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Comfort in Christ

Sermon: “Comfort in Christ”

Lectionary Series A; Second Sunday in Advent

Sunday, December 8, 2019 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 3:1-12

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight’” (Matthew 3:1-3).

Comfort. We like to be comfortable. Many us like sitting in that recliner at home by the fire. Or we like snuggling under a blanket on the couch. Or maybe we like that feel of putting on a good ‘ole pair of broken-in jeans. Or we like diving into a meal of comfort food. You know the stuff. The stuff that sticks to your ribs when you eat it. Comfort. We like to be comfortable.

Conversely, we don’t like to be uncomfortable. We don’t like to be bitter cold and we don’t like to be extremely hot either. We don’t appreciate the feel of pants that are far too tight after the Thanksgiving feast. We don’t like when someone makes us do something that is too difficult for us to accomplish. We don’t like someone rocking the boat in any way in our lives. We don’t like to be uncomfortable.

If ever there is a word that would describe the way that John the Baptist’s message is intended to make people feel, the word ‘uncomfortable’ would fit the bill.

After four hundred years of silence from the prophets of God, John the Baptist came on the scene as the fulfillment of the prophecy that one like Elijah would come. And here he was in the wilderness eating locusts and wild honey and wearing a camel skin with a belt around his waist. But it wasn’t his apparel or food selections that rocked the boat. It was the words that came out of his mouth.

Repent. In this sense of the word, he was calling the people who came out to hear him to convert. To stop in their tracks and change their sinful ways. 

At the core of the word, repent, it means to change your mind. Change your mind about sin and about God because the direction you are currently headed is going to kill you. 

The response from many who were there was to repent and be baptized. They heard the word, and they didn’t hesitate to listen and obey. John’s message had made them uncomfortable with their sin, and they knew they needed a change. 

That’s what the law does. It makes people uncomfortable. They see their sin for what it truly is. They see that to continue in that sin will only lead to death. So the only response is to repent and seek the true comfort that comes from outside of themselves.

But that was only the response of some who were there that day listening to John the Baptist. There were the Pharisees and Sadducees who were far too comfortable with themselves. So John called them out for their hypocrisy.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:7-10).

These Pharisees and Sadducees, in their arrogance, saw no need to repent and be baptized. They were convinced that salvation was already theirs to be had. They were thoroughly convinced that they would be saved because they had been grafted into the family of Abraham, and that was all they needed. They didn’t need this call to repentance.

But, that’s just it. We all need this call to repentance. That is the beauty of the season of Advent. Amidst all of the hustle and bustle of this season, John the Baptist stops us in our tracks. He makes clear that this time of year is not about ensuring the comforts of this life are in place. The decorations, the gifts, the baked goods, etc. Those are all well and good. But that is not what we need. We need to be prepared for the coming of Christ. We need to be constantly receiving His Word and Sacrament. And not just at Christmas, but for the Last Day as well.

Advent provides us a time to be honest with ourselves. We are far too comfortable. We are far too comfortable with our sin. In fact, we can be downright arrogant when it comes to our sin. We can be inclined to think that this call to repentance isn’t for us.  We often think it is for someone else. Ever thought: “Wow, I sure hope so and so is listening to this sermon. They really need to hear it.” But the truth is, we all do.

We all need to change. And change is hard. Especially for Lutherans. How many Lutherans does it take to change a lightbulb? Change?

Change can be painful. Change can hurt. Because change starts with an admission that what we are doing is in fact sinful. And we don’t like to call our sin a sin. We prefer to justify our sins. They’re not that bad. It wasn’t as bad as my brother or sister or my neighbor or my co-worker, so it’s alright.

But it’s not alright. Sin is never alright. Just one sin separates us from God. Just one. No matter how big or small the sin may be in our eyes, a sin is a sin is a sin in God’s eyes. And He takes it very seriously. How seriously?

John the Baptist tells us: I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11-12).

John points us to Jesus to see just how seriously God is about sin. He points us to the fact that for those that repent, they will be gathered into the barn by Jesus, but those that don’t, they will burn with unquenchable fire.

Talk about uncomfortable. You can’t get more graphic and uncomfortable that burning in unquenchable fire. But John’s message is clear. Repent, or else. Or else we face the fires of hell.

So, how have we gotten too comfortable with our sins? How have we compared ourselves to others to justify our sinful actions? How have we told ourselves our sins are not that big of a deal? How have we lied to ourselves about justifying our idolatry, our crass language, our skipping of church, our dishonoring authorities, bearing grudges, lusting, cheating, lying, coveting? 

Now is the time to repent. Repent. Because our sins our like a slippery slope that only leads us away from Jesus. I liken this to my driveway in wintertime. I have often said that my driveway was designed by Satan. I say that in jest, but when there is ice on it, I can’t even stop myself from sliding down the slippery slope that goes into the street. 

That is the way that sin works. It leads us away from Jesus. John points us back to Jesus. He points us to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He points us to where there is true comfort. It doesn’t come from within. It doesn’t come from justifying our sinful actions. It comes from outside of ourselves. From the One who made it very clear that sin is a very big deal. 

Jesus came into this world to bear our sin and be our Savior. He came to quench the unquenchable fires of God’s wrath upon the cross. The fires that should have been ours to bear in the discomfort of hell for all eternity. He came to endure the rejection of God that should have been ours for our sinful failings. His blood shed on Calvary covers all of those failings. His blood covers us and cleanses us.

Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He makes us pure, spotless, cleansed lambs of God. He removes all of the impurities, so that by His grace, we will be able to stand in the presence of the Almighty God.

That day will soon be here. As we find ourselves in the season of Advent, we look not only to Christmas, but to Christ’s final coming. What a comfort it is for us to know that we will not need to approach that day in fear and trepidation. We who have repented of our sins, will approach the throne of God as children of the heavenly Father. We have been made that way by none other than Jesus who suffered and died for us. This is where our comfort resides as we face the coming of that final day. 

Ultimately, our comfort doesn’t come in a warm fire, a blanket, a good ole pair of jeans, or any form of comfort food. Our comfort doesn’t come from a store either. Sure, those things may be nice, but none of it compares to the comfort of knowing that our sins are forgiven and our death is defeated. None of it compares to the comfort that comes in Christ, our coming Savior and Lord. In His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Secret of Contentment

Sermon: “The Secret of Contentment”

Lectionary Series C; Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 28, 2019

Epistle Reading: Philippians 4:6-20

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you hand no opportunity. Now that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be ‘content’. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned ‘the secret’ of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:10-13).

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret. So what was the secret to being content that Paul had learned? What was it that Paul knew that we so often fail to even remotely understand? How could a man write from his prison cell that he had learned to be content? That’s right, when we hear these words, we need to picture Paul in a dark and damp prison cell, chained in shackles, malnourished, and using all his energy to write a letter to the beloved Philippians.

Paul tells us that contentment is learned. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. All learning takes time. A child does not start with algebra, geometry, and calculus. They first learn their numbers, then they learn to add and subtract them, then multiplication and division, and on it goes. It is a progression.

For Paul, he had once been a Pharisee, who had persecuted the Christian church. But on the road to Damascus, all of that changed as Jesus came to him in a blinding light. All of that changed as he was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But even after that, Paul spent three years learning before he went out on his missionary journeys. But that time spent learning the Christian faith helped to solidify him in his relationship to Christ when obstacles did arise.

This is the purpose of Catechesis here at Zion that we as Lutherans take very seriously. We are well aware that once these youth enter into the real world of life, they will be hit with an onslaught of obstacles and temptations where the devil will try and steer them away from Christ. It is our goal by giving them a solid foundation in their faith that they will be equipped against the attacks of the evil foe.

And what we know of the evil foe here in America, is that he does not have to work that hard to drive people away from Jesus. One of his favorite tactics is to drive into us the notion of discontentment.

If ever we need a litmus test of our level of contentment all we have to do is take stock of how much we complain and grumble. Like the Israelites in the wilderness who grumbled at the lack of food and water, and then grumbled because they got sick of the food that came from heaven, so it is with us.

We complain that we don’t have enough money. We complain that we don’t have enough stuff. Sure, we may have all the toys we need in life, but we want bigger toys, better toys. We complain about the food on the table because it isn’t what we like or what we really want. We complain about our aches and pains and our overall health. We complain about the weather. We complain about things constantly, and what we really enjoy is when someone will join us in our complaining. Then we feel justified in our complaint.

Oh how quickly we forget that we are indebted to God for every breath that we take. When I was teaching on the 9th and 10th commandments the other day on the topic of coveting, I instructed the catechumens to list ten things they were thankful for. I was surprised by how many of them said, “air”. I honestly hadn’t even thought of that one. How easy it is to take for granted all that God has given to us, even the very air we breathe.

But that’s just it when it comes to contentment. God is the source of everything we have in this life. It all belongs to him. I read in a sermon the other day that those who have content hearts are naturally generous. Those with discontent hearts struggle to be generous because they are too consumed with always wanting more.

It is curious to think about that in light of our giving as a congregation as we celebrate Thanksgiving here today. When the offering plates go round, do we fully appreciate that everything we have comes from God and we are blessed with an opportunity to give from what He has given to us to further the spread of Jesus’ love in our community? Or, when that plate goes around, are we more concerned with what is still on our wish list in life because we simply think we don’t have enough? In essence, do we trust God to provide for us?

That is after all, what giving to the Lord is all about. Do we trust God to provide for us? As he sat in that prison cell, St. Paul completely trusted that God would provide for his needs. Without question, he trusted him. Why wouldn’t he?

This was God we are talking about, after all. In love, He sent His Son to suffer, bleed, and die to save him from sure and certain death and condemnation in hell. How could he not be thankful? How could he not be content?

What Paul had learned was that every ounce of contentment came from being connected to Jesus. It had nothing to do with comforts in this world. It had nothing to do with health or wealth. It had everything to do with the fact that Jesus had carried the burden of his sins on Calvary, and that was enough…more than enough.

St. Paul once wrote while being tormented by a thorn in the flesh that many interpret to be a work of Satan: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Grace. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. This is what was sufficient for Paul no matter what he had to endure. And that was a lot. Stonings, beatings, mockery, shipwrecked, snake bitten, and ultimately killed for his faith. Through it all, he was content because He was connected to Christ.

That’s the secret. For us as believers, we may be tempted to think, that’s not much of a secret. Or we might say, “Duh… I already knew that.” But how often do we lose sight of where contentment is found? How often do we get caught up in complaining and grumbling and lose sight of all that God has given us? How often does consumption rule our thoughts, words, and deeds?

Tomorrow is Black Friday. And thanks to our impatience as a society, Black Friday now begins on Thanksgiving. And what is the message on such an occasion as this? We don’t have enough. We need more. We need bigger. We need better.

But it’s not just on Black Friday, it’s every day. Remember, Paul said he had learned to be content in every circumstance. That even includes pain, suffering, and heartache. Again, what was his secret? He was connected to Christ.

See here today, that Jesus, the very Son of God comes to us in His Word and Sacrament. These are the vehicles He uses to deliver contentment into our lives. What He gives satisfies our hungry hearts and quenches our parched souls. Where the food we eat for Thanksgiving will only provide us temporary satisfaction, what Christ gives us today gives us eternal satisfaction.

There, under bread and wine, is the body and blood of the Son of God. There in that simple mean is all that we need to be sustained in body and soul as we journey throughout this life. Where everyone says we need more and more in life, there is nothing more that we need than what our God faithfully provides as He delivers to us forgiveness, life, and salvation.

It is as we dine upon this meal again and again, that we truly do learn the secret to contentment. For in our consumption of this meal we are given a faith and a trust in the Almighty God that He will be faithful to fulfill all of His promises. No longer do we look to the world, to satisfy us and provide contentment. Now we receive all that we need from the hand of Jesus who freely gives it to us.

          The table prayer in the Catechism says it best from Psalm 145: “The eyes of all look to You, O Lord, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

          But it doesn’t stop there. Once the meal is over, we are invited to return thanks in saying, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever. Amen.”

          Thinking of Paul there in that prison cell, eating whatever prison rations he received while possibly uttering the words of these prayers certainly puts into perspective what the secret to contentment is truly all about.

          It’s about Jesus, and being constantly connected to Him. Without Him, contentment is a never-ending pursuit in futility. But with Him, contentment is a gift that comes in none other than the hands that were pierced for us that satisfies the desires of every living thing.

Thanks be to God, for He will supply every need of ours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

What Are We Waiting For?

Sermon: “What Are We Waiting For?”

Lectionary Series C; The Last Sunday of the Church Year

Sunday, November 24, 2019 – Proper 29

Gospel Reading: Luke 23:27-43

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed! Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:27-31).

The Last Sunday of the Church Year is a time of great joy and excitement as we look forward to the coming of Christ. Oh, how wonderful it will be when we will look up into the clouds and we will see the Lord descend. The dead in Christ will rise first, then those who are alive will also be raised, and all believers will be with the Lord. What a day that will be for those of us who confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

The Last Sunday of the Church Year is also a time to weep because we know there are those who don’t believe. There are those who have rejected Christ as their Savior. For some that is a neighbor or a friend. For others it hits closer to home; a sibling, a parent, a spouse, or a child. Thinking about them and their lack of faith seems to strip the coming of the Last Day of its joy and splendor.

Jesus saw the multitude of people and the women who were mourning and lamenting for him, and He said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

Jerusalem, the very city and the very people Jesus had come to while on this earth, were the very ones who rejected him. Here He was bleeding profusely as He struggled to make it up the hill of Golgotha. Here He was surrounded by mourners who thought they should be weeping for Him. But He was not the one who needed to be wept over. Those who reject Him; they are the ones to be wept over.

In a moment of absolute love and compassion, Jesus turns and takes this moment with the people one more time before He is nailed to the cross to call His people to repentance.

To not repent would mean utter destruction not only for them, but also for their children. That’s why in graphic detail, He says that when the Last Day comes, it would be better for a woman to be barren, then have to watch her child face the destruction that is to come. It would be better to have a mountain fall of them or hills cover them than to have to face judgment as one who does not repent. One last time He makes clear to them that this is a time to repent while the wood is green. Wood that is green does not burn. But woe to the one who does not repent. They will be like wood that is dry when the Last Day comes and have to face the fires of hell.

People of God, what are we waiting for? We are called to repentance. We are called to confess our sins, to admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior. We are called to tell others that they also need a Savior. Because the Last Day will come.

But how often do we behave as if it is never going to come. How often do we take confessing our sins for granted? How often do we take confessing our faith for granted? How often do we put off conversations with those we know and love who have fallen away from the faith or we are concerned are in the process of falling away because we want to make sure that when Thanksgiving rolls around, everyone just gets along?

What are we waiting for? What are we waiting for when it comes to confessing our sins and changing our sinful ways? What are we waiting for when it comes to confessing the faith that we have been given and sharing the sure and certain hope that we have in Jesus Christ? Are we waiting for an end of life moment to wake us up from our complacency?

That’s what it took for the one convicted criminal on the cross. There he was in the spotlight of all that was going on as Jesus was being crucified. Insults were being hurled this way and that. The book of Matthew even tells us that he joined in…that both criminals were insulting him.

But something changed him. SomeOne changed him. That SomeOne was the One who crucified next to him. Where anyone else would have been only focusing on themselves and their own suffering, Jesus was not concerned about Himself at all. He didn’t fight fire with fire as the insults came in every which direction. But He didn’t remain silent either.

And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Consider all that He had gone through. The betrayal of His own disciple. Hauled away by an unruly mob. Unjust trials and questioning before Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate. Beaten. Spit upon. Mocked. Whipped. And what were His first words from the cross? “Father, forgive them.”

Hearing such love at a time such as this, invoked a confession in one more sinner before he breathed his last. Witnessing the scoffing of the rulers, then the mockery of the soldiers, and lastly the railing of the fellow criminal, enough was enough.

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

Where this convicted criminal at one point had hurled insults at Jesus, now he sees Him as He truly is. He is the Savior of the world. He is exactly who they are mocking Him to be. He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!

And the great irony was that He is the Chosen One. He is the Christ. He could have saved Himself. But it is precisely the fact that because He didn’t save Himself that we are saved.

This is what the one criminal on the cross realizes and confesses by the grace of God. “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

In one line this convicted criminal confesses his sins. He sees himself as a sinner in the presence of the Almighty God. He sees his need for a Savior, and here He is right beside him, the innocent Son of God who is suffering and dying just as he is.

Here we gather as well in the presence of the Almighty God. We enter into the house of the Lord and our deeds deserve the same penalty that the convicted criminal deserved. We deserve to die upon that cross. We deserve death and damnation.

Staring ahead at the cross enables us to see just how serious our God is about sin. About your sin. About mine. He doesn’t tolerate it. He hates it. And a price had to be paid, or else there would literally be hell to pay for us.

This is what that confessing criminal saw. In the last hours of his life, he was facing eternity in hell. But in those last breaths he heard the sweetest message that anyone could ever hear.

And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

When we are called to repent, and by faith we confess our sins, this is what happens for us as well. The gates of Paradise are opened for us as well. When the pastor turns and proclaims the absolving forgiveness of Jesus upon you, all that Jesus did upon the cross is given to you at that very moment. Forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Like a flood, your sins are washed away, and everything that once condemned you to hell is no more. Gone. Finished.

How amazing is it that the two words of Jesus we hear in our text for today are all about forgiveness. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

That is God’s message for us as He calls us to repent as you await his coming. Though we may weep for those who don’t yet know Christ as Savior and Lord, we can be confident that they will see Christ in us as we confess our sins and confess our Savior again and again. So, what are we waiting for?

In a matter of moments, we will be dining together at the table of the Lord. There, our sins will be forgiven as we receive the body and blood of Jesus. And there we will proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again.

We have been given the privilege to proclaim the good news of great joy that is for all people. So, what are we waiting for? Because the truth is, we are not like the thieves on the cross in one sense. We don’t know when we will our end will come. We don’t know the day of our death. Which means now is the time to repent…to confess…to forgive…and to proclaim. What are we waiting for?

We have been given all the strength we need in the body and blood of Christ. Our sins are forgiven and our salvation is secured. Jesus is now at work in us as we await His return on the Last Day. Having released us from the hold of sin and death, we have now been set free to bring life into this dying world…the life and salvation of none other than the crucified, resurrected, ascended, and returning…Jesus Christ.    In His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

God at Work

Sermon: “God at Work”

Lectionary Series C; 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, November 17, 2019 – Proper 28

Epistle Reading: 2nd Thessalonians 3:6-13

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat (2nd Thessalonians 3:6-10).

How many of us were raised in a household that had a built in expectation that everyone will work? How many of us had daily chores to do around the house? How many of us heard the line from a parent: “Many hands make light work?”

To work is a gift of God. I am not speaking only of working in a job. I am speaking of working and serving in the vocations that God has placed us in. Be that as a worker, a husband, wife, father, mother, child, neighbor; no matter what, to work is a gift of God.

Before I continue, let me be clear about one thing: Though work is a gift, it should be noted that there are those who are unable to work, be it because of a disability or an injury. Some may be unemployed or underemployed who desire to work, but the work is simply not available to them at this time. This is not what this text for today is getting at.

What our text gets at today are those that could work, but instead choose not to. St. Paul is calling out people who are (as one commentary that I read called them), loafers. And anyone who is a loafer is lazy. And laziness is a sin.

In the portion of the catechism on Confession, when it asks which sins we should confess, it says: “Consider you place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?

Let me back up. Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? For whatever reason, there were a group of people in Thessalonica who had resolved to walk around in idleness. Though they had been told that Christ would be coming, they were neglecting their daily duties as they waited for His arrival. Perhaps they thought that since Christ had done all the work, now they could just sit around and do nothing until He returned.

This begs the questions, are we in any way, neglecting our daily duties? Are we neglecting our daily duties as workers, as neighbors, as members of a congregation, as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children? Are we being lazy?

Kids, are you doing the chores and the homework you are given, or are you spending more time playing video games and watching television? Parents, are you giving undivided attention to your kids when they are in need, or are you scrolling through your phone instead? Members of Zion, are you helping out with the work of the congregation as we seek to grow the kingdom of God, or are you sitting back hoping someone else will step up? Workers, are you putting one hundred percent of your effort into the project your boss gave you, or are you just giving it a portion of your effort and sometimes even slacking off on company time? Neighbors, are you getting to know the people who live around you, or are you so concerned with your own affairs that you won’t even take time to consider care about the people that live next to you?

Laziness cuts us all to the heart when we really examine ourselves in light of our vocations. And I know, there are those of us that would contend that we aren’t lazy. We work really hard. But that’s where the flip-side of this topic of work comes in. How many of us work so hard that we have our vocations upside down?

How many of us put in so many hours at the workplace, that we neglect the calling we have at home. Or we work so much that we only give our family the leftovers of our time and energy. Or how many of us work so much that we claim we have no time to visit or even call extended family members? Or how many of us work so much that we have no time to give to our congregation and the furthering of God’s kingdom? I think the best line I heard about this was from my home pastor in one of his sermons. He said, “Nobody ever sat on their deathbed and said, I wish I would have worked one more hour. (Pause) Work is most certainly a gift, but if we aren’t careful, we can make work into a god, and our priorities can easily get out of whack.

What also can get out of whack is when our being so-called busy can lead to us being busybodies. St. Paul says: For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living (2nd Thessalonians 3:11-12).

Apparently, in Thessalonica, people had enough time on their hands to meddle in the affairs of others with gossiping. Now gossiping and bad-mouthing of others never happens in our community, now does it? Of course it does. Even if we are busy with work, we can’t help but think we have the right to talk poorly of others to make us feel better about ourselves. Doing so only brings a community down, and it severs relationships. So this begs the question, how are you meddling in the affairs of others? How are you gossiping about others? How are you speaking poorly of others? How have you damaged someone else’s reputation by what you have said or done? And to whom do you need to go to apologize, ask for forgiveness, and seek reconciliation?

When it comes to the topic of work, be it laziness, or working like a work-a-holic, or behaving as a busybody who meddles in the affairs of others, we are all called to repent. We are all called to admit that we are wrong, and to take sin seriously. Sin separates, it severs, it kills. And to continue in it, is to choose death over life. So as Christians, let us repent, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, let us change our sinful ways. (Pause)

Now with all this talk of work, let us not neglect what is most essential. Rest. Scripture says: As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good (2nd Thessalonians 3:13). We need rest from all of the weariness. Our bodies need it. Our souls need it. We need rest. Even God, after creating the world in six days, rested on the seventh day. He rested on that day and He made it holy.

When we fill our schedules so full that we neglect rest, we do no one any good. If anything, we only set ourselves up to somehow think that we are saved by our works. We start to see ourselves only in light of the work we do, instead of resting in the work that was done for us by Christ on the cross. (Pause)

This is precisely why Jesus, in no way neglected the duties given to Him by His Father. He was not lazy at all. He was the hardest of workers as He willingly came to this earth, into a world of sin and death. But along the way to the cross, He took time to rest. He regularly stopped to rest as He prayed to His Father in heaven. Then, when it came time for the job to be done, He did it until it was finished. Until our sins were forgiven; our sins of laziness, and overworking and neglecting our other vocations, and being busybodies that meddle in the lives of others.

‘Resting’ securely in Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, we are now blessed with God at work in our lives as we await the return of Christ. First we rest in His presence here in His house as we are strengthened by His Word and Sacrament, and then He sends us out into our vocations to serve Him and others. And in that work, He presents before us countless opportunities to share His love with others. With a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend, a family member, a congregational member, or a visitor to our church.

And speaking of our congregation, how could we all lend a hand, as many hands do make light work? How could we all work together to Share Hope and Teach Christ here in this congregation and in our community? (Pause)

May we see here at Zion, and in all of our vocations, all that God has put in place before us to do to serve Him and others. And may we rejoice in the fact that God is at work in us and through us…so that others may know and believe what we have been given to believe…that Jesus Christ is Lord…and it won’t be long and He will return to take us to be with Him for all eternity.

Let us pray. Take my life and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my hands and let them move, at the impulse of Thy love; Take my feet and let them be, swift and beautiful for Thee. Take my voice and let me sing, always, only for my King; take my lips and let them be, filled with messages from Thee. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Encouragement to Stand Firm

Sermon: “Encouragement to Stand Firm”

Lectionary Series C; 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, November 10, 2019 – Proper 27

Epistle Reading: 2nd Thessalonians 2:1-8, 13-17

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

We are nearing the end of the church year. The lessons for this week and the next two will prepare us for the coming of Christ.

 

Before we dive into our text, this is a good time to review the seasons of the church year. The church year begins with the season of Advent, which takes place right before Christmas. The color is blue as it reminds us of the hope that comes in the Coming Christ. Advent means ‘coming’.

We then proceed to the season of Christmas, as we mark the incarnation, or the coming of God in the flesh into this world in the person of Jesus, the Son of God. The color for the season of Christmas is white as it reminds us of holy one who has come into the world.

The next season of the church year is Epiphany where the color is green to focus our attention on the growth of Jesus’ ministry.

We then move into Lent which is a season of repentance which lasts forty days building up to Holy Week. The color for this season is purple, as we are directed to the royalty of the Son of God who bore our sins.

From there we go into Holy Week which builds us up to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, where the color shifts to white as we mark that Jesus has been raised from the dead in the season of Easter.

Then, when the promised Holy Spirit comes, we use the color red to be reminded of the tongues of fire that came upon those disciples as they proclaimed the Gospel in many languages.

And we conclude the year in the season of Pentecost, the longest season of the church year, where we focus on the growth of the Church through Word and Sacrament. As you can see today, the color for the season of Pentecost is green.

Festival services are also marked with colors like red and white, but all of it is to help align us and direct us to the life of Christ and how He has graciously welcomed us into His story here in His house.

 

As I said before, we are now entering the last weeks of the church year. It will soon be Advent. But before we reach that season, St. Paul offers the Thessalonians and us some words of encouragement as we look forward to the coming of Christ on the Last Day: Stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter (2nd Thessalonians 2:15).

          The encouragement is to stand firm. To stand firm is to assume that there is a solid foundation under one’s feet. No doubt we have all heard about the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is leaning because it lacks solid soil under its foundation.

          Perhaps some of you have played the game of Jenga. Our Junior Youth Group will be playing the game this coming Wednesday. In that game, there are 54 boards. 18 layers of three boards each are stacked upon one another. Each layer is perpendicular to the layer beneath it. Youth then take out one board at a time and then have to stack that board on the top of the ever-so-teetering structure. The loser of the game is the one who pulls out the board and the structure collapses. It is a lot of fun to play, and it clearly depicts just how essential a firm foundation is.

          Being called to stand firm by St. Paul calls each of us to check our footing, to see if we are standing securely, or are we about to topple.

St. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to stand firm as they awaited the coming of Christ on the Last Day. The church in Thessalonica was suffering under persecution. They were converted pagans who had been told in Paul’s first letter to them that the Day of the Lord would be coming, and it would come like a thief in the night. They were holding on to the promise that the persecution would end and they would soon see Jesus.

But unfortunately, they had received a letter spreading a rumor that the day of the Lord had already come. You can imagine for a church that was waiting for relief to come in the face of persecution, to find out that the Last Day had already passed would have been very distressing. They thought they had been left behind. Needless to say their anxiety levels soared thinking they had missed the return of Christ.

Paul assured them that had not yet happened. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God (2nd Thessalonians 2:3-4). (Pause)

As the Last Day approaches, such words of St. Paul ought to heighten our awareness to just how crafty the evil one is. He is not afraid to seat himself in the temple of God and proclaim himself to be God. Herein lies the line: Where Christ builds a church, the devil builds a chapel right next door. In fact, the devil will not hesitate to enter into the church itself. His whole goal is to take down the Church.

Remember, the devil is like a sneaky serpent and he will not hesitate to poke his head in where it doesn’t belong, and it isn’t long and his whole body follows as well. He works through doubt and deception. Remember how he tempted Eve in the garden. Did God really say you shouldn’t eat of the fruit of the tree? Notice the devil goes to attack on us to get us to doubt the truth of God’s Word.

Scripture tells us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

So, as the onslaught of the Great Deceiver continues, Paul encourages us to stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught. (Pause)

My wife, Emily, was sharing with me an excerpt from the book she was reading that was quite striking, where the author, (Andrew, by name), got the chance to sit down with a Muslim leader named Fadlallah. Here is that excerpt. We met five or six times. There was one meeting where we sat and drank Arab coffee and Fadlallah said to me, “Andrew, you Christians have a big problem.” Well, I knew Christians had problems, but I was curious to find out what this Muslim leader thought was our big problem. His answer: “You don’t follow the example of Jesus anymore!”

It was hard to disagree with him, so I asked him what we should do.

“You need to go back to the book!” He meant, of course, the Bible.

Now it’s hard to believe this man said such a thing, but his words are true nonetheless. In order to stand firm, we need to constantly return to the Bible. This is what is central to our life of faith as we face the onslaught of attacks from the evil one. When Paul encouraged his hearers to stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, he was encouraging them to stand firm on the rock which is the Word of God, which is Christ Jesus our Lord.

It’s like the wise man who built his house upon the rock. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded upon the rock. But if our foundation is not the Word of God, we are like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it (Matthew 7:24-27). (Pause)

How central to our lives is the Word of God? How is our footing? What is our foundation? Are we standing firm on the rock as we face the coming of Christ or are we more like the Tower of Pisa on some insecure sand?

In the book I am reading now called Built on the Rock, it shares the research that in order for a congregation to be healthy, at least 20% of its ‘active’ membership needs to be in Adult Bible Class. 20% may sound low, but believe it or not, we aren’t there. Which means that when we face conflict as a congregation, we will be more apt to handle it on the basis of emotion and our own human reason rather than standing firm on the rock.

Ask yourself: How often am I in the Word throughout the week? Could I possibly craft time out for more? Am I able to navigate the Bible without using the table of contents to find a book of the Bible? If not, could I challenge myself to learn all sixty-six books of the Bible? Am I familiar with the key characters in Scripture and the stories that go with them…Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Ruth, Esther, the disciples, Paul, Jesus…and countless others? What is keeping me from reorienting my priorities so that I ensure that I am standing securely on the rock? (Pause)

Jesus Christ is the solid rock upon which we are called to stand firm, because He is the One who stood firm in the face of the greatest opposition this world could muster, the greatest opposition Satan himself could muster. Jesus stood firm on the cross of Calvary. Though He could have called down legions of angels to rescue Him, He stood firm until it was finished. Until the last breath. Until the last heartbeat. Until we were saved from sin, death, and the devil once and for all.

As we look at the cross before us, we see the price that had to be paid for all the times we despised God’s Word by not reading it, learning it, marking it, and inwardly digesting it. And we rejoice that He chose to forgive and save us so that we would obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2nd Thessalonians 2:13-14).

St. Paul told the Thessalonians about what that day would be like in his first letter to them. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17). (Pause)

We who are chosen by God can be encouraged that God plants us firmly upon the rock of His Word as we look forward to the glory that awaits us. We will not be left behind as the Thessalonians feared, but rather we will always be with the Lord.

Until that day, stand firm upon Jesus and His Word. He is our rock that will keep us from toppling. He is our sure and certain foundation who will enable us to endure until He comes again. He is our Savior and Lord, and He stands firm, all for us.

It is as one of my favorite hymns says:

“How firm a foundation, O saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He has said, who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?”

“Fear not! I am with you, O be not dismayed, for I am your God and will still give you aid; I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand, upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Victory Celebration

Sermon: “Victory Celebration”

Lectionary Series C; All Saints’ Sunday

Sunday, November 3, 2019 – Proper 27

First Reading: Revelation 7:9-17

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Washington Nationals just won the World Series of Major League Baseball. As the ninth inning of game seven came to a close, players and coaches from the Nationals jumped up and down like little boys in a school yard. The celebration continued in a plastic lined locker room as those same players and coaches put on goggles and sprayed champagne everywhere. Then yesterday, hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets of Washington D.C. as the victory parade and speeches ensued. What a party! What a victory celebration!

Everyone loves a good victory celebration. Everyone loves to be able to just let loose and rejoice in winning. We all love winning, am I right? Whether it’s a World Series win, a Super Bowl win, or just a good ole win at a game of Sheephead. We all love winning, and we love to celebrate the victory afterwards.

The image we have in our text for today is a victory celebration. The saints have come out of the great tribulation, and now it is time to party. No more hunger, no more thirst, no more scorching heat, no more tears. Now all that remains is victory. Victory in Jesus!

Just imagine all those who are going to be there. Adam and Eve. Noah. Father Abraham…who had many sons. Isaac. Jacob. Moses. Ruth. Esther. Elijah. Joseph and Mary. Peter, James, and John. The apostle Paul. And countless others from all tribes and nations from every generation. Literally, countless, the text says.

Everyone will be wearing white robes given to them by none other than Jesus Himself who washed them in His own precious blood. Everyone will be waving palm branches in their hands celebrating the victory. Everyone will be shouting: Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!

This is the image of victory that we get to look forward to as we celebrate All Saints Sunday today. As we give thanks for the victory given in Jesus afforded to our loved ones who have died in the faith, we set our sights on our own future glory. We fix our eyes with the saints on the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Where are your eyes fixed? Are the set on Christ? Are they fixed on future glory? When John wrote these letters to the seven churches which we know as the book of Revelation, he was writing them to a persecuted church. He was writing them to a people that were daily being tested and tried for their faith. People were being imprisoned, wounded, and even killed. It was hardly a time for a victory celebration.

John invites those who read his letters to rejoice even now that this image of victory is a guarantee. Perhaps some of you remember back in Super Bowl III, three days before the game was to begin, Joe Namath, the quarterback for the New York Jets guaranteed a victory over the favored Baltimore Colts. When the game took place, Namath and his underdog Jets delivered on his guarantee securing the victory by a margin of 16 to 7.

Though Namath came through, most of us would agree that guarantees are hard to come by that live up to what they claim. We have guarantees that come with purchasing a vehicle. We have guarantees given to us by family members. We have guarantees that come with a new job. How many times have we had the guarantees in life wind up letting us down, because quite frankly, people let us down?

We hear of an image of victory like we do in our text for today, and it is difficult for us to believe that it will come to fruition. We want evidence. We want proof. Our lack of trust in the Almighty God coming through for us is why we live the way we do as we approach the Last Day.

All too often we live in fear, not as those who have a guaranteed victory celebration awaiting us. We look at life through the lens of our current suffering rather than the glory that awaits us. We look at the hunger, the thirst, the scorching heat, and the tears, and we fail to recognize that John tells us that all this will be no more.

By our own reason or strength we fail to comprehend just how grand things will be when Christ does return. How often do we think that if we can’t understand something then it must not be true?

This is why John describes the victory celebration as He does. He doesn’t tell us as much of what will be there as much as what won’t be there. There won’t be hunger or thirst or scorching heat or tears. In the 21st chapter he tells his readers: He (God) will wipe away ever tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).

By the process of negation, John gives us a beautiful image of the future glory that awaits us in the resurrection. He tells us that God will eliminate all the realities of living in a sin-filled world. He paints a picture of pure joy and bliss as all the pain and suffering of this world will be no more.

Each time we gather for a funeral and the committal, this is what we have to proclaim thanks to Jesus for: Death does not get the final say. Jesus, who said that it was finished, gets the final say. He destroyed death by His death on the cross, and His victory over the grave is what gives us hope. Thanks to Jesus, we have hope even while living in this world of suffering and pain, even while living in this valley of the shadow of death.

Hope is a word that gets used so loosely today. Hope is a word that so often fails to offer any guarantees. Hope is so often misplaced. But Scripture tells us: Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:24-25).

And that’s where our problem arises. We fail to trust in God to come through for us because we lack patience. We want the suffering to end now. We want the pain to end now. We want the sin and death to be done for.

Thanks be to God, He guaranteed just that. All the way back in the Garden of Gethsemane, God promised that the offspring of Eve would crush the head of the serpent. We look back and see that this promise is now our sure and certain hope. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world to be our hope. He came into this world to shed His own precious blood with His innocent suffering and death, to forgive us for our lack of fearing, loving, and trusting in Him above all things, and crush the serpent Satan once and for all.

Whenever we fail to trust that victory celebration is ours, all we need to do is look back to the cross and the empty tomb and see that what He promised is an accomplished fact. It is finished. It is done.

The saints who have gone before us are already getting the party started for us. And we are invited to join them even now. Each and every Sunday, when we are invited to the table of the Lord, we feast on the foretaste to come. We feast upon Christ, the same feast the saints enjoy in heaven.

I have often told people that if I could redesign our church, I would have the altar pulled out from the wall and the communion rail be in the form of a half circle. There in the middle would be the body and blood of Christ. We would join in dining together, but recognizing that the other half circle is completed in heaven by all the saints who have gone before us.

Our liturgy clearly states this beautiful truth in the preface to communion before the Sanctus is sung: “It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God.  In the communion of all Your saints gathered into the one body of Your Son, You have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses that we, encouraged by their faith and strengthened by their fellowship, may run with perseverance the race that is set before us and, together with them, receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.  Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying: (8am) Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of pow’r and might; (10:30am) Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty.”

What a victory celebration we have been given to participate in even here now, even here today. And it will only get better when Christ does fulfill His promise to return, when the separation will be ended, sin and death done for, forever. We will all be joined together. We will all be clothed in white robes, and wave palm branches in our hands. We will all give out a shout: Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!” Let the victory celebration begin! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Truth

Sermon: “The Truth”

Lectionary Series C; Reformation Sunday; Confirmation Sunday

Sunday, October 27, 2019 – Proper 26

Gospel Reading: John 8:31-36

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

Truth. What is truth? It was a question that Pontius Pilate asked of Jesus right before Jesus was convicted and crucified.

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38).

What is truth? We live in world that claims that truth is relative. We live in a world where people think they get to decide what is the truth that they will believe in. We live in a world where what is true for you, may not be true for me, and vice versa. Just don’t go thinking your truth is more right than mine. Because what’s true for me is true for me, and you must respect that.

Our text calls us out of this world of relative truth to The Truth. The One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The One who is the Truth that sets us free from sin, death, and the devil. The One who looked Pontius Pilate in the eye and said that those who are of the ‘truth’ listen to the voice of Jesus.

What is truth? The truth is, that Jesus loves you. How many years have you been singing that song? “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.” Has it sunk in yet…that Jesus loves you?

Jesus came into this world of sin by humbling Himself to be born of a virgin in a stable and placed in a manger. He became sin who knew no sin. He lived the perfect life that we could not live. He laid down that perfect life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. He died our death and was raised back to life for us.

What is truth? The truth is that Jesus will never leave you or forsake you. That was His promise as He ascended into heaven when He said “I will be with you always even to the end of the age.” Jesus keeps coming to us here in His house so that we can see Him, hear Him, and touch Him in the means that He reveals Himself to us. He is here right now in His Word and in His Sacrament.

What is truth? The truth is you are baptized into the very name of the Triune God. Through water and the Word, we were named and claimed to be beloved children of the heavenly Father. At the font is where our old sinful self was drowned, and the resurrected Christ reached down and grabbed ahold us and pulled us up in order to save us. And save us, He most certainly did.

What is truth? The truth is that you are a sinner. Each and every one of us has been conceived and born into sin. It’s called original sin. The sin passed down through our parents all the way from Adam and Eve. From that original sin, we do what we do best. Sinners sin. It’s called actual sin. Sin separates. It separates us from God. It separates us from our neighbors. And who are our neighbors? All people. And in this sinful separation, there is a deeper truth that we have to face. Because of our disobedience of God’s commandments, because of our sins, each and every one of us is doomed to die.

Have you ever been to a funeral before? If you have, then you have seen that the wage of sin is real. The last breath is real. The last heart beat is real. Death is real. It is a guarantee for us as sinners. What did Benjamin Franklin say? The only two guarantees in life are what? Death and taxes. Exactly! We are sinners, and we will die.

What is truth? You and I don’t like to admit that we are sinners doomed to die. We don’t like to admit that we are wrong. We don’t like to call sin a sin. We don’t like to confess that we are sinners in need of a Savior.

What is truth? If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1st John 1:8).

What is truth? You and I like to lie to ourselves to justify our thoughts, words, and deeds. We like to think that we are good people who are deserving of heaven. We like to compare ourselves to others so we can think that others are far more deserving of death and hell than us. We like to do what we want to do rather than abide in God’s Word and keep reading it, marking it, learning it, and inwardly digesting it as if our life depended upon it. We like the slavery to sin rather than the freedom that comes in Christ, because let’s be honest, we like our sins more than we love our Savior. And we like to think that our sins are not that big of a deal.

What is truth? For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus’ death upon the cross is proof that our sins are a very big deal. He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). It took the death of the Son of God in order to save us. He had to endure the wrath of God so that we would be saved from the fires of hell. How can we not say that was a big deal? (Pause)

What is truth? Today is Reformation Sunday. Today we remember when a monk by the name of Martin Luther made a big deal about the Truth of Jesus being proclaimed. By posting 95 theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, he called the Roman Catholic Church to account for their sale of indulgences, for their abandoning of the Word of God. And so today we rejoice that the Word of God was restored to the Church. We rejoice in being Lutherans who believe and confess that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and by Scripture alone.

What is truth? Today is Confirmation Sunday. Today thirteen youth will stand before this congregation and publicly declare that the salvation won for them in their baptism by Jesus is a very big deal. It is such a big deal that they will publicly declare that they “intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death.” It is such a big deal that they will publicly declare that they “intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.”

What is truth? The truth is that as we look back on over 500 years of our church body confessing the faith, a child being baptized today, and thirteen youth confessing their faith, is that the Truth is a big deal, and the Truth still matters. The Truth is not relative at all. The Truth is timeless. The Truth does not change. The Truth is a person. The Truth is none other than the crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, and ascended Jesus Christ.

Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Little did He know but the Truth he needed for salvation was standing right in front of him. The same is true for us.

Here today, Jesus comes to us in the hearing of His Word. He invites us to abide in His Word. He invites us to abide in Him as we eat His body, and drink His blood. Here today, we see firsthand that there is nothing more that Jesus wants than to have us close to Him…now and for all eternity.

What is truth? In a world of relative truth, how blessed are we to have the Truth…in our ears, upon our lips, and in our lives?! So, may we never stop confessing the Truth, and may we never forget what is most certainly true, that Jesus Christ loves you.

We join in singing the first verse of Jesus Loves Me.

Jesus loves me, this I know.

For the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong.

They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

Yes, Jesus loves me.

The Bible tells me so.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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