Love is the antidote to the devil’s temptations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

 

This is not the messiah you are looking for.

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

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

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

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

Jesus stands up in the synagogue to read and the attendant hands Him the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah.  Jesus finds the place and reads, “Luke 4:18-19 (ESV) 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[1]

Jesus then rolls up the scroll and hands it back to the attendant and sits down.  Everyone is watching Him.  Is that it?  Is that all He is going to do?  Everyone is staring at Jesus waiting for Him to say or do something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

[6] LW 45:352

Redrawing the lines of self-defense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The unlikely King

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SERMON AUDIO

Epiphany 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 6, 2018
Isaiah 60:1-6, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God does things differently

nullAdvent 4 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 23, 2018
Micah 5:2-5a, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-56

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

The Angel Gabriel visits young Mary in Nazareth and lets her know she is going to have a baby Luke 1:30-33 (ESV) 30 And the angel [says] to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And 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, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”[1]

It is hard to even imagine the overwhelming joy that Mary has at receiving this news.  She must be just bursting to tell others about what has happened.  But I am thinking that the reaction of other people must really be deflating for Mary.  Mary tells this unbelievable good news to Joseph, the man to whom she has been betrothed, and Joseph rejects Mary and seeks to break off their betrothal.  The news is truly unbelievable and Joseph does not believe it.

An angel appears to Joseph and confirms the good news and Joseph then is able to share Mary’s joy and he takes Mary home as his wife but they are not intimate until after Jesus is born.

What is the reaction of others in Nazareth to the news that Mary is pregnant?  I’m thinking that Mary’s great joy at being pregnant with the Son of the Most High is met with bitter scoffing and rejection by others in town.  They all know what “really happened.”  Joseph and Mary could not wait, or worse, Mary was fooling around with some other young man in town.  Shame, shame, shame.  The proud, good people of Nazareth likely look down on poor, pitiful, immoral Mary and her obviously disgraceful behavior.

Mary leaves Nazareth for a while and goes to visit her relative Elizabeth, an old, barren woman who must have endured a lifetime of people looking down at her and shaking their heads and saying, “I wonder what great sin Elizabeth committed that God has punished her by making her barren?  It must have been something truly shameful.”

And so here we find ourselves in our Gospel reading today up in the hill country of Judah with these two women who have been shamed; one old and one young, both bursting with joy as the new lives in their wombs are growing each day getting ready to be born.  At the sound of Mary’s greeting John leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb.  The four of them, Elizabeth, Mary, John and Jesus, are all together with no one around to shame them or try to decrease their joy.  And Mary’s joy overflows into her song; the Magnificat.

In these words from humble Mary from Nazareth we learn that God’s ways are so different from our ways.

The whole focus of the song is on the Lord God; God’s strength and God’s mercy.  Mary’s whole focus is on God and what He has done for Mary and all who follow the Lord.  Mary is blessed because of what God has done for her.

Luke 1:46-50 (ESV) 46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.[2]

In this world we are enchanted by people of power and influence; talent and fame, strength and good looks.  We have a magazine dedicated to these people, called People.  We are impressed with money and power and beauty.  We like to peek in at the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  We are told we should aspire to be like them.

In the meantime, the world wants you to judge yourself against people with less money, less power, shabbier clothes, not as good looking.  The world pushes you to be better than others.  To be more admired; more rewarded; more recognized.  The world encourages you to believe that it is important to be proud, mighty and rich, and look down on those who are not.

Mary’s song turns the world’s desires on their head.  God is full of strength and God is full of mercy.  Pay attention here to how God uses His strength and His mercy.

            In this world we are enchanted by people of power and influence; talent and fame, strength and good looks.  We have a magazine dedicated to these people, called People.  We are impressed with money and power and beauty.  We like to peek in at the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  We are told we should aspire to be like them.

Luke 1:51-53 (ESV) 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.[3]

God uses his strength against the proud, mighty and rich.  At the same time God mercifully exalts the humble and the hungry.

Mary, this humble, young, virgin girl from the small town of Nazareth has been blessed to be the Mother of God.  Mary carries Jesus in her womb.  God has exalted her in her humble estate.

God has exalted you in your humble estate.  God did not wait for you to make something of yourself before He gave you the gift of Jesus’ holiness, perfection and eternal life.  For many of you God lifted you up while you were still a small baby unable to do anything for yourself.  In your utter helplessness and humility God marked you in baptism as His own and bestowed on you the Kingdom of Heaven.  God has exalted you and filled you with good things.

In this success-driven world it is hard to remember that your value does not come from who you are.  Your value does not come from anything you have done.  Your value comes from what Christ Jesus has done for you.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”

There is great temptation to judge others and their situations.  If a young, unmarried woman comes to church pregnant it is tempting to start climbing up on that high horse to look down, but Christians do not belong up there looking down on anyone.  Christians are called to love and support; to bring Jesus’ Good News of forgiveness to a world that is hurting and in need of forgiveness and mercy.  Jesus is the source of great joy as He reaches into this sin-sick world and lifts you up and declares you to be right with God.  This baby growing in Mary’s womb is the sinless Lamb of God being readied for the once and forever sacrifice for sin.  The promise that God made to Abraham is fulfilled in Jesus, and you, the adopted children of Abraham have God’s promise given you in Christ.  Mary is blessed by God and carries the Savior in her womb.  In baptism Jesus blesses you and lifts you up and marks you as His own.  As a child of God He fills you and shows you mercy.  In Holy Communion you are fed with the Body and Blood of this same Jesus.  You have been given forgiveness and eternal life.  In Christ you can declare with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord and My spirit rejoices in God, my savior.”  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

 

Be prepared. Do the right thing.

null

Advent 2, 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 9, 2018
Malachi 3:1-7b, Philippians 1:2-11, Luke 3:1-20

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

We have made it to the second Sunday of Advent and now John the Baptist has come on the scene.  John is that wilderness prophet who is the last of the line of the Old Testament prophets warning the people to repent.  He is in the model of the prophet Elijah and John is foretold by Isaiah and Malachi.

John is preparing the way for the Messiah.  John is the voice of one calling in the wilderness, he is the one making straight the path for the Lord.  John is making mountains low and filling in valleys.  John is getting people ready for Jesus to come into place to begin His public ministry and John’s message is harsh.

Here you now sit, 2,000 years after John was preaching in the wilderness in order to get people ready for Jesus.  Jesus now has already come.  He was born in Bethlehem. Thirty years later Jesus had three years of preaching, teaching, healing, feeding and caring for the people. Jesus entered into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday as a king and by the end of the week had been arrested, tortured, crucified and laid in a tomb.  Jesus then rose from the dead and ascended into heaven promising to return.

This is the era you are now in; Jesus has come and gone and you are waiting for Jesus to return.  This is different from the crowds going out to John the Baptist that day by the Jordan River.  You are not the offspring of snakes believing that because you are descended from Abraham that you can live life as if you are a pagan.  You do not believe that your ancestry guarantees that you are good with God even while you live a life of evil; oppressing people for your own gain.

You are not a brood of vipers.  You have been baptized into Christ; you are a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, God in flesh.  You are not waiting for the Messiah to come to earth to save you from your sin, but you are waiting for the Messiah to return on the last day to conquer evil forever.

Now John’s message of repentance is still valid.  You still need to live a life of repentance.  You still need to struggle against sin.  When you fail and fall into sin you must again repent.  You cannot live in unrepentant sin because it will destroy your faith.  As a Christian you cannot live as if you are an unbeliever because that is what you will become.  Embracing sin is to turn your back on God.  To embrace sin is to reject God.  You need to reject sin and embrace God.  So repent.  Have sorrow over your sin and turn away from sin and turn back to God.  Reject sin, embrace God, and live life in preparation for Jesus’ return on the last day for judgement.

You are indeed in a different situation from the crowds that day with John the Baptist, but some things are still valid.  The question the crowd asks John that day is still an appropriate question for you currently.  “What then shall we do?”  “Knowing Jesus is going to return, but we don’t know when, how then do we live?  What do we do?”

John the Baptist gives his answer.  Luke 3:11 (ESV) 11 … “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”[1]  Those who have extra should share with those who do not have the basics.  It is a call to live generously.  Our natural way to live is to live selfishly and worry about what is in it for me, me, me, me?  John’s words are a call to live in lavish selflessness rather than miserly selfishness.  It is a call to give to others in need.

After the crowd’s group question, “What then shall we do?” we hear from a couple of subgroups, the tax collectors and the soldiers, each asking the same question, “What shall we do?”  And John answers the tax collectors, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” To the soldiers he says, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

So the big question everyone asks John is the same question many people have today about life as a Christian; “What shall I do.”

This is not a question related to salvation.  The question is not, “What shall I do to be saved?”  Salvation is finished.  That has been taken care of by the Lord Jesus himself.  The question is; “Now that I have been saved, how shall I live?”

If you are a teacher, what should you do?  Teach well and love your students.  Put in the time to do the necessary preparation and grading.  Be patient and kind.

If you are an insurance sales person, what should you do?  Sell people the right coverage based on their needs and not on what has the highest commission.

If you are a worker in a restaurant preparing food, what should you do?  Wash your hands well and prepare food properly in a clean, sanitary environment with fresh ingredients.

If you a pastor, what should you do?  Prepare well for Sunday worship.  Put in the needed time on the sermon.  Visit the sick.  Care for the people.  Don’t waste time or money.

This is not a question related to salvation.  The question is not, “What shall I do to be saved?”  Salvation is finished.  That has been taken care of by the Lord Jesus himself.  The question is; “Now that I have been saved, how shall I live?”

If you are a student, what should you do?  Do your homework.  Prepare for tests.  Put in the effort to learn the material and don’t cheat or take shortcuts.

If you are a husband or wife, what should you do?  Remain faithful and committed to your spouse.  Love, honor, keep and cherish them deeply.  Don’t flirt with others.  Don’t complain and find faults.  If you are having trouble, work on the trouble.

We could go one for another half hour of various vocations and what to do, but instead let’s sum it up.  In whatever it is that you are doing, do it well and do it honestly.  Do it like a baptized child of God should do it.

Don’t cheat.  Don’t steal.  Don’t complain.  In this life there are is a great deal of temptation to take shortcuts; to be lazy; to take bribes and kickbacks.  There is temptation to complain about your situation, your boss, your teacher, your wages, your life.  Instead, be content in whatever your situation and stay prepared for Jesus’ return.

Jesus is going to return and you don’t know when, so how do you prepare?  Should you retreat up to a mountain top and start a commune?  Should you get rid of all your earthly possessions and become a monk?  No.  That is not what John the Baptists says to do.  John says you should do what you should be doing.  In your life, with you being you, do the right thing because it is the right thing.  Follow the Ten Commandments because God tells you to follow the Ten Commandments.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Do the right thing, not in order to earn God’s favor, but because you have already been redeemed by God through the blood of Jesus.

And as you do the right thing because it is the right thing, don’t expect to be rewarded.  I think well-meaning people sometimes have messed things up by rewarding us for just doing what we are supposed to do.  You have already been rewarded for something you didn’t do.  You have already received the gift of eternal life that is yours in Christ.  By doing the right thing you are not going to earn extra points in heaven or extra benefits on earth.  You are not going to earn a candy bar or a trophy for doing what you are supposed to do.  Do the right thing anyway.  Because it is the right thing.  Because it is your duty.  As we hear from Jesus in Luke 17:10 (ESV) 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”[2]

Appropriately the second candle on our Advent banners say, “Prepare!”  So, as the Boy Scouts used to say, “Be prepared!”  Stay in Christ.  Stay connected to His Word and Sacraments in the church.  Do what you are supposed to be doing.  Do the right thing because it is the right thing because you have been made right in Christ.

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

 

Jesus is coming into place for you.

nullFirst Sunday in Advent 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 2, 2018
Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 19:28-40

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

Happy New Year!  We have made it to the beginning of another year on the church calendar.  The paraments have changed to blue.  The candle wreath is up and one candle is lit.  We have left the 27 Sundays after Pentecost and entered the season of Advent.  This is a season of anticipation.  Advent means, “A coming into place.”  In Advent we look forward to celebrating Jesus’ first coming into place as a baby in Bethlehem and, at the same time, we look forward to Jesus’ last coming into place on the judgement day.

Today’s Gospel reading looks at yet another Advent of Jesus; Jesus coming into place in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in preparation for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  In both Jesus’ first Advent in Bethlehem and His Palm Sunday Advent in Jerusalem we find amazing contrasts.

In Bethlehem we encounter this marvelous scene of a multitude of angels shining forth the Glory of God and singing praises to the newborn Savior; Christ the Lord.  We have this amazing, magnificent sight, but as our view pans out we see that this astonishing scene is being played out to a field full of sheep and a few lowly shepherds.  And we learn that this one they are singing about, the Savior, Christ the Lord, is a little newborn baby boy wrapped up in cloths and lying in an animal feed trough.  The angels sing about this baby’s birth, Luke 2:14 (ESV) 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[1]  Gloria in Excelsis Deo.  Glory to God in the highest.  And on earth peace.

Fast forward 33 years and we find Jesus riding into Jerusalem.  Jesus is coming into place as King of the Jews riding a colt that has never been ridden down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem.  Crowds are welcoming Jesus; they are spreading their cloaks on the road so the colt doesn’t have to step on the ground.  This is a majestic scene, the King coming to be crowned.  The crowds cry out with an echo of the angels announcing to the shepherds, Luke 19:38 (ESV) 38 … “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”[2]  Gloria in excelsis.  Glory in the highest.  Peace in Heaven.

When Jesus came into place in Bethlehem as a baby, the angels announce peace on earth.  Now, as Jesus comes into place in Jerusalem to be arrested, killed and to rise again, the crowds announce peace in heaven.  It is the full cycle.  Peace on earth and peace in heaven.

Just like at Jesus birth, on Palm Sunday there are great contrasts.  He enters with great pomp and the crowds praising him, but then Jesus weeps over the city knowing it will be destroyed.  Jesus is going to be crowned king, but the crown will be a torturous crown of thorns.  He will be enthroned, but enthroned in pain and humiliation on a cross with a sign above Him reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”  On Sunday Jesus rides into town on a colt on which no one has ever ridden.  By Friday afternoon Jesus is dead and lying in a tomb which no one has ever used.  Jesus’ great glory is revealed in His great humility.

There is such a great contrast between Jesus being God Almighty and all the glory and honor and power we expect from that, and the humble reality of Jesus as God in flesh as a baby in a manger, and the harsh, humiliating truth of Jesus as a pitiable tortured figure gasping for breath on the cross.

You have experience with these types of contrasts.  You are a baptized child of God.  You have been given forgiveness, life and salvation.  You are in the Kingdom of Heaven right now.  Right now you have eternal life in Christ.  This is your identity.  And yet, as you well know, life in this world is so very difficult, so very sad.  There are such struggles in this life.  There is illness that attacks your body.  There is short term sickness that many experience throughout the year, colds, flu, stomach viruses, strep throat, and there is long term, devastating illness that threatens to destroy you.  What a contrast.  You have the promise of eternal life, and your body is breaking down and you are destined for the grave.

You are a follower of the Prince of Peace and yet you live in a world that is full of conflict and violence.  Jesus comes to bring peace on earth and peace in heaven and that promise of peace is for you, but, for now, you live in a world of conflict.  One of the devil’s favorite tools to tear people apart is conflict.  You see it in families, in school classrooms, in businesses, in government, and in church congregations.  Conflict gets in the way of people working together for good and instead has them spend their efforts and abilities in looking for methods to stand in the way and destroy.  In this life, conflict will come, but you are called as a follower of the Prince of Peace to calm conflict and help bring peace in this world.  As a Christian, called to be salt and light to the world, you are called to live life reducing conflict.

You are a baptized child of God, a follower of the Prince of Peace.  You have the peace that passes understanding and yet you live in a world of sickness, violence, sadness, death and conflict.  Such great a contrast.

There is such a great contrast between Jesus being God Almighty and all the glory and honor and power we expect from that, and the humble reality of Jesus as God in flesh as a baby in a manger, and the harsh, humiliating truth of Jesus as a pitiable tortured figure gasping for breath on the cross.

You even see the contrasts in your own experience with God.  You gather on Sunday to hear of God’s glory and power and might.  You hear how great and wonderful God is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  You hear about God’s magnificent glory.  You sing

Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth adored;

Heav’n and earth with full acclaim shout the glory of Your name.

Sing hosanna in the highest, sing hosanna to the Lord;

Truly blest is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

You sing the words of Isaiah the prophet and the words of the crowds in Jerusalem on that day of Jesus coming into place.  You sing of Jesus being YHWH Sabaoth.  The Lord of the heavenly armies.  Heaven and earth shout the glory of His name.  And then you come forward to the altar of the Lord and you receive the Lord Jesus in a simple wafer of bread and simple sip of wine.  What a great contrast.

But in these contrasts we gain deep insight into the truth about Jesus.  Jesus came as Lord to serve, not to be served.

The contrasts we encounter with Jesus coming into place in Bethlehem and into place in Jerusalem give us insight into Jesus’ true character.  Glory and majesty are contrasted with humility and sacrifice.  The mind-blowing truth is that Jesus is both true God and true man.  Jesus is God in flesh.  He is the sinless Son of God and He becomes sin to save you.

St. Paul gives us a wonderful description of who Jesus is in Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV) 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.[3]

The fullness of God dwells in Jesus.  The fullness of God comes into place and lies in the straw of the manger in Bethlehem.  The fullness of God comes into place in Jerusalem and hangs in excruciating agony making peace by the blood of His cross.  The fullness of God is coming in place again to take you home.  Christ has died.  Christ has risen.  Christ will come again.  A blessed Advent to all.  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

 

How to lose your faith.

null

Last Sunday of the Church Year 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
November 20, 2018
Isaiah 51:4-6, Jude 20-25, Mark 13:24-37

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

On this last Sunday of the Church Year a good question to ask is, “when is Jesus coming back?”  2,000 years ago Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives and He promised to return.  So…when is He coming back?  The unsatisfying answer is…we don’t know.  No one knows.  If anyone tells you that they know when Jesus will return; they are lying.  Remember what Jesus says in Mark 13:32 (ESV) 32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.[1]

Jesus is coming back, but we don’t know when, so, Jesus tells us,  Mark 13:33 (ESV) 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.[2]

Now, it is hard to maintain vigilance over a long period of time.  For 2,000 years Jesus has not returned and so it is difficult to stay awake.  It is like being a night watchman in a place where nothing ever happens.  After a while it is easy to become complacent.  It is easy to neglect your duties.  Companies with watchmen have systems to track their security guards to make sure they are doing their duty; walking their rounds and checking what needs to be checked.  When I was a guard one summer they had a watchman clock the guards carried and there were keys at various locations that they need to turn in the clock to show they were making their rounds.  Now there are electronic systems and GPS.  The companies paying the guards want to make sure the watchmen are staying on guard and keeping awake.

For Christians it can be hard to remain vigilant over the long haul and there is no GPS system to track you.  No key system to make sure you stay awake and do your duty.  So, how do remain on guard?

Maybe a different question is what do you do in order to let down your guard and fall asleep?  For a security guard working nights just sit down and lean back and close your eyes for minute.  Next thing you know.  You need a new job.  What about for a Christian?  How do you let down your guard?  How do you fall asleep?  How do you lose faith?

You should forget that you are a baptized child of God.  Go through the day without remembering that God has made a promise to you through the blood of Jesus.  Forget that you have been set apart from the world to delight in God’s will and walk in his ways and instead reject God’s will and walk in your ways.

Let bitterness and hatred build up in your life.  Stay aggressive and belligerent.  Never back down from an argument with someone you disagree with.  Stop loving your enemies and stop praying for those who persecute you.

How do you let down your guard?  Separate yourself from Word of God.  Don’t read the Bible.  Don’t engage in any study of the Bible.  Don’t feed on the Word of God.  Instead feed on the things of this world.  Look at porn.  Read trashy books.  Watch junk.  Let your Bible disappear from your life and gather dust.  Start to accept as true that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something.  Design your own god who is there for you when you want it but does not interfere with anything that you want to do.

How do you fall spiritually asleep?  Feel no need for the body and blood of Christ.  Forget that you have sinful flesh and you live in a sinful world and are tempted by the Devil himself.  Start to believe that you are more than good enough and more than capable enough and you don’t need Jesus.

And if you do something and you feel shame and guilt about it do not confess the sin.  Do not admit your guilt.  Just try to rationalize the sin.  Make excuses.  Blame others.  Compare yourself to really bad sinners.  And if that doesn’t work numb the guilt with alcohol or drugs or casual hook ups.

Act like an unbeliever.  Conform your life to the ways of the world.  If you see it on TV or in the movies, it must be okay.  If everyone else is doing it, join in.  If others are cheating; cheat.  If others are lying; lie.  If other people are getting drunk and getting high; go along.  If others are engaging in sexual intimacy outside of the marriage of a man and a woman; it must be okay.  It is so hard to swim against the current; just give in and go with the flow and conform your life to fit in with everyone else.

How do you lose faith?  Stop praying.  Don’t set aside time to go to the Lord with adorations, confessions, requests and thanksgivings.  Quit acting like you are dependent on God and assert your independence.

Stop giving an offering to the Lord’s work.  Find some excuse or perceived way that the church is wasting money and instead keep that money for yourself.  You are better at using it anyway.  You could pump up your retirement or buy a car with the money you give to church.

And whatever you do, stop coming to worship services.  Stop gathering with those weak-minded people who think they need Jesus.  Come up with an excuse that works for you.  I worked too late.  I partied too late.  The pastor did something I don’t like.  It is my only day to sleep in.  I don’t have the right clothes.  Come up with some excuse and stop coming to worship on Sunday.  Coming to worship and confessing your sins and hearing you are forgiven just shows how dependent you are on God.  Who needs that?

This is what you can do in order to let down your guard and fall spiritually asleep and lose your faith.  You know this can happen.  You have seen it happen to members here; family members; friends.  They lean back in their chair close their eyes and fall asleep.  They are taking a spiritual nap.

But the end is coming.  Jesus is going to return and you don’t know when.  Those who have let down their guard and fallen spiritually asleep will be judged with the unbelievers.  At the judgment Jesus will deny He knows them and they will be forced to spend eternity with the devil and all his angels in the lake of fire.  So stay on guard.  Stay awake.  The end is near.

Remember who you are in Christ.  Remember you are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Stay in the Word.  Read the Bible.  Study the Bible.  Hear the Word.

Stay hungry for the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion.  It is a meal for sinners; you are a sinner; Jesus is here for you.

Confess your sins and receive forgiveness.  If a particular sin troubles you confess it privately to the pastor and know that sin is also forgiven.

Act like a follower of Jesus.  Be salt and light to the world.  Delight in God’s will and walk in God’s ways.

Pray.  Pray together here.  Pray alone in your room.  Pray throughout the day.  Bring your needs and concerns to the Lord along with thanksgivings for all He has done for you.

Give generously to the Lord’s work.  Matthew 6:21 (ESV)  21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.[3]

Come to church.  Kneel down and confess your sins.  Sing the truth about Jesus.  Hear the words of forgiveness.  Receive the body and blood of Christ.  Know you are not alone in the struggle against sin, death and devil.

Be on guard.  Stay awake.  Jesus is coming back and you do not know when.  But living in the anticipation of Jesus’ return is not like being a security guard watch an empty building through the long, dark night.  Living life as a Christian waiting for Jesus’ return is living out your ordinary life in an extraordinary way.  Living out your life in your various vocations of child, parent, grandparent, worker, employer, citizen, church member according to God’s will.  Living out the Ten Commandments, not in fear, but because you are already a child of God marked for salvation in your baptism.  Repent when you sin and struggle against sin.  Jesus is coming back to save you.  You are His baptized child of God.  Be on guard.  Stay awake.

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

 

Stand firm. Time is running out.

nullPentecost 26
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
November 18, 2018
Daniel 12:1-3, Hebrews 10:11-25, Mark 13:1-13

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

The sand slowly, steadily, falls through the narrow opening in the middle of the hourglass and drops onto the large pile of sand below the neck.  As you watch, the sand never speeds up, never slows down, it just continues to fall and the sand pile at the bottom continues to grow…ever so slowly.

You look up to see how much sand is left, but the top of the hourglass is painted black.  There is no way to know how much sand remains.  This is the way it is with time.  Time for us is not so much hands on a clock going round and round but more like an hourglass with a blackened top.

This applies to the time of your life.  You can count how much time has passed, how many birthdays you have had, but you don’t know how much more time there is to go.  You know that you will die one day, but you do not know if it will be soon, or after a while.  How much sand remains in the top of your hourglass?  It also applies to the time of this world.  There is a very large pile of sand that has already passed through the narrow neck but you do not know how much more sand there is to come.  How long until the last day?  There may be only a few more grains, or there may be a tremendous pile of sand still to go.  You don’t know when the end will come for you individually or for the world, but you do know the end is coming.  You do not know when, but you know it will happen.   How much sand is left in the top of the glass?

In our Old Testament reading Daniel writes about the time when the sand runs out, Daniel 12:1 (ESV) 1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.[1]     At this time the multitudes that sleep in the dust of the earth will awaken from the dead.  Some will awake to everlasting life.  Some awake to shame and everlasting contempt.  We see here clearly that the Old Testament teaches a resurrection of the dead.

The time is coming when the sand will run out.  The thought of this can cause you to be downcast and frightened.  But, on that day, the Archangel Michael will arise and we also find Michael also in Revelation, Chapter 12.

Revelation 12:7-9 (ESV) 7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him [2]

Michael cast the devil down from heaven.  The devil has been cast down, so do not be downcast.  Jesus has conquered sin for you.  Jesus has conquered death for you.  Jesus has conquered the devil for you.  Jesus, the Lamb of God dying on the cross and rising from the dead destroyed the power of the devil to deceive you; Jesus destroyed the power of Satan to accuse you.  Do not be downcast.  The devil has been cast down.

As a baptized child of God you have God’s name watered onto you.  God has declared you to be His own.  He promises to save you.  The suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus have been credited to you.  All the sacrifices of birds, and lambs, and bulls at the temple did not take away sins.  Jesus takes away sins.  Jesus is the once-for-all sacrifice; the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

            When the sand runs out and the last day has come, it will be a great day for those in Christ.  It is truly something to look forward to with great expectation.  Something for which to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Hebrews 10:11-14 (ESV) 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.[3]

Jesus, the Lamb of God, has saved you and is sanctifying you; making you holy.  Your name has been written in the book of life and on the last day you will be delivered to eternal life.  You receive the Body and Blood of Christ to strengthen and preserve you in true faith to life everlasting.  In Jesus you have the promise that on the last day you will shine like the brightness of the sky and live forever with Jesus.  On that day when the sand runs out, there will be no more sin, no more evil, no more cancer, no more heart disease, no more addiction, no more grief, no more trouble, no more tears.

When the sand runs out and the last day has come, it will be a great day for those in Christ.  It is truly something to look forward to with great expectation.  Something for which to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

You expectantly pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” but in the meantime you wait and watch the sand fall slowly through the hourglass of time and you endure the difficulties of this life.  Jesus warns about many troubles.  There will be arrests and trials and executions.  People will hate you because you have the name of Jesus on you.  Those who put their faith in the things of this world will hate those who have faith in Jesus.  The things of this world will pass away, but you who have faith in Jesus will endure.

The disciples spend most of their time in the humble areas around the Sea of Galilee.  So these country boys are quite impressed by the magnificent temple in Jerusalem.  One of them exclaims, “Mark 13:1 (ESV) 1 … “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”[4]  The disciple is awe-struck by the temple which Herod the Great rebuilt and overhauled to become a grand architectural marvel.

Mark 13:2 (ESV) 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” [5]  In 70 AD the Romans do just that and destroy the temple and leave it a flattened field of smoldering debris.

The magnificent things of this world will pass away.  That shiny new car will so soon be a rusty bucket of bolts.  That new phone, new computer, new clothes, soon are obsolete and out of style.  Beauty and strength will fade.  The things of the world pass away.  Endure to the end clinging to eternal truth.  In the California wildfires over a thousand homes have been destroyed.  With horrifying speed the flames transform wonderful houses into piles of smoldering rubble.  The things of this life; even our lives themselves, will pass away.  There will be trouble.  Jesus teaches, Mark 13:6-8 (ESV) 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.[6]

Life is full of trouble.  The things that people want to cling to will not endure; but the truth of Jesus Christ will endure.  Stand firm through these troubled times with the confidence that comes from the blood of Jesus.  Hebrews 10:22-23 (ESV)
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.[7]  The devil has been thrown out of heaven, but he is still actively pursuing those who follow Jesus.  He was thrown out of heaven and could not destroy the woman or her child.  Revelation 12:17 (ESV) 17 Then the dragon 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…. [8]

The devil is angry and is at war against you with his lies and accusations.  Hold fast to the confession of our hope in Jesus Christ.  Do it together.  It is dangerous to try to be a solo Christian because you do not go to war alone.  You put on the armor of God and together stand firm against the assaults of the devil because you know Jesus has already defeated him.  Endurance through difficult times is done together, as the Church, the Body of Christ on earth.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV) 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.[9]

Times are tough.  People will hate you and worse.  Do not be downcast.  The devil has been cast down.  He has been defeated.  His war against us is only a last gasp of desperation.  Stand firm.  Keep meeting together, keep watch, endure.  The sand is running out and the end is coming.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The church is full of hypocrites

nullLWML Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
November 11, 2018
1 Kings 17:8-16, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44

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

No one likes a hypocrite, someone who pretends to be good, but is actually evil. and so most folks agree with our Gospel reading today telling us how Jesus had “a greater condemnation” for the hypocrites among the scribes.

Today’s reading is a record of Jesus’ teaching in the temple during the week leading up to His crucifixion.  The scribes He is talking about are the temple scribes.  These are the ones who are actually in charge of copying the Holy Scriptures from one scroll onto another.  They write the holy words of God over and over again and this repetition means that they know the Scriptures very, very well.  They know the scriptures and yet use their great knowledge to rob widows.

Jesus reserves His greatest condemnation for hypocrites because, by definition, hypocrites know better.  You can’t fool others unless you already know how things work.  Hypocrites know that what they are doing is wrong and yet they wear their consciences down to nothing and live a lie.

Sadly, hypocrites lie to themselves more than anyone else.  One day every hypocrite will stand before God in judgment and yet they don’t think about that day.  Perhaps they have convinced themselves that there is no God and therefore no judgment.  Perhaps they rationalize that their hypocrisy is justified and God will not hold them accountable for it.  Perhaps they are hypocrites and don’t even realize it.

The really sad thing about hypocrites lying to themselves is that some of them hear a sermon like this and say, “You tell ‘em pastor; those folks really need to hear this.”

Now, the first thing that I, as your pastor, must do is preach this sermon to myself.  I am a hypocrite.  I lie to myself.  I lie to others.  I even lie to God.  When I hear Jesus condemn hypocrites, I need to understand that He is talking to me.  I need to hear this sermon.

You need to hear this sermon.  How many times have you been a hypocrite since this service started?  Earlier you said that you are by nature sinful and unclean.  Did you really mean it?  You said you deserved God’s present and eternal punishment.  That means that you deserve a miserable life here on earth and eternal punishment in hell.  Did you really mean it?  Were you really sorry or just kind of half-hearted about your sorrow?  Did you really repent, or just sort of repent?  How much of the worship service have you done on auto-pilot while thinking about something else?

What about the life you lead after the service is over.  What are you like when you are alone?  Does your attitude toward sin change when you don’t think you will get caught?  Does the Word of God that you listen to in here actually guide the way you live out there?

Many people criticize the church by noting that it is full of hypocrites.  That is sort of dumb.  It is like criticizing a hospital because it is full of sick people.  An honest examination shows that all of us are hypocrites … and murderers and adulterers and thieves.  I have broken all of the commandments and so have you.  We are in desperate need of healing from our sin.  We are not members of the church because we are so good or wonderful or righteous.  We are members of the church because we are sinners who need forgiveness.

We can get a hint for the source of the forgiveness that we need when we examine the second part of today’s Gospel.  Here we encounter a widow who gives all she has.  This woman may be one of the victims of the hypocrites that Jesus condemns.  With this widow Jesus does something that only God can do.  He looks into her heart and sees a faith that relies on the promises of God.

This widow’s gift is a foreshadowing of the gift that Jesus will give a few days after this.  This widow gives all she has financially.  Jesus will give all that He has … period!

Just as this poor widow offers her whole life at that offering box, so the Holy One who watches her, offers His whole life on the cross.  Here is One who is never a hypocrite – who never does anything that deserves condemnation.  Here is One who endures the greatest condemnation and makes payment for the sins of the world.  When Jesus Christ suffers and then dies on the cross for us, He offers up His life as the perfect sacrifice that satisfies the justice of God.

Because Jesus Christ lives a perfect life that is free of hypocrisy and every other sin, the grave cannot hold Him.  Although His friends lay Him in the tomb on Friday, He rises from the dead on Sunday.  He now lives forever and offers us a whole life.  Through His sacrificial death and His triumphant resurrection He offers us forgiveness for all our sins including the sin of hypocrisy.  And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God to give us the same faith that the poor widow in today’s Gospel has.  He works through the audible Word of God as we hear the readings and the absolution, and He works through the tangible Word of God that we eat and drink in the sacrament.  The faith that the Holy Spirit gives us, receives the gifts that Jesus Christ earned for us as He gave His life for us.  The faith that the Holy Spirit works in us through Word and Sacrament, gives us a share in the Kingdom of God.  In that kingdom, we receive forgiveness, life, and salvation.

The church is full of hypocrites because the world is full of hypocrites.  Hypocrisy is but one aspect of the sin that plagues us all.  As sinful human beings, we all want to reject God’s will for us … even if that will is the forgiveness of our sins.  The world doesn’t understand that forgiveness is the true purpose of the church.  Therefore, it does not see the real difference between the church and the world.

The true difference between the world and the church is that the church is full of hypocrites who are forgiven.  It is also full of thieves who are forgiven, liars who are forgiven, murderers who are forgiven, and adulterers who are forgiven.  The church is full of sinners who are forgiven.  The world does not understand this forgiveness and therefore sees no point to the church.

Today we celebrate and thank God for the ministry of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League which knows the point of the church. For 76 years the LWML has been supporting mission work nationally and internationally. The women truly are Lutheran Women in Mission, and they are also women of encouragement. The LWML hasn’t just been collecting pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in their mite boxes; they have also been encouraging women and men in their faith walk to find true rest in the forgiveness of Jesus.

Over the 76 years of ministry, the LWML has lived through major challenges in our world and country, and even in their organization. Through all of the challenges and uncertainties, the LWML has placed their trust in God and have looked to Him for direction. Lives have been touched through their work and people have received rest that comes from our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

Let us be encouraged in our own witness by the witness of the LWML. There are people all around us that struggle with insecurity in this fast-changing world. We have true rest to offer them in a God who loves them and gave His Son for them. Let’s live in this rest and share it with others because the day is coming when every person will leave this world behind.  Those who leave without faith in Jesus Christ will leave without forgiveness.  They will suffer the eternal condemnation that their hypocrisy and other sins have earned.

Those who have faith in Jesus Christ already have forgiveness.  They have left their sin and its condemnation behind.  They will enter the eternal joy of heaven.  They will enjoy the eternal peace of Him who gave all that He had, even His whole life, for you.  Amen