Thousands of demons

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Pentecost 2 2019 – Proper 7
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 23, 2019
Isaiah 65:1-9, Galatians 3:23-4:7, Luke 8:26-39

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’s Gospel demonstrates Jesus’ power over demons.  This is part of the Bible’s teaching that Jesus is God and therefore has power over everything.  In other Gospel lessons we have heard that Jesus has power over sickness, injury, the weather, even death; today we see His power over demons.

Jesus and His disciples cross the Sea of Galilee into an area that is more heavily populated with Gentiles.  No sooner do they set foot on the shore than a demon-possessed man challenges them.  This demon possession is pretty intense.  The man lives among the dead, he wears no clothes, and the locals are unable to restrain him even with chains.

Jesus shows His power over the demons by conversing with them.  Although the demons are the sworn enemies of God, they must answer His questions.  They have no choice.  When Jesus asks “What is your name?” they answer, “Legion”, indicating the strength of the evil forces in this man.  A legion is an army numbering in the thousands.  Thousands of demons against Jesus, but it wouldn’t make a difference if there were a billion, Jesus is Lord over everything and even the demons must obey Him.

When the Lord commands them to leave the man, they have no choice but to leave.  The only question is where to go.  The demons ask to inhabit a nearby herd of pigs, but even for this they need Jesus’ permission.  The demons enter the pigs and the pigs promptly stampede into the lake and drown.  After that we aren’t told what happens to the demons.

The swineherds have a predictable response; they flee.  They flee into a nearby city for help.  When the people hear the news they go out to check on Jesus.  The scene gives us insight into the difference between people who are saved and people who are still slaves of the devil.

The man who is now saved is sitting at Jesus’ feet; he is listening as Jesus teaches.  The round trip to the city probably takes a few hours, so the man who is now free of demons has several hours of Bible class with Jesus.  He cannot get enough of Jesus.  He wants to go along when Jesus returns across the lake.

The people from the city are terrified of Jesus.  They ask Him to leave.  They are polite, but they still see Jesus as a problem … not as a savior.

Jesus complies with the people’s wishes.  He departs, but He leaves a missionary behind.  The man who is now demon free wants to go with Jesus, but Jesus sends him away, saying, Luke 8:39 (ESV) 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.[1]

When Jesus arrives, this man is full of demons and out of control.  When Jesus departs, this man is a missionary to the people on the east side of the Sea of Galilee.

Now whenever the topic of demons comes up, our imaginations tend to go wild.  Our culture has come up with all kinds of speculations about demons and most of them are wrong.

Since demons are angels, they are spiritual beings, that is, they do not have bodies.  They are not subject to the laws of the physical universe.  Since demons are fallen angels, they are enemies of God.

The Bible teaches us that demons were once angels.  God created them sometime during the six days of creation along with all the other angels.  Soon after the creation a group of angels rebelled against God and god condemned these angels to an eternity of punishment.  The Bible tells us that God created hell specifically for these evil angels and refers them as fallen angels, unclean spirits, evil spirits, demons, and so forth.

Since demons are angels, they are spiritual beings, that is, they do not have bodies.  They are not subject to the laws of the physical universe.  Since demons are fallen angels, they are enemies of God.

The problem with being an enemy of God is that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, unlimited by time and space.  Even though the demons are fallen, they are still God’s creatures and cannot win against God in a direct attack.  They must find some other way to express their hatred of God.  The battlefield they have chosen is the human race … us.

The demons’ main weapon is deception as Jesus says in, John 8:44 (ESV) 44… When [the devil] lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.[2]  It wouldn’t be much of a temptation if the devil appeared to us dressed in red body armor with horns and a pitch fork, and smelled like smoke, but the devil is much more clever.  Demons present temptation in ways that make sense … ways that seem like the right thing to do … ways that have a certain beauty.  As the Apostle Paul writes, 2 Corinthians 11:14 (ESV) 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.[3]

In Eden, the devil uses a serpent to tempt Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit.  Mankind falls to that temptation.  From that time on, every human being inherits a sinful nature at conception as David writes in, Psalm 51:5 (ESV) 5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.[4]  And Paul in Romans 8:7-8 (ESV) 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.[5]

The rite of baptism in the Lutheran Service Book states, “The Word of God also teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own.  We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.”[6]  Because we humans pass our sinful nature down from generation to generation, slavery to sin and Satan is our natural state.  We are by nature sinful and unclean.  Instead of loving God with all our mind, soul, and strength, we love ourselves.  Every human being by nature is terrified of God, resists him, and fears him.  Our lives apart from God show that we are disobedient.  The prophet Isaiah writes, Isaiah 65:2 (ESV) 2 I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices;[7]

The devil’s control over us at birth may not be as spectacular as the man in today’s Gospel, but we all enter this world at odds with God and slaves to sin.

Since demons deal in deception, they adapt their lies to the culture of any given time and place.  Rationalism has had a profound effect on our culture.  Many today don’t even believe demons exist.

That suits the demons just fine.  It doesn’t bother them one bit if we don’t believe in them.  Demons don’t care if the crime rate goes down.  They don’t care if charitable donations go up.  They don’t care if people give each other a helping hand.  They don’t care there is a cure for every disease.  They don’t care if we are one, great big, happy family, as long as we are one, great big, happy family on the wide road to hell.

The demons don’t even care if there are churches on every corner as long as the churches don’t talk about sin and its punishment, and Jesus and His salvation.  The demons don’t even care if we talk about god as long as that god is not the god who took on human flesh and died for our salvation.  The demons don’t even care if we talk about Jesus as long as that Jesus is just a great example or just a great moral teacher or just a great liberator or just a great unifier.  The only God – the only Jesus that the devil hates is the Jesus who died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins and then rose from the dead in order to certify His victory over sin, death, and the devil.

There is only one person who defeated the devil.  That person is Jesus Christ, crucified for the forgiveness of all sins and raised from the dead.  That person and that person alone is the only person who endured every temptation that the devil could throw His way and yet, never sinned.  That person and that person alone endured the forsakenness of hell for us as He died on a cross for our sins and He offers His victory to us.

Demons don’t always identify themselves by driving pigs into a lake.  Sometimes they quietly inhabit people who look like grandmas and grandpas.  They inhabit people who look respectable on the outside and seem very nice.  Just like dangerous strangers tempt children with candy, demons tempt us with all the things we like.  It is their goal to make us feel very comfortable and even righteous while traveling the path to hell.

The real lesson that we can take away from today’s Gospel is that Jesus is the one who exposes demons and deals with them.  The same Jesus Christ who demonstrated His power over demons in today’s Gospel has defeated the devil once and for all on the cross.  Trust in Him.  Trust in His holy life, His innocent suffering and death, His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven.  He is the only one who can protect you from the attacks of the devil.  He is the only one who can give you life everlasting.  Trust in Christ crucified and risen from the dead, and pray that the Holy Spirit will work that saving faith in all people.  Amen


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

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

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

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

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

[6] [LSB 268]

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

 

What shall we do?

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Trinity Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 16, 2019
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Acts 2:14a, 22-36, John 8:48-59

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

You know the feeling; that bowling-ball-size lump in the pit of your stomach that comes when you realize that you have done something terribly wrong.  You got caught up in the moment and went along with the crowd.  Instead of standing up for someone being abused, you stood by and said nothing, or worse you joined in the abuse of someone weaker by those who are stronger.  You went along with the group who was teasing the developmentally disabled boy.  You joined in making fun of the girl who was different.  Going along with the crowd you said something or did something and later you realized how wrong you were.  These can be bowling-ball-in-the-gut memories from childhood…but worse are these memories from your teens and adulthood where mistakes are bigger and the results are more permanent.  You were careless driving and caused an accident in which someone is hurt.  You made a big mistake at work and cost the company huge money; you cheated on your taxes,; you did things when you were drunk that you should never have done; you got your girlfriend pregnant; you cheated on your husband; you aborted your baby; your marriage fell apart.  You got caught up in the moment and fell into sin, and afterwards, as you come to realize what you have done, big, ugly bowling-ball-size regret starts to sink into your gut.  And you ask yourself, “What do I do?”

In our second lesson today the people of Jerusalem are feeling these same kinds of feelings; regret over what they have done.  Fifty-seven days earlier Jesus of Nazareth rides into the city on Sunday morning in Triumph.  The crowd waves palm branches and shouts, “Hosanna in the highest.”  On Friday morning the crowds shout again, but this time they cry out for Jesus’ blood.  In response to the cries Jesus is beaten and whipped and crowned with thorns before being led out to Calvary to be crucified.

The people to whom Peter is preaching were witness to this; some perhaps, caught up in the moment, joined in with the bloodthirsty mob’s call to, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  At minimum they did nothing and just stood by and watched it happen, maybe thinking, “He deserves to die since He is pretending to be God.  He is a fraud!”

And it would seem that that Friday was pretty much proof that this Jesus who claimed to be something special was just another nobody from Nazareth.  Christ?  What kind of Christ would let Himself die in such utter naked humiliation and suffering?  Now He is dead and buried and that’s that.  Done deal.  Another faker who got what He deserved.  Friday revealed Jesus was just a nobody.  But then came Sunday morning.  Jesus rose from the dead.  The guarded tomb is empty; the body is gone.  The guards say they fell asleep, but everyone knows that cannot be true because those guards would have been executed.  And there are reports all over the city that Jesus appeared to people in the flesh.

What shall we do?  That is the big question.  What shall we do?  We walk around with a heavy knot of guilt sitting in our gut; knowing we have done wrong, what shall we do?

So this Jesus who said He would rise from the dead, actually rose from the dead, which means that He is who He said He is.  He is the Christ, the Son of God.  The assembled crowd listening to Peter are the people of Jerusalem that crucified the Son of God.  They must have a haunting feeling of guilt growing in their gut as each asks, “What have I done?”

It is to these people that Peter is preaching the first sermon about Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Peter does not mince words in his proclamation, Acts 2:36 (ESV) 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”[1]  The people’s guilt is laid upon them.  Peter doesn’t tell them it is okay, you didn’t mean it, don’t worry about it.  No, Peter gives it to them full strength.  Peter tells the people that they crucified Jesus who is Lord and Christ.

Acts 2:37 (ESV)  37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”[2]

What shall we do?  That is the big question.  What shall we do?  We walk around with a heavy knot of guilt sitting in our gut; knowing we have done wrong, what shall we do?

The answer to that question is quite different depending on who you ask.  I have sinned against God, what do I do?

The Jews in Jerusalem that day and many people of various backgrounds would say that you need to try harder.  Try harder so that your good deeds will outweigh your evil deeds at the judgement.

Eastern religions would tell you that the consequences of this guilt and sin will take many generations to purge from your family.  But little by little you can strive to make amends for the evil with acts of love, or meditation, or simple suffering, and finally there could be escape from it.

Today’s man on the street may tell you that just need to do your best, live your best life, and just get over your destructive sense of guilt.

The people in Jerusalem weighed down by the guilt of crucifying Jesus ask…  People today who know they are sinners ask…  We who carry the guilt of sins past and present ask…  “What shall we do?”

Peter gives the answer, Acts 2:38 (ESV) 38 …“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.[3]  The answer is not something you can do; you can do nothing.  The answer is, something can be done for you.

The Word of God has already cut these people to the heart.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit they know their sin and are sorry for their sin.  The Law of God has worked on these people.  They are aware of their terrible dilemma, but they do not know how to fix it.  Peter tells them.  Be baptized, every one of you.  The solution to sin does not come from within you, the solution to sin comes from outside; from the Triune God.  Christianity is not a religion of “Do”; you’ve got to do this or that.  It is a religion of “Done”; it has been done for you.

Acts 2:39 (ESV) 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”[4]

You have been baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The Triune God has chosen you, claimed you; anointed you.  Jesus’ death and resurrection have become your death and resurrection.  You were given the gift of the Holy Spirit and your body is now a temple of the Holy Spirit.  In your struggle with sin you have been set free.  Your sin is covered.  Your guilt has been removed.  Jesus took your bowling-ball-sized lump of guilt and carried it to the cross.  Jesus solves unsolvable guilt.  Jesus forgives those who crucify Him and Jesus forgives you.  Connected to the Triune God you have forgiveness of sins and where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation.  So, daily repent and remember you are baptized.

Peter’s message to the people on that Pentecost long ago is counter intuitive; it is counter cultural.  It is not “do it yourself” salvation.  It is “done for you” salvation.  It is pure gift given to you in your baptism, and in God’s Word, and in the Body and Blood of Christ.  You are accompanied on life’s journey by a community of persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who together are the one and only living God.  When you wake up in the morning remember your baptism by making the sign of the cross, remember what God has done for you.

As you began Christian life at the font, we begin worship in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  We invoke the Trinity at least six times in our worship service.  This is the faith into which you are baptized; the same faith the 3,000 were baptized into that Pentecost when Peter preaches.

Today, as you come forward to the communion rail I invite you to remember your baptism by dipping your fingers into the font and making the sign of the cross, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Remember you are baptized.  Your sin is covered.  You belong to 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

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

 

What is the major miracle of Pentecost?

nullPentecost 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 9, 2019
Genesis 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21, John 14:23-31

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

No matter how often we read the Bible … no matter how familiar we are with its message, it always has something new to teach us.  The account of Pentecost is like that.

One of the things that many people may not know is that, although this Pentecost in Acts 2 is very special, it is not the first Pentecost.  The Lord instituted Pentecost about the same time He instituted Passover.  Pentecost was originally called the Feast of Weeks.  Since the Feast of Weeks comes fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits, people began calling it Pentecost based on the Greek word for fifty.

Pentecost is also one of the three feast days that required the presentation of the males of Israel.  The Law of Moses said, Deuteronomy 16:16 (ESV) 16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.[1]

Now, if we lay these Festivals over the life of Christ, we can see God’s plan.  At the Feast of Booths Jesus predicts the coming of the Holy Spirit as we hear in John 7:37-39 (ESV) 37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. [2]

We also learn that Jesus dies on Passover, and He rises from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits, the Sunday after Passover.  Then, the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in a special way fifty days later, at Pentecost.  Faithful Israelites are in Jerusalem on those special days.  This means that the faithful who present themselves in Jerusalem according to the instructions given in the Law are witnesses to Jesus promising the Spirit, witnesses to the crucifixion and resurrection, and also witnesses to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  In this way, the Holy Spirit gathers His Old Testament Church together to hear about the mighty works of God.  God, the master strategist, had this all worked out 1500 years before it happened.

I always think about Pentecost being the wonderful first bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in the wind, fire and tongues, but this is not the first giving of the Holy Spirit.  That happened 50 days earlier.  John 20:19-23 (ESV) 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” [3]

Did you hear it?  Jesus already gave the Holy Spirit on the day of the Resurrection.  He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  Makes you wonder, if Jesus gave them the Holy Spirit on the day of the resurrection, why did the Holy Spirit have to come again on Pentecost?  Didn’t Jesus get it right the first time?

We can get so distracted by the wow factor of the sound like a mighty rushing wind, the divided tongues as of fire, and the apostles speaking in other tongues, that we don’t notice the major miracle of Pentecost.  This miracle shows up in the response of those who gathered on that day.  They came together.  They heard the mighty works of God.  Then they responded.  Acts 2:37-41 (ESV) 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

This is the great miracle of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit adds three thousand souls to His church on that day.  Pentecost is not so much about the Holy Spirit poured out on the Apostles; it is about the Holy Spirit poured out on those three thousand souls.

In His explanation to the third Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Martin Luther wrote that the “Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”  The Holy Spirit’s manifestation on Pentecost is an example of that.  1500 years earlier, the Holy Spirit worked through His servant Moses to establish feasts that would gather these witnesses from the Old Testament Church in Jerusalem so that Luke the Evangelist could write,  Acts 2:5 (ESV) 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.[4]  It was not an accident that these men were in Jerusalem on this day.  The Holy Spirit calls together the Old Testament Church to tell them that the long-awaited Messiah has come in the person of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit is getting ready to convert the faithful of the Old Testament Church into the faithful of the New Testament Church.

That is the reason for the supernatural signs described in today’s reading.  The Holy Spirit is gathering His church together so that they can hear the call of the Gospel.  As the people of the Old Testament church draw near to the house, they encounter people who tell them who Jesus is and what He has done for their salvation.  These people are not speaking in the lofty Hebrew of the temple, they don’t speak in the street language of Aramaic, or the commercial language of Greek, or even the legal language of Latin, but each one hears the story of salvation in his own native language.

This is the great miracle of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit adds three thousand souls to His church on that day.  Pentecost is not so much about the Holy Spirit poured out on the Apostles; it is about the Holy Spirit poured out on those three thousand souls.

All these amazing things are the Holy Spirit’s means to accomplish the goal of gathering together His Old Testament Church and telling her that her waiting is over … that the New Testament had begun.  The Pentecost Pilgrims and other righteous people who gather together on that day have been looking forward to the Messiah.  They keep the ceremonial law of circumcision and sacrifices and all the other customs as a reminder that one day the Messiah will come and fulfill all the law and offer Himself up as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  Their faith looks into the future to the Messiah who is to come.  Now the Holy Spirit gathers the church together to tell her that the Messiah has come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  He is the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one.  On this one particular Pentecost the Holy Spirit calls together the Old Testament church and transforms her into the New Testament church.

Amid all the amazing things that happen on that Pentecost, it is easy to confuse God’s goal with the means that He uses to accomplish that goal.  After all, this is exciting stuff … a sound like a mighty wind … the appearance of what looks like flames of fire … the sudden ability to speak and understand a foreign language.  It is easy to get distracted by all these things and forget the main goal … the goal of creating faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  This is the goal of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost long ago, and it is still His goal today.

Amid the signs and wonders of that special Pentecost, there are still those who resist.  There are men in the crowd who mock and say, Acts 2:13 (ESV) 13 …“They are filled with new wine.” [5]  In any crowd there will always be those who resist the call of the Gospel.

This can be a great comfort to us as we confess our faith to the people we meet in our lives.  Sometimes, they will be interested and want to know more.  Other times they will reject our confession.  When that rejection comes, we can take comfort in knowing that even when there was the sound like a mighty rushing wind, the divided tongues as of fire, and the apostles speaking in other languages, that there were some people who resisted their message.  We should expect that and continue to confess our faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

On the day after that special Pentecost, there was no sound of a mighty wind.  The tongues of fire had gone away.  People spoke simply in their own language.  Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit was still at work.  The story goes on after today’s Second Reading and says, Acts 2:47 (ESV) 47 … And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.[6]  God’s Church still has His Word and the Holy Spirit continues to work through that Word.

The Holy Spirit still today works through the Word of God.  It has always been that way and it will always be that way.  The true sign of the Holy Spirit at work is the proclamation of God’s Word.  The Holy Spirit points to Jesus who is the God-Man who saves us from our sin with His suffering and death on the cross and promises us life everlasting with His resurrection.  The Holy Spirit works through God’s Word when we hear it with our ears … when we read it with our eyes … when we experience that Word in the water of Holy Baptism … and when we receive it with the true body and blood of Jesus in the Bread and Wine of the Lord’s Supper.  The Holy Spirit is at work when we confess our faith before each other and when we confess our faith before those who do not know Jesus.

The Holy Spirit still calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies, and keeps us in the true faith.  As He gives each of us new birth into the Holy Christian church so He also calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies that whole Christian Church on earth and keeps her in the one, true faith.  In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.  On the Last Day, He will raise me and all the dead and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.  This is most certainly true.  Amen


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jesus’ Plan to Save the World

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SERMON AUDIO

Ascension Day (Observed) 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 2, 2019
Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53

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 all right here.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,

     who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

     born of the virgin Mary,

     suffered under Pontius Pilate,

     was crucified, died and was buried.

     He descended into hell.

     The third day He rose again from the dead.

     He ascended into heaven

     and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

     From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

The Apostles’ Creed summarizes Jesus’ earthly life in seven lines.  We remember it each year beginning on March 24 with the annunciation.  The Angel Gabriel tells Mary she is going to give birth to a son.  Then to December 25, Christmas Day, when we celebrate God in flesh being born in the city of David, Bethlehem.  Then we fast forward 30 some years when in the Spring we remember Jesus’ suffering and death and celebrate His resurrection from the dead.  And that brings us to today; or more precisely, to this past Thursday, Ascension Day, 40 days after Resurrection Sunday.

Jesus leads the disciples out to Bethany on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem.  Luke 24:46-49 (ESV) 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” [1]

Jesus is leaving, but He has a plan for the Church.  What is this divine strategy?  Jesus is leaving these eleven men on the Mount of Olives as witnesses.

This is Jesus’ plan.  He is leaving the disciples as witnesses of His life, death and resurrection.  He is leaving the disciples as witnesses to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations.  Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; Immanuel; God with us; God in flesh, is departing and the task of spreading the Good News of the forgiveness of sins is left with this rough group of disciples who 43 days ago mostly abandoned Jesus at the cross.  These are Jesus’ witnesses.  This is Jesus’ plan to save the world.

When I was in college I worked summers for an international construction and export company.  Our task at that time was to assemble and crate air handling systems to be shipped to an air force base in Egypt.  There was a big warehouse filled with so many different components that had to be found and assembled and secured and inspected and then enclosed in huge, heavy duty shipping crates.  It was a very small company with five employees and the task seemed insurmountable.  As I expressed my sense of being overwhelmed by the job my boss asked me, “How do you eat an elephant?”  I replied, “I have no idea.”  He said, “One bite at a time.”

Have you ever gotten a project from the boss or a teacher and when you hear what they want you to do you are just overwhelmed, but then you accomplish it; one step at a time.  How do walk 1,000 miles?  Take the first step and keep going, one step at a time.

There are eleven scared and lonely men on the Mount of Olives staring up into the sky.  They have been given the task of telling the whole world about Jesus.  How do they do it?  They take the first step of the journey and keep going one step at a time.

And Jesus does not leave them alone, ten days later, on Pentecost, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit and the disciples are filled with the Spirit and are able to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins to people from many tribes and languages gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost festival.  The disciples take the first step on the journey.

Have you ever gotten a project from the boss or a teacher and when you hear what they want you to do you are just overwhelmed, but then you accomplish it; one step at a time.  How do walk 1,000 miles?  Take the first step and keep going, one step at a time.

That same journey continues today, one step at a time.  That same plan is still in place today.  The disciples have all died; all but one were killed for preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins.  Only John is thought to have died a natural death.

Now the mantle has been passed on through the generations and now it has been passed to us.  You and I are now the witnesses to bring the Good News of forgiveness of sins in Jesus to the world.  This is an overwhelming proposition and you may ask yourself, “What can I do?  I am just one person.  It can seem like we are so small and the task is so large.  How do you eat an elephant?  How do you walk 1,000 miles?

Jesus told a couple of reassuring parables about the growth of the Kingdom of God.  Luke 13:18-21 (ESV) 18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” 20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” [2]

The eleven disciples are like that mustard seed that has now grown into a tree; like that bit of leaven that has now worked its way through the whole world.  Small beginnings are not a problem.  You are now like that mustard seed and that bit of leaven.

It can be hard to be a witness for Jesus.  You can feel unprepared and have doubts.  “Who am I to try to tell people about Jesus?  I am not good enough for that.  I am not educated enough about the Bible.  I am not clever enough with my words.  How can I make any difference?  I am not going to be able to change the world.  People get offended by Jesus; I don’t want to be offensive.  Maybe it is better to let someone else handle that.”

We are still living with Jesus’ plan of spreading the Good News through witnesses.  You are a witness.  You know the truth about Jesus; He is the Son of God; He died on the cross for your sins; He rose from the dead for you.  You know the truth and you are a witness of the truth.  You can proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  It will likely not be anything grandiose like Peter on Pentecost, or Billy Graham preaching to a stadium, but rather little by little.  Little by little, one step at a time.  One conversation with a fellow student or coworkers or friend or family member.  One invitation to bring someone to church.  One moment of showing Christian love.  One time of being prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have.  One day of contemplation of pursuing a vocation of church work.  One day of volunteering.  One donation to a missionary or a seminary student.  One gift to the ministry here for the church and school to reach out with the Good News of Jesus; planting seeds for the future even when we don’t necessarily get to see the seeds grow.  Little by little, one day at a time, one step at a time, the Kingdom of God grows by the power of the Holy Spirit through your witness.

Be aware that you will encounter opposition; don’t let that stop you, for it is nothing new for witnesses.  People reject the idea that Jesus rose from the dead, because that does not make sense.  Indeed, that is correct, it does not make sense and yet God is not restrained by what makes sense.  There is a lot about God that does not make sense, which does makes sense, because it means that we did not make up God.

Live your whole life as a witness to Jesus so that repentance and forgiveness is not just something you talk about, but it is how you live.

Do not use your witness as an aggressive weapon or as a show of self-righteousness, instead always witness to others in order to help them;.

Always witness about Jesus.  I think we can make a mistake of trying to talk about the church and Christianity and we end up talking about almost everything else except repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus.  Be a witness who speaks about Jesus dying and rising for the forgiveness of sins.

You are more than capable of being a witness.  The first disciples were not highly educated; wonderfully refined guys.  They were a motley bunch of fishermen and tax collectors and such.  And remember the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well.  She had been married and divorced five times and was shacked up with a man in a state of adultery.  What kind of social standing do you think she had in her town?  What choice names did the “good” people have for her?  And yet she became a witness to Christ, and John 4:39 (ESV)  39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, …[3]  Certainly you can, and should, spend a lifetime studying scripture, but you already know all that you need to know to be a witness for Jesus.

Jesus has ascended into heaven.  He has left you to be a witness, but he has not left you alone; He has not left you with nothing to hold onto.  Each Sunday Jesus comes to you in His Word of forgiveness.  Each Sunday you hold the Body of Christ in your hand and you eat His Body and drink His blood.  He comes to you in a physical means to strengthen you.  And like the disciples on the day of Pentecost, you have received the Holy Spirit.  You are not a witness under your own power, but under the power of the Holy Spirit.

You are a witness to Jesus’ love and forgiveness; in your words, in your deeds, in your daily interactions, in your forgiveness of others.  Because you know the truth.  Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

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

 

Spoiler Alert!!

nullEaster 6 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 26, 2019
Acts 16:9-15, Rev. 21:9-14, 21-27, John 16:23-33

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

There is a super hero movie that recently came out, not sure if you have heard anything about it, Avengers end of the game or something.  The ending is really exciting and surprising.  There is a big car chase and then the Batmobile loses its wheel and the Joker gets away.  Or something like that.  I actually have not seen the movie, but I heard that it was a really big deal that people not give away the ending.  People wanted to see the movie for themselves and not have the ending spoiled for them.

When reading books or watching movies it makes it more exciting to not know how the story will end; it keeps up the dramatic tension of not knowing what is going to happen.  In a fictional story we like that dramatic tension.

Now, almost always in movies and books, the mystery gets solved, the guy gets the girl, the good guy wins.  In fictional stories we know in the back of our mind that almost always good will triumph over evil in the end.

In real life it is not so clear.  In real life dramatic tension is not fun.  In life we want to know what will happen, but so often we are in the dark.  A loved one is sick…will they get better?  The economy takes a downturn…will I keep my job?  My health is failing…will I be able to stay in my home?  My child is struggling…will they be okay?

We want to know how things will turn out; but so often there is no way to know.  We tell each other, “It’s going to be okay.”  But we don’t know if that is true or not.  Life is often patient endurance through very difficult times.  In the midst of the difficulties we don’t know where life is going.

In day-to-day life we don’t know what will happen next, but in our reading today from Revelation we find out what is going to happen in the end.  We find out that on the last day the Holy City of New Jerusalem will come down from heaven with its glorious, jeweled radiance, its pearl gates and golden streets.  On the last day you will be in the number of the saints marching into the Holy City where there is no temple because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are the temple.  There is no sun or moon for the glory of God is the light, and its lamp is the Lamb.  This is how it ends; or more precisely, this is the beginning of eternity.  This is where you will be on the last day.  The Holy City of New Jerusalem is your eternal home; you and all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

This morning we got to witness little Tessa Avaline Morgan be baptized into God’s family and have her name written in the Lamb’s book of life.  This morning God made a promise to Tessa that she is forgiven and she belongs to God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  In the waters of baptism Tessa is marked and sealed as a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  Tessa has a place in the Holy City of New Jerusalem.  God has made a promise to Tessa Avaline and God will not change His promise.

God made a promise to you in your baptism.  You are marked and sealed as a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  You have a place in the Holy City of New Jerusalem.  In baptism you were buried with Christ.  In baptism you were raised with Christ to walk in newness of life.  God’s promise to you is rock solid.  Your foundation is not built on sand, but on the solid rock of Jesus.  God’s promise is certain and secure because it is not contingent upon you doing something; it is pure gift.  You are marked and sealed to live your eternal life with Christ on the golden streets in the Holy City of New Jerusalem.

Baptism is indeed God’s promise to you and it is pure gift.  Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.[1]  Baptism is God’s secure promise to you, but it is not a license to sin as the devil would like you to think.  Being baptized does not mean you can let your guard down.  Stay connected to Jesus and stay alert.  The world is spiritually dangerous.  The cares of life and the deceitfulness of wealth can choke out faith like weeds choke out a garden.  The devil prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  It is possible to fall away from faith.  It is the devil’s goal for you to do just that.  The devil wants you to fall away and forget about God’s promise to you.

It is possible to fall away, but even then God is waiting for you to come home.  His promise to you has not changed.  He is waiting with open arms like the Father of the Prodigal Son to restore you to your place as His child with an eternal inheritance.  You cannot fall so far away that God will not joyfully welcome you back.  We vacillate and change; God does not change.

God’s promise does not change and Jesus will triumph in the end, so do not fall for the devil’s lies.  He is the Father of lies and loves to make use of the His first lie, “Did God really say?”  Do not despair at the devil’s accusations that your sin is too great.  He is right.  You are a sinner who does not deserve God’s grace and yet God gives you his grace freely on behalf of Jesus.  Renounce the devil and cling to the cross of Christ.  Cling to the promises God made to you in your baptism.

Baptism is God’s promise to you of eternal life, but it no guarantee of an easy life.  As Jesus tells us in the Gospel lesson from John, “John 16:33 (ESV) 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [2]  Real life is hard.  Each day is a struggle, but you do indeed know how it all will end.  Good will triumph over evil.  Jesus has overcome the world.  The day is coming when Jesus will reign on His throne and Satan will be cast into the Lake of Fire.  The day is coming, but for now life is difficult.  Life as a Christian can make it seem even more difficult as you find yourself swimming against the currents of society.  Everybody is doing something and you try to resist.  It can feel like you are in a battle against so much evil in the world and it can wear you out.  You struggle against evil around you, and evil within you.  But you know that in the midst of the battle the war is already won.  As we sing in the beloved hymn, For all the Saints, “And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.”  We do know the ending, but instead of that spoiling things for us, it gives us hope and makes us stronger.  It enables us to continue in faith through the difficulties of life.

It is possible to fall away, but even then God is waiting for you to come home.  His promise to you has not changed.  He is waiting with open arms like the Father of the Prodigal Son to restore you to your place as His child with an eternal inheritance.  You cannot fall so far away that God will not joyfully welcome you back.  We vacillate and change; God does not change.

There are days in the midst of the struggle when it can seem like God has forsaken you; that He has left you all alone.  But remember His promises.  Remember you are baptized.  Remember you know the end of the story.  Jesus knows that life will be hard.  And you know that despite any current appearances to the contrary, Jesus wins in the end and you will win with Him.  You have read the last chapter.  You have seen the spoiler.  You know what will happen.  Good triumphs over evil.  Jesus brings words of great comfort.  John 16:33 (ESV) 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [3]

In Christ you will overcome the world, and live forever in the Holy City.  That is God’s promise to you.

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

 

The Devil wants you alone.

nullEaster 4 2019 Confirmation Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 12, 2019
Acts 20:17-35, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30

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 teach students and engaged couples about how men should live out St. Paul’s instructions for husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church, I use this example.  A husband and wife are out for a walk around the neighborhood and suddenly an angry, barking dog pushes open a fence gate and runs towards the two of you.  What should the husband do?  A good husband steps between his wife and the angry dog.  A good husband is willing to get bitten to protect his wife.  A good husband is willing to lay down his life for his wife and children.

We know this because husbands get their model of leadership from Jesus who is the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd is willing to lay down His life for the sheep.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, steps between you and the wolf and protects you from the wolf.  The Good Shepherd is willing to get bitten to shield you.  The Good Shepherd is willing to die to defend you.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd, so you are safe in his flock.

There are many who are not yet in the flock of the Good Shepherd, but you are in His flock.  Our catechism students this morning will confirm what was spoken for them at their baptisms, that they are indeed followers of Jesus; that they are, indeed, sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus says about His sheep, John 10:27-30 (ESV) 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”[1]

You are a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  You are safe in the hand of God.  Stay in the flock.  Stay in the hand of God.  Stay behind the Good Shepherd who is protecting you from the wolf.  Remain connected to God’s Word of forgiveness and the Body and Blood of Christ.

Jesus is protecting you, but the devil does not give up easily.  The devil wants to lure you away from being in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  The devil wants to separate you from the flock so you are unprotected, and then he can attack you and devour you and get you to join him in the darkness of evil without you even noticing what he is doing.  The devil is incomprehensibly evil.

I experience evil thoughts and desires, and yet even as someone who is by nature sinful and unclean I am shocked at how evil people can be.  I find it hard to comprehend the level of evil I see in the news; terrorism,  school shootings, human trafficking, adultery, drug dealers, drug dealers who cut their drugs with fentanyl, adults abusing children in unspeakable ways, uncontrolled anger tearing apart relationships, and so much more.  We are truly blessed that we have our military and police and emergency workers to shield us from so much of this evil so we do not have a front row seat.

There is such evil in the world and the devil is the prince of darkness.  You would think it would be easy to ignore the devil and disregard his lies, but he is very clever and can be very appealing in his deceptions.  He will not appear to you in red pajamas and ask you to choose evil over good, instead he will subtly make evil seem so very attractive.  And because of all his clever techniques and lures I think we have a hard time understanding how truly evil the devil is.  You are a sheep in God’s hand.  The devil wants you to be separated from God for eternity.

            You are a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  You are safe in the hand of God.  Stay in the flock.  Stay in the hand of God.  Stay behind the Good Shepherd who is protecting you from the wolf.  Remain connected to God’s Word of forgiveness and the Body and Blood of Christ.

Stay on guard each day so you do not give the devil a foothold in your life.  Each day struggle against sin, repent of sin, and turn back to God’s will.  Battle sin in your thoughts and desires before sin invades your words and actions and moves to become your master.  As we read in James 1:15 (ESV) 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.[2]  Hate what the devil wants to do to you.

You know what the devil hates.  The devil hates Revelation 7:9-12 (ESV) 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”[3]

The devil hates this passage because it is a preview of his defeat and he hears about all the sheep of the Good Shepherd safely gathered around His throne for eternity.  You are part of this great multitude.  You are a follower of Jesus.  Do not let the devil change that.  Do not let the devil take you from the Kingdom of Light back to the Kingdom of Darkness.

The devil hates a baptism or confirmation because it is a deliberate rejection of the him.  Today our young people will stand before the congregation and renounce the devil, and all of the devil’s works, and all of the devil’s ways.  They will reject Satan, and swear faithfulness to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  They are wearing white robes that foreshadow their coming time in the eternal Heavenly City of New Jerusalem, waving palm branches and praising the Lamb on the throne.  These young people are right now in the hand of God; they are in the flock of the Good Shepherd; they are safe from the devil.  But the devil does not give up easily.

St. Peter warns in 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.[4]  Be aware of the devil’s presence and persistence.  Stay on guard.  Stay behind the shepherd.  Stay under the shepherd’s protection.

The devil will try to lure you out from behind the shepherd and get you to voluntarily leave the flock and be your own independent sheep.  He will do this quietly and carefully.  He will get you to give up coming to worship services and hearing the Law of God and the Gospel of God.  He will get you to give up receiving the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  The devil will get you to choose to be so busy that Jesus and the forgiveness of sins moves down your list of priorities in life as you slowly slip away from the flock.  The devil will try to get you to find an excuse to miss church that works for you, so he can separate you from the rest of the sheep, and once you are away from flock the devil will mold and shape your thinking with his lies, and the lies of the world, and the lies of your own sinful flesh, until he has you fully in his grasp.

Beware of the devil’s schemes.  Be careful in the transitional times of life.  Going off to college.  Moving to a new area.  Getting a new job with new hours.  Retirement.  The death of a spouse.  Be aware of the transitional times and stay in the flock of the Good Shepherd.

Be on guard against anger.  As we read in Ephesians 4:26-27 (ESV)  26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.[5]  The devil will try to get you to hold onto anger against the pastor, or someone in the church, or someone in your family anything in order to get you to stop attending worship.

The devil will try to get you to establish sin as part of your lifestyle so that it becomes your norm and you stop coming to church because you know that how you are living is against God’s will.  The devil has many schemes and methods to lure you away from the protection of the shepherd so he can attack you when you are alone and vulnerable.

And the danger is not just from outside the church.  Be aware and be discerning of where you attend worship.  Be careful of who is preaching and teaching.  Because Jesus warns in Matthew 7:15 (ESV) 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.[6]  Paul warns the Ephesian pastors in our lesson from Acts 20:28-30 (ESV) 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.[7]

There are wolves disguised as sheep attacking Jesus’ Church from within.  There are those who teach that God’s promise to you is a life of success and prosperity.  There are those who repeat the devil’s first lie, “Did God really say?” when it comes to intimacy and marriage and abortion and even salvation.  Did God really say that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman?  Did God really say that sexual intimacy is only for within the bond of marriage?  Did God really say that you shouldn’t sacrifice your unborn children?  Did God really say that Jesus is the only way to the Father?  Did God really say you are not saved by being good enough but only by Jesus’ blood shed for you on the cross?  Did God really say that Hell is real and there are those who choose to be condemned?  Did God really say that?  Yes.  God really did say, and you need to be on guard against the increasing pressure to conform your thinking to the way of the world rather than being transformed by the Word of God.

Today our confirmands, Breanna, Joey and Jack are going to promise to continue steadfast in this confession and church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.  Understanding this commitment, knowing the cost, knowing it is not an easy path, I ask you all to make this pledge together with them.  Renew your promise and work together and pray together and love each other and bear each other’s burdens and bury one another until that great day when we will be together again in white robes before the throne of the Lamb.  You are a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus stands between you and the wolf.  Stay behind Jesus.  Stay in the flock.  You belong to Jesus.  Amen.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What if Jesus ask you?

null

Easter 3 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 5, 2019
Acts 9:1-22, Revelation 5:8-14, John 2:1-19

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

After Jesus’ crucifixion the disciples are terrified.  If this is what the Jewish leaders and the Romans do to Jesus, what is going to happen to us?  Even after hearing that Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples hide out in a locked room.  Jesus appears to His disciples in that locked room on the evening of His resurrection and then again a week later when Thomas is with them.  They see the resurrected Jesus.  Jesus comes into their midst and they touch Him and see that He is risen from the dead.  But what next?

In the Gospel of John, we next find that the disciples have left the upper room and fled Jerusalem and gone back to their familiar place in Galilee at the Sea of Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galilee.  They saw the resurrected Jesus, but must not know what to do with that knowledge, or perhaps they are starting to doubt whether it was really real.  So they go back to the Sea of Galilee; they go back to fishing.  Sometimes, when life is all topsy-turvy it feels good to do what is familiar.

So the disciples go fishing, seven of them.  Five are identified:  Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John.  Two are not identified.  As we examine what happens that day, let’s identify one of those two unnamed disciples.  Today, you take the place of one of those unnamed disciples and go fishing with the other six.  Put yourself in the place of that unnamed disciple with a front row seat to this drama on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

You have been out fishing all night and now you’re exhausted from putting the net out and dragging it back in, over and over and over.  You are out of shape for fishing and out of practice, and each time you throw the net it comes back empty and even though that makes the net lighter, you tire more quickly when there is no reward for your labor.

Just as the sun is starting to peak over the eastern hilltops a man appears on the shore watching you all fish.  The man yells out, “Children, do you have any fish?”  You and the others yell back, “No!”  The man yells, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”  You have nothing to lose, so you do.

You have no fish in the boat after fishing all night.  Suddenly the net is full to abundance; full to overflowing; so full you cannot pull it into the boat.  You and the other six struggle with the net and while you are struggling, John has a great revelation and tells Peter, “It is the Lord!”

Now Peter is the de facto leader of the disciples and it was his idea to go fishing.  And you have spent all night working like a dog to try to catch fish with no success and you finally now have caught some fish and what does Peter do?  Peter leaves the fish.  You and the others are left in the boat to pull in the fish as Peter jumps into the water to swim to shore.  Peter abandons the huge catch of fish because something much more valuable is here.  Jesus is right here with you.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Jesus is more valuable than all the fish in the sea.

Peter swims to shore to be with Jesus.  You and the other five disciples row the boat in, dragging the net full of 153 fish.  When you get to the beach, Jesus has a fire going with fish roasting and bread ready for breakfast.  Where did that come from?  Jesus is present with you and the other disciples and the memories come flooding back with everything that Jesus does.  Jesus provides fish and bread and the disciples must be flashing back to Jesus feeding the 5,000.

Peter gets back on board the boat and helps pull the net in and then you all go to be with Jesus for breakfast.  You are eating with Jesus once again.  The last time you ate with Jesus was on Holy Thursday in the upper room.  The memories come flooding back of Jesus’ washing your feet and His transforming the Passover meal into the great gift of His body and blood in the bread and wine.

You and the other disciples finish breakfast and the seven of you bask in the presence of the resurrected Lord Jesus.  All is good.  And then Jesus turns to Peter; devoted Peter; Peter who left the fish to swim to Jesus; Peter, the leader of the disciples.  What praise is Jesus going to give to Peter this morning?

Jesus says to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  Things get suddenly tense.  What is Jesus doing?  Why is Jesus questioning Peter’s love?  What must Peter be thinking?  Peter must be flashing back to that night not so long ago when he and John followed Jesus to the house of the high priest.  As Peter passed by the servant girl who was at the door she asked him, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?”  In fear, Peter denied Jesus, and answers, “I am not.”  Does Peter love Jesus?  Peter denied Jesus.  Peter failed Jesus, but Peter does love Jesus and answers Him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”  Jesus says, “Feed my Lambs.”  Jesus is giving Peter the responsibility to preach and teach the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection to the people who are like sheep without a shepherd.

You and the disciples breathe a sigh of relief that this tense conversation is over, but only for a moment, because Jesus asks Peter again, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Peter wilts under the question as he stares into the glowing coals of the breakfast fire.  His mind’s eye takes him back to the fire in the court of the High Priest when someone asked him, “You also are not one of His disciples, are you?” and Peter denied it again, “I am not.”  Peter denied Jesus, but Peter does love Jesus and replies, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”  Jesus tells him, “Tend my sheep.”  Peter is being restored to his place as a servant of God, not from anything He has done, but by the forgiving Word of Jesus.

A third time Jesus asks Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me.”  Peter is grieved because Jesus asks a third time.  His grief must be compounded by clearly remembering his third denial of Jesus right before the rooster crowed.  Peter replies “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

What if it were you?  What if Jesus next turns to you and asks you, “Do you love me?”  Do you love Jesus.

Peter knows his denial and failure.  His face must burn with shame and humiliation.  There are no excuses.  No rationalizations.  No blaming others.  It is Peter’s own failure; Peter’s own denial.  He proudly declared to Jesus in front of the disciples, “I will lay down my life for you,” and then denied Jesus three times.  For the third time, Jesus speaks words of restoration.  Peter is restored to his place as a disciple of Jesus and given work in the kingdom, “Feed my sheep.”  Peter is restored to his place as a follower of Jesus and Jesus then describes how Peter will indeed follow Jesus to the cross.  Peter is restored to a life of humble service and submission and ultimately martyrdom for Jesus.

You are there with a front row seat to this drama.  You got to see Peter squirm under the questions.  What if it were you?  What if Jesus next turns to you and asks you, “Do you love me?”  Do you love Jesus.  What flashes in your mind as you suddenly become acutely aware of all the times your thoughts, words and deeds have not shown love for Jesus?  What moments and events come to the forefront of your memory?  Jesus asks you, “Do you love me?” and you think of all those times when you acted like you loved the devil and all his works and all his ways.  Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” and you feel the shame of failure and denial.

You do love Jesus, but you have failed Him; you have denied Him.  All you can say is, “Lord, you know everything: you know that I love you.”  And Jesus restores you as He does each week as you get on your knees and confess that you have sinned in thought, word and deed, by what you have done and by what you have left undone.  You confess your failure and denial.  And Jesus forgives you all you sins and invites you to come to His altar and receive His own Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  Jesus pours out forgiveness in abundance and puts you in your place as a disciple of Jesus; a follower of Jesus with work in the kingdom; a follower of Jesus who daily takes up your cross and follows the one who is more valuable than all the fish in the sea.  The one more valuable than money.  More precious than power and popularity.  More wonderful than all the pleasures of the world.

Being a follower of Jesus is not a promise of success in life.  It is not a guarantee that all will go smoothly.  In Sri Lanka and Nigeria and Egypt and many places around the world, being a follower of Jesus can get you killed.  Being a follower of Jesus is not a promise of an easy life, but it is the promise of true life; eternal life, working together with others in God’s vineyard to serve one another and expand the kingdom doing the work given to you to do.

Jesus came to restore sinners.  Jesus died to forgive sinners.  Jesus rose from the dead to conquer death for sinners.  Jesus did it all for you.  Amen.

Darkness won…but Jesus didn’t stay dead.

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The Resurrection of our Lord 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
April 21, 2019
Is. 65:1-17, 1 Cor. 15:19-26Luke 24:1-10

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

There is a great battle being waged right now between darkness and light.  You can daily feel the pressure that this conflict brings in the world, in the community, in your family, in your own being.

In the beginning there is the light of God and people live in the light because there is perfect harmony between God’s will and the will of man.  God’s light shines uninterrupted and people love the light and live in the light.  But then comes a cosmic fall into darkness.  An archangel rebels against God and puts himself and his followers at enmity with the light of God.  The devil and his demons become an inky cloud of darkness that float around the earth trying to extinguish the light.  The dark cloud floats into the Garden of Eden and with the darkness comes sin, suffering and death.  The darkness appears so attractive to our ancestral pair and then the inky darkness overcomes Eve and Adam and robs them and their offspring of joy, hope, love and life.

That inky cloud of darkness moves freely in the world today.  It comes to you from the prince of darkness himself whispering his deception, “Did God really say?”  It comes to you from other people who live in the darkness and want to spread it so they are not alone.  It comes to you through those glowing screens: in your hand, on the wall, in the theater, bringing you messages that glorify sin and make lives of darkness seem so normal.  It comes to you from your own flesh as you crave the forbidden pleasures of the darkness and far too often give in to their siren call.  You can feel the darkness pushing into your life as sin and evil maneuver to become your master.  As the darkness takes control it slowly snuffs out joy, hope, love and life.  In so many ways you feel the pull to give in to the darkness and become a part of the darkness.  The darkness wants you as its own.  It wants to take over so you live in the darkness, and live as darkness.

The inky cloud of darkness is very thick in Jerusalem the last week of Jesus’ life.  The darkness envelopes the religious leaders, Judas, the crowds who cry out for Jesus’ blood, and all who take part in torturing and killing Jesus.  The darkness overcomes Jesus on Calvary as the light of the world is extinguished on the cross.  The inky dark cloud completes its work as Jesus, the light of the world, is snuffed out and shut into the silent, deep darkness of the tomb.

Darkness wants to take over the world, and on that terrible Friday 2,000 years ago darkness has won.  The light of the world is extinguished and lays dead in the utter gloom of a sealed tomb.  Dancing on Jesus’ grave the devil rejoices that the darkness can now spread unrestrained.  The devil has won.  Darkness has won.  Jesus is dead.  But… Jesus …did… not… stay… dead.  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

The darkness of the tomb is undone as the stone is rolled away and light floods into the place of the dead, destroying the darkness.  The darkness cannot resist the light and it has to flee.  The inky cloud of darkness that came over Jerusalem is driven back by the light of the great good news.  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

At His baptism Jesus enters into the darkness of your sin; He becomes one with the darkness of your sin and carries it to the cross where the darkness engulfs Jesus.  The sky becomes dark for three hours and the devil is victorious as a Roman soldier spears Jesus in the side.  Jesus dies for the darkness of your sin.  But Jesus does not stay dead.  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Jesus Christ is the light of the world and the darkness cannot comprehend the light.  The darkness is driven back by the light.  The light bursts out of the darkness of the tomb and the light of the Good News of Jesus’ resurrections spreads from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and to the ends of the earth.  The light of the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection has spread as far as Hamilton, Ohio and this morning it continues to drive back the darkness.  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

The darkness of the tomb is undone as the stone is rolled away and light floods into the place of the dead, destroying the darkness.  The darkness cannot resist the light and it has to flee.  The inky cloud of darkness that came over Jerusalem is driven back by the light of the great good news.  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

The battle between darkness and light continues this morning.  The devil and His demons want to convince you that you belong to the darkness; that the darkness is your destiny; that you were made for the darkness.  Indeed, as a descendent of great-great-grandpa Adam you are born a child of darkness.  You are born spiritually blind, dead and an enemy of God.  But that all changed.  In the water and the word of Holy Baptism you are rescued from the darkness.

Colossians 1:13 (ESV) 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,[1].

Ephesians 5:8 (ESV) 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light[2]

The great Good News of Jesus’ resurrection is that you no longer belong to the darkness.  In your baptism you are transferred to the kingdom of light and you belong to the light.  The light of Christ drives out the gloom of darkness in your life.  In the midst of the trials and troubles of life, the light of Christ brings true joy, true hope and true love.  In the midst of your struggle with the darkness of sin and evil you know that the light is victorious.  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

The light of Jesus’ resurrection even drives back the dark cloud of death.  Death comes into the world with Adam and Eve and death is coming for each of you.  Death and the grave seem like a final destination, but Jesus clearly shows that the grave is not permanent.  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

On the last day Jesus will return and raise the dead.  In Christ’s resurrection death has lost its power.  1 Corinthians 15:55 (ESV) 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”[3]  The light of Jesus’ resurrection is the antidote to the darkness of death because if Jesus rose from the dead then you will rise from the dead because you have been united with Him in your baptism.  Romans 6:3-5 (ESV)  3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.[4]  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Jesus rose from the dead!  The light of Christ drives back the darkness in your life.  As you live in the light you are the light of the world.  As you live as light you will repel darkness.  You will bring the light of Christ into darkness, but not everyone likes the light.  Many people, when confronted by the light of Christ, close their eyes and retreat back into the darkness.  Far too many love the darkness instead of the light.            John 3:19 (ESV) 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. [5]

Evil loves the darkness.  You live in the light.  Sin loves the darkness.  You live in the light of Jesus’ forgiveness.  Death loves the darkness.  You live in the light of your coming resurrection to eternal life with Jesus.  Live in the Good News that Jesus has driven away the darkness of your sin so you can live in the light – you can live as the light – you can be the light of the world.

Even on this Easter morning you can feel the tension of the great battle between darkness and light.  The battle rages on, but you know who wins.  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  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

 

What a week

nullPalm/Passion Sunday 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
April 14, 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

Abbreviated sermon for Palm/Passion Sunday.

On Sunday Jesus sends two disciples to get a donkey from a stranger.

On Thursday Jesus sends two disciples a man’s house to prepare the guest room for the Passover meal.

On Sunday the disciples take off their outer cloaks and put them on the donkey and lay them on the road to honor Jesus.

On Thursday Jesus takes off His outer garments and gets on His knees to wash His disciples’ feet.

On Sunday Jesus rides a donkey down the Mount of Olives in a triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

On Friday Jesus carries His cross out of Jerusalem and up mount Calvary with the help of Simon from Cyrene in North Africa.

On Sunday there are shouts of gladness, “Hosanna!  Hosanna!  Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

On Friday morning there are shouts of, “Crucify!  Crucify Him!”

On Sunday a great crowd welcomes Jesus into Jerusalem.

On Friday a great multitude follows Jesus out of the city mourning and lamenting.

On Sunday Jesus cleanses the temple from those who would use it to sell things and make money.

On Friday the curtain in the temple separating the people from the Holy of Holies is torn in two.

On Sunday Jesus enters Jerusalem like a triumphant King.

On Friday Jesus is executed like despised criminal and laid in a borrowed tomb.

After three days, on Sunday, Jesus emerges from the tomb.

And He does it all for you.  To save you from your sins.  Amen

God’s foolish love and patience have a limit

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Lent 5 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
April 7, 2019
Isaiah 43:16-21, Philippians 3:8-14, Luke 20:9-20

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

God is foolish.  That is the lesson we have gotten lately from Jesus’ parables in our readings from Luke.  In last week’s Gospel reading we see the utter foolishness of God depicted with the father in the parable of the prodigal son.  The father should never have given his greedy son half of his property.  When the son comes home the father should be smart about things and be careful about slowly bringing this wasteful son back into the family.  But the father isn’t smart; instead the father has a foolish love for his son.  The father’s love overwhelms what we think is right and normal and he pours out his forgiveness and love onto his son.  We learn that God is so foolish and reckless with His forgiveness and love that He freely gives it to people who don’t deserve it.

This week we see the same kind of foolishness in His patience as the owner of the vineyard.  A man planted a vineyard and then hired some tenant vinedressers to care for it.  Later, the owner sends a servant to the tenants of his vineyard to get some of the fruit.  This is normal behavior for the owner of a vineyard.  But the tenants do not react to the messenger servant as they should.  Instead of giving him some of the fruit, the tenants beat the servant and send him away with nothing.  Apparently the tenants do not understand who owns the vineyard.  When the abused servant returns to his master, the vineyard owner should immediately go with the authorities to the vineyard and have the tenants evicted and arrested.  But the vineyard owner does not do the smart thing.  Instead he sends another servant and another and the same thing happens.  This is the height of foolishness.  He keeps trying the same thing expecting different results.  The owner of the vineyard doesn’t care about being smart or efficient.  He cares about the vineyard.  He is patient and wants to help the tenants to do the right thing.

But after sending three servants and having all three come back ill-treated the vineyard owner is going to wise up, right?  Wrong.  After three servants get abused by these tenants who have forgotten who owns the vineyard, the owner sends his Son.  And now the tenants get very confused in their selfishness.  They think they that if they kill the owner’s son then they the vineyard will indeed be all theirs.

This parable teaches us that the Lord is patient with the children of Israel and the religious leaders.  He sends prophet after prophet to warn them and call them to faithfulness.  Then He sends His son.

The Lord is patient.  The Lord is patient with you and me.  The Lord does not destroy you at your first failing, or your second, or your third.  The Lord warns you over and over again.  The Lord gives you His law and He sends you his representatives to warn you; parents, grandparents, caring friends, siblings, faithful teachers and pastors to warn you to turn away from the devil, turn away from the world, turn away from your own sinful flesh, and turn back to God.  God is patient and God loves you with a foolish love.  God the Father even sends His Son to die for you; to pay the price for your sin.

            The chief priest and the scribes and the elders realize Jesus is telling the parable about them and their leadership of the Jewish people.  They respond, “Surely not!”  They understand the message.  Jesus has just told them they will be destroyed and there will be new religious leaders.

The tenants were supposed to take care of the vineyard for the owner, but instead they thought the vineyard belonged to them.  They abused the servants and killed the owner’s beloved son.  After telling this parable, Jesus asks the chief priests and the scribes and the elders, Luke 20:15 (ESV)  15 …What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?[1]

The answer is easy and Jesus tells them.  Luke 20:16 (ESV)  16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” [2]

The chief priest and the scribes and the elders realize Jesus is telling the parable about them and their leadership of the Jewish people.  They respond, “Surely not!”  They understand the message.  Jesus has just told them they will be destroyed and there will be new religious leaders.

Jesus continues the warning.  What Luke 20:17-18 (ESV) 17 … [Jesus] looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” [3]

Jesus is the true cornerstone for the Kingdom of God, but when the religious leaders look at Jesus they don’t see anything special.  He is not powerful.  He is not a great warrior.  He is not particularly good looking.  He is just some strange, homeless preacher from a nowhere town in the backwaters of Galilee who can do some sleight of hand magic tricks to get people to follow Him.  He isn’t worried about money.  He isn’t worried about attracting women.  He is a nothing.  Jesus is a nobody.  They are looking for the perfect rock to be the cornerstone and this nothing nobody is certainly not what they are looking for.  This strange teacher is not the new foundation.  So they reject Jesus.

So Jesus warns them with words from Psalm 118.  “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  The word here for cornerstone can also be translated as head of the corner or capstone.  Jesus may be using this as a play on words that he is both the foundation of the church and the capstone.  Luke 20:18 (ESV) 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” [4]

This is a stern warning to the Jewish religious leaders.  God is patient but judgment will come on evil in the end.  Jesus tells them, “You are going to be destroyed because you have forgotten who owns the vineyard.  You are supposed to be caring for God’s children, but you abuse them for your own benefit.  You have rejected the foundation stone of the Church and because of that you will be broken to pieces.  You have rejected the capstone of the Church and because of that you will be crushed.”

God has foolish patience for a time, but watch out when His patience runs out. Romans 2:4-5 (ESV) 4 …do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.[5]

This is a warning to the Jewish leaders in Jesus day and also to the church leaders today.  Remember whose vineyard it is.  When pastors get together we like to ask each other, “Where is your church?  How big is your church?  What is happening at your church?”  What is wrong with each of these questions?  It is not my church.  It is the Lord’s church.  Pastors don’t own the church.  Pastors are God’s servants to the church; tenant farmers in the Lord’s vineyard.

The people don’t own the church.  We may say, “Immanuel is my church.”  And what we mean I am a part of Immanuel; and that is not bad.  But we need to remember that all of us are tenants working in the master’s vineyard for the benefit of each other; the children of God.  The church is not ours to do with as we please; it is the Lord’s church.  It is the Body of Christ.  Jesus is the solid rock foundation on which we build and Jesus is the capstone that completes the church.  Jesus is the beginning and the end; He is the Alpha and the Omega.  Remember who owns the church.

God is patient and kind.  God’s love for you is a foolish love; it is a reckless love.  He loves you so much he sent His Son as the final sacrificial Lamb to take away the sin of the world; to take away your sin.  God’s love for you is so foolish that He keeps forgiving and loving you when you do not deserve it.  But do not abuse God’s patience.  Live in the foolish love of Jesus.  Lose your selfishness and sin in God’s foolish love.   Live in His His church where you are blessed to be and give thanks that God is foolish in love for you.  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