What if Jesus ask you?

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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

 

If it sounds too good to be true…

nullLent 4 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
March 31, 2019
Isaiah 12:1–6, 2 Corinthians 5:16–21, Luke 15:1–3, 11b–32

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 has been a little quieter around church and school during the weeks ever since the building addition was completed.  It’s just not the same without roofers nailing away on the shingles and contractors working on the new classrooms.  Now it is time to start looking forward.  What is next?  Where do we go from here?  Phase 1 is complete.  Will there be a Phase 2?  What would Phase 2 look like?  We will be having some congregational discussions coming up in May with a representative from Lutheran Church Extension Fund to help us clarify our ministry goals over the next 10 years.

Now, one thing we won’t have to worry about is money.  Because, just last night, I received an email from a Nigerian prince who needs help moving $50,000,000 into the United States and if I help him and send him $2,000 good faith money he will give me 10 percent of the total.

Have your kids ever begged you for a dog.  The things they will promise.  “I will get up every morning without complaint to take the dog for a walk.  I will feed the dog, I will bathe the dog, I will clean up after the dog in the backyard; I will take the dog out at night in the rain.  I will do anything.”

What do kids begging for a dog have in common with a Nigerian prince?  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus is teaching a parable to the Pharisees and Scribes about how God treats sinners.  It is a story about a father and two sons.  We first meet the younger son.  This snotty, obnoxious, arrogant, rude, hateful young man who basically says to his father, “Dad, I know you are going to give me half of your property when you die, but you are not dying fast enough, so I want my money now.”  The father should kick him in the pants and tell him to get back to work, but the father instead does what his awful son wants and he gives him his share of the property.

The son shows his gratitude by cashing in the property and taking the money and leaving home to pursue a life of wine, women and song, and he has plenty of friends and the fun never ends until dad’s money runs out, and then this rude, terrible young man finds himself reduced to wearing rags and starving while feeding pigs in a field.

The reality of what he has done slaps this kid in the face and he comes to himself and he knows he has done wrong.  He knows he deserves nothing but contempt and rejection from his father but He decides he will try to make a deal with his father.  He will beg to work for dad as a servant so at least he will have some food.  He knows he does not deserve mercy and grace from his father so he will try to earn for himself a pity job.

The younger son is on his way home to negotiate with his father about working for food.  This whole time, the father has been longing for his lost son and spends lots of time looking down the road praying that his son returns.  Then comes the day when the father sees his son walking down the road and the father goes running to him and hugs him and kisses him and restores him to his place as the father’s beloved son.  The son who deserves contempt and rejection is coming to negotiate a job, but instead he is welcomed with fresh, new clothes, sandals, jewelry, and a feast of resurrection and restoration.

There was no deal to be made.  The father’s grace and mercy cannot be earned; it is only freely given.  It sounds too good to be true, but it is true.

Then we meet the older son; the “good” son.  He returns from working all day in the father’s fields and hears the sounds of the restoration feast and finds out it is a party for his no good, awful, terrible brother who has come crawling home.  The older brother refuses to go in to the party.

            This is a brutally clear parable.  Why are the Pharisees and scribes concerned that Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners?  Obviously…because the tax collectors and sinners haven’t done enough; they aren’t good enough; they haven’t earned it; they don’t deserve Jesus.

The father comes out to encourage his older son to come inside and join in celebrating that his brother who was dead is now alive; his lost brother has been found.  The older son has just witnessed his father’s great mercy and grace in restoring the younger son, but the older son rejects the grace and mercy and decides to tell dad about how hard he has been working.  He wants to negotiate with dad.  He wants to make a deal.  The older son doesn’t care about dad’s grace and mercy, he wants to talk about himself and his own actions.

This is a brutally clear parable.  Why are the Pharisees and scribes concerned that Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners?  Obviously…because the tax collectors and sinners haven’t done enough; they aren’t good enough; they haven’t earned it; they don’t deserve Jesus.

How can Jesus simply give away love and forgiveness to people who don’t deserve it?  How can Jesus sit down and break bread with prostitutes, and traitorous tax collectors?  How can Jesus give His grace and mercy to no good sinners?  That sounds too good to be true.  It sounds too good to be true because you don’t get something for nothing.  You have to earn what you get in life.  If you mess up you have to pay the price.

You get what you deserve.  This is the way of the world.  We have been taught to believe that if something sounds too good to be true; it probably is.  Jesus is blowing this teaching apart when it comes to the way God reigns.  God does not operate according to the ways of the world.  Isaiah 55:8 (ESV)  8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.[1]

Jesus freely offers forgiveness of sins to people who do not deserve it.  Jesus freely offers restoration and resurrection to sinners like you and me.  The younger son finds himself with nothing because he blows all his money on reckless living.  Jesus gives up everything he has because of your reckless living.  Jesus is stripped of every earthly belonging; He is abandoned by His followers and he hangs in humiliation and excruciating pain on the cross for you.  You earned it.  You earned the punishment for your sins.  You earned it, Jesus pays it.  Jesus takes the punishment in your place simply out of love.  He pays for your sins and gives you grace and mercy.

Sometimes you are the older son feeling frustrated that Jesus welcomes sinners that you are uncomfortable in welcoming; sinners you don’t think deserve forgiveness.  Sometimes you’re the younger son who takes the Father’s great gifts of grace and mercy and drags them through the dirt of degradation and deception and depravity.  When you find yourself acting like the older son, or the younger son, remember the Father’s reckless, foolish love and come home.

Remember the reckless, foolish love the father has for his prodigal son, and how this shows God the Father’s reckless and foolish love for you in sending Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God.

You cannot make a deal with God.  You cannot tell God if I do this, then you do that.  You cannot negotiate a lower level status with God to just get by.  You are either a child of God, or you are an enemy of God.  You cannot appeal to God based on what you have done or what you will do.  It is not a negotiation.  It is pure gift.  You are baptized into Christ without any effort of your own.  Salvation is pure gift.

Humble yourself and receive the gift.  Live your life as a restored, resurrected child of God.  You were dead, but now you are alive.  You were lost, and now you are found.

We will be having congregational discussions in a couple of months, but there is no Nigerian prince who will send money.  There is no child who will live up to all his promises to care for a dog; those things are too good to be true.  But the amazing, wonderful good news of the free gift of salvation in Jesus is absolutely true.  It truly, truly is not about you.  It is about Jesus for you.

Amen.


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

 

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”
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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