Jesus is the Christ. What should we do?

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Transfiguration 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
February 27, 2022
Deuteronomy 34:1-12, 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

            The season of Epiphany began on January 6.  This is the day we remember the magi coming from the East to seek the newborn king of the Jews.  Jesus’ identity is being revealed not only to the children of Israel, but also to the nations.  The big question that gets answered during Epiphany is, “Who is Jesus?”  But the answer doesn’t start with the magi, it starts with the angel visiting Mary and announcing to her, Luke 1:31–32 (ESV) 31 …behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,”  An angel visits Mary’s fiancé in a dream and tells him, Matthew 1:20–21 (ESV) 20 … “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 

            Angels appear on the night of Jesus’ birth to shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem and proclaim Luke 2:11 (ESV)  11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The shepherds go to Bethlehem and find the Baby and tell everyone what was told them by the angels. 

            Simeon is waiting at the temple for the Lord’s Christ. Seeing baby Jesus he takes Him in his arms and exclaims, Luke 2:29–32 (ESV)  29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” The question, “Who is Jesus?” continues to be answered. 

            Then Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “The Christ of God.” Jesus explains to the disciples, what this mean.  What does this mean to be the Christ?” 

            At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan 30 years later Luke 3:22 (ESV)  22 … the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  God the Father answers the question, “Who is Jesus?”

            In his ministry, Jesus drives out demons, and heals many of their diseases and ailments.  Jesus brings Peter, Andrew, James and John a miraculous catch of fish. Jesus raises a widow’s son from the dead.  He teaches as one with authority.  Jesus feeds 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.  He continues to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” 

            Then Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “The Christ of God.” Jesus explains to the disciples, what this mean.  What does this mean to be the Christ?” 

            Luke 9:21–22 (ESV) 21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “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.” And then, Luke 9:23 (ESV)  23 …he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  Jesus is the Christ of God, but what kind of Christ is this?  What is all the talk about suffering and rejection and dying and rising?

            Today is Transfiguration Sunday, the end of the season of Epiphany.  Today we see Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on the mountain and be transfigured. His face and clothing shine like lightening.  Moses and Elijah appear and are talking with Jesus. 

            The scene on the mountain is rich with imagery; signs, reminders and revelation looking back and pointing forward.  In salvation history, important things happen on mountains. Looking back, Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah, but God provides a substitute ram.  Moses was up on Mt. Sinai enveloped by a cloud talking to God and receiving the Ten Commandments.  When he came down his face glowed with God’s glory.  On Mt. Carmel, Elijah defeated and slaughtered the prophets of Baal.  Looking forward, Jesus, our sacrificial substitute, the Lamb of God, is put to death on a cross on Mt. Calvary with a sign above His head announcing this is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.  On a mountain in Galilee Jesus gives the disciples the great commission.  Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV)  18 …“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Back in Jerusalem, atop the Mt. of Olives, Jesus ascends into heaven.  Big things happen on mountains in the Bible. 

            Here on the Mt. of Transfiguration Jesus is getting His disciples ready for what comes next.  Jesus is revealing His true divine self as His glory shines forth.  He truly is God in flesh.  Jesus is talking with Moses and Elijah about His departure, his exodus.  Jesus’ exodus will be accomplished in Jerusalem. 

In the exodus from Egypt, Moses leads the people of Israel out of slavery.  He does this after the final plague of the death of the first born.  Moses leads the people through the waters of the Red Sea into the wilderness and eventually to the Promised Land.

            Jesus calls for all to follow Him.  He calls on His disciples and the crowds and all people and He says them, and He says to you, “follow me,” as he leads the way out of slavery to sin.  He does this after the death of the first born son of Mary, the only Son of God, on the cross at Mt. Calvary.  Jesus leads the way from His cross, to His tomb, to His resurrection, through the waters of your baptism into the wilderness.  He leads you through the wilderness of bearing your cross in this life and following Jesus.  Jesus leads you on the straight and narrow path to the Promised Land.  Jesus feeds you the living bread from heaven and gives you living water to drink in the forgiveness and eternal life of Holy Communion. 

            The Epiphany question is, “Who is Jesus?” This is answered; Jesus is the Christ of God.  What does this mean?  Jesus tells the disciples.  It means Jesus will die on the cross and rise from the dead.  So what should you do?  Peter, James and John offer to build booths for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  But that is not what they are supposed to do.  That is not what we are supposed to do.  We get the answer to this question from God the Father himself.  Jesus is the Christ, what should I do?  Luke 9:35 (ESV) 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 

            Listen to Jesus.  In a world awash with voices calling you to follow them away from Jesus — leading you to question the truth — causing you to pursue a life of sin, God the Father’s voice rings out, “Listen to Jesus.”  When Jesus teaches that salvation comes through His cross and the resurrection, listen to Him.  When Jesus teaches that life under the reign of God is different than normal life in the world, listen to Him.  When Jesus tells you that you are to live following the Ten Commandments, loving God and loving your neighbor, listen to Him.

            Take time each day to listen to Jesus.  Read the Bible each day.  Listen to Jesus.  Download an audio Bible app and listen to scripture each day in the car or on the bus or when out for a walk.  Listen to Jesus.  Be faithful in worship to hear the Word of God.  Listen to Jesus.  Listen to Jesus when He teaches difficult things; when He tells you to love your enemy and pray for those who abuse you.  Listen to Jesus when He promises that you belong to Him and all your sins are forgiven. Listen to Jesus when He says that He died on the cross for your sins.  Listen to Jesus when He says He rose from the dead and that you will also rise from the dead.

            In baptism you have been transformed by Jesus.  You were lost, now you are found.  You were blind, now you see.  You were a slave to sin, you have been set free.  You were a condemned sinner, you have been redeemed. Jesus died for you and rose from the dead for you.  Jesus is the Christ.  Listen to Jesus.  Amen. 

Unclog the Pipeline of Love and Forgiveness

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Epiphany 7 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
February 20, 2022

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

            Imagine for a moment a pipe running from up high to down low. There is a hose pouring water into the top of the pipe, but the water is not going anywhere — it is just backing up at the top.  The pipe is full and no more water can go in.  What’s going on?  There must be a clog in the pipe.  Maybe mud, or rocks or a hairball, or maybe someone has screwed a cap on the end. Once you find the clog and remove it, the water will flow freely through the pipe.

            As a baptized child of God, as a citizen in the Kingdom of Heaven, you are the pipeline of God’s love and forgiveness to the world.  When all is working well, God’s love and forgiveness flows into you from the Lord in abundance and then flows out of you to those around you.  But, like a pipe, there can be clogs which prevent love and forgiveness from flowing.  The pipe gets clogged with anger, hatred, envy, pride. 

            Jesus addresses this in today’s Gospel reading with an incredibly difficult teaching.  It is not difficult because it is asking you do the impossible, but the opposite.  This teaching is difficult to hear because it is actually very doable.  You can do this.  You can unclog the pipe and let God’s love and forgiveness flow through you. But living this way is agonizingly counter cultural.  The world extols ideas such as “Don’t get mad, get even”, and “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”  The world teaches that you should dig up dirt on your enemy in order to get them cancelled. Hate those who hate you.  Fight back against those who abuse you.  Jesus disagrees.  In the Sermon on the Plain from Luke 6 Jesus teaches, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” 

Now the devil wants hatred to increase because hatred brings chaos and damage in society.  Hatred tears people apart.  It damages people.  Hate hurts the one who is being hated, but it also, very much, maybe even more so, damages the hater.  To hold onto hate is like holding on to corrosive acid which slowly eats you away and destroys you.

            The devil wants hate to increase and so when someone hates you the devil wants you to hate right back and then some.  Someone insults you, give it right back, only stronger and more vicious.  Two guys get into argument.  Voices are raised.  Words become nasty.  One pushes the other.  The other punches back, the one grabs a stick, the other pulls a knife, the one pulls a gun and fires.  The devil wins.  One family buries their loved one, the other visits their loved one in prison. 

People hate in person and hate remotely on social media as they trade written barbs and escalate the hate.  The devil wants hate to escalate, Jesus wants to eliminate hate. 

Now, it is so natural to believe that wrongdoing must be punished.  You do wrong; you get what is coming to you.  You sin.  God hates sin.  God should hate you.  But Jesus turns this on its head.  Jesus loves you in your sin.  He loves you and calls you out of your sin.  Jesus loves you.  He is punished in your place.  He pays the penalty for your sins on the cross so that you can be declared holy and righteous.  John 3:17 (ESV) 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 

If someone slaps you on the cheek your natural response is to slap back or push or punch.  Your natural response is to escalate the hate.  Your natural response is to be a mirror for hatred and reflect it back. Not just a regular mirror, but a convex mirror that not only reflects the hatred but amplifies it.  When you respond hate for hate, hate grows.  The pipe gets clogged with hate.  Jesus teaches Luke 6:29 (ESV) 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. 

            Jesus calls you to not be a mirror for hatred, but rather a sponge.  A sponge absorbs hatred, and returns love for hate.  You are called to love like God.  Luke 6:36 (ESV) 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”  God has mercy on you even though you do not deserve it.  As someone living in the Kingdom of God, as a recipient of God’s mercy, you are called to have mercy on others even though they don’t deserve it. 

            This is a clear call for how to live in the Kingdom of God, and it is very achievable.  You can do this.  With the power of the Gospel through the Holy Spirit, you can be the stronger person and absorb hatred in the world instead of spreading it.  Do not let hatred, anger, envy and pride clog up the pipe bringing forgiveness and love to the world through you. 

As a sinner that Jesus has embraced, and cleansed, and clothed in His righteousness, be the one who does not engage in conflict; the one who does not respond to an attack.  You be the one to humbly turn the other cheek.  Be the one to Luke 6:27–28 (ESV) 27 “… Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”  Keep the pipe clear and let the love and forgiveness flow.  

Because Jesus has forgiven you your sins, you can forgive.  I worry that we misunderstand forgiveness.  Often when you apologize to someone they will say, “That’s okay.  No big deal.” And sometimes, for minor matters, it is okay.  But forgiveness in no way says that what you are forgiving was okay.  It says that you will not hold it against them.  When God forgives your sin He does not say “your sin is okay,” or “your sin is no big deal.”  He does say, “I will not hold your sin against you.”

If you get into an argument with a family member and lose your temper and storm away, be the strong one who humbly goes to your loved one and gives them a hug and says, “I’m sorry.  I should not have lost my temper.  I should not have raised my voice.”

            And not just for family members, but also your enemies. Love your enemy.  When you live life in the Kingdom of God and respond to a hateful enemy with love it will befuddle them.  If someone steals from you and you give them more, it will baffle them.  When someone is being hateful toward you, do something good for them.  Living like this will change the world.  Eliminate the hate and elevate love.

When you feel anger toward another immediately lift them up in prayer. Praying for an enemy changes your attitude.  When you respond in a heavenly way to earthly issues it changes people’s lives because you are responding with Jesus’ love and forgiveness flowing through you. 

You pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  You are praying to keep the pipeline of love and forgiveness flowing freely.  You are praying to keep Jesus’ love and forgiveness flowing into the world through you.  Eliminate the hate.  Elevate the love.

            Love your enemy.  The great thing and the terribly challenging thing is that you can do this. This is not some impossible task; this is little adjustments in your day-to-day interactions.  And this is also not something that has to be done in some huge, complicated way, but rather in small acts in your daily interactions.  Someone is abrupt with you, smile and reply in a calm voice.  Someone on the highway flips you the one finger salute, make the sign of the cross over them.  Someone makes a mistake, let it go, or gently help them to fix it. 

            You are not the judge of the world; that is well above your pay grade.  Jesus did not come to condemn, so you are not to condemn others.  This is not to say you should never warn someone about sin, but do it gently and lovingly, as a fellow sinner who also needs forgiveness. You come alongside a fellow sinner and speak the truth in love with the goal of bringing them to repentance and faith in Jesus and the forgiveness of sins.

            Jesus is serious about keeping the pipeline of love and forgiveness flowing freely.  He warns about it after teaching the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:14–15 (ESV) 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Also in the parable of the unforgiving servant after Peter asked Jesus how many times should Peter forgive and, Matthew 18:22 (ESV) 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” And warns that the unforgiving will be treated like the unforgiving servant.    Matthew 18:34–35 (ESV) 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” 

            We all have plenty to repent of for clogging up the pipeline with hatred, anger, envy and pride.  We all desperately need Jesus’ love and forgiveness.  Each day remember who you are.  You are a baptized child of God.  You are a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  You are loved and forgiven.  Let that love and forgiveness flow.

            In His Word and His Sacraments Jesus pours out His love and forgiveness on you in abundance.  He has forgiven you all your sins.  Let that love and forgiveness flow through you and out to others.  Humbly rid yourself of any hatred or anger or envy or pride that may be blocking the pipeline from letting love and forgiveness flow out to others.  Because you are loved by Jesus, because your sins are forgiven, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”  Amen.

An Empty Tomb

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Epiphany 6 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
February 13, 2022

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

            What do these places have in common?  Cambridge, Massachusetts, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Pingliang, China, Nauvoo, Illinios, Medina, Saudi Arabia?  In each of these places you can visit the graves of dead religious leaders.  Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science in Cambridge, Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Pittsburgh, the cremated remains of Siddhārtha Gautsama, the Buddha, in Pingliang, Joseph Smith the founder of Mormonism in Nauvoo,  and Muhammed’s body in Medina at the Islamic Green Dome.  You could make a pilgrimage to any and all of these places and visit the graves containing the dead remains of the founders of various religions. 

            There is another grave of the founder of a religion in Jerusalem in Israel.  It is the grave of Jesus of Nazareth who founded the religion of Christianity.  I got to visit this grave in July of 1991. This grave is different from all the others I listed.  What is the difference?  Jesus’ grave is empty.  Jesus rose from the dead.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!

            And because Jesus rose from the dead, you will rise from the dead.  You confess this each Sunday in the creed — I believe…in the resurrection of the body. This confession refers to your body. In the end, death will not be victorious.

            This is what you confess together each week here at church even though you live in a world that denies the resurrection of Jesus’ body and denies the resurrection of your body because resurrection flies in the face of experience.  Folks know birth, they know life, they know death, they know dead is dead.  They have seen it. 

            But that is not true.  Dead is not dead.  Jesus of Nazareth was executed on a Roman cross in Jerusalem.  Before dying He cried out, “It is finished.”  The Romans soldiers overseeing the crucifixion were death experts, they made sure Jesus was dead by spearing Him in the side.  Blood and water flowed forth from the wound.  Jesus of Nazareth was certainly dead.  He was taken down from the cross and wrapped in a linen shroud with spices and laid in a nearby tomb.  Jesus died in public at Calvary, also called Golgotha, just outside the walls of Jerusalem.  Two prominent men, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, took Jesus’ dead body and buried Him in an unused tomb.  Jesus death and burial on that Friday were done in a very public way; no one doubted what just happened.  Jesus’ disciple John was present at the cross, the other disciples, likely watched in fear from a distance.  A group of women that followed Jesus from Galilee were at the cross and went to the tomb and watched as Jesus’ body was place in the tomb, the tomb was sealed with a stone, and a guard was set to make sure no one steals the body.  It is over.  Jesus was dead and buried. 

            Come Sunday morning the women went back to the tomb to bring spices and discovered that Jesus has risen from the dead.  They reported it to the disciples who came to see the empty tomb with the grave clothes neatly folded.  Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  That night Jesus appeared to the disciples who were hiding in a locked room.  A week later He appeared again when Thomas was back with them and he touched Jesus’ wounds. The disciples touched Jesus.  Jesus ate with them. 

            Jesus really did die.  Jesus really did rise from the dead.  These are both true even though it does not make sense. 

            In our Epistle lesson today St. Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth near Athens in Greece.  Greek society did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. In the Greek city of Corinth, everyone would have known that once you die, only your soul makes the trip across the River Styx into the underworld: No bodies are allowed. And it is likely that the culture of Corinth would have been very skeptical of the idea of resurrection. One famous Greek playwright wrote: “When the dust hath drained the blood of a man, once he is slain, there is no resurrection” (Aeschylus, Eumenides, 647-48; ca. 458 B.C.).  The Greeks believed dead is dead. Period. End of the story.

            Not much has changed in our times.  There is a strong sense that death is the end; there is nothing after death, dead bodies have no future.  We tend to imagine our souls after death like the life force of Obi-Wan Kenobi or Yoda after they die; a kind of glowing version of our physical selves. Remember how neither Obi-Wan nor Yoda left an embarrassing corpse behind when they died? Neither did Master Oogway, from Kung-Fu Panda. In fact, in entertainment for young and old, we Americans seem to be content with the soul living on without a body (if it is a family movie), or souls living on in dead bodies (if it is a zombie movie). But we do not imagine that something as vulgar as a corpse has much of a future.

            Jesus really did die.  Jesus really did rise from the dead.  These are both true even though it does not make sense. 

            Even in the Church there can be a strong sense that our bodies are just a shell and once the spirit leaves the body it is a useless husk with no future.  This way of thinking is what St. Paul is confronting in our Epistle lesson today. 1 Corinthians 15:3–4 (ESV) 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” 

            You will one day die and return to the earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  But this will not stop your resurrection.  God created Adam from the dust of the ground and He tells Adam, Genesis 3:19 (ESV)  19 …you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Jesus teaches, John 5:28–29 (ESV)  28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.  

Jesus tells Lazarus’ sister Martha, John 11:25–26 (ESV)  25 … “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die…”  

There is resurrection of the dead.  Jesus was raised from the dead, and you will be raised from the dead.  Paul calls people out for not believing in the resurrection of the dead.  1 Corinthians 15:12–16 (ESV) 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.”  Paul is adamant.  If there is no resurrection of the dead then your faith is in vain.

            Paul Maier, a Lutheran historian and son of the first Lutheran Hour speaker Walter Maier, wrote a book called, “A Skeleton in God’s Closet.”  The basic premise of the novel is that archaeologists have found the bones of Jesus of Nazareth.  The book explores what effect this has on Christians around the world.

            Ponder this for a moment.  If Jesus’ body is found how would that affect your life?  Would you still come to Church?  If Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then Christianity is nothing.  If Jesus is not raised, this would all just be foolishness and we would be fools to keep on hoping in Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:19 (ESV)  19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 

            I fear that for many church bodies, finding the body of Jesus would not change what they do.  Many liberal church bodies already teach that Jesus’ resurrection may have just been a spiritual resurrection to show the disciples’ faith, but that Jesus did not really rise from the dead.  Churches have become just a group of nice people doing nice things.  But the true Church is so much more.  The true Church will be destroyed if they find the body of Jesus.  If they find the body of Jesus then this is all worthless. 

            But, the truth is, Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!

            We know this to be true.  There were eyewitnesses to the resurrection and they recorded what they witnessed and we have that testimony.  This is not some vision that a writer received while sitting in a cave, this is eyewitness testimony recorded for all time.  And not just one eyewitness; many eyewitnesses.  Paul writes, 1 Corinthians 15:5–8 (ESV) 5 … he appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 

            We have the eyewitness accounts of Matthew, Mark, John, Peter and Paul.  Luke records others’ eyewitness accounts.  And you know that you can trust these accounts because of what the eyewitnesses did for the rest of their lives after witnessing Jesus’ resurrection. Church history tells us that these eyewitnesses of the resurrection spent the rest of their lives witnessing about what they had seen.  They did not get rich or powerful.  They endured abuse and torture and imprisonment because of their testimony.  They were whipped and beaten and stoned and driven out of towns and cities.  10 out of the 11 disciples plus Paul were executed for telling people that Jesus rose from the dead.  These eyewitnesses absolutely know the truth about Jesus rising from the dead and they never stopped telling others no matter the consequences. 

            Jesus is the first fruits of the grave.  He is the first one out of the grave, but He will not be the last.  Unless Jesus returns while you are still alive, you will follow Him out of the grave on the last day as your body will be raised up imperishable and your spirit and body reunited, clothed in the robe of Jesus’ righteousness, together with the communion of saints, will march into the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem, your new, eternal home. 

            Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! This is not just some Easter proclamation; this is your confession of the truth.  And because Jesus has risen you will also rise from the dead. 

Amen. 

Fishing with Peter

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Epiphany 5, 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
February 6, 2022
Isaiah 6:1-8, 1 Corinthians 14:12b-20, Luke 5:1-11

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

            It has been a long night.  Simon Peter sits in his boat as the sun starts peeking over hills east of the Sea of Galilee.  The seven disciples have worked hard all night trying to catch fish off the shore of Capernaum and now they are finished and getting ready to head in.  It has been a crazy time.  A couple of weeks back, the men’s teacher, leader, and friend was arrested in Jerusalem and executed the next day.  They laid him in a tomb that Friday afternoon, but He did not stay dead. Their teacher, leader, and friend, rose from the dead on Sunday morning, just like He said He would.  Turns out that Jesus of Nazareth is certainly not only their teacher, leader and friend, but He is also their savior from sin. Jesus appeared to the men that night He rose from the dead and then again a week later.  After that He sent His disciples to Galilee to wait for him there. 

            Back in Galilee, Peter and six other of the disciples decide to go fishing.  Peter was a fisherman before He followed Jesus, and fishing is something he knows how to do, and doing something familiar right now might be really good.  A night on the water catching fish together might be just the thing to try to get their heads wrapped around everything that has happened and ponder what comes next.

            Fishing that night is terrible.  They work hard and catch nothing.  As the sun rises, Peter sits in the gently rocking boat with no fish on board and he gets a bit of a sense of déjà vu.  This all seems familiar. 

            One hundred yards away, a figure appears on shore and yells to them, John 21:5–6 (ESV) 5 … “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 

            Now the déjà vu makes the hair stand up on the back of Peter’s neck.  Peter has been in this situation before, a few years ago, in this very spot.  Simon Peter and his brother Andrew and James and John were fishing all night and catch nothing and now they are back on shore cleaning up. There is a huge crowd just up the way and moving towards them.  This new teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, seems to be leading the crowd and he walks right up to Peter’s boat and climbs in and asks Peter to put out a little from land. Peter and Andrew row the boat out a little, anchor and sit as Jesus teaches the crowds from the boat.  Afterwards Jesus tells Peter, Luke 5:4 (ESV) 4 … “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Luke 5:5 (ESV) 5 And Simon [Peter] answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 

            Peter’s mother-in-law was recently healed by Jesus and Jesus teaches with authority, and so Peter does what Jesus says.  What has he got to lose?  Who is this Jesus anyway?  Peter and Andrew let down the net and they catch so many fish that their nets cannot handle it.  They call for James and John to come out in their boat to help.  They get the fish on board both boats but there are so many fish that the gunwales are barely above water as they get ready to row to shore. At this moment Peter has an epiphany. Peter understands who Jesus is. Jesus is the Holy One of God. Jesus is Lord.  The Lord God is sitting in his boat and Peter falls at Jesus’ knees, Luke 5:8 (ESV) 8 … “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  

            Jesus is righteous, Peter is unrighteous.  Jesus is holy, Peter is unholy.  Jesus is Lord, Peter is a sinful outcast.  If Jesus knows who Peter is then Jesus’ punishment will be swift and severe.

            Peter is on his knees before Jesus as the other three fishermen look on.  Jesus comforts them, Luke 5:10 (ESV) 10 …“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  Peter and the others row to shore and leave their best catch ever in the boats and follow Jesus.  Do not be afraid.  From now on you will be catching men. 

            It all floods back to Peter as the seven men struggle to pull in the net overflowing with fish.  John declares, “It is the Lord!”  How does Peter react?

Peter is still a sinner, but what has changed is that Peter now knows who Jesus is.  Peter knows Jesus died on the cross.  Peter knows Jesus rose from the dead.  Peter knows that Jesus shed His blood to forgive sins.  And so Peter does not want Jesus to go away, Peter wants to go to Jesus. 

            The first time this happened Peter begged Jesus to leave. Peter wanted to get as far away from Jesus as possible.  This time Peter wants to get as close as he can to Jesus.  Peter cannot even wait until they row the boat to shore.  He dives in the water and swims the 100 yards to the beach. 

            What changed?  Has Peter ceased to be sinful?  No.  Peter is still a sinner in need of forgiveness.  Peter denied Jesus three times on the night of His arrest.  Peter is still a sinner, but what has changed is that Peter now knows who Jesus is.  Peter knows Jesus died on the cross.  Peter knows Jesus rose from the dead.  Peter knows that Jesus shed His blood to forgive sins.  And so Peter does not want Jesus to go away, Peter wants to go to Jesus. Peter knows Jesus is God.  Peter knows Jesus is a God of mercy.  Peter knows Jesus is a God of love.  Peter does not flee from Jesus; he flees to Jesus without hesitation.

            There are people that tell me they cannot come to church because the roof would fall in on them; I guess like the Philistines in the pagan temple when Samson pushed over the pillars.  Now, I think this is just an excuse for not coming to church, but underlying this may be a true fear of a God of judgement.  They know they are not worthy and worry God will punish them, and so they stay away from God.  They are afraid of God because of their sin and flee from God.  Now God is a God of judgment, but He is also a God of mercy.  God’s judgment was taken by Jesus on the cross.  Many people are in terror of Jesus because they do not know the real Jesus. 

            Who is Jesus?  This is the essential essence of the season of Epiphany.  Who is Jesus?  The devil and the world do not want you to know the true Jesus and have always tried to obscure Him.  If they keep you ignorant of Jesus they can keep you in your sins and on the path to destruction.  If they keep you afraid of Jesus they keep you away from the solution to your problem with sin.  If they keep you distracted by the busyness of life they can keep you far away from Jesus. If they can get you to follow a counterfeit Jesus they can rob you of true hope.  The devil and the world are very effective and so many people do not know the real Jesus.   

You know the real Jesus.  You don’t want Jesus to stay far away, instead you came here this morning to be close to the Lord.  You are a sinner, but you know who Jesus is.  You know Jesus is a God of mercy.  You know Jesus is a God of love.  So again and again you repent of your sins and return to Jesus.  You know Jesus comes to give you forgiveness of your sins and so you flee to Jesus.  You flee to the altar of the Lord to receive Jesus.  You come to Jesus because you know, as Peter knows, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. 

The big question of Epiphany is, “Who is Jesus?”  This is the most important question.  You know the answer.  You have had your Epiphany through the Holy Spirit.  You have been baptized into Christ and the Holy Spirit dwells in you.  So you know the answer.  Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus is God in flesh.  He died for you and rose for you and conquered death for you.  Jesus is your savior.  Jesus pays the price for all your sin.  Jesus covers your sin with His white robe of righteousness.  Jesus gives you eternal life.  Today and every day, flee to Jesus.  Amen. 

What is love?

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Epiphany 4 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 30, 2022
Jeremiah 1:4-10, 1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13, Luke 4:31-44

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

            Love is in the air this time of year.  As you peruse the aisles of your local supermarket or discount store you will be bombarded with a sea of red, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate along with an endless variety of Valentine’s Day cards and gifts. So much emphasis on love.

            The Bible speaks a lot about love.  The five word summary of the 10 Commandments is love God, love your neighbor.  It all comes down to love.  John 3:16 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  1 John 4:10 (ESV) 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

            Love.  This is a word that we use so much and can mean so many different things that I fear it can become almost meaningless.  What is love? In our Epistle reading today St. Paul clarifies what love is.  1 Corinthians 13 is a popular text at weddings and that makes sense; weddings are about love.  But the text is not about marriage — it is about living together as the Church; the Body of Christ.

            I love pepperoni pizza.  What does this mean?  I really enjoy the taste of pepperoni pizza and I really enjoy eating it.  Me loving pizza is all about what pizza does for me; how pizza makes me feel.  Love is the feeling that I get when I eat pizza.  This is confusing because real love is not about how someone makes you feel; real love is what you do for someone. 

            Far too often we think of love as a noun, a feeling. I am “in love.”  I have the feeling of love.  This other person makes me feel this way.  But true love is not a noun.  True love is a verb.  It is a choice.  It is an action.  Saying, “I love you”, is a commitment to action.  Love is what you do.  You love your spouse in your actions.  You love your children in what you do.  You love your neighbor by serving them.  That doesn’t mean you don’t tell your spouse and children and others that you love them, of course you tell them.  But saying “I love you,” is not just words; it is a commitment to action. 

            As a baptized child of God you live in the pure love of God flowing to you through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus shows His love by serving you in the ultimate sacrifice of His Body on the cross for you. Jesus shows His love for you by giving everything for you.  Jesus loves you so much that He takes your sin and gives you His holiness.  Jesus declares you to be a saint.  The Church is the gathering of the saints in Christ. 

            You are a saint of God, but you are, at the same time, still infected with original sin, and because of sin you can start to believe that you are better than others.  There is a great temptation to believe that some folks in church are more important than others.  You can start to believe that you are more vital than that other person who does not seem to know as much, or care as much, or do as much as you do.  Paul is writing to the church in Corinth.  The church in Corinth is full of people with spiritual gifts. Over the last couple of weeks we have read in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 about their spiritual gifts and about the church being a body that is made up of many and various parts.  In our lesson today from 1 Corinthians 13 Paul puts these spiritual gifts in context. 

            Spiritual gifts are good, but they are temporary and incomplete.  They are good, but they are not excellent.  1 Corinthians 12:31–13:3 (ESV)  31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Spiritual gifts without love are nothing. 

            What is love?  Paul tells us what love is and tells us what love is not.

            1 Corinthians 13:4–6 (ESV)  4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 

            Love is patient.  Patience…why did it have to be patience?  Love remains calm even when the stresses of life are piling up.  Love drives the car gently and safely even when running late.  Love pauses and counts to three so as to not yell at the kids.  Love thinks before speaking or texting or posting.  Love does not take the strain of life out on others. 

            Love is kind.  Love helps others even without being asked.  Love takes out the garbage.  Love empties the dishwasher and folds the laundry.  Love cooks dinner.  Love does the dishes.  Love puts the shopping cart back in the cart corral. 

            Love is patient.  Love is kind.  That is what love is; what is love not.  Love does not envy or boast.  Love rejoices with another’s success and does not need “one up” someone else.  Love is humble.  Love does not brag. 

Love is not arrogant or rude.  It is very easy to develop an attitude of superiority that looks down on others.  You can start to think that you are better than that person over there.  You can fall into the bad habit of saying things like, “I might be a sinner, but at least I am not as bad as that guy or those people.”  Love does not climb up on a pedestal to look down on others.  Love knows we are all sinners who need Jesus. 

Love does not insist on its own way.  Love does not think that it is “My way or the highway.”  Love listens to other’s ideas and suggestions and allows others to take charge of things even if their way is different. 

Love is not irritable or resentful.  Love does not get offended easily.  In our world where “That offends me!” is the constant cry of so many; love chooses its battles wisely and does not resent every possible offense that occurs.  

            This is the love that you will have perfectly for others on the last day in the Heavenly Kingdom of New Jerusalem.  You will perfectly love and you will be perfectly loved.  

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.  Our world too often celebrates sin.  There is an avalanche of music and movies and Tik Tok videos in which people brag about their sin and glory in their immorality.  People throw conferences and festivals and parades to celebrate wrongdoing.  Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.  Love rejoices with the truth.  Love uses God’s Biblical truth to be the guide for life instead of using feelings to show the way.  Love teaches God’s truth to others around them. 

1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV) 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This translation here can be misleading. It sounds like love blindly believes anything.  A better translation is that love is without limits.  Love supports without limits, trusts without limits, hopes without limits, never gives up.  This is the love that you are called to.  It is a perfect love.  It is God’s love.

            This is the love that you will have perfectly for others on the last day in the Heavenly Kingdom of New Jerusalem.  You will perfectly love and you will be perfectly loved.  This is the love that you will struggle to achieve in this life.  This is the love you will never achieve in this life.  This is the love that has already been completed in Jesus’ love for you.

            1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV)  12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  It is hard to be a Christian in the world.  You cannot fully see the pure love Jesus has for you.  You cannot purely love others like Jesus loves you. Love anyway.  In your love for each other you see the shadow of the pure love that is coming on the last day.  In your love for each other you get a glimpse of the Lord’s love for you. 

            So, for now, waiting for Jesus to return, live each day in Jesus’ love for you and let that love flow out from you to those around you.  Love never ends. 

            Let’s do an aspirational repeat after me knowing you are called to love like Jesus.  “I am patient and kind – I do not envy or boast – I am not arrogant or rude – I do not insist on my own way – I am not irritable or resentful — I do not rejoice at wrongdoing — I rejoice with the truth. — I support without limits – I trust without limits – I hope without limits – I never give up. 

            Love is a tricky word.  It really does not mean what we think it means.  Love is not about your feelings and how something or someone makes you feel.  Love is about what God does for you in Jesus and loves is what you do for others in response.   Love God by loving your neighbor because Jesus first loves you.  Tell each other that you love them.  And then live out that love.  Amen.

This is not the Messiah you are looking for.

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

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

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

What did he do?

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

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

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

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

            Luke 4:18-19 (ESV) 

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, 

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

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives 

and recovering of sight to the blind, 

to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Little Birth, Big Birth, Big Death, Little Death

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

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

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

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

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

            As a baptized child of God you have already experienced your big death.  In baptism you died with Christ.  Romans 6:3–4 (ESV)  3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remembrance of Baptism                                                                               Romans 6:3–5

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

C    We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.

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

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

Arise, Shine!

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Epiphany 2022 
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 2, 2022
Isaiah 60:1–6, Ephesians 3:1–12, Matthew 2:1–12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behold, The Lamb at the Temple

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

Christmas 1, 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 26, 2021
Exodus 13:1–3a, 11–15, Colossians 3:12–17, Luke 2:22–40

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

            The anticipation of the celebration of Christmas begins to build after Thanksgiving and continues to inflate up until Christmas Day morning.  Christmas Day afternoon you are left with torn wrapping paper, a sink full of dirty dishes, and a sense of being kind of let down that it is over.  It is as if the anticipation were a big, beautiful balloon but then on the day after Christmas so much of the air has been let out you’re left sad and deflated. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Day

BULLETIN

SERMON TEXT BELOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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