Advent Midweek 3
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Wednesday of Gaudete
Perhaps our biggest problem with sin is not so much the committing of sin, though this is bad and truly damning. Our bigger problem with sin is our comfort with it. Yes, we confess in the three Creeds that Jesus sits at the right and of the Father, from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead, but, like anything repetitive, eventually we get used to it. The loudly ticking clock in the living room is just part of the familiar noises of your house. You stop noticing the tiny strip of darker wall paint on the white ceiling where you didn’t tape well. It all fades into the background, nothing that grabs your attention. Our problem is that sin does the same thing. We all do it. We all have favorite sins, things we go back to time and time again. Sometimes we call these pet sins. The proper term is besetting sins. “Pet sins” sounds too cute and innocent, like the puppy that curls up next to you on the couch. What puppy is harmful?! Consider Webster’s definition of “besetting:” constantly present or attacking. What sin, what lure to evil is always attacking you, always present, always singing its siren song to you? I know mine as well as you know yours. Besetting sins are never “one and done.” Once you give in, it happens repeatedly. Consider what James said: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown brings forth death”( Jas 1:14-15).
This is why besetting sin is so dangerous. You get caught in its endless spiral.
Who, tempted by the fresh plate of cookies stops at one? How easily does one become two and two a plate of your own. And while in this endless cycle, Satan tries to convince you that it’s okay. He tells you, “God will understand. Jesus is a human like you. He knows that sometimes you just need to sin to get it out of your system. But this is a lie. Remember what you sang in the Psalm, the Word of God that condemns your delusion: “You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. ‘Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!’” God does not justify sin. He will never see your sin and whisper in your ear, brushing it off: “I get it I do the same Myself.” There is never a godly justification for sin. And sin never brings relief. It only brings shame, desire for more, and eventually death. You and I are addicts of the most powerful drug ever seen on this earth.
What calls us to sobriety is the vision of Daniel: “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated…the court was seated, and the books were opened.” There will be a Judgement Day.
At present we live in God’s Day of grace. He gives us this time to hear His Word and its call to repentance. Instead of damning us as He could—and should—He calls to us to repent, and He meets that repentance with forgiveness. He does not want you or anyone else to receive the fiery torment of eternal death. To prevent this, He gladly makes avail able this, His second Advent, where He comes to you in His Word, in His Sacraments, and when He bends low His ear to hear your prayer. By the work of obedience, crucifixion, death, and resurrection accomplished in Jesus’ first Advent delivered to you in this second Advent, His final Advent need not be a thing of fear.
If your sins terrify you and make you question your eternal salvation, look no farther than your forehead and heart where the holy cross was placed upon you as a sign of your redemption. The water of Baptism may have dried from your head, but its effect is still there. When temptation to your besetting sin pulls you hard, remember your Baptism and pray for deliverance from the evil. The Lord will help as He has promised to do.
This deliverance and help is not temporary, but is eternal. In the Psalm Asaph recorded the Word of God: “Gather My saints to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” Except it is God who has made a covenant with you by sacrifice, the sacrifice of His Son. You are gathered to God and He has judged you innocent by Jesus’ sacrifice and has welcomed you into His kingdom, one Daniel confessed to be everlasting, unable to be destroyed. And if the kingdom cannot be destroyed, neither can you, its inhabitant.
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Gaudete, the Third Sunday of Advent
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
About 25 years ago the big Christian fad was the “WWJD bracelet,” a reminder to ask yourself in various situations, especially ones that could lead to sin, “What would Jesus do.” Though the intended change of action is not bad, the question is. It was a bad question because it has no answer we can know. The mind of Jesus is the mind of God. So, you can’t possibly know what Jesus would do or say in any given situation because your mind is fallen, it is not the mind of God. Thankfully, that fad died. Today gives us a chance to revise WWJD to ask “What would John do? In this season of preparation for Christ’s appearance, John is presented to us as the one to mimic because he is the picture of what the Christian life should be as one waits for the Son of God to set things right.
The Gospel today opened with John in prison. Why is he in prison? Because he stood firm in the faith against both church and state. He did not back down when the Pharisees tried to silence him when he was baptizing in the Jordan River, which was one very large strike against him. But the greatest thing he did was call a sin a sin, even when it meant risking his life. Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, was having an affair with his brother’s wife. John had the conviction to condemn this and paid the price. He was beheaded at the order of Herod’s mistress, angry that she was publicly shamed for being an adulteress. John’s imprisonment and eventual martyrdom are an example to us. He was willing to risk everything, even his life, to speak the truth. How many of us have kept our confession silent or said something like “I’m a Christian, but not one of those Christians who are militant about that” to keep from being harassed, or claimed to accept something contrary to the Word of God and our conscience to keep a job? John is an example to us of what we as Christians need to do, being willing to endure all, even death, rather than keep our confession silent.
Another example John gives us is the importance of seeking reassurance from Jesus, to cry out to Him in faith. John sends those two disciples with the question, “Are You the Coming One or are we to look for another?” Jesus’ response is almost sarcastic: “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” In other words:” You know the answer.” John knew that Jesus was the Coming One, but it didn’t feel like it. John was in prison. Jesus was supposed to be his partner in kicking Rome’s behind and He didn’t appear to be. Instead, He was out befriending tax collectors and sinners and getting invitations to Pharisees’ dinner parties. John felt betrayed and abandoned. So he asks “Are You the one” like the wife asks her husband, “Do you love me?” John and the wife both know the answer, but they need to hear it.
How often do you feel betrayed or abandoned in this life? How often do you think “Maybe God wasn’t quite telling the truth when He said that all things work together for the good of those who love Him?” We have all been tempted to think that, especially when the diagnosis is bad, the friends seem to have ditched you, or the blood of family didn’t end up being thicker than water? “You call this working out for good?!” “Is this promise true or do I look for another?” You know it’s true, but you need to hear it. Doubt always accompanies faith because our faith is housed in a mortal body. Until these corruptible puts on the incorruptible at death, doubt will always plague us. The good of complete trust that we want to do we do not do and the untrust we do not want to have we have. Who will rescue you from this body of death? Thanks be to God: Jesus Christ Our Lord!
Do what John did! When his flesh questioned, when he wanted to call the shots on what made for happiness, he went to Jesus, he went to the one who has the Word of eternal life. Jesus gently corrected John, but He did not abandon him. Jesus directed John back to His own works, to the miracles, the power over sin’s effects, and to the Gospel. You must do the same. When unbelief threatens to gain the upper hand, flee to Jesus, ask Him for your gaze to be redirected to His works, to His forgiveness of sins, for your body and soul to find sustenance and strength in the delivery of His death and resurrection here in the Means of Grace.
What this did for John is it gave him an eternal—not an earthly—perspective. Here there are imprisoned saints, there are martyrs, there are blind and lame saints. But Jesus spoke of an eternal reality. In heaven there are no prisons, no oppressive regimes, no blind or lame saints, only whole saints whose lives are freed of sin’s consequences. That eternal perspective gave John the courage to face the axe of the soldier and his disciples to find consolation in Jesus. An eternal perspective gives you the courage to make a bold confession and to endure the cross and trials of this evil day. According to the flesh it may not seem like there is much to rejoice over, but there is. Your warfare is ended. Your sin is forgiven. Heaven is yours. Now, but not yet. Until that future reality becomes your present and eternal reality, until your eyes behold it, rejoice that it id yours. The Gospel is preached to you, Jesus comes to you, and He gives you wat you need for body and soul to sustain you to live everlasting.
Advent Midweek 2 2022
Wednesday of Populus Zion
There are two things necessary to be a Christian. First, you must be a fruitful branch connected to Jesus the Christ, the Vine. Second, you must be pruned by the Father, the Vinedresser. If you are a branch bearing no fruit, you are cut off. If you are a branch bearing fruit, you are pruned. There is no life apart from God.
No branch has life unless it is connected to the vine. It may appear to be alive lying on the ground after a storm, but it is a dead branch because it no longer has the sap of life flowing to its tiniest twig or leaf. So it is for us as Christians. How many claim to be members but are lying on the ground, very much looking alive, but are disconnected from the Vine? How many have, by their own actions, chosen to allow themselves to be broken off, to allow their leaves to wither and their twigs to become dried out because the sap of life, Word and Sacrament are no longer flowing into them? They may look alive, but like our Christmas tree, which despite its beauty and vibrant color, is dying a slow death?
But that paragraph is not aimed at those not here tonight to let ourselves off the hook, the preacher included. It’s directed even at us, even at me. It’s tempting to cut ourselves off from the Sap of Christ. It’s easy to say that one feeding a week is perfectly fine. It’s better than nothing because I’m busy or tired, but when the food is available daily and in so many ways that even the disciples themselves couldn’t have dreamt of, isn’t it better to be fed daily? You wouldn’t go without eating daily, so why keep faith from eating daily?
But to us who are hungry and even for those broken off, there is hope. None of us rightfully belong to the vine. None of us are natural branches. Every one of us have been grafted into the Vine. To graft in a branch, the vine is cut, the branch inserted into the cut, and then bound to the vine. Jesus, the vine, was cut, His side pierced. You are grafted into that pierced side by the Blood and Water, the sacraments that flowed from it. Now you, the dead vine, are made alive through the death of the vine, the death that gave you life. With His life coursing through you, now you who were once cut off by sin produce fruit, the fruits of love, patience, gentleness, and the rest.
Which means the vinedresser prunes you to cause you fruit to increase. Pruning is not fun. It involves pain as parts of you are affected by God, who allows cross and trial to grieve you as a way of making your faith stronger. Every time a branch is pruned it allows more sap to flow through it, increasing its strength and fruitfulness. So it is with your pruning, your trials from God. They cause your faith to become stronger as it calls for more of the sap of Jesus Christ. When you bear the weight of your crosses, be it temptation to a particular sin, temptation to walk away from the faith, temptation to despair, come to the sap that feeds you, that reinvigorates and heals you. Without that nutrition you waste away, but with it you thrive.
This is a particularly appropriate message for Advent. While we are prepared by the Spirit for Christ’s final Advent, we are called to receive Him in this second Advent in Word and absolution and Supper. Tonight He has poured His joyed into you that He may remain in you ad that you joy may be full until your final day.
Populus Zion 2022
Populus Zion, the Second Sunday of Advent
Song of Solomon 2:8-14
esus has one message for you: Look up! Lift up your heads! Be courageous! Things will get worse before they get better, but they will get better because your Redemption draws near!
This means today, and really the entire season of Advent one of longing. It was expressed in all three of the Readings. The lovers in the Song of Solomon spoke of their excitement at the appearance of one another and of spring that would soon give way to summer. Paul wrote to the Romans about the coming day when there would no longer be a distinction between Jew and Gentile. But Jesus captured it best: The end of all things is at hand: see the buds on the tree and know that soon the leaves will burst forth and the winter of our sin will take flight.
But to us who are sinking into the longer hours of darkness and the cold gray death of winter, that is, the increasing signs of the world and failing of our hearts, our ability to wait much longer for Christ’s return is diminishing. Because we hear Jesus’ Words of promise, not of fear, that He, our Redemption, is drawing near. Like the faithful Jews of old longing for the birth of the Messiah, we cannot do this anymore. An end needs to come so we are relieved by the Lord’s appearing. It is as you sang a moment ago: “When will You come with comfort strong? Wen will our hearts behold Your dawn?” We see the signs in the sun, moon, and stars. We see the nations gripped by fear. We feel the perplexity, the anxiety caused by a lack of necessary good. We who believe what Scripture says and dare to confess it know what it is to be attacked by the militant soldiers of the devil, the prince of his world. We are tempted to question God, to ask if He has forgotten us, if He will leave us with signs forever and no action on His part. We are tempted into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Our hearts of faith are trembling and feel like they will fail us.
But today Jesus has come to you with comfort strong. The trees are in full bloom. The winter of tour sin, long and dark, is flying because of His dawning. of Jesus, the Light of the World, is on the horizon. Look up! Lift up your heads! Despair no longer, fear no longer, doubt no longer. The impending celebration of Christmas is a reminder that the day is quickly coming when Christmas will no longer be a foreshadowing of what is to come because Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead, to raise the dead from their graves, to send the faithless into endless torment in the fires of hell and the faithful to the endless bliss of heaven. Today Millie was added to that number. Her name is now written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Because she is Baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, she has nothing to fear in these gray and latter days.
Nor do you, you Baptized children of God. Remember those other words of Jesus. He will cut this evil day short so you, His elect, do not fall away. He is calling you to live in repentance and in hope.
Things certainly do look bleak and foreboding, but it is merely the beginning of the joy to come. As painful as labor is, it is a precursor to the joy that the long-expected child is about to be born and loved by its family. That is what today is for you. Look at the signs but know that the signs will soon give way to the thing they point to. Soon the signs will end, the death throes of this world will cease, and Jesus will appear to remove you from the evil days by taking you to Himself in heaven. So look up! Lift up your heads! Be courageous! your Redemption draws near!
The Feast of St. Andrew 2022
Everything in the Christian Church has been designed to point us away from ourselves, away from earthly things, and to Jesus. This is the case in something as simple as our calendar. The Church’s calendar even influences the world’s calendar whether the world knows it or not, whether the world likes it our not. Christmas and Easter, the two greatest day of the Christian calendar, affect the secular calendar, bringing days off work and even closed banks, government offices, and stores. This doesn’t work vice-versa. The Church does not alter her calendar for Independence Day or Fathers’ Day or National Donut Day because those days do not point to Jesus. But every day of the Church Year does, even days like today where the Church remembers St. Andrew, or any other saint. Of the saints who are remembered throughout the year, St. Andrew holds a certain place of honor. Because His Feast Day, today, November 30, is used to determine the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new Church Year.
Why St. Andrew? We heard it just a minute ago in the Reading. Andrew is the first missionary. He was a student of John the Baptist, the final Prophet sent to prepare the way for Jesus. One day John is teaching his students, spots, Jesus, and directs his students’ attention to Jesus—” Look at Him! He is the Lamb of God I said was coming, the one who is sent by God to take away the sin of the world. Andrew gets up and follows Jesus without a second thought. He spends the whole day with Jesus, listening to His teaching and asking Him questions, when everything from Jesus’ mouth aligns with what John taught and the rest of Scripture, Andrew knew He was in the presence of God. Andrew then becomes the first domestic missionary, finding his brother, Simon Peter, telling him, “We have found the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed of God who comes in the Name of God, with the authority of God, the one who is God in the flesh. All our hopes are met in Him! The salvation of the world will be accomplished in Him! Come and see!” And then later, this same Andrew will be come a foreign missionary of sorts. Some Greeks will come, desiring to see Jesus and once again, Andrew will point them to Jesus. For this reason, this eagerness to point to Jesus, Andrew gets to begin the Church Year, as its entire purpose is to point us to Jesus, the one who has come to die and to rise, to take away sin and condemnation, to prepare an eternal home for us.
So, St. Andrew is an example for us. Like him, we are presented now with so many opportunities to point to Jesus. In this season of Advent, so many stores have started selling Advent calendars filled with chocolates, beers, Legos, and makeup. They took the name Advent but have ignored what Advent is about. The secular Advent calendar Advent builds up to disappointment. All of the chocolates are eaten, the books read, or whatever the calendar gave is exhausted and the one counting down is left with nothing but emptiness and uncertainty over what comes next. But the real Advent, the one St. Andrew’s Feast Day begins, is not filled with diabetes and despair. The true Advent points to Christ. St. Andrew stands as an example to us in his excitement, his eagerness to find Peter, his brother, and to bring him to Jesus. It’s a reminder to us to go and do likewise. But you may not feel you’re up to that task of being a missionary, an evangelist to point the world to Jesus. Don’t get caught up in the countless number on earth. Do what Andrew did. Start at home, in your neighborhood. Use this Christmas time as your opportunity to tell people to forget the candy and to find their ultimate longing, their greatest gift in Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem to shed His Blood for the sin of the world, to draw all men to Himself and t open heaven to all who believe.
Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year
The Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year (Trinity 26)
St. Matthew 25:31-46
Come, Lord Jesus!
Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! These are some of the final words of Holy Scripture. They are the cry of the Church from the Fall into sin until the present day. Eve was so ready to be done with sin that when she gave birth to her first son, Cain, she was convinced He was the promised Redeemer. Paul had to write to the Thessalonians because they were so appalled by the rampant wickedness of their generation that they swore Jesus would return at any minute, so they quit working and taking care of life and doing those other necessary things. And for us, how often do we wrestle with the question, “How much worse was it in the days of Noah that God decided to destroy the earth?” or “How much worse does it have to get before Jesus returns?” These are good questions, but their answers lie in the hidden will of God, meaning we cannot know the answer them, nor is it any good for us mentally or spiritually to try to answer them. So, we must turn to the good news of Scripture. What Good news has the Word of God given us today? On the surface, not much, it appears. Peter said that “the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved.” Jesus said that the goats will be cast into eternal punishment. But Daniel takes the cake. God revealed to him terrifying images—a lion with wings that get ripped off, a bear sent out with the command “devour much flesh,” a beast with iron teeth stomping on what little is left of creation, and a horn with eyes and a mouth that speaks great things. Who needs horror from Hollywood or Stephen King when you have these images from Scripture?!
We don’t like these images, thoughts, or feelings. They scare us. We’d much rather have wooly lambs in Jesus’ arms, babbling broks, and rich banquets, not horrifying mental images of world destruction. which is also why our new hymnal ditched such upbeat and positive hymns like “Day of Wrath, O Day of mourning,” “The world Is Very Evil, the Times are waxing late,” and “Great God, what do I See and Hear?” and because our modern palate finds these things repulsive and the church gladly relegates them to these couple of weeks at the end of the Church year, we have been done a disservice for living in these gray and latter days. I’m not saying that every service and sermon needs to be gloom and doom and mountains being carried into the midst of the sea, but we do need to heed Peter’s words and keep them in our mind: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the Day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
And therein is the key, the blessed Gospel, the good news: according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. All the terrifying and vile things Daniel’s visions represent will come to an end. Some day false doctrine will no longer plague the Church on earth. Some day kingdom will not rise against kingdom. Some day families will not be rent asunder. Some day citizens will not vote into law the so-Called “right” to murder babies and mutilate God-made bodies and then hold reprehensible victory parties across the state.
Some day Jesus, who died and rose victorious will, for all the world to see, begiven dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
One day you will receive the end of your faith the end of your Baptism. Jesus will come to place you on His right hand because He died for you, because He Baptized you, because He spoke His Word into your ear and heart, because He fed you with His Body and Blood. Because He gave His saving gifts to you, gifts you did not earn, a kingdom you did not build, He will say to you, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Then sin and evil will be done and you will be safe, face to face with Jesus for eternity.
Amen, “Come, Lord Jesus.
The Feast of All Saints (Observed)
1 John 3:1-3; Matthew :1-12
What We Will Be Has not Yet Appeared
In his first Epistle St. John gave this word of reassurance: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.”
This is the great hope, the great comfort we have at the Feast of All Saints. What we will be has not yet appeared. But John heard the voice from heaven that said, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on” (Rev 14:13). What we will be has not yet appeared, but for our blessed dead, those who have died in the Lord, what they are has appeared. For them, the Lord has come with the shout of victory. They are at rest with the Lord; they are not dead. As a congregation we celebrate today on this All-Saints Day because Ken and Haran’s membership has been transferred from the Church Militant here on earth to the Church Triumphant. All your loved ones who have died in the faith enjoy the same victory, the same rest, the same bliss of being in the presence of Jesus Christ for eternity. What we will be has not yet appeared, but they now enjoy that for which we long. Thanks be to God!
So, this day is another Easter reminder, similar to what we had a few weeks ago when the Gospel told of Jesus raising the only son of the Widow of Nain. Today the distant triumph song is heard by our ears. We already heard the angelic “Glory be to God on high,” repeated heaven’s alleluias, and soon we will join in the cries of “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Your loved one has gone before you and you just sang with hem and will again. They are not dead, but are in that blessed heavenly chorus. They rest from their labors. But we labor now
But that day has not yet come for you. In this meantime, enjoy what Jesus gives you. He has pulled back the curtain for you like He did for St. John. He has shown you that the dead, your loved one who has departed in the Christian faith in the crucified and risen Jesus is in the kingdom of heaven. They see God as He wipes the tears from their eyes and as He opens his hand to satisfy their hunger and thirst. He is their covering that blocks them from the sun and scorching heat. He id their shepherd who carries them in His nail-pierced hands forever.
Beloved, we you God’s children now, and what you will has not yet appeared; but what the dead in the Lord are is revealed to them and known by them, and sin God’s good timing and by His great mercy it is and will be yours forever when you see Him as He is.
Due to a technical difficulty, only the Readings were able to be recorded.
The Festival of the Reformation (Observed)
Romans 3:21-28; Matthew 12:11-15
The Great Exchange
In Lutheran theology we often talk about the “Great Exchange,” Jesus Christ taking our place, taking on the sin of the world, enduring the punishment all us sinners rightly deserved and then giving us His forgiveness, His righteousness. God on the cross and man in heaven.
But this great exchange was the second great exchange. In Romans 1 Paul discusses the first great exchange that necessitated the second:
, although [man] God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Rom 1:21-25)
Of course, this is about Adam and Eve and all their descendants exchanging the worship, the fear, love, and trust of God for the worship, fear, love, and trust of the creation, exchanging the true God for themselves as god. They exchanged the truth of God as loving and involved in His creation for the lie that God was holding out on them, hat God was denying pleasures to His creation because He wanted them to go without true happiness. And we know where this has landed us and our world. At one point the ungodliness was so overwhelming that God destroyed all the ungodliness with the Flood.
But man was no longer in the image and likeness of God. From the Fall, all children born of man and woman are in the image and likeness of sinners, sinners who, whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not, whether they acknowledge it or not, long for a return to paradise, to the worship of the Creator rather than the creation, to the intimate communion with God in Eden in the cool of the day. Adam and Eve , once they realized their sin, longed for reunification with God. So in His divine forbearance God laid out the plan: In the fullness of time a daughter of Eve would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit one who would undo the enmity between God and man, one who would crush Satan’s head, one who would undo the curse, destroy this ruined world and usher in the new heavens and the new earth. God desired this to be what drove, what sustained His people until the Redeemer would come and execute the new Great Exchange, would come with the shout, the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God (1Thes 4.16). God desired His children to teach this promise diligently to their children, to talk of them when they sat in their house, when they walked by the way, when they lay down, and when they rose up, to bind them as a sign on their hand, and as frontlets between their eyes, and to write them on the doorposts of their house and on their gates (Dt 6.6-9).
But until the Last Day, our first great exchange still lingers, still affects our mind and heart, our reason and our senses. Satan still knows our weaknesses, the chinks in our armor, and tries to use them to separate us once again from God. The best way he can do this is not by appearing evil, to be obvious about his end goal. He succeeds by disguising himself as an angel of light and his false apostles and deceitful workers appear as apostles of Christ. They prowl around, not with an eternal Gospel, but the damnation of works, of self-redemption, and of working and earning your way back into heaven—which, of course, is impossible. Bur in our weakness we so often fall prey to this so called “gospel of works,” which is no Gospel at all. Satan has, in time past and even in our own day, clouded the light of Jesus and we have been blinded by the darkness to think that there is some allure in this earning of righteousness, of not needing the second, the true Great Exchange. This has been preached in churches of various denominations, times, and places. But God, in His great mercy and love for sinners, has always maintained the Gospel of Jesus Christ taking our place and freely dispensing His forgiving work of cross and grave. As long as the Word of God, which endures forever, is available, an angel will be flying in the midst of heaven with an everlasting Gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people (Rev 14.6).
Today, as we commemorate the Festival of the Reformation, we are not here to have a mere celebration of being theological descendants of Martin Luther, to have a pride festival that we’re Lutherans, somehow making us better than everyone else. To turn this into a Pharisaical,” I thank You, God, that I am not like other men” holiday is to miss the point, to forget what we prayed for in the Kyrie: the peace from above and the unity of all. Today we give thanks to God for maintaining that angel in midair with the eternal Gospel to proclaim. We give thanks to God for Luther, that one particular angel, but we give thanks, more importantly, for the angels of every time and place who have preached the Gospel of the great exchange, of our fall into sin, but Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, taking our place on the cross and freely giving to us, His undeserving children, the forgiveness He won.
As we give thanks to God for His saving Gospel, for being justified by faith, apart from works of the Law, we pray that the Holy Spirit would safeguard this Gospel, keeping it free from the infection of sin and the devil, and that He would spread its saving news to the ends of the earth until the last soul is saved and Jesus returns in glory on the Last Day.
Due to technical difficulties, no recording was available. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Trinity 18 2022
Due to technical difficulties, no recording was available. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.