Learn from bad examples.

nullLent 3 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
March 24, 2019
Ezekiel 33:7-20, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Luke 13:1-9

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

My life growing up would have been easier if I could have learned from my older brother how to avoid trouble by seeing him make mistakes and not repeating them myself.  But, it seems, I like to learn things the hard way.  There are lessons in life that it would be much easier to learn from others than have to experience yourself.  One of those lessons is that God takes sin seriously.  St. Paul gives you an opportunity today to learn this hard lesson from others.

Our Epistle reading today is a stern warning from St. Paul to the church in Corinth in the first Century, and to you today.

Paul reminds the Corinthians about how God rescues the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt.  God shows the Israelites His mighty power through ten plagues until Pharaoh tells them to leave.  The Israelites sees firsthand God’s mighty power when He brings them through the waters of the Red Sea and drowns Pharaoh and his whole army.  They see God lead them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  They eat the manna that God provides and they drink the water that miraculously flows from the rock which Moses strikes with His staff.  The children of Israel see all that the Lord God does for them.  They know the truth; they see it with their own eyes.  God is giving them the 10 Commandments in order to guide them to true freedom in God’s will.  The Israelites know God, and yet how quickly they give up on God and build a Golden Calf and worship it when Moses was up on the mountain for longer than expected.  They see firsthand that God is almighty and then they forget about God’s commandments and commit sexual immorality with Moabite women and join in on the Moabite’s prostitute-centered worship of Baal.  The Israelites are personally rescued by God, baptized in the cloud and the sea and yet they grumble against God and they complain because they are bored with God’s provision of food.

The Israelites know the truth and yet they turn from the truth because they do not like the way that God is doing things.  They suffer from pride.  They think they know better.  They think that they will do things their own way.  And God punishes them severely.

Some people will look at the accounts of God’s wrath in the Old Testament and say that they cannot believe in a God who would punish people they way that God punished people.  They think they know better.  They believe they are smarter and more compassionate than God.  They think they know better than God how He should act.

Paul uses the example of the Israelites in the wilderness to warn the church in Corinth because they are having trouble remaining faithful; they are giving into temptation; they are giving in to unbelief; they are making things into idols for themselves.  The people of the church in Corinth are having issues with pride and it is leading them into sexual immorality and idolatry.  The people of Corinth believe they are smarter than God; that they know better than God.

Those Israelites…they should have known better.  Those people in the church at Corinth…they should have known better.  Isn’t it wonderful that we are so much more faithful than them?  We would never fall into the sin of pride.  We would never start to think we are smarter than God.  We would not fall into idolatry and make something else more important than God.  We would never be tempted into sexual immorality and then try to excuse it by explaining how we know better than God.  Isn’t it great that we are so good?

Oh.  That isn’t true?  You struggle with sin?  You face temptation?  You deal with the same temptations as the children of Israel and the people in the Corinthian church?  Truly, the more things change, the more things stay the same.  Paul’s warning is just as appropriate today as it was 2,000 years ago.

You have been received into Christ in the waters of Holy Baptism.  You have received forgiveness of your sins over and over again.  You have eaten of the Body of Christ.  You have drunk the Blood of Christ.  You know the truth about Jesus.  You know what Jesus has done for you.

And yet how easy it is…how tempting it is…to grow weary of God’s timing.  How easy it is…how tempting it is to lose patience with God and to declare that God is not doing things the way you would do it.  How easy it is…how tempting it is to declare, “I can’t believe in a God who would……” you fill in the blank.  How easy it is…how tempting it is to grumble about God’s provision of your daily needs and how you are not satisfied with how God is providing for you.

            How easy it is…how tempting it is to believe you are smarter than God; that you are more compassionate than God, that you are better than God.  That you can stand proud on your own merit.  How easy it is…how tempting it is to rebel against God.

And how easy it is…how tempting it is to abandon God’s teaching that sexual intimacy belongs inside the lifelong bond of the marriage of a man and a woman.  How easy it is…how tempting it is to be like the children of Israel in the wilderness and the people in the church at Corinth and adopt the world’s sexual immorality.  How easy it is…how tempting it is for you to accept the world’s demand for complete sexual freedom in what you think, in what you say, in what you look at it, in what you do, regardless of the consequences.  How easy it is…how tempting it is to find yourself willing to sacrifice your health, sacrifice your marriage, sacrifice your family, sacrifice your unborn child on the altar of the idol of sexual freedom.

How easy it is…how tempting it is to build a god in your image that will do what you want Him to do instead of this God who thinks that He is in charge.

How easy it is…how tempting it is to believe you are smarter than God; that you are more compassionate than God, that you are better than God.  That you can stand proud on your own merit.  How easy it is…how tempting it is to rebel against God.

The children of Israel rebelled against God.

The people of the church at Corinth rebelled against God.

God gives you His commandments to help you live in true freedom but it is so easy…and so tempting to follow the example of the children of Israel and the church in Corinth and rebel against God.  The devil wants to take you away from true freedom in Christ and lock you up in slavery to sin.  This is why Paul is warning you that rebellion against God leads to death.  That is why it is important to remember who you are.  Paul is reminding you that have been marked with the blood of the Lamb of God.  You have been brought through the waters of Holy Baptism.  You have been fed with the bread of life from heaven.  You have drunk of the wine of the New Covenant.  You have been ransomed from sin, death and the devil.  Jesus was sacrificed on the cross of Calvary for you because He loves you.

Do not desire evil.  Do not worship idols.  Do not indulge in sexual immorality.  Do not put Christ to the test.  Do not grumble.  Do not think you can stand on your own.  Struggle against temptation.  Do not embrace the sin into which you are tempted, but instead seek to escape.

Escape rooms can be fun as you try to solve clues and get out of a locked room.  When you are confronted by sin, work hard to escape from the sin.  Instead of embracing sin, look for escape routes.  Let go of sin and cling to the cross of Christ.  Let go of your pride and hold onto Jesus.

You belong to Jesus; stay in Christ.  You are a baptized child of God; continue to confess your sin and receive absolution.  You are by nature sinful; humbly know you need Jesus and His forgiveness.  Learn from those who have gone before and have fallen away from God and been punished.  Don’t make the same mistake.  Know who you are in Christ.  Know you live in the love and forgiveness of Jesus.  Live in the freedom of Christ knowing God is God and you are not.  Rejoice that God is in charge.  Be still and know God is God. Amen.

The devil’s identity theft

nullLent 1 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
March 10, 2019
Deuteronomy 25:1-11, Romans 10:8b-13, Luke 4:1-13

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

Two summers ago as I was driving back through Kentucky from the North Carolina servant event I received a text message from my credit card company about a potentially fraudulent charge for $7 and change at a hotel in New York City.  I was in Kentucky.  Jeannette was at home in Ohio, but someone was using my account in New York City.  Someone was pretending to be me.

Just a week later someone was using Jeanette’s credit card number to purchase an expensive vacuum cleaner from an online department store and having it shipped to our address using a store account belonging to a woman in West Virginia.  There was also a letter about someone trying to access our UPS account; I assume to change the delivery instructions.  Someone was pretending to be Jeannette.

These issues were fairly easily resolved working with the credit card company to cancel and reissue our cards.  There are much worse forms of identity theft.  How awful would it be to find out someone has taken out a loan in your name, or has accessed you bank accounts, or has assumed your identity online and sent out awful messages and pictures, pretending to be you.  Having your identity stolen is a terrible thing.

In our Gospel reading today we see the devil trying to steal Jesus’ identity.  Jesus is the Son of God; God in flesh; God with us.  At Jesus’ baptism, God the Father declares to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” Now, in the desert, the devil tempts Jesus to turn His back on this identity.  Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is not so much a temptation towards doing something evil but a temptation away from His identity as the Son of God.

Luke 4:3 (ESV) 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”[1]  If you are…but if you don’t do it, you are not.  Prove who you are.

The devil is tempting Jesus away from His identity.  Luke 4:9 (ESV) 9 And [the devil] took [Jesus] to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here…[2]  If you are the Son of God…

The devil is trying to steal Jesus’ identity.  The devil is trying to have Jesus take a shortcut to glory without going through suffering.  The devil is tempting Jesus away from His identity as the sacrificial Lamb of God and towards skipping the cross and the grave.

It is similar to one of the temptations the devil uses against you.  The devil wants to steal your identity.  The devil wants to tempt you away from your baptismal identity.  In baptism you became a child of God; a son of God; a daughter of God.  In baptism you were brought from the domain of darkness into the light of the Kingdom of God.  Your baptism infuriated the devil as we renounced him and all his works and all his ways.  Your baptism set you apart from the multitude of unbelievers and put you at odds with the devil and his demons, with the world and with your own sinful desires.

The devil went after Jesus, but since the devil could not get Jesus to give into his temptation to identity theft, the devil has declared war on you, as we read in Revelation 12:17 (ESV) 17 Then the dragon [that ancient serpent , who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world (Rev. 12:9)] became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus…[3]

The devil is at war with you and wants to tempt you away from your baptismal identity.  “If you are the Son of God…If you are the daughter of God…Did God really say?”  The devil knows that it is hard to be a follower of Jesus in a world that wants to follow its own selfish ideas.  The devil knows there is a great pull to want to give up on what the Bible says and make up your own scriptures, according to your own will.  The devil uses this to tempt you to abandon your identity as a beloved child of God set apart for holy living, and wants you to take on the identity of one of the multitude of unbelievers.  The devil wants you to give up on living according to God’s will and instead live according to the ways of the world.  The devil is at war with you to get you away from your identity as a child of God; a child of the light, and return you to the domain of darkness.

The devil is at war with Jesus trying to steal his identity, and the devil is at war with you trying to steal your identity.  It is war, and the stakes are very real.

Jesus does battle with the devil in the wilderness using the offensive weapon detailed in the armor of God in Ephesians 6.  Jesus uses the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  Jesus fights against the devil using the Word of God from scripture.  Now, the devil tries to twist God’s word to use it against Jesus and Jesus responds with the truth of God.  Jesus battles with the devil and wins.  Jesus will not turn away from His identity as the Son of God.  He will not turn away from the road to Jerusalem.  He will not turn away from the cross and tomb.  Jesus will suffer, die and rise again for you.  He will not give up his identity to the thieving devil.

You must daily fight back against the devil and his lies trying to get you to turn away from your baptismal identity.  Resist the devil’s temptations to take shortcuts.  The devil wants you to leave the Holy Ark of the Christian Church, give up fighting against sin and evil in your life, give up on loving God and loving your neighbor, and just give in to what feels good; give in to your own thoughts and desires; give in to the ways of the world.  The devil wants you to forget the promises God made to you in your baptism and instead believe the promises of the devil, the world and your own sinful desires.  The devil wants you to give up your identity as a child of God, and pretend you are someone else.  Fight back.  Battle back.  Stand firm in the armor of God and keep the sword of the spirit sharp so you can recognize the devil’s lies from a distance.

And don’t try to go it alone.  Stay safe in the Holy Ark of the Christian Church.  Remember, “A mighty fortress is our God; a trusty shield and weapon.”  Battle back against the devil with the truth of God, knowing that the war has already been won by Jesus.  When the devil tries to steal your identity, fight back with the truest word about him, “Liar!”

Do not let the devil coax you to put down the Word of God; lay down the sword of the Spirit, and be left defenseless.  Cling to the Word of God.  Read, mark, study, hear and learn the Word of God.  Keep the Sword of the Spirit sharp and stand your ground when the devil tempts you.

And when you slip; when you fall; do not listen to the devil who is telling you that you are finished.  Call the devil a liar and remember who you are.  Repent and receive the forgiveness of sins.

Don’t let the devil steal your identity.  Remember who you are.  You are a baptized child of God.  Amen.


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

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

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

 

Jesus’ departure prepares you for your departure.

null

Transfiguration 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
March 3, 2019
Deuteronomy 24:1-12, Hebrews 3:1-6, Luke 9:28-36

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

Epiphany is about revealing who Jesus really is.  We began Epiphany on January 6 with the mysterious magi coming from the East to worship the infant Jesus, showing us that Jesus came not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles.  Then we had the baptism of Jesus where the heavens are opened and God the Father declares to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Throughout the season after Epiphany we see Jesus revealing His true identity to the people through a series of miracles and teachings.  Jesus is showing people that He is God in flesh; God with us.

Jesus arrives on the scene as a baby born in Bethlehem and begins His ministry 30 years later at His baptism in Jordan River.  Epiphany is focused on Jesus’ arrival and on His identity…until today.  Today, on Transfiguration, Jesus divine glory shines through and He talks about His departure.  That is a big change.  Something is happening.

The culmination of Epiphany is today, the Sunday of Transfiguration.  In today’s Gospel reading we follow Jesus, along with Peter, James and John up a mountain where Jesus reveals even more about His identity.  Jesus brings the three to the top of the mountain to pray.  Luke 9:29-31 (ESV) 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.[1]

We hear about the Transfiguration in Matthew and Mark, but only in Luke do we hear about what Moses, Elijah and Jesus are talking about.  Jesus is speaking about his departure which will happen in Jerusalem.  Jesus has just told the disciples, Luke 9:22 (ESV) 22 … “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” [2]

Jesus has started telling His disciples about what is going to happen in Jerusalem.  Now He is discussing His departure with Elijah and Moses who have appeared with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Jesus is shining brightly; Moses and Elijah are there talking with Jesus.  The scene is surreal.  What are they saying?  What are they saying about His departure?  We will not know the content of their conversation this side of eternity, but we can imagine what Jesus is saying about his departure.

Perhaps Jesus is talking about all He is going to face with His arrest, torture and crucifixion.  Perhaps about how the disciples will all abandon Him, even these three that are witnessing this miraculous transfiguration.  Maybe He is speaking about why He is going to Jerusalem to be mistreated and executed; because He loves the creation; He loves all the people; He longs to restore all things.  Maybe He is telling Moses and Elijah that by Jesus’ death on the cross, death will forever be conquered.  Maybe Jesus is letting Moses and Elijah see their parts in the larger story of salvation for the world.  Perhaps Jesus is speaking to the two prophets of old about how His departure would affect our departure.

Jesus is speaking about His departure.  I think we often do not think about our departure.  Unless you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, thinking about your departure is something you try to avoid.  You try to avoid talk about our departure, but death keeps rearing its ugly head in this life.  Every new ache and pain and prescription leads you to know that your body is slowly breaking down and death is approaching.  You live in the valley of the shadow of death.

            When you depart this earthly life it is not a permanent departure.  The cemetery is not the end of the line; it is not the final destination; it is not the end of the show.  You have more left to your journey; you have a future destination, you have an encore left to perform.

Jesus is looking to His departure at Jerusalem.  You are looking to your departure.  And because of Jesus’ departure, your departure is not so fearsome.  Because Jesus walks to path to Jerusalem and to Calvary your path to the grave is not one filled with terror, but one filled with comfort that comes from the promise of eternal life.  Your journey through life to the grave is a journey of peace that passes understanding.  It is a journey filled with hope, looking to the resurrection of the dead on the last day.

Jesus knows that His departure in Jerusalem on that terrible Friday is not a permanent departure; He will rise again on the third day.  Jesus then departs again 40 days later on Ascension Day.  But that departure is also not permanent.  Jesus promises to return.

When you depart this earthly life it is not a permanent departure.  The cemetery is not the end of the line; it is not the final destination; it is not the end of the show.  You have more left to your journey; you have a future destination, you have an encore left to perform.

Because Jesus died and rose from the dead, you too will rise from the dead.  You will be raised up in a new imperishable body.  As St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:50-56 (ESV) 50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.[3]

Jesus is talking to Moses and Elijah about His departure at Jerusalem.  We don’t know for sure what they are talking about, but we know that Jesus’ departure at Jerusalem is the breakthrough, cosmic event of all human history that changes everything.  Jesus’ departure changes your departure.  In the same way that God the Father spoke to Jesus at His baptism beginning His ministry, God the Father comes to the mountain of transfiguration.  A cloud envelopes Jesus, Moses, Elijah, Peter, James and John, and a voice announces, Luke 9:35 (ESV) 35 … “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”[4]  Jesus’ departure at Jerusalem is part of God’s plan to save His people.

The transfiguration of Jesus is an amazing event that solidifies who Jesus is.  But it is Jesus’ departure that gives you comfort, peace and eternal hope.  Jesus’ rising from the dead proves that you will rise from the dead.  For all its apparent power, death will not win.  You will conquer death.  And that makes all the difference.  Amen.


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

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

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

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

 

Don’t trust your gut.

nullEpiphany 7 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 24, 2019
Genesis 45:3-15, 1 Corinthians 15:21-26, 30-42, Luke 6:27-38

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

Often you hear the advice to, trust your gut.  Follow your instincts.  Do what comes naturally.  This can, at times, be good advice.  Other times it can be completely wrong.

If you are sailing offshore and encounter bad weather, your gut will tell you to return to port, but experienced sailors know that this is often the worst thing to do.  Experienced sailors will head out to sea to ride out the storm where the water is deep and there are no obstacles to hit.  Trying to sail into port in a storm is dangerous.  Your gut tells you to head for shore, but the best course of action is different.  It is counterintuitive.

During World War II the British Royal Air Force was trying to determine the best places to put armor on their bombers to protect them from gunfire from German fighter planes and anti-aircraft guns.  They studied the bullet hole patterns on the returning bombers and some believed the best idea is to put armor where the most bullet holes were found.  But then someone realized that is not the best idea.  It is better to armor the places without holes, because the holes on the returning bombers showed where a plane could be shot and still stay in the air.  So they armored the planes where there were no holes; counterintuitive, and yet the right way to do it.

When driving in the winter if your car begins to skid and the back end is sliding out to the right, your gut tells you to turn the steering wheel to the left.  But, as you know from driver’s training and experience, that is wrong.  You should turn the wheel to the right; turn into the skid.  The way that comes naturally is not always the right way.  It is not always a good idea to trust your gut.

When someone hurts me, I naturally want to hurt them back.  Growing up, if my brother hit me, I would hit him back…harder.  Eye for an eye.  Tit for tat.  When someone does you wrong you desperately want karma to bite them in the end.  This works for doing good also.  When you do something nice for someone, you want them to do something nice for you.  If I do you a favor, you owe me a favor.  I scratch your back, you scratch mine.  It is the way of the world.

In our Gospel reading today we get some counterintuitive teachings from Jesus.  Jesus tells you not to trust your gut.  Do not do what comes naturally.

            Jesus is teaching you to do things that are completely against your natural inclinations and it cuts to the quick.  It exposes how far short you fall from what God requires.  Jesus’ teaching here demonstrates how needy you are for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Luke 6:27-30 (ESV) 27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.[1]

This is a devastatingly hard teaching.  Love your enemies…Pray for those who abuse you…if they hit you, turn the other cheek and let them hit you again…if they take your jacket, let them strip you naked…give more to those who take from you…be stupidly generous.

Jesus is teaching you to do things that are completely against your natural inclinations and it cuts to the quick.  It exposes how far short you fall from what God requires.  Jesus’ teaching here demonstrates how needy you are for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Ponder for a moment God’s mercy and grace.  How does God give out His mercy?  Does God give out mercy and grace in small quantities?  Does God dispense it with an eye dropper?  “Here is a little tiny drop of grace for you.  Don’t mess it up because that is all you get.  I have forgiven you for that sin six times already.  I’m done.  You are on your own.”  Is that how God treats you?  Is that how God forgives you?  No.  God shows you abundant mercy.  God has forgiven you over and over and over and over again.  God declares you are forgiven, again and again and again.  God is stupidly generous to you with His mercy and grace.  In Jesus’ body and blood broken and shed for you He pours out forgiveness on you over and over and over.  God forgives you in abundance.  And this forgiveness is not easy.  It is not without cost.  It cost Jesus everything on the cross at Calvary.  Jesus was beaten and did not retaliate.  Jesus was stripped and did not complain.  Isaiah 53:5 (ESV) 5 … he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.[2]

Jesus does not seek retribution against those that do Him wrong.  Jesus does not hope that karma comes back to bite those that hurt Him.  Instead, Jesus prays, Luke 23:34 (ESV) 34 … “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” …[3]

Being generously merciful is difficult.  There are sadly few examples in our world to look to.  Learn how to be merciful by seeing how God is merciful to you in Christ Jesus.  Luke 6:36 (ESV) 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. [4]

The idea of karma is not a Christian idea; it comes from Hinduism and Buddhism and it is the idea that you get what you deserve.  Christianity is different; radically different.  In Christianity you don’t get what you deserve; you get what you don’t deserve.  You get mercy and grace.

God gives his mercy and grace lavishly and you are called to also show mercy and grace in abundance.  Your source of strength to love and forgive those who hurt you is God’s love and forgiveness of you.  Do not limit God’s lavish grace.  Do not use a teaspoon to dispense grace so that a teaspoon is all God has to use to give grace to you.  Use a giant bucket, use a bathtub, to give and receive God’s grace.  Luke 6:38 (ESV) 38 …For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”[5]

It is not up to you to judge others and declare that someone is outside of God’s salvation.  Remember who Jesus would eat with when He came into a town; the tax collectors and prostitutes.  It is not your job to pronounce eternal condemnation on anyone.  We can warn about sin, speaking the truth in love, but always as a fellow sinner who also needs the mercy and grace of God.

Love your enemies, do good to all, forgive freely, give generously.  Be very conscious of your own sins so that you are always lovingly sympathetic about others caught up in sin.

The Old Testament account of Joseph meeting his brothers years after, out of jealousy, they sold him into slavery, is one we can learn from.  If Joseph went with the ways of the world; if Joseph went with his gut, he would have taken vicious revenge on his brothers, but instead Joseph sees how God has worked good out of an evil situation and he welcomes his brothers with love.  For those in your life for whom you harbor ill will and hatred, seek guidance from Joseph.  Love your enemies.  Ponder how much God has forgiven you, and pour out that forgiveness on the one who has hurt you.

Forgiveness does not mean that what they did was okay.  It means you will no longer hold it against them; in the same way that God does not hold your sin against you.  Continue to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

As a baptized child of God, bought with the blood of Jesus shed for you on the cross, you are called out of the ways of the world to seek revenge and favors, and are called into God’s way of lavish love, forgiveness, grace and mercy.

When dealing with other people don’t trust your gut or go with your instincts.  Instead, bask in God’s extravagant generosity to you and live life in extravagant generosity to others.  Live in God’s love and forgiveness.

Amen.


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

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

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

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

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

 

The devil wants you to move to the desert

nullEpiphany 6, 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 17, 2019
Jeremiah 17:5-8, 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, Luke 6:17-26

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

When I go for a walk around here I encounter thousands of big, tall trees.  On my vicarage year in high desert of Eastern Oregon, when I went for a walk there were trees in town, but once I got out of town there were no more trees; just sagebrush and other low shrubs.  Why is that?  Why is there a giant oak tree right here next to the church, but there are no giant oak trees in the desert?

It is a pretty simple reason.  Water.

This Oak tree has unlimited access to water.  The water table is just under the basement floor of the church.  This tree has grown that big in 70 years.  But in the desert there is nothing by short, twisted sagebrush.  The difference is water.

Spiritually, there are those who are like the tall oak tree and there are those who are like short twisted sagebrush.  What is the difference?  The object of belief.  What does the person believe in?  Sometimes we talk about believers and unbelievers, but everyone is a believer.  Everyone believes in something.  But it matters eternally what you believe in.  It makes the difference between a tall strong tree and a weak twisted shrub.

There are many who trust in themselves and other people.  Many look to politicians to save them and bring them joy.  Others look to celebrities; movie stars, YouTubers, and sports heroes.  They make these people the object of their hope and trust.  Many people trust in themselves; their own strength; their own intelligence; their own abilities.

Jeremiah 17:5 (ESV) 5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.[1]  Cursed.  People that trust in man are cursed.  They are lost…forever.  They will spend eternity separated from God in the torments of hell.  Life trusting in man is a dry life.  It is a dry life when you seek after peace and fulfillment in man.

            The object of your belief makes all the difference.  Do you believe in yourself, or do you believe in the Lord?  Where are your roots?  Are your roots in the dry desert sand of trusting in man, or are your roots in the living water of the truth of Jesus Christ?

“Jeremiah 17:7 (ESV) 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.”[2]  The Lord God is the source of true peace and strength.  When you trust in the Lord you are like a tree planted by water and you can endure the storms of life.  And there are a lot of storms.

Life in the world is hard.  There is a lot of trouble.  The doctor makes you come back in to hear the test results in person.  The boss calls you to her office and there is a security guard standing there with an empty box.  Your child is struggling and you cannot fix it for them.  You are caught up in an addictive bad habit and you struggle to find the strength to break free.  Your relationships are full of conflict.  The pain and suffering of getting older just gets worse and worse.  Life is hard.  There are a lot of storms that blow through your life.  Some have already come and some are still brewing out there waiting to strike.  In this life you will not always be happy, but in Christ you can always have joy.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV) 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”[3]

The object of your belief makes all the difference.  Do you believe in yourself, or do you believe in the Lord?  Where are your roots?  Are your roots in the dry desert sand of trusting in man, or are your roots in the living water of the truth of Jesus Christ?

You are a baptized child of God gathered here today to hear the Good News of forgiveness of sins and to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Your roots are in the living water of Jesus Christ.  You believe in the truth of Jesus.  Each week you proclaim the object of your belief over and over in the Divine Service.  And this means that this life is not all that there is.

You declare in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in…the resurrection of the dead.”  You declare in the Nicene Creed, “I look for the resurrection of the dead.”  The truth is that because Jesus rose from the dead, you will rise from the dead.

You declare the truth that, in Christ, death does not have the victory.  You confess that because Jesus rose from the dead, you too will rise from the dead on the last day.  You speak the truth, that as painful as death is; as final as death appears, Jesus defeats death.  Our Epistle lesson today gives a beautifully concise description of this truth.  1 Corinthians 15:16-20 (ESV) 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.[4]

Jesus rose from the dead as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  Death will not have the final victory.  On the last day Jesus will return and the cemetery will be emptied.  It will be a resurrection garden.

The truth is that you are a baptized child of God planted by the water of the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.  God has made a promise to you in the blood of Jesus.  You are connected to Christ.  You have the living water of His Word and His Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.  You can get through the storms of life and remain fruitful and alive in Christ Jesus.

Stay connected to Jesus.  Remain in the Body of Christ, the Church, and keep the object of your belief the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Know that you will be raised from the dead on the last day.  You are planted by the water; what a great place to be; strong in the Lord able to withstand the storms of life.  But not everyone is pleased with this.

The devil knows the power of being planted where you can access the living water of the truth of Jesus Christ.  The devil wants to uproot you from the place where you are well-watered and move you to the desert.  The devil whispers lies to convince you that you will be just fine in an arid environment away from the waters of the truth of Jesus; away from the Word of God, and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.  “You don’t need to go to church.  You are just fine by yourself.  You have better things to do.  You’re busy.  Sunday is your day to relax.  Besides, those people and that pastor can be so annoying.  You don’t belong there.  Come out to the desert where life is easy.”  The devil really wants to convince you that you don’t need to hear the Word of God.  You don’t need to receive forgiveness of sins.  You don’t need to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  You don’t need to be planted by the water.  But remember, the devil trying convince you that you don’t need the Church is like telling a tree that it doesn’t really need water.  “Don’t worry little tree, you will be just fine here in the dry, warm sand.”  And for those who leave the church, for a while it feels like everything is fine but they are slowly drying up and the joy of salvation found in trusting in Christ Jesus is being replaced by a growing trust in man.

Reject the sales pitch for a desert home.  Reject any pull to move you from the living waters of Christ to the parched lands of trust in man.  Reject the devil and all his works and all his ways.

Trust in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Keep the Lord Jesus as the object of your belief.  Gather as the Church.  Stay planted by the water.  Amen.


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

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

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

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

 

Jesus loves bottom feeders.

nullEpiphany 5 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 10, 2019
Isaiah 6:1-8, 1 Corinthians 14:12b-20, Luke 5:1-11

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

There is hope in these days of winter because the nights get shorter and the days get longer. The sun rises earlier each morning and stays up longer each night and the light lets us know that Spring and Summer are coming.

As Jesus preaches and teaches in Galilee, the light of God shines in dark places. The prophecy comes true which said, “The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light.”

In today’s Gospel we find Jesus by Lake Gennesaret, also called the Sea of Galilee. The people are crowding around Jesus to hear the Word of God.  Jesus is teaching the people that He is the promised Messiah, the Son of God sent to save God’s people.

The crowds are pressing in on Jesus to hear the Good News and Jesus sees two boats nearby that had fished all night and caught nothing.  What happens next shows how the light of Christ will continue to shine in this world until the last day.

Jesus gets into Simon Peter’s boat and has him push out a little from shore and Jesus sits down and uses the boat as His pulpit to preach to the crowds gathered on the edge of the water.  Afterwards Jesus tells Peter to go out into the deep water and lower his nets.  Peter protests that they worked all night and caught nothing, but because Jesus said to do it, they will do it.  And you know what happens next.  As they pull up the nets they are so full of fish they began to break and Peter and his crew have to call to another boat to help with the great catch. There are so many fish that both boats are ready to sink.

We can learn from this miracle. Through the centuries Christians have come to associate the details of this story with the way the faith spreads throughout the world. The sea represents the world, the fish, people; men, women and children. The net and the hands that lower it is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the boat is God’s Church, the gathering place of his people caught by the gospel.

This shows us that Jesus intends the world to come to him through the preaching of his gospel. As the net of his word is drawn through this world, people hear the voice of God and are caught alive. They are brought from their hiding places in the depths up to the light of Jesus himself. They come to see him as their savior and are brought into his kingdom to live.

When Peter sees this miracle of fish he is overwhelmed. He too has been caught up in the net and brought into the light of Jesus. But the light shows some things about Peter that he would like to keep hidden.

Luke 5:8 (ESV) 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”[1]

Peter is right. He is the kind of fish that stays at the bottom; out of the light but Jesus loves this bottom feeder, and has use for him.

Isaiah has the same reaction when he sees the throne of God and the angels flying about, he says, Isaiah 6:5 (ESV) 5 … “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”[2]

God still has use for Isaiah and he purifies Isaiah’s lips so he could speak the secrets of what he saw.

When you come to the realization, like Peter and Isaiah, of how short you fall in obedience to God, you can be overwhelmed with grief and despair. But God purifies you as you are drawn into his presence. His word to you is forgiveness. It gives you new life, a new reason for living. “You are forgiven,” says Jesus.

When God’s word shines upon you, you can have the same reaction.  Being brought into the light of Christ exposes parts of your life you don’t want exposed.  We recognize this each week as begin worship.  When we begin the Divine Service we invoke God, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  What do you do next?  You get on your knees and plead guilty of being a natural born sinner who is unworthy of God’s love.  And yet God loves you anyway.

When you come to the realization, like Peter and Isaiah, of how short you fall in obedience to God, you can be overwhelmed with grief and despair. But God purifies you as you are drawn into his presence. His word to you is forgiveness. It gives you new life, a new reason for living. “You are forgiven,” says Jesus.

Jesus forgives Peter with the words, “do not be afraid, from now on you will catch men.” Peter is in Jesus’ net, brought to the surface and exposed to the sun’s light, but he will live forever. God will use Peter to fish for men.

For twenty centuries the fishing has gone on. People have become hearers of the word through the preaching of the word of Christ, how he died to remove our unworthiness. The light continues to shine in every place as the preaching goes on. People are united with Christ in the washing of baptism, and he visits them in the Lord’s Supper to sustain their souls.

The light continues to shine today as we are brought out of the darkness by Jesus’ net to live in the light, and like Peter, to fish for men.  We fish for men when we invite others to hear the word of God among us.  When we teach the children, guide the teenager, strengthen the family, comfort the sick, and console those who mourn the death of loved ones.

There is a story of a young man who used to pick up hitchhikers in the days when it was safe to do so.  One young man he gave a ride to who asked what the man did for a living. “I’m a sort of salesman,” he said. “What do I sell? Only the greatest product in the world. Everyone needs it. Do I make a lot of money? Oh no. I give it all away. Would you like a sample?”

You see, this man was a minister to the deaf. He drove the highways of northern Wisconsin catching souls, bringing light to people who lived in darkness.

The miracle of bringing fish into the boat is the miracle of bringing the bottom feeders up into the light.  It is making the unworthy sinner fit to stay in the presence of the holy God. It is the miracle of the forgiveness of sins. Not only does Peter receive the forgiveness of sins, but he will be catching men alive and bringing them into God’s boat; the church. He will lower the net by preaching about Jesus Christ. He will declare the kingdom and bring them into that kingdom through preaching about Jesus’ work, through baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Catching souls for Jesus is not only Peter’s work.  All of you share in his work by hearing the word, by being a part of this congregation, by bringing your families, by the sacrifices you make in order to bring an offering today out of the thankfulness in your heart.  Thankfulness to God for the net of the gospel that has pulled you out of darkness and hoisted you into the light of God’s boat. Most importantly, you continue in the fishing for men by your witness to the word of God, the light of Galilee. By your words to a friend, “Is there something I bring to God in prayer for you?” By your readiness to explain the faith in your own way.  To tell how Jesus brought you out of darkness and into eternal light.

It is tempting to think that your career, your family, your enjoyment is the most important thing in your life’s journey.  But, we know that the work of God, fishing for men, is the ultimate reason God keeps us in this world. We’ve wasted enough time. There are so many fish in the deep sea, but God has given a strong enough net in the word of Christ, and a big enough boat in the Christian Church, to accommodate all who will believe.

Through the Church of Jesus Christ, the light is shining on those who live in dark places. The light has shined on us and revealed us to be the forgiven and restored children of God. God calls us to offer this light to the whole word, starting right here. Amen.


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

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

 

Love is the antidote to the devil’s temptations

nullEpiphany 4 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 3, 2019
Jeremiah 1:4-10, 1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13, Luke 4:31-44

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

Let’s begin today with a quote from chapter 2 of “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis, in which a senior demon, named Wormwood, is giving instruction to a junior demon named Screwtape.  When he refers to the “enemy” he means, “God”, when he refers to “Our Father” he means “the Devil”, when he refers to “the patient”, he means the man Screwtape is tempting.  This is a passage where Wormwood is giving Screwtape instructions as to how to tempt his patient to turn his back on the Church, the Body of Christ.

               ‘You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like "the body of Christ" and the actual faces in the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy's side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.[1]

Our Epistle lesson today is from 1 Corinthians 13.  This text is one that is often chosen for weddings, and it is a nice wedding text as it is all about love, and husbands and wives should love each other, but this text is not actually about married couples.  This text is about how we are supposed to act as the Church; how we are supposed to treat one another in the Body of Christ.  How we are to combat the devil’s temptations to tear us apart and leave the Church.  Last week’s epistle reading was the previous verses about unity in the Church.  1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (ESV) 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.[2]

You are the Body of Christ; all of the baptized together.  You have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus shed for you on the cross.  You have been given the gift of Jesus’ perfection and holiness.  Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  This is who you are in Christ.  You are a vital part of the Body of Christ even though your life is messy, and mixed-up, and you continue to struggle with anger and greed and lust and hatred and selfishness.  Still you are a part of the body of Christ with all the other sinful, selfish, mixed-up, messy people around you.  As you look around here on Sunday morning each person you see is a fellow member of the Body of Christ on earth.  That person that you see is someone for whom you are to care.  This is what St. Paul is telling the Church in Corinth in our reading today.

So you see that person that just annoys you.  You know.  The one that can’t stop talking about things you don’t care about.  What do you do?  How are you supposed to deal with each other?  With love.  What kind of love?  Selfless love.  The kind of love God has for you in Jesus; the kind of love you have been given as a fruit of the Holy Spirit bestowed on you in baptism.

The great Good News is this is the kind of love you will naturally have for each other in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem after the Judgement Day.  Through Paul’s words God calls on the people in the church at Corinth and He calls on you in Christ’s Church today to love one another… to love one another as if the last day has already come.  Love each other now like you will love in the Heavenly City, for the Church is a preview of the Heavenly City.

In Corinth, like in the Church today, folks get confused as to what is important.  Love is important.  Without love for one another nothing else you do matters.  The church in Corinth was having problems with some believers thinking they are better than others.  Paul gently corrects them by giving examples about himself.  He says, I could speak in the language of angels or be the greatest prophet, or have great knowledge, or great faith, I could give up everything, but without love none of it matters.  What is this love like?  St. Paul defines this love.  We get two things that love is and eight things that love is not.

Love is patient and kind.  Patience is so hard.  I joke that it is a bit dangerous to pray for patience because God may grant you a lesson.  Patience is being able to accept and tolerate delay, trouble, suffering, and frustrations without getting angry or upset.  Patience is an emotionally freeing practice of waiting and watching and knowing when to act and when not to act.  Patience does not let the frustrations of life take control of your mood and make you an irritated person.  Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Being kind is to be friendly, generous and considerate.  Kindness gives others the benefit of the doubt.  Kindness puts the best construction on other’s actions.  Love is patient and kind.

Love is not envious or boastful, it is not arrogant, it is not rude, it does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Love is not envious or boastful.  Love is not about keeping score with others about who has what; it does not get jealous of someone’s abilities or possessions and it does not brag about its own abilities or possessions.

Love is not arrogant.  Love does not think it is more important than someone else.  Love does not think that it is too good to take out the garbage.

Love is not rude.  This might be better translated, “love does not behave indecently.”  Love does what is right.  Love cares for others as fellow redeemed children of God and not as objects for fulfilling selfish desires.  Love doesn’t look at websites that you wouldn’t want to share with your mother.  Love waits, and keeps intimacy inside the bond of lifelong marriage.

Love does not insist on its own way.  Love realizes that others may have a different idea or approach to solving an issue.  Love knows it is not always right.  Love listens to others.

Love is not irritable or resentful.  This goes along with love is patient.  I know, for me, I can feel irritability creeping up.  I get snappy.  I get short-tempered.  It does not help the situation; it just makes things worse.  When you feel yourself getting angry with someone; look at the other person and ask yourself.  How will I love them after the last day?

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  This is beautiful.  What is the opposite of wrongdoing?  The truth.  Do not celebrate sin, but instead rejoice in the truth of Jesus.  Love does what is right because it is what is right.  Love does what is right because it is the truth.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV)  7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.[3]  This does not mean that love is stupid or blind, but more that love supports without limits; trusts without limits; hopes without limits.  Love is without bounds and love is permanent.

Love is not an efficient program or strategy.  Love is messy.  Love is inefficient.  Love is vulnerable.

This is how the body of Christ works; it works with love.  In love, God the Father sent His Son Jesus to love you all the way to the cross.  He gives you His love and calls you to love.  The 10 commandments are summed up in five words.  Love God; Love your neighbor.  In Christ you are love.  During the offering and when you get home, reread 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Except replace the word “Love” and “it” with your name.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)  4 Kevin is patient and kind; Kevin does not envy or boast; Kevin is not arrogant 5 or rude. Kevin does not insist on Kevin’s own way; Kevin is not irritable or resentful; 6 Kevin does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Kevin bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

[4]  Read that a few times.  Ponder it, then live out that love each day with the people you live with, go to school with, work with, worship with.

As you worship and live with others in the Church, and in life in general, love them today as you will love them after the last day because in Christ you are love.  The Devil and his demons want to destroy this love.  Be on guard against the devil tempting you to puff yourself up in order to treat others badly; to look down on others.  Be aware of the Devil trying to make you think that you are better than the person in pew in front of you.  The Devil will use this to tear apart the Body of Christ as C.S. Lewis masterfully captures in his devilish book.  Be aware also of the Devil accusing you of being too great a sinner for Jesus to forgive.

In Christ we are one.  One body; one spirit; one baptism.  We eat together of the Body of Christ and drink His Blood.  We are one in Christ.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Love like the last day has already come.  Amen.

 


[1] C.S. Lewis, “Screwtape Letters” Chapter 2 online version

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

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

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

 

This is not the messiah you are looking for.

nullEpiphany 3 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 27, 2019

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

It is an exciting day as the small town boy made good has returned home.  Everyone comes out to get a look at him at Him and see what He is going to say and do.  The local hero arrives and comes to the town worship service where everyone is gathered to praise God, and… to get a glimpse of the returning native celebrity.  They have heard stories of all the great things that He has done in other places and the question on everyone’s mind is “What is He going to do here?  What is He going to do for His own people?”

It is Saturday in Nazareth and everyone is assembled at the synagogue.  Jesus is there; the son of Mary and Joseph.  He has been gone for a while and the reports coming back are amazing.  He has been preaching and teaching and healing and doing miracles.  He was baptized in the Jordan and the heavens opened and the voice of God spoke.  This Jesus guy is amazing and now He is back in His hometown where He grew up.  This is going to be something to see.  What is He going to do here?

Jesus stands up in the synagogue to read and the attendant hands Him the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah.  Jesus finds the place and reads, “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 rolls up the scroll and hands it back to the attendant and sits down.  Everyone is watching Him.  Is that it?  Is that all He is going to do?  Everyone is staring at Jesus waiting for Him to say or do something.

“Luke 4:21 (ESV) 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”[2]

What is that?  What did He say?  Did He say that He is the one who is fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy?  He is the one to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives to make the blind see and free those who are oppressed.  This is Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah and Jesus just said that Isaiah is talking about Him.  He is the coming Messiah.  And He is here with us, proclaiming this great good news.

And the people marvel at what Jesus just said.  Could it be?  Is this really the Messiah?  Is God fulfilling His promises right here with us?  The mood in the synagogue must be just surreal; the people marveling at what is happening; the long promised Messiah is here with us.

But then someone speaks and breaks the wondering, marveling mood.  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”  The people come back to the reality of life in Nazareth.  All of the pregnant thinking about the marvelous things Jesus has said deflates as the people remember who Jesus really is.  We know Jesus.  He is the son of Mary and Joseph.  We know His family.  We watched Him grow up.  Who is he to claim that He is something special?  We’ve heard about what He did in other places, but all He has done here is talk.

Now the people doubt Jesus.  They want Him to prove who He is by doing some miracles.  “You say you are the Messiah, prove it!”

Jesus, actually being the Messiah; actually being God in flesh, knows what they are thinking.  Luke 4:23 (ESV) 23 And he [says] to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”[3]

This may be more clearly translated, “Physician, take care of your own.”  Jesus knows what the people want.  He knows they want Him to do in Nazareth what they heard He did in Capernaum.  But Jesus does not perform on demand.  The purpose of Jesus’ miracles is to help reveal who He is; that He is indeed the Son of God come to take away the sin of the world.  Miracles are not to entertain or to convince doubters.  Miracles are done to reveal who Jesus is, and what He has come to do, but they are not done to prove anything.

Jesus tells them, Luke 4:24 (ESV) 24 … “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.”[4] And then He relates a couple of Old Testament accounts of prophets who do not do great things for their own people, but rather help foreigners.

So, is that how it is going to be?  Jesus of Nazareth isn’t going to help the people of Nazareth.  Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph thinks He is such a big deal, but He is a traitor to His own people. And what moments before was a sense of marvel turns to a murderous anger.  The people heard what Jesus had to say and they rise up in the synagogue against Him.  They came in anticipation of welcoming Jesus home, but they are now filled with such anger they want to send Him to the grave.  The people of Nazareth, filled with wrath in the house of God, rise up and drive Jesus out of the synagogue and out of Nazareth to the edge of a cliff so they can push Him off to His death.

And then they get their wish; Jesus does a miracle.  The crowd surrounds Jesus at the edge of the cliff and Jesus miraculously passes through their midst and goes on His way.  It is not yet His time to be killed by His own people on a hill outside Nazareth; that will come later on hill outside Jerusalem.

The people had been excited about Jesus coming until Jesus did not do what they wanted Him to do.  Jesus is the Messiah, but Jesus is not the kind of Messiah they are looking for.

I fear that this is a great danger for us.  People are excited to hear about Jesus until Jesus doesn’t do what they want Him to do.  Then they make up a new Jesus.  There are so many voices out there telling you who Jesus is and what He is doing.

There are many who will tell you that Jesus is the Messiah; the Christ, but then will preach and teach about how God’s main purpose is to help you achieve health and success and wealth, and the only reason for sickness, tragedy or poverty is because of your lack of faith.

            The people had been excited about Jesus coming until Jesus did not do what they wanted Him to do.  Jesus is the Messiah, but Jesus is not the kind of Messiah they are looking for.

There are those who teach that Jesus is the Messiah, but His main focus is on social justice for oppressed groups of people.  They teach that Jesus’ came to eliminate poverty and promote sexual diversity and fight climate change, and whatever the newest current issue might be.

There are those who say that Jesus is the Messiah, but you need to finish what He started by doing enough good works to really merit God’s favor.

Many have faith when things are going great and the bills are paid, health is good and the kids are doing well, but then when money is tight and illness strikes and the kids are straying, folks get angry at God and demand that Jesus be the right kind of messiah and make everything easy again.

It is part of our sinful human nature to want to dictate to Jesus what kind of messiah He is supposed to be.  But when we try to dictate to Jesus it means we are taking authority over Jesus.  It means that we are rejecting Jesus as God and Lord and reducing Him to our servant to do our bidding.  This is a great danger.  Rejecting Jesus has eternal consequences.  Nazareth rejected Jesus and He moved on.  Many of the Jewish people rejected Jesus and He moved on to the Gentiles.  We have seen this throughout history; people rejecting Jesus and Him moving on.  Areas of the Middle East that were once deeply Christian now are Muslim.  Europe was once the heart of Christianity and it is tragic to see how few Christians remain.  In Eastern Germany, the Land of Luther, only about 2.5 percent of the population strongly believes there is a personal God according to a 2008 survey put out by the University of Chicago.[5]

Martin Luther warned the people of that land, “O my beloved Germans, buy while the market is at your door; gather in the harvest while there is sunshine and fair weather; make use of God’s grace and word while it is there! For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been.”[6]

As a nation of people from around the world, the United States has been a place where God’s word and grace has been raining down and we must gather in the harvest while it is there.  Tragically, so many people are turning from the true Jesus; the Messiah revealed in the Bible, and creating their own false Jesuses that they think will meet their needs and expectations.  Be aware.  Already it seems the rain shower of God’s word and grace is moving away from North America to Africa, Asia and South America.  Repent for the times that you have rejected the true Jesus and remain on guard that you do not create false expectations and demand that Jesus be the Messiah you are looking for, rather than the Messiah that he is.

The true Jesus is the Messiah you need.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He is the Messiah who is baptized into your sin, carries your sin to the cross, and dies for your sin.  He is the Messiah who has power over sin, death and the devil, but does not promise to make you healthy, wealthy and wise.  He is the Messiah who calls you to live a Holy life in an unholy world.  He is the Messiah who truly is God in flesh who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  He is the Messiah who comes to you in His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  He is the Messiah who tells you who He is.

Jesus may not be the Messiah you are looking for, but He is the Messiah you need.  Amen.


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

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

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

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

[6] LW 45:352

Redrawing the lines of self-defense.

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Life Sunday 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud[1]
January 20, 2019
Isaiah 46:3-4, 8-10, James 1:17-27,  John 10:7-11

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

Whenever pastors teach confirmation students about the Fifth Commandment, we always have to take a moment to explain the exceptions. So, when God tells us, “You shall not murder,” this isn’t a universal prohibition against taking human life. It’s a prohibition against taking human life unjustly, without God’s calling and command. And, as the Bible teaches us in Romans 13 and elsewhere, there are times when God gives certain people the vocation of taking certain lives under certain circumstances—namely when evil people threaten the lives of the innocent. So when a soldier kills an enemy combatant in a just war, for example, he’s not breaking the Fifth Commandment. He’s not murdering. He’s killing in order to defend the lives of the innocent that are threatened by the enemy. Likewise, if someone threatens your life and the only way to stop him is to use deadly force, you haven’t sinned if you kill him in self-defense. But, of course, if someone isn’t threatening your life, you aren’t justified in taking his. This seems like a pretty simple distinction between murder and killing, between breaking the Fifth Commandment and keeping it.

And yet, our sinful nature loves to blur the lines. Or, to put it another way, our sinful nature loves to redraw the lines, loves to convince us that God’s definition of “self-defense” is too restrictive, and that we are justified in killing our neighbor, not only if he threatens our life but also if he threatens our pride or our comfort.

This is precisely what happened in the first murder. Cain imagines that he is greater and more important than his brother Abel. But when God has regard for Abel’s offering and not for Cain’s, Cain finds his pride under attack. When he looks at the face of his brother, he doesn’t see the face of someone loved and cherished by God. He sees the face of some worthless afterthought of a person, some fool who had the audacity to take the divine favor and status that belonged to him. In the midst of his anger, Cain decides to redraw the lines of self-defense. He puts his pride on the same level as his life and decides that he is justified in killing anyone who threatens it. He decides that the only way to preserve his sense of self-satisfaction is to kill the one who has threatened it. And that’s exactly what he does.

When King David is enjoying the comfort of prosperity, he seeks pleasure in the wife of another man. When she becomes pregnant, he tries to cover it up but fails. So David’s comfort is threatened. It’s challenged by Bathsheba’s husband, a man named Uriah who could very well take away that peace, that palace, that pleasure in pursuit of justice. David decides that God’s definition of self-defense is too narrow. He decides that those who threaten his comfort have forfeited their right to life. He has Uriah put on the front line of battle and then abandoned. Indirectly, but indefensibly, David murders Uriah.

And throughout every generation of our history, we sinners have been doing the same thing. We have constantly expanded God’s definition of self-defense. We’ve convinced ourselves that we have the right to take the life of anyone who threatens our pride, our comfort, or anything else we don’t want to give up.

We prayed to false gods like Molech and Baal who convinced us that our children were a threat to our crops and our dinner tables. Blinded by fear and idolatry, we sacrificed our little ones to these idols, the price they had to pay for taking away our peace of mind.

We sailed to foreign lands and slaughtered those who sat on piles of gold and Congo rubber plants and other precious resources. We traveled to the coasts of Africa and declared that those we put in shackles were not sufficiently human. We convinced ourselves that we were better, purer, and more essential to the betterment of mankind than those of other tribes. In all of this, we justified putting these supposedly inferior people in chains, in gas chambers and death camps, or leaving them to starve on reservations. We declared that they had no right to freedom, to dignity, to life itself because they obstructed our right to live as proudly and lavishly as we pleased.

In 1973, we returned to the worship of Baal when the US Supreme Court declared that a woman’s right to privacy was greater than her unborn child’s right to life. So, in effect, we have declared that self-defense means a woman can kill the child God is still forming in her womb because that child poses a challenge to his mother’s job, her ambitions, her social status, her dream of having a perfectly formed and healthy baby, her bank account, or even just her mood. “How do I tell my parents? How am I going to finish school? How am I going to afford a child?” These are the kinds of things that vulnerable, terrified men and women would ask themselves in response to an unplanned pregnancy. And preying upon their worries, Roe v. Wade convinced them they didn’t have to find answers. Abortion would let them rewind the clock and pretend that the baby never happened.

Today, advocates of euthanasia insist that we have every right to kill ourselves when our bodies break down on us. And more of us are believing these advocates because our pride will not endure the humiliation of adult diapers or assisted living. And soon we’ll apply that logic to our neighbors. We’ll insist that it’s merciful to end the suffering of our parents, our friends, or anyone who’s medically reliant on our tax dollars. But in truth, we’re just repeating ourselves. Once again, we’re insisting that God’s definition of self-defense is too narrow, that it ought to include the right to kill those who have the audacity to burden us, to take away our time or our money.

We also follow this same mindset when our hands remain unstained with blood but our hearts are corrupted with hatred. As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).

When we burn in anger against those who have challenged our pride, when we curse and slander those who threaten our comfort, we join the ranks of sinners who have tried to expand God’s definition of self-defense. But we have only succeeded in making murderers of ourselves.

In John chapter 10, Jesus speaks these words. He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11). Behold the great difference between Christ and men. When we killed and destroyed to keep what we had, Jesus was crucified and killed to give us everything He had.

At the cross, Jesus had no desire to expand the definition of self-defense as we so often do. He didn’t contemplate eviscerating those who threatened His life, nor did He consider pouring out His wrath on those who merely challenged His authority. In fact, Christ had no interest in self-defense at all, because He understood his role in fulfilling the Fifth Commandment.

As Luther explains in the Small Catechism, “You shall not murder” means “we should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.” And Jesus knew that His Father had sent Him to help and support us in every physical need by dying in our place. Jesus knew that His Father had sent Him to lift us up out of spiritual death by taking our place in the jaws of the wolf. Jesus knew that He was the Good Shepherd who would restore His sheep to life by laying down His life for them. And that’s exactly what He did.

From the cross, the Good Shepherd defended us by pouring out the blood that took away our hatred, our cruelty, and every other sin that brought us death and condemnation. From the cross, Christ looked out upon a sea of sinners, a sea of murderers who had despised the gift of life, and there, in that moment, He loved us all, cherished us, valued our lives more than His own, valued us more than the breath from His lungs and the beating of His heart.

At the cross, Jesus had no desire to expand the definition of self-defense as we so often do. He didn’t contemplate eviscerating those who threatened His life, nor did He consider pouring out His wrath on those who merely challenged His authority. In fact, Christ had no interest in self-defense at all, because He understood his role in fulfilling the Fifth Commandment.

From the cross, Jesus looked upon those who had earned death from God by sacrificing their children, and He agreed to be sacrificed in their place, to take that death sentence upon His own head and to give eternal life to all who believe. From the cross, Jesus looked upon the slave holders, the ethnic cleansers, the bloodthirsty exploiters of lands and tribes. He looked upon the abortionists and euthanizers, and there, with the words “It is finished,” He responded to their murder with His mercy.

And with those same words, Christ had mercy upon you. When you took part in the sin of abortion, Jesus responded by making you a part of God’s family through His bleeding mercy. When your heart was filled with hatred, Jesus filled you with the love of God by claiming your hatred as His own and accepting the death sentence you had earned. There, at Calvary, the Son of God chose selflessness instead of self-defense. There the Good Shepherd chose to lay down His life instead of taking yours. There at the cross, Christ gave up everything in order to give you back the life you threw away.

And on the third day, when the Good Shepherd rose from the grave, God the Father proclaimed that He had accepted the selflessness and sacrifice of His Son. There He proclaimed that you would never need to defend yourself from His judgment on the last day because there was no wrath or anger or condemnation left for you to face. Christ had taken all of that into His grave and left it behind Him when He left the tomb victorious.

Now, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, because of the Good Shepherd who died for you instead of defending Himself, you now have the gift of life eternal. In the waters of your baptism, you were given that gift when you were claimed by the Triune God. When God looks at you through those waters, He doesn’t see the face of a sinner who deserves to die for threatening His righteousness or His reign. He sees the face of a saint who bears His restored image, a saint who deserves to live forever, a saint who is worthy to dwell with Him in His kingdom for all time because of Christ’s blood. Now when God looks at you, He sees a saint worthy of that saint’s life and worthy of God’s own love.

May we see the same thing when we look upon those for whom Jesus died. When we look upon the images of the poor and the lowly, the weak and the oppressed, may God bless us to see the face of those who instantly deserved every ounce of our protection and love and charity and mercy the moment Christ died for them. When we look upon sonographic images of the unborn, may God bless us to see the faces of those who are worthy to be called our beloved sons and daughters because Jesus gave them the right to be called sons and daughters of God when He breathed His last for them upon the cross. When we look upon the faces of the aged and the sick, may God bless us to see what Jesus saw upon the cross—the faces of those who deserve not to be cast aside or coaxed into the grave, but who deserve for us to befriend, feed, and clothe them because, at the cross, Jesus befriended them with His love and fed and clothed them with His forgiveness.

When Jesus looked upon your face at Calvary, He didn’t see any reason to engage in self-defense. He saw every reason to give you selfless love. May we see the same thing when we look upon the faces of our neighbors today.   Amen.


[1] from Rev. Hans Fiene, River of Life Lutheran Church, Channahon, Illinois   www.lutheransforlife.org

The unlikely King

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SERMON AUDIO

Epiphany 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 6, 2018
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

Today is January 6.  It is Epiphany; the end of the 12 days of Christmas.  It is the day we remember the magi from the east coming to visit baby Jesus in Bethlehem.  Today we celebrate that Jesus came not just for the Jews but also for us Gentiles.  In our Gospel reading this morning we hear about the magi and Herod the Great and the scribes and chief priests and Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus.  This is a familiar text but sometimes in the familiar texts there is a temptation to tune out and not dig into the details.  This text has so much going on and so many kings.

We have King Herod who is King of Judea.  He lives in the palace in the capital city of Jerusalem.  He has lots of advisors and servants and soldiers at his disposal.

Now this world is fascinated by people who have temporary power and authority.  People that are here one day and gone the next.  We are impressed with the trappings of power; wealth, control, intrigue.  But the people and things that we are impressed with today are like the flowers in the field that bloom one day and are dried up and blown away by the wind the next.

King Herod the Great was a shrewd politician who served at the pleasure of the Roman Emperor.  Herod was first allied with the Roman politician Mark Antony who was a supporter of Julius Caesar.  Antony married Octavian’s sister but still carried on a love affair with Cleopatra which caused Antony to lose power as Octavian becomes emperor.  Octavian is then known as Caesar Augustus who we hear about in the Christmas readings.  Herod had to do some tricky maneuvering to move from being allied with Mark Antony to being accepted by Octavian.  Herod was called king, but he is just a vassal for the Roman emperor and he had to work hard to please the right people.  He was also always on the lookout for threats to his power and authority and many times resorted to murdering his enemies and even family members in order to hold onto his throne.  What kind of king is this?

Then we have the visitors from the east.  The wise men, the magi, the three kings.  These mysterious figures have perplexed Biblical scholars since they showed up in Jerusalem.  We know the song, “We three kings of Orient are….”  Epiphany is called Three Kings Day among Hispanic cultures.  In Germany people still write the three letters C, M and B over their doorways for the traditional names of the three magi, Casper, Melchoir, and Balthasar.  Children dress up as kings and carry a large star and go door to door caroling and singing a three kings song.

Magi?  Sages?  Wise men?  Kings?  We really don’t know too much about these folks.  The idea of them being kings comes from Psalm 72:10, “may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.”  We sing “We three kings,” but we aren’t really sure there are three of them, just that three types of gifts were brought.  We don’t know where they come from.  Maybe modern day Iraq, or Iran, or India, or somewhere else.  We call them the wise men, but they apparently weren’t too wise because instead of going to Bethlehem, they miss it by six miles and go to Jerusalem where they alert blood-thirsty Herod that there was someone else claiming to be king of the Jews.  Herod then tries to use the magi to locate the newborn king and report back so Herod could go and “worship” Him…with his sword.  The three kings, the wise men, the magi, whatever we call them, are, to this day, mysterious characters.  They are surely Gentiles, non-Jews, and we rejoice that Jesus has come for all people, including us.  We celebrate that Jesus is not only King of the Jews, but King of all.

Jesus’ birth is marked by the appearance of an unusual star and these magi from the east follow that star to find the king they seek after so they can give Him gifts and worship Him.  The ones called the three kings believe they are worshipping a king, but what kind of king?  They bring gifts fit for an earthly king to the infant Jesus but do they know that they present them to the infinite God almighty in the finite flesh of a child.  We do not know if they realize as they bow down to worship that they are worshipping at the feet of God.

Kings. Kings everywhere, but only one has true power.  And it is the one you least expect.  It is not Herod the Great.  It is not the mysterious sages from the east.  It is the little boy in Bethlehem no more than a year or so old.

The baby Jesus is the one with the real power and authority, but it is present in such an unlikely person and it is the unlikely people who seem to be the only ones who recognize it. On the night of Jesus’ birth it is announced to unlikely shepherds.  The shepherds come and see Jesus and return to their sheep “glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, as it had been told them.”

A star appears and reveals the birth of Jesus to the unlikely magi; the astrological wizards from the east.  They follow the star seeking the one born king of the Jews.  They may not fully understand who Jesus is, but they do come to worship Him.

Herod the Great learns about the birth of Jesus from the magi.  Herod is an unlikely person to care about the birth of a child in the little town of Bethlehem.  And yet, while he does not fully recognize who this child is, He believes the birth to be significant enough to be a potential threat to his throne and Herod tries to have the baby boy assassinated.

            Kings. Kings everywhere, but only one has true power.  And it is the one you least expect.  It is not Herod the Great.  It is not the mysterious sages from the east.  It is the little boy in Bethlehem no more than a year or so old.

The likely people to care about this baby born king of the Jews would be the religious leaders in Jerusalem; they should certainly understand.  But they don’t.  The Chief Priest and the Scribes should recognize the greatness of the coming messiah, but they ignore him.  When called on by Herod to consult, they relate what the scriptures say about where the Messiah is to be born, but they don’t go along with the magi to worship the newborn king.

The can recite the scriptures, but they are not interested in the possible coming of the Messiah.  They know the words of scripture but they don’t really believe them, and so they do not go to Bethlehem.

There are a lot of folks today who claim to be Christian and can even recite scriptures, but they don’t know Jesus.  They are far from Bethlehem.  There are many who use the Bible just as a tool to get what they want or justify their actions.  Politicians on the right and the left like to cherry pick Bible verses to try to show God is on their side; regardless of the issue.

There are a lot of people who have heard about Jesus, but do not recognize who Jesus is. They know the words of the Bible, but reject the Christ. They are far away from Bethlehem.  There are a lot of very smart people who believe they know better than God.  They have God’s Word given to them, but they demand to take authority over God’s Word.  They will determine what is right and wrong for themselves.  They try to usurp authority from God so they can be in charge.  We see this in people rejecting anything in the Bible that is contrary to their own desires and we see it in people taking authority over life and death.  We see this clearly in our nation’s horrible practice of abortion on demand.  God creates life in the union of a man and a woman and people are adamant that they have authority to end that life because it threatens the parents’ position in life.  We are tempted to be like King Herod who believed it to be appropriate to try to kill a baby if the baby was a threat to his power.  But we do not have that authority.  We do not have the authority to make our own rules; we do not have authority to take a human life.  We are not king.

On this day of the Epiphany, the revealing of Jesus to the Gentiles, and throughout the year, let us humble ourselves and go to Bethlehem. Let us meekly go to Bethlehem and worship the King, Jesus, and recognize who Jesus truly is. He is a teacher, but not just a teacher. He is a healer, but not just a healer. He is a prophet, but not just a prophet. He is the King of the Jews, but not just of the Jews, He is king of all people.  Jesus is King of creation.  Jesus is God incarnate.  God in flesh. Jesus, the baby in Bethlehem.  Jesus, the Rabbi from Galilee.  Jesus, the criminal on the cross.  Jesus is God almighty.  He is Savior and Lord.  He is King of the universe. Jesus is the eternal King. He is your king.

The unlikely king is the one who does not act like a king.  Jesus does not order others to be killed to protect His throne.  Instead He takes His throne on the cross to sacrifice Himself to save others.  To save you.  Jesus is the unlikely king.  Amen.