says to do. 

            So I bring Mary home as my wife, but we wait to consummate the marriage until after the baby is born.  I think things will be okay but it is a rough time for us both. Soon the whole village learns that Mary is pregnant and they all assume they know what happened and I can feel the dirty looks as we go to the market.  But at least we have each other to lean on for love and support.  And we have this miracle baby growing inside Mary to look forward to.  But then Mary tells me that she has to go away for a while.  Her relative, Elizabeth, an old woman who has never had children, is pregnant.  That’s crazy – but, then my virgin wife is pregnant…God works in mysterious ways.

            Mary leaves me alone for three months to endure the all the dirty looks alone.  And they become more intense as the rumors swirl that she has left me for good.

            But Mary does come home and we settle in waiting for the birth of Jesus.  When I put my hand on her belly I can feel him squirming around inside and I can’t wait to meet Him.

            But then the whole world is thrown into turmoil. Word reaches all the way to Nazareth from Rome.  The emperor, Caesar Augustus, is ordering everyone to their home towns to be counted so Rome can better tax us.  Now, I live in Nazareth, but I am a descendant from King David — not that that helps me much these days.  But being from the line of David, Mary and I need to go to Bethlehem, the city of David. It’s not fair.  Mary is really pregnant and is having trouble getting around. She has trouble sleeping at night because the baby has decided that is the time to be active.  Now we have to walk 90 miles to Bethlehem.  Mary is getting ready to give birth, I don’t have any money to travel…this couldn’t have come at a worse time.

            But the emperor says to go, so we go.  It is a long walk and takes many days.  The roads are crowed with all the people travelling due to the census.  Bethlehem is crowded.  I have family here so we find a place to stay, but we are packed in pretty tight. While we are there, Mary goes into labor and the women take over helping her; they know all about the delivering babies stuff.  Jesus is born, but we are unprepared.  Someone finds some rags to wrap him in, but there is no bed.  The cradle I made is back home in Nazareth.  Someone comes up with an idea, shoos the animals away from the feed trough, cleans it out and puts in some fresh straw and a blanket and we lay this miracle baby from the Holy Spirit on a humble bed of straw in a manger.

            I’m a proud papa even if I am not the real daddy.  I am so happy I could just burst.  I still don’t fully understand what all is going on with this baby and what the future holds, but tonight things are good.  Soon there comes a knock at the door.  Outside is a group of rough and tumble shepherds who are super excited and ask if we know anything about a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.  Someone told them that there was a woman here who was ready to give birth.  We all look at each other, “How did they know?”  We invite them in and bring them over to baby Jesus and they tell us this incredible story about how an angel appeared to them in the fields outside Bethlehem. The angel told them, “Luke 2:10–12 (ESV) 10 …“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And then they said a whole army of angels sang about glory to God and peace on earth.

            Christ, the Lord?  Christos is Greek for the Hebrew Messiah.  Could it be?  Is my stepson the long awaited anointed one who has come to save the Children of Israel? The others there just shake their heads at the shepherd’s crazy tale, but Mary and I know more of what is going on and I think Mary knows better than me.  She just smiles knowingly while she feeds the baby.  The shepherds leave, but they go all around Bethlehem telling people about baby Jesus and the angels. 

            We have Jesus circumcised on His eighth day of life. After 40 days we take Him to the temple for Mary’s purification and to redeem Jesus as the firstborn, remembering God passing over the Israelite houses in Egypt marked with the blood of the lamb, but killing the firstborn of the Egyptians. 

While we are at the Temple we meet these two people who are there waiting for Jesus to come.  It is so strange, but just another confirmation that our baby is no ordinary baby. The one guy holds the baby and says that now he has been set free, but then has a warning, Luke 2:34–35 (ESV) 34 … “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”  The shepherds told us that the angels sang about peace on earth, but this peace may not be what people are expecting.  This older lady is there also, and she, like the shepherds, starts telling everyone about who Jesus is.

Days pass, weeks pass, we visit with family as we wait for the census to be finished.  Sometime later we get another strange visit.  These peculiar magi, wizards or astrologers or something, from somewhere in the East appear at the door saying they have been following a star which is leading them to the one who has been born King of the Jews.  The star stopped over our house in Bethlehem.  They come into the house and they worship the baby as if He is a king or God or something.  They present the baby with gifts fit for a king; gold and frankincense and myrrh.  They tell us that they have been to Jerusalem to inquire about the baby and even talked to King Herod who wants them to go back to Jerusalem and tell him where the baby is so he can also come and worship.  This is all way too much.  We are just humble folks from Nazareth and now the King of Israel wants to come visit? That’s crazy.

            That night I wake up to some noise and look outside and I see the magi sneaking out in the middle of the night.  The strange thing is that Jerusalem is north but they are heading east.  I lay back down to sleep.  Again, an angel of the Lord appears to me in a dream and tells me, “Matthew 2:13 (ESV) 13 …“Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 

            Whoa!!  Maybe that is why the magi snuck off to the east.  You hear people complain now and again how God just isn’t talking to His people anymore; that it has been hundreds of years.  I’ll tell you what.  God sending you messages does not make life easy.  I quickly get up and get dressed.  I wake Mary who gets the baby ready.  I whisper to her that we need to flee to Egypt and we need to do it now, because God said to do it and if God says to do something you should do it.  I wonder for a moment what we are going to do for money, but then I remember the magi’s gifts.  God works in mysterious ways.  We quietly slip out of town and begin our 400 mile walk to Egypt.

         There is not much to say about Egypt.  It is hard being a stranger in a strange land.  I try to stay close to Mary and Jesus as we lay low and try not to be noticed. I am not a soldier or a spy, I am a carpenter from Nazareth and King Herod is hunting for my child.  I don’t know who I can trust, so I trust no one. We live off the magi’s gifts and we get by but it is very lonely being so far from family.  At least we have each other and it is great getting to watch Jesus grow and get His teeth and start to stand and walk.  After a while, another angel appears to me in a dream to tell me that King Herod is dead and we can return home.  So we gather our few belongings and begin the 400 mile walk back to Israel.  We stop in Bethlehem and think about staying for a while, but Herod’s son Archelaus is now king there and he is crazier and more ruthless than his father, so we keep going the 90 miles more back to Nazareth.  While we are in Bethlehem though, we learn horrifying news.  Right after we left Bethlehem the first time, Herod sent his soldiers into town and they went house to house mercilessly slaughtering every baby boy from infants to toddlers.  The families are still in shock.  They looked at me with a look which I think means, “You knew what was going to happen so you left, but you didn’t warn us.”  I did not know that was what Herod would do.  I have no words of comfort.

            Now we are finally back home in our little house in Nazareth. For how long, only God knows.  Mary just put Jesus to bed and I have a moment to sit by the fire and ponder all that has happened.  I thought I had my life planned out, but God had different ideas. Unexplainably, He chose me to protect God with us.  Since that first visit from an angel life has not been easy, but it has been blessed.  There are powerful people who hate my little son and yet the Lord provides what we need.  He chose me to help take care of the Messiah who has come to save His people. The thought of that is overwhelming, I am so, so not worthy.  Even more overwhelming is that this little guy, who seems so helpless asleep on His bed, is my Savior.  He has come to save me from my sin.  Save me and save you and save all His people.  I don’t know how all that will work out, but I am confident it won’t happen the way people think it should. 

Our little boy is God. with us. to save us from our sins, but so far he has not brought glory the way the world thinks of glory.  I do not know what comes next, but I will do my best to do what God tells me to do and rejoice that the Messiah, the Savior has come in the person of my stepson Jesus. 

Sitting here in the house it almost seems like the past couple of years are just a dream, that everything is the same.  But, praise God, everything has changed.  God sent His son, my son, to save me from my sins.  To save you from your sins.  That is the greatest gift of all.  Amen. 

Mary’s Song is not about Mary

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Advent 4 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 18, 2021
Micah 5:2-5a, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-56

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

            Imagine for a moment that you are living 300 years ago in Europe.  Your father is a peasant farmer who works the land for the local prince.  Your mother is a servant for a wealthy family.  As soon as you are old enough you will start working in the fields if you are a boy and as a servant if you are girl.  You will work six days a week and have Sundays off to attend worship services and have a day of rest.  You will get married young and have lots of children who will also be peasant farmers or servants.  This is your life.  You are a baptized child of God and your lot in life is to be a peasant farmer or a servant. You will work hard, go to church, trust in God, and look forward to the Last Day.

            The thought of being stuck as a peasant farmer or servant for generation after generation sounds terrible to our ambitious, freedom-loving American ears. And that is why I believe it can difficult to be a Christian in this nation.  It can be difficult to trust in God because of the focus on individual achievement.  In this nation there is a great emphasis on pursuing the American dream of making lots of money and buying a big house, and nice cars, and fancy clothes, and retiring to look in pride at all you have accumulated and accomplished.  In America we love rags-to-riches stories of people who grew up poor, but through hard work and perseverance have become wealthy. We aspire to the American dream. We love the idea that if we just work hard enough and are clever enough we can become rich.  And this is very possible; there is abundant opportunity in America.

            And there is nothing particularly wrong with working hard and saving money and achieving things, but it has very little to do with Christianity. Christianity is not about the American dream and it is often easy to get that confused. 

            Today, in the Gospel reading, we hear Mary’s song.  It is called the Magnificat, from the first line, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”  Lutherans are sometimes accused of not thinking highly enough about Mary.  As we study the Magnificat, we find that Mary does not want to be highly thought of.  We find from Mary’s song that Mary is not about Mary; Mary is all about God. Mary’s virtue is her humility.  She is an unknown teenage girl from a nowhere village in the hills of Galilee.  She is a nobody.  She is not famous, she is not important, she is not rich, she does not have lots of followers on Tik Tok or Instagram.  Everything that Mary has is from the Lord. 

            In our Gospel reading today we find pregnant Mary who has gone to visit her relative Elizabeth.  Mary is a virgin, her womb should be empty, but she is going to give birth to the Savior of the world.  Elizabeth is an old woman who has never been able to have a baby.  Her womb should be empty, but she is six months pregnant with John the Baptist who leaps in his mother’s womb at the very presence of the unborn baby Jesus.  The Lord has filled their emptiness with life.

            The Lord filled their emptiness and Mary sings about this.             She says, “My soul magnifies the Lord.  My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  Mary does not want to talk about Mary, Mary wants to extol the Lord God Almighty.  She does not say, “My soul magnifies me…my spirit rejoices in myself.”  Mary is not taking a verbal selfie here. 

            “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.  For he has looked on the humble estate of His servant.”  Mary is a nobody from nowhere, she is of low estate and God has blessed her to be the mother of Jesus.  “For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed.  For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”  This is Mary proclaiming the greatness of God.  Mary is in humble submission to the Word of God.

            The Lord filled their emptiness and Mary sings about this.             She says, “My soul magnifies the Lord.  My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  Mary does not want to talk about Mary, Mary wants to extol the Lord God Almighty.  She does not say, “My soul magnifies me…my spirit rejoices in myself.”  Mary is not taking a verbal selfie here. 

            “His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation.”  Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)  10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”  The fear of the Lord is not a terror, but a familial fear.  Like the fear of a good father.  It is a reverential awe.  It is a fear of knowing that the Lord is powerful and the Lord is merciful.  It is the fear of knowing that God is God and you are not. 

That really is the problem that so many have today and so many have had since time began. Folks do not want to believe that God is God and they are just lowly servants of the Lord.  Like the children of Israel at Sinai who built the Golden Calf, folks so much want to create their own gods that let them pursue their every sinful desire.  If you build your own god then you are in control.  You are the one who calls the shots.  People so much want to believe that they are in charge, but Mary clears this up.

            “He has shown strength with his arm.”  The Lord has done mighty things over the centuries to show who he is.  He created the world.  He destroyed the world with a flood.  He killed the first born of the Egyptians and passed over the houses of the Israelites marked by the blood of the lamb.  He parted the Red Sea so the children of Israel could pass through and then drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and his armies.  He sent manna and quail and water to sustain His people in the desert.  Later He sent his unfaithful children into exile and then brought them back to Jerusalem. The Lord is God and He is almighty. He has worked powerful things in the past and He will do it again.

            “He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts…he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.”  This is a major issue for our world today.  This is such a powerful temptation that it leads many astray.  You so much want to believe and rely on your own thoughts instead of the Word of God.  You so much want to be in charge and you are being told these days that your feelings trump the facts; that feelings are truth.  You are being taught at school and at work and by the media that the most reliable source of truth is the thoughts of your heart.  God disagrees.  He scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 

            When we think about Mary, the mother of our Lord, it is not about elevating Mary, it is about learning from Mary to humbly submit to the Word of God.  Mary is a great witness to us of humble submission to God’s Word.  When the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her she is going to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit and give birth to Jesus who will be king, Mary humbly submits to the Lord’s will, 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.” .. “Let it be to me according to your word.”

            This is something you can use as a daily truism to repeat when you look in the mirror.  “Let it be to me according to your word.”  This is not a formula for success in this world, this is not some daily affirmation of how great you are, but rather it is a formula for faithfulness to God.  “Let it be to me according to your word.” 

            “he has bought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.”  Jesus does not come to earth to prop up the status quo.  He is not here to reward the rich and famous and congratulate them for their great accomplishments.  Jesus is here to lift up lowly sinners.  Jesus is not here to here to bring salvation to those who think they are good enough. Jesus is here to save sinners.  Jesus comes to bring mercy to those who know they do not deserve God’s mercy. 

            Jesus does not care how much money you have.  He does not care about your accomplishments in this life.  Jesus cares that you have eternal life.  If you are a lowly peasant farmer or you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, before God you are the same.  You are a lowly sinner who needs Jesus.  Jesus has come for you.  You come before the Lord empty and He fills you with life.  When you come to the communion rail to receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, there are no distinctions; everyone at the rail hungers and thirsts for righteousness.  “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.”

The Lord Jesus, God incarnate, God in flesh, is a developing little baby in the womb of a young virgin from Nazareth.  Things are not what they appear.  Jesus comes to bring about the great reversal.  Those on the top of worldly things are brought low and those on the bottom are exalted to the highest heights. 

It is so very easy to get distracted by the things of this world and start to believe that these things are most important.  Jesus warns about this in Luke 8 in the parable of the sower and the seeds.  The seed is the word of God.  Luke 8:14 (ESV) 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 

Work hard at what you have been given to do no matter how humble the task.  Do what you have been given to do knowing that these good works are for this life; to serve your neighbor.  Know you are a redeemed child of God, and each day look in the mirror and pray in the words of Mary, “Let it be to me according to your word.”  Amen

Things are not what they appear

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Advent 3 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 12, 2021
Zephaniah 3:20-21, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 7:18-35

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

            A terrible and wonderful thing about Christianity is things are often not what they seem to be.  For example, here you sit amongst this odd collection of people.  Some you know well, some not so well, some you don’t know at all.  There is that fussy child interrupting quiet moments.  There the guy who sings loudly and off-key.  There is that kid crawling under the pew.  There are people staring up at the ceiling seemingly disconnected from what is happening.  It is a strange collection of people.  And they are people with secrets.

The people sitting around you do not want you to know what they have done, and you do not want them to know what you have done. This is a motley gathering of sinners, especially the sinner up front wearing the weird white robe as if he is somehow pure and holy.  Looking around, this does not appear to be a holy gathering – and yet – and yet, that is exactly what it is.  This is a gathering of the holy ones of God. 

            You are the saints of God.  Despite your sin, you wear the white robe of Jesus’ righteousness.  Even though you are a poor miserable sinner…even though you are, by nature, sinful and unclean, despite that, you are a saint.  You don’t look like a saint.  You don’t act like a saint.  But you are a saint.  Things are not what they appear.  You are a saint because Jesus has declared you to be holy, innocent and blessed because you are washed in His blood.

            Things are not what they seem to be.  John the Baptist has been a faithful prophet of Jesus his whole life.  He leapt in his mother’s womb at the presence of the unborn baby Jesus.  John is the new Elijah who is prophesied by Isaiah and Malachi.  Luke 3:4–6 (ESV) 4 … “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”   John declares when he sees Jesus, John 1:29 (ESV) 29 …“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  John baptizes Jesus and sees the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and hears the voice of God the Father saying Luke 3:22 (ESV) 22 … “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 

            John is a prophet of Jesus, the Christ.  John is a bold, strong prophet who speaks the truth of God.  And because of that, John is in prison.  He is chained to the wall in the pitch black, stifling dungeon of Herod Antipas’ palace. John spoke the truth to Herod that it was not right for him to be sleeping with Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. John spoke the truth of God and now is in prison.  Whenever he hears a guard coming to the door he does not know if they are coming to feed him or cut off his head.  Things are looking very, very bad for John, this faithful prophet of Jesus. 

John’s disciples send word to John that Jesus has healed a centurion’s servant and raised a widow’s son from the dead and the people are amazed.  Luke 7:16 (ESV)  16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”  Jesus is doing incredible miracles.

            You know the feeling John the Baptist is having.  You have had that feeling.  “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” You know the feeling of “Lord, things do not look right.” 

            And John sits in prison.  Why?!?  Why!?! Why doesn’t Jesus do something?  Jesus is God in flesh.  Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus has the power of God, why doesn’t Jesus free John from prison?  Things do not look right.

            So John sends two of his disciples Luke 7:19–20 (ESV) 19 …to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to [Jesus], they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ ”  John is saying to Jesus, “Things do not look right.”

            You know the feeling John the Baptist is having.  You have had that feeling.  “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” You know the feeling of “Lord, things do not look right.” 

            You stare down at the big, red “F” on your test paper that means you have failed the test, the course and out of the major you thought was your destiny.  What has happened?  “Lord, things do not look right.”

            You take off your wedding ring as you walk out of the courtroom.  You are no longer married.  Your spouse has left you, and divorced you despite all your prayers for reconciliation.  “Lord, things do not look right.”

You are at the hospital bedside of a loved one who is not going to get better. You prayed for healing, but it did not come.  “Lord, things do not look right.”

            You are visiting your loved one who is in prison despite your prayers for them to find the right path.  “Lord, things do not look right.”

You are sitting in prison and you pray to be freed.  “Lord, things do not look right.”

You stand at the graveside as the casket is lowered into the ground. “Lord, things do not look right.” 

            Jesus’ response to John the Baptist in prison is such a powerful message to us that even when things do not look right, Jesus is still Lord. Jesus is still in control.  Jesus is still on the throne.  Jesus still reigns.  Jesus’ gift of forgiveness first given to you in your baptism, and poured out continually in His Word and in His body and blood, is still real and still effective, even when things do not look right. 

            Jesus shows John’s disciples that He has the power of God; that He is the one who is to come.  They do not need to look for another.  Luke 7:22 (ESV)  22 And [Jesus] answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” 

            That is convincing evidence that Jesus is Lord, and you have a greater sign than any of these.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!  Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus conquered death for you.  Jesus died on the cross for you and rose from the dead for you.  You indeed are in this world with all of its trouble and turmoil but you do not belong to this world.  You are a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.  You are a baptized child of God so you can believe the promises of Jesus even when your experience fights against it. 

Jesus greatest gift is the forgiveness of sins and this is what people are most offended by.  How can Jesus forgive sins?  Why do I need forgiveness?  Is Jesus saying that I’m not good enough?  Is Jesus calling me a sinner?  It is offensive that Jesus hangs out with sinners; tax collectors and prostitutes.  How can Jesus forgive those kinds of people; people who do not deserve forgiveness. 

            Praise be to God that Jesus forgives people who do not deserve forgiveness and calls them to follow Him.  Being a follower of Jesus is not a promise of an easy life, it is a promise of forgiveness.  It is a promise of eternal life.  Matthew 16:24–25 (ESV) 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  

            John the Baptist is bearing his cross in prison.  He is a faithful prophet of God and he will be beheaded.  You bear the cross of the sufferings of this world and in the trouble that comes from speaking the truth in love.  Life is hard.  Life is a struggle.  Life is short.  1 Peter 1:24–25 (ESV) 24 for “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.” Things are not what they appear.  This assorted collection of sinners gathered here are the holy saints of God.  No matter how things may look, God’s promise to you remains.  You are a forgiven child of God.  You are an eternal citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Amen. 

Everyone Loves a Parade

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Advent 1 2021 
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 28, 2021
Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 19:28-40

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

            Some parades, like the July 4th parade, mark an annual remembrance; other parades mark the beginning of something, such as the opening day parade for the Reds.

            This past Thursday the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City marked both an annual remembrance and the beginning of something.  It is the annual celebration of the National Day of Thanksgiving and, perhaps more importantly for Macy’s, the kickoff of the Christmas shopping season as the final float carrying Old St. Nicholas takes up the rear.  The parade gets you ready for Black Friday; the day after Thanksgiving, on which the retailers hope you spend lots of money.

            In our Gospel reading today we have a parade down the Mount of Olives and into Jerusalem.  Jesus is riding a young donkey down the hill while His followers lay their cloaks on the road so the colt does not step on the dirt.  This parade down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem marks the beginning of the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  This parade marks a great transition for Jesus as He comes into Jerusalem to fulfill His calling on that dark Friday we call Good on which this King riding a donkey colt is sacrificed for the sins of the world.  

            At Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem angels announce to the shepherds Luke 2:10–12 (ESV) 10 … “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  An army of angels sings, Luke 2:14 (ESV)  14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 

            A baby’s birth announced by angels.  This baby is the Christ.  Christ is Jesus’ title.  He is the anointed one.  The chosen one.  When the Magi come to Jerusalem they ask around, Matthew 2:2 (ESV) 2 saying, “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.”

            Herod the Great, who thinks he is king of the Jews, is not pleased with the news there is a new King of the Jews and he plots to kill Him.  Jesus’ stepfather Joseph is warned to escape and flees by night with Jesus and Mary to Egypt.

            Now, in broad daylight, Jesus parades on a donkey down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem to shouts of, Luke 19:38 (ESV) 38 … “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.”  And words that echo the angels’ song at Jesus’ birth, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 

            Angels announce Jesus’ birth.  Crowds announce Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem.  The Pharisees want Jesus to shut them up, but there is no quieting the announcement of Jesus as King.  Luke 19:40 (ESV) 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”  And that is what happens.

            At the end of the week Jesus is crowned and put on His throne.  The governor declares Him to be “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews” and when His followers are silenced by grief and fear, the rocks indeed cry out as Jesus breathes His last.  Matthew 27:51 (ESV) 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.”  Jesus accomplishes what He came to do. 

            Today is the first Sunday in Advent.  Advent means coming into place; arrival.  Today we hear about Jesus’ advent in Jerusalem at the beginning of that fateful week.  He comes into place by riding a donkey into the city as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) 

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  A donkey is the mount of a king who is coming in peace. Jesus has been on the way to Jerusalem and the cross for His whole ministry and now the time has come for Jesus to bring peace between God and man.  Jesus has arrived.

            As we begin the advent season and prepare to celebrate Jesus’ arrival on the scene as a baby in Bethlehem 33 years earlier, today we fast forward to the reason for the advent of our King.  The birth, announced to lowly shepherds told to search for a baby lying in a manger, gives us a clue to what kind of king Jesus is.  Jesus is the servant King, the suffering King, the sacrificial Lamb of God King.  He is the King crowned with thorns and enthroned on the cross to accomplish His most glorious work of paying for the sins of the whole world. 

            This Advent season we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus and this is good.  But, I fear, sometimes we can get so focused on Bethlehem, the city of David, that we forget that this son of David has a terrible, wonderful mission to accomplish in Jerusalem.  Today, as we begin this new Church year, we focus on the goal of Jesus’ coming as God in flesh. Jesus came to die for your sins and rise from the dead to conquer death for you.

            Advent is a busy season.  As we look forward to celebrating Jesus’ birth, we also remember Jesus coming to Jerusalem as the sacrifice for sins, and look forward to Jesus coming again on the Last Day.  We look forward to that day when Jesus and His parade of angels come to earth to raise the dead and ready the living in preparation for the judgment and eternal life in heaven for those clothed in Christ.

            This beginning of a new church year we are reminded that Jesus came into our crazy, sin-filled world of turmoil to bring peace between God and man.  Jesus brings peace between God and you.  This morning Jesus comes to you in His Word declaring your sins forgiven.  He comes to you in His body and blood to unite with you and strengthen you and preserve you in true faith.  He comes to bring you the peace of God which is beyond understanding. 

            Jesus’ mounted parade on Palm Sunday marks the end of His ministry of preparing people for His coming to Jerusalem, it marks the beginning of Holy Week which brings Jesus’ teaching at the temple, the Last Supper where Jesus transforms the Passover meal into the Lord’s Supper, it brings Jesus arrest and trial, His abuse and condemnation before Pontius Pilate, His crucifixion, death and burial, His rest in the tomb, and His resurrection from the dead on Sunday morning. 

Today, and throughout the year, we remember what Jesus came to do, what He continues to come into our midst to do, and we look forward to what He will come again in glory to do, for you, for eternity.  Amen.  

Post and Orders, Remain as Directed

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Last Sunday of the Church Year 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 21, 2021
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14, Revelation 1:4b-8, Mark 13:24-37

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 get a chance to visit our Nation’s Capital, one thing not to miss is the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. 

            According to the cemetery website, “The Tomb Guard marches exactly 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process.  (The number 21 symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed, the 21-gun salute.) Next, the Sentinel executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, signifying that he or she stands between the Tomb and any possible threat.”

            Every hour, on the hour, in the slow tourist season, and every half hour in the peak season there is the changing of the guard.  “The relief commander conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. Then, the relief commander and the relieving Sentinel meet the retiring Sentinel at the center of the black mat in front of the Tomb. All three salute the Unknown Soldiers who have symbolically been given the Medal of Honor. The relief commander orders the relieved Sentinel, “Pass on your orders.” The current Sentinel commands, “Post and orders, remain as directed.” The newly posted Sentinel replies, “Orders acknowledged,” and steps into position on the mat. When the relief commander passes, the new Sentinel begins walking at a cadence of 90 steps per minute.

            Post and orders, remain as directed — Orders acknowledged.

            Jesus commands His disciples, Jesus commands you, Mark 13:33 (ESV) 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 

            There on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem, Jesus puts His disciples on guard duty because judgment day is coming.  He gives them orders “Be on guard, keep awake.”

            Mark 13:34–37 (ESV) 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” 

            Jesus is preparing His disciples because He is going to go away for a time.  After His crucifixion and resurrection, He will ascend into heaven and sit at the right hand of the Father.  But He is coming back.  From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.  Jesus is coming back, and you don’t know when.  Jesus is coming back for judgment.  This is a sobering thought.  Jesus is coming back any day now.  You need to be ready for Jesus to return.  As a baptized child of God you have been declared perfect and holy by Jesus.  You have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.  You are ready for Jesus to return.  But it is taking so long.

            You want to be ready, you want to stay ready, but it has been so long.  It has been 1,993 years, 728,000 some days.  It has been so long and yet “post and orders remain as directed”.  Jesus’ instructions to His disciples are still in force.  “Be on guard, keep awake.”

            As you wait for Jesus’ return — as the Church waits for Jesus’ return, it is far too easy to let down your guard, forget about the ways of God, and give in to the ways of the world.  As an individual saint of God, and as the Church on earth, you are given your work to do — to love God and love your neighbor in all that you do. And so you do what you have been given to do.  You do what God has given you to do, not in order to make yourself good enough for Jesus, but because Jesus has already made you a saint. 

            You are a saint of God, holy and blameless, covered by the righteousness of Jesus, and, at the same time, you are a sinner.  You are a sinner who struggles mightily with temptations and evil desires.  You are, at the same time, saint and sinner.  So stay awake.  It is possible to lose your faith.  It is far too easy to fall away because it is the path of least resistance.  It is so very tempting to just give in and instead of staying awake, to fall asleep spiritually, and just go with the flow and become a part of the multitudes living according to the ways of the devil, the world and their own sinful desires.  So be on guard.  Know you are a sinner.  Know the devil’s favorite bait to try to trap you.  Fight sin and temptation in your thoughts before they become sinful words and deeds.  Because, as we read in James 1:15 (ESV) 15 …desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 

            So, as a saint who is also a sinner, “Be on guard, keep awake.”  Stay ready for Jesus to return.  Live each day knowing today could be the day. Knowing that today could be the last day, stay alert.  Do what you have been given to do.  Avoid doing things you would be ashamed of if Jesus returned.  Live out each day, not in terror, but in reverent awe and anticipation, motivated to bring the Good News of salvation in Jesus to a world that is asleep in sin. 

            As an individual saint, and as the Church on earth, you must stay awake and remain on guard.  Being on guard does not mean that you retreat from the world and hide.  As the Church we remain open and welcoming to sinners needing forgiveness.  We welcome sinners, but we do not welcome new teachings that contradict Holy Scripture. And so we read and study the scriptures in order to know what is genuine.

            The Christian church is 1,993 years old. There have been saints on guard duty that whole time welcoming sinners to the font of forgiveness and keeping out false teachings.  It has been a long and arduous journey, and the journey continues. 

            Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Hamilton, Ohio, has been in existence for 125 years with saints on guard duty, staying awake and watching for Jesus to return.  The guard has changed over the years, a number of times.  For now, you and I are on guard duty.  We are the ones to stay awake and remain on guard.  If Jesus does not return soon, there will be another changing of the guard.  We will pass the orders to the next generation, “Post and orders remain as directed.”

            Be on guard against sin and evil and falsehood.  1 John 4:1 (ESV)  1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 

            The world around you is full of evil and confusion. The devil, the world and your own sinful nature want to pull you down into the selfish darkness so you forget who you are in Jesus.  The world wants you to look inside of yourself for identity and meaning, but inside of you is empty.  Your identity comes from outside.  Your identity comes from the Creator of the Universe who has marked you as His own child in the waters of baptism and declared you to be His own.  Because you have been marked as a child of God, the world hates you and wants to pressure you to conform.  If they cannot pressure you they will try to force you to conform. 

            In the time of the early church, as detailed in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the Roman authorities would go to people and make them burn a pinch of incense to a small bust of Caesar and say, “Caesar is lord.” People had to do this in order to get their necessary documents to work or go to school, and to avoid punishment.  Faithful Christians would refuse.  Sometimes the Romans would just let the stubborn Christians languish without jobs or schooling.  Other times they would make examples of the Christians.  The faithful would be arrested and fed to the lions in the arena to entertain the people. 

            As an individual saint of God, and as the Church on earth, you must reject the world’s pressure, reject the world’s demands and live in the love of Jesus.  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. 

            Nowadays, companies and schools and government officials are not looking for you to burn incense and say, “Caesar is lord.”  Now, one of the ways they try to force you to conform is by demanding that you wear a rainbow flag sticker on your badge and say, “marriage is the union of any two people,” and “a man is a woman and a woman is a man.” And if you refuse to comply, if you dare say marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman; if you dare say men are men and women are women, you can lose your job, be kicked out of school, or be punished some other way.  In some countries you can be arrested.  If you dare say that Jesus is the only way to salvation you can be banned from polite society.  The goal is to force you to conform to the world.

            As an individual saint of God, and as the Church on earth, you must reject the world’s pressure, reject the world’s demands and live in the love of Jesus.  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. 

            The guards at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier do the same thing over and over and over again, and no one says, “That’s boring, they should do something different.”  As saints of God, as the Church on earth, you do the same things over and over and over.  You confess your sins and receive forgiveness.  You take into your body the Body and Blood of Jesus given and shed for you.  You will do this over and over and over, until the Master returns or the changing of the guard. 

            The pressure to give up on Jesus and and give in to the world is as intense as ever. Many have fallen away; many will fall away, believing they are the wise ones.  Be on guard.  Keep awake. Abide in Christ.  You do not know when the master is returning.  Stay awake.  “Post and orders, remain as directed.  Orders acknowledged.” Amen.