13th Sunday After Pentecost August 30, 2020

Pent 1320 (Proper 17a) – “Let’s Get Focused!” Matthew 16:21-28

      Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.  The text for our sermon meditation is taken from of, the Chapter:

Matthew 16:21-28 (ESV) 

    From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  [22] And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”  [23] But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

    [24] Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  [25] For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  [26] For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?  [27] For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.  [28] Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

      Let’s Get Focused!  That seems to be the theme of Jesus discussion with the disciples.  In order to get focused obstacles need to be removed.  Hindrances need to be overcome.  Distractions need to be ignored.  Truth needs to be embraced.

      How many of you have watched the political conventions these past two weeks? Both parties have been working overtime to get their message out to voters. The hope is to draw voters to their side of the election. Each party did this by placing before their viewers reasons for voting for their candidates. Such reasons focused on the character of their opponent and the past history of their opponent. Such reasons focused on the accomplishments of the candidate in question. Such reasons focused on the hinderances to achieving the style of living guaranteed by our nation’s constitution. The goal was to ensure the people were looking where the candidates wanted them to look. The goal was to move the people to make the right choice when November 3 has come and gone. They wanted to be the one taking the president’s oath of office in January, 2021.  Let’s Get Focused! 

      Jesus calls to his people and makes a similar command in this passage from Matthew’s Gospel account.  Jesus is not running for elected office, for His office has no competition. He comes to redeem the world by shedding His blood and giving His life as the atonement for our sins. Jesus wants all sinners to get it right. Let’s get focused!

      To this end, Jesus reprimands Peter and tells him to focus on what is important.  Recognize the obstacles to your obedience.  Remove the hindrances to your sight.  Let go of the distractions to your faith.  Embrace the call of the cross of Christ.  Let’s get focused on the Cross of Christ.  The cross is where the Christ will overcome the mayhem of sin and death.

      Jesus was quite focused on the cross.  Matthew records that Jesus began to teach his disciples the truth about his ministry and work.  Matthew writes:

      “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

      We must always read these words in context.  Last week we heard the confession of Peter who proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the son of the Living God.  The first goal of Jesus ministry was brought to fruition.  The truth of who this Jesus is was confessed by his disciples.  The incarnation of the Son of God was recognized and confessed by these disciples of Jesus. 

      Now the great truth of God’s salvation must be joined to this confession.  The Son of Man will be betrayed to sinners in the City of God’s Name, suffer at the hands of the elders, chief priests and scribes of God’s Temple, be put to death, and on the third day be raised again to life.

      Do you remember what Jesus told Nicodemus and others who were wondering about this Son of Man?  Jesus taught with a view to his suffering death and resurrection.  “Just as Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness, so also must the son of man be lifted up.”  Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days.”  “The Father loves me because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.”  “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  Jesus always lived focused on the cross and also the empty tomb.

      Many would comment on this as being Jesus’ fate.  What do you think?  Is this Jesus’ fate to suffer, die and rise again to life on the third day?  Before you answer how would you define “fate”?

      Fate is an unchangeable, preset event.  Every action leads the person one step closer to the end event.  It would seem that this would describe the ministry of Jesus.  It was Jesus fate to be born to die and rise again.  However, fate misses one key element in all of Jesus saving work.  Fate does not need a planner.  Fate has no planner.  There is no one behind fate.

      Fate denies the will and work of God in the salvation of sinful mankind.  Fate creates a sense of helplessness and hopelessness in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  If men are fated to sin and die, then Jesus’ death and resurrection are pointless. 

      We do not have a God who set the world in motion and left it to its own devices.  We have a God who loved the world he created and now gives His son to die and rise again to redeem and restore that sinful world.  We hear in Jesus words not fate but divine necessity.  The love of God for sinners is focused on the cross of Jesus Christ.  God was focused on the cross and the Son of God is focused on the cross.

      Apparently Peter is having difficulty with the cross.  For Peter, the cross is not reasonable for the Christ.  The Son of God should never have to experience such things.  The horror of crucifixion is beneath the God’s son.  Listen to Peter’s oath of denial.

      “May God be merciful to you, Lord!  Forbid this being for you!”

      Peter presumes to know the will of God.  His sin blinded heart and mind fail to see the love of God in the suffering and death of this Son of God.  His thinking stops short of what this death of God’s son will accomplish.  Peter does not look past the cross to the empty tomb which is the vindication of Jesus impending death and the exclamation point on God’s redeeming love and mercy.

      We are not any bit different from Peter.  We see what we want to see and deny what God would have us see as truth.  We sometimes fail to see the fullness of Jesus’ continued ministry through the Church in general and this congregation in particular.  St Paul speaks to such things in the Epistle reading for this day.  Paul reminds us that our faith in Jesus Christ and our confession of love for God must be true.  We are to put aside lip service and give heart service to our Lord.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

      We sometimes look through the lens of personal opinion rather than the lens of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The lens of personal opinion refuses to see the cross of Jesus Christ as the focal point of the believer’s life.  Jesus clearly warns against such thinking when he gives warning not to deny such service.

      “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up       his cross and follow me.”

      Like Peter, we are to deny those things which war against the work of the Gospel and to support those things that serve the preaching of the Gospel.  Supporting the ministry of the Gospel is the calling of the Church, and of this congregation.  God’s people have no choice in the matter.  It is not fate, but the will of God that the Gospel be preached to every creature throughout the whole world. 

      What we cannot do as an individual, we do as a congregation.  What we are unable to do as a congregation, we do as a synod, or congregations that work toward the same calling and purpose.  As Paul said, we are to contribute to the needs of the saints, outdo one another in showing honor, be zealous for the work of the Gospel, and actively serve the Lord who bought us with the price of His suffering and death upon the cross.  As Christ carried his cross for us, so we also carry our cross for him.  Do you remember these words from the hymn “Go to Dark Gethsemane”?

      Follow to the judgment hall, 

            View the Lord of Life arraigned;

      Oh the wormwood and the gall! 

            Oh, the pangs his soul sustained!

      Shun not suffering, shame or loss; 

            Learn from Him to bear the cross

      Silent, uncomplaining, faithful obedience is the call to bearing the cross.  We know the goal of the cross of Jesus Christ and we know the goal of the cross which Jesus gives us to bear.  It is the refining preparation for the Day of Resurrection.  As Jesus was raised to life on the Third Day, so also on the Day of Resurrection yet to come, will we be raised to live with him in eternity.

      Until that Day, then, we continue to look to the cross of Jesus Christ and see the will of God accomplished for the salvation of the world.  Until that day, then, we continue to bear the cross we are given that we should serve and support the work of the Gospel in thought, word, and deed.

      God entered this world of mayhem and sin through the Incarnation of the Eternal Son, Jesus Christ.  This same son denied himself that we would not be denied of God.  This same Son was abandoned by His Father that we might be adopted as Sons of God.  This same Son died that we might live, and rose from death that we should have hope for the world yet to come.

      May you always focus on the Cross of Jesus Christ and His empty tomb as you seek to serve your savior and bear the cross of faith.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

12th Sunday After Pentecost August 23, 2020

Pent 1220 – “Confessing Jesus Christ!” Matthew 16:13-20

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

      The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 16th Chapter.

      “13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

      Jesus poses a question that must be asked in every generation and of every person who claims faith in the Savior of mankind. That question is the foundation of those who are faithful. It is the destruction of those who are hypocrites. It is the confession of those who come to the Altar of God to receive the gifts of Jesus Christ. It is the source of rebirth for those who are baptized into the name of Jesus Christ. It is your confession made when you were admitted to the altar of the Lord to receive His body given for you and His blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. It continues to be your confession long after you remember the words spoken at the altar of God’s presence.

      Jesus leads his disciples to the region of Caesarea-Philippi. He has just had a discussion with the Pharisees and Sadducees who oppose him and confess Jesus to be something other than the Son of Man. Jesus warned His disciples against this false belief and now questions them regarding what they have heard. Jesus asks, “Who do people say that the Son of man is?”

      We consider for a moment the foundation for the name “Son of Man.” Son of Man is a messianic name of Jesus. This means that God revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures the description and nature of the Redeemer of the world. From the beginning of creation God planned to send a Savior. This Savior would be born of a virgin chosen by God Himself. This truth is revealed in the proclamation of salvation spoken by God to our first parents. In bringing judgment upon those who fell from grace, God also gives hope for redemption and restoration.

      God condemns the serpent who was possessed by Satan, and also foretells the defeat of this Satan. Hear those words of condemnation and deliverance. [Genesis 3:15]

      “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall strike you with respect to your head, and you shall strike him with respect to his heel.”

      What is foretold in this prophecy? There is the Virgin Birth of the Savior of the world. A woman chosen by God will conceive a child without the aid of a man. The child to be born will contend with the perpetrator of evil. This child will be the victor, but not without suffering. The child will suffer a mortal wound, but will recover to reign. The tempter will suffer a mortal wound, and will never rise to tempt again.

      In the book of Daniel we read a further description of this Savior. Daniel is given a vision of the coronation of Jesus before His Father’s throne. Daniel writes these words. [Daniel 7:13,14]

      “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be destroyed.”

      In time, God came to a virgin woman in Israel, and His spirit overshadowed her. The woman’s name was Mary. She conceived a son by the Holy Spirit and gave birth to Jesus, the Son of the Most High. He is now in the midst of His ministry and will soon complete His saving work enduring crucifixion and death. His final victory will be over death in his resurrection on the third day. Such is God’s description of His Son, the Son of Man.

      Yet, such a description is not always held by people. Consider the response of the disciples in answer to Jesus’ question. “Some say John the Baptizer, [or] … Elijah, [or] … Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” These have only given a cursory glance at Jesus. They give answers bordering on superstition and confusion. Herod executed John, and believed that Jesus was the resurrected John. Others knew the prophecies of God concerning the messiah, that Elijah was to appear before the Day of God’s visitation. They failed to see John as the Elijah who was prepare the way for God’s visitation. Instead they viewed Jesus as Elijah.

      What do people think of Jesus in our day? Who would people say that Jesus is? Today people fall under the same delusions as did those in past generations. Jesus is a great teacher, a wise man, a servant of God, an enlightened master, but he is not divine. Jesus may be God-like, but he is not God. He died, and is still laying in the grave just as we all will. Jesus’ teaching is good for the people in His time, but that was then and this is now. We are more enlightened than people from centuries ago. Our cultures are different today than they were in the time of Jesus. We must think outside the box.

      There are many ways to God. All are equally valid. Truth is fluid and is specific to the individual. There is no objective truth. You know in your own heart what is truth, for you. Such is the deluded confession of this sinful world. Those who hold such false confessions as these continue in the deception of Satan spoken to our first parents. “Did God really say …?”

      Jesus now comes to the point of His questioning of the disciples. Having heard the misbelief of those around them, Jesus asks the same question of His disciples. “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter speaking above the group, confesses the truth which Jesus seeks. Peter says without wavering, “You, you are the Christ, the son of the living God.”

      What is Peter confessing? Peter is confessing belief in a living God as opposed to a lifeless idol. Peter is confessing that God truly spoke to His people of old through the prophets, and now is speaking to the world through His son, Jesus. This truth confessed by Peter is the foundation of the Church, and Kingdom of God. It is the immovable bedrock of re-creation, rebirth in the Holy Spirit and redemption in the blood of Jesus establish by God from the foundation of the world.

      Hear also what Jesus says of this confession. It is the foundation of His Church. This is the solid immovable foundation which cannot be undermined or weakened by anything or anyone. Jesus says the gates of Hades will not prevail against His Church or confession.

      We might think that the gates of Hades are throwing themselves against the foundation of the Church. However, a better understanding of this is that the church of God is moving forward into the realm of this world’s fallen prince. Satan is warring against His Creator and seeking to destroy the kingdom of God. Yet, the Kingdom of God, the Church and body of Christ, is moving boldly into the inhabitance of Satan. The gates of protection which Satan builds are burst open by the hand of God. They have no strength, no power to resist the Word of truth and the confession of Truth.

      Consider the deceptions and delusions which Satan uses today. He offers what only seems to be a better option. He holds before us threats and fear to turn us from the confession of Jesus Christ. He tempted Peter to fear for his life when faced with confessing himself a disciple of Jesus. Peter had boldly proclaimed his infallibility to deny Jesus. When time came to prove such infallibility, Peter instead proved his fallibility.

      What will happen when you are called upon to confess Jesus against the world? How will your confession fair when voices are raised against you, and hands are clenched against this Kingdom of God? We are facing such times today. The tenor of rebellion in our communities is growing bolder every day. The forces of evil are using violence and anarchy to spread chaos and destruction. There is rebellion against duly established and elected authority. There is the temptation for everyone to do what is right in their own sight. The words of Isaiah are being fulfilled in our generation. “We all like sheep have gone astray; each one has turned to his own way.”

      Bleak as this may sound to us, Jesus does not leave us without hope. The kingdom of Heaven will not be overcome or destroyed. Those whom God makes His children will not be harmed. Nor will they suffer loss. In times of trial we return to the sanctuary of God to receive strength and security for the day. We come to this house of God to hear again the work which God wrought in us through Word and Sacrament.

      Our Lord commended Peter and his disciples for their confession of faith. They held to the truth that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. Yes, the disciples lacked of full understanding of what their confession meant. In time of trial they wavered in their confession. Yet, their Lord returned to them and sent upon them His Spirit that they would remain steadfast in their confession.

      In our day our Lord continues to come to us to strengthen our faith and assure our confession. The hymns we sing, the liturgy we follow, the Sacrament we receive, the Word of God we hear all serve to build and encourage faith in Jesus Christ. This is what Paul refer to as the renewing of the mind. Hear, again, his words.

        2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

      God works through these means of grace to conform us to the will of Jesus Christ. We learn to recognize what is in accord with God’s will as well as what contradicts God’s will. We leave the contradictions behind and walk forward in the confession of what is in accord with God’s will. We accept in faith the trials which come to us. We turn to the One who is the author of faith for guidance and support. We know and believe that in Jesus we will prevail.

      Grant, then, O God, Your will be done,

      That when the church bells are ringing,

      Many in saving faith may come

      Where Christ His message is bringing:

      “I know My own; My own know me.

      You, not the world, My face shall see.

      My peace I leave with you. Amen.” LSB 645: v5 Public Domain

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

11th Sunday After Pentecost August 16, 2020

Pent 1120 – “The Persistence of Faith!” Matthew 15:21-28

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

      The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 15th Chapter.

      “21Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

      These days are indeed troubled times. This past week we heard of wars and rumors of wars taking place on the streets of major cities in our country. We heard of earthquakes in places that had not known such happenings for many decades. We are facing a rise in cases of COVID virus infection. People are inciting violence in once quiet communities.

      In addition to everything going on outside our homes, there is trial and trouble within our homes. Having to be sequestered and quarantined has put a strain on many families. Individuals have become pressured by the isolation to become despondent and wearied of their situation. There is a sense of loss and perhaps even hopelessness for some. There is a bleakness that seems overbearing.

      Our time is not the only time when bleakness loomed on the horizon. Such times are experienced in ever generation. We see such a time and bleakness for the Canaanite woman who seeks relief from her trials at home. Her daughter is possessed by an evil spirit. Such possession weighs heavy on her heart and home. There is desperation in her pleading with Jesus. She is looking for a measure of relief not for herself, but for her afflicted daughter.

      If you were to only look at this account superficially you would not recognize the mercy of Jesus poured out upon this woman and her daughter. You would only see Jesus as mean-spirited and condescending. Look at how he first treats this woman. Jesus does not respond to her pleading. In fact he continues to do what he is doing and gives no indication that he heard her pleas for mercy.

      There is a need for mercy to be shown. Listen to the woman’s pleading. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David, my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” Why has this woman approached Jesus and pleaded for His mercy? She is in great need and so is her daughter. She cannot address, heal or cure the spiritual trauma that is being wrought in her home. The demon possessing her daughter resists her vain attempts rid her daughter of its presence. Who knows what else she has tried? Whatever it was, the need for divine intervention is sorely needed.

      Would that we had divine intervention today for our afflictions. The evil acts being perpetrated today need a strong hand to bring them under control. Each week we offer prayers in this place that God would turn the hearts of all to repentance and restraint. We pray for God to bring peace to troubled communities, and to restore what has been destroyed or marred by sin.

      This woman’s life was marred by sin. Her daughter is possessed by a demon and in torment. It is not said how the daughter became possessed, for this is not the important issue. What is important is how and where the woman seeks help for her daughter. First the woman takes responsibility for her daughter. She cries out to Jesus to show her mercy. Her daughter’s demon possession is her demon possession. To have help and healing for her daughter is to have her own help and healing.

      This is how we need to see the world around us. We cannot separate our lives from the lives of our neighbors, family or friends. Such thinking is in agreement with the word community. Community is the name we give to the place in which we live. What happens in our community affects our lives just as much as the neighbors who live around us. We take responsibility for the nurture, care and keeping of those who live with us in the community. Such thinking extends to the city in which live, the county, the state and the nation.

      The woman seeks mercy not from the hands of men, but from the hand of God. Perhaps she has exhausted the cures and treatments of men. It is quite evident that what she had done in the past and the help she had sought in the past was ineffective. Having exhausted those avenues, she turns to the Son of David for aid and mercy. Surely, this Jesus who cast out demons from others will hear her cries and grant her pleas.

      Yet, Jesus walks on giving no outward attention to this woman and her need. What is the reason for this treatment by Jesus? His silence is rather harsh and hard to understand. It is not that Jesus cannot help this woman. Certainly, Jesus is able to help. He chooses not to help. In this choice there is a twofold lesson to be learned. One part of the lesson is for the woman. The other part of the lesson is for the disciples and all who follow.

      The disciples appear to pick up on Jesus’ reason for denying immediate help and mercy for this woman. She is undaunted in her plea for mercy. She continues in her persistence to seek the hand of God for her daughter. Yet Jesus continues to remain silent. The disciples consider her little worth their time. They begin to plead with Jesus as well.. they take it upon themselves to instruct Jesus with regard to this woman. They are telling Jesus to give the woman what she wants and send her away.

      There is little or no mercy in the disciples’ response. They are concerned with the scene that is taking place and not with the need that is presented. They still have much to learn about compassion and mercy for those who are lost and weighed down under the burden of sin and oppression of the forces of evil. Their view is not of the heart but of the outward marks and signs of this world. Jesus works to reveal this truth to those who will be entrusted with the grace and mercy of God.

      We are no different in our day. We are sometimes only concerned with what we see on the surface and do not discern the deeper issues. We are attracted to slogans and soundbites. We do not want to dig for the truth that lies hidden beneath the surface. This is a dangerous attitude and practice to hold in our times. Especially in this year of turmoil and trial, we must discern truth from deception.

      Where do we find truth? Whose truth do we hold? What truth do we act upon? Who is abiding in truth? All of these questions will be answered in the days to come. Our nation will elect a candidate to lead our nation. All of the answers are laid out for us in the guide given us by our Lord. The Word of God is that guide.

      The Word of God does not suggest a party for whom we are to vote. Rather there is a standard against which we measure those who run for office. St Paul reminds us in Romans 13 these officials are God’s representatives on earth. Therefore the people we choose need to reflect the will of God in their words, decisions and leadership.

      The disciples did not reflect this truth in their lives. They had in mind the will of men. Jesus brings them to see the will of God judges the heart. He continues with words that seem to agree with their thinking. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Yet, these words serve to heighten Jesus’ will and purpose.

      The woman persists in her plea for mercy. She cannot move Jesus to look at her, so she forces Jesus to look at her. She falls down at His feet and continues her plea for mercy. Now Jesus will not ignore her. So he does speak directly to her. Jesus declares her to be unworthy of God’s mercy. She is called a dog, an unclean and forbidden animal. An unclean and forbidden animal unworthy of the food from God’s hand.

      Undeterred in her quest, the woman confesses two unimpeachable truths. First, she confesses her unworthiness to be shown God’s mercy. Such is our confession each week in this house of God. She confesses she is indeed a poor, miserable sinner who is unworthy to stand before God. Secondly, she confesses her trust that God need only give a small amount of mercy to one so unworthy. She asks only for the leavings from the table of God’s presence. She asks for a crumb that falls from the table and it will be enough.

      How has God responded to your prayers in the past? When did those responses come to you? Did is seem as if God was not listening? Did it seem as if you were unworthy to be heard by God? Did you question God’s love for you? Did you wonder why you should keep praying and pleading for God’s mercy? Did you begin to think you were asking too much? Did you begin to think that your plea was too small for God to bother? Did you consider that God was proving your faith?

      It is what Jesus does for the woman in the text? He did not ignore her plea for mercy. His ears were not deaf to her supplication. His eyes were not blind to the need of her daughter. He was not slow in responding to the prayer for relief and the need for healing. Jesus desires faith to be strengthened and hope to be true. Notice Jesus never said no, but only drew the woman closer to her God with His merciful silence.

      Jesus wants us to despair of this world’s security and seek the security that comes from God. Jesus wants us to seek salvation from the hand and word of God, and trust not in the princes of this world. Jesus wants us to continue to plead for our needs and the needs of our neighbor. Jesus wants us to trust those needs will be met by God’s mercy. Such mercy need not be spectacular. It need only be a small measure of God’s love and compassion. A crumb that falls from our Lord’s table.

      In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

10th Sunday After Pentecost August 9, 2020

Pent. 1020 (Prop. 14)– “The Great Value of Little Faith.” Mt. 14:22-33

      Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.  The text for our sermon meditation is taken from of the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 14th Chapter:

22Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

      There was a time when value was equated with size.  He bigger the vehicle the more value there was to the vehicle.  To some extent that remains true.  Cadillacs and other expensive vehicles are a little larger than less pricey vehicles.  Yet even the high end vehicles are down sized from years ago.

      Or consider computers today.  How much smaller can these tools of technology get, and still remain powerful.  At one time, a hand-held calculator had memory for only one number, and was able to do a few trigonometry calculations.  Now computers are the size of a cell-phone.  You can surf the internet, record videos, take pictures and post pictures, videos and your latest musings to your website with your hand-held computer.  Smaller seems to be better.

      The Gospel reading from St Matthew reminds us that small is good.  Moreover small faith is of great value.  Small faith does great things.  Small faith receives great blessing from God.

      The first blessings we see is that Jesus will unquestionable defend the believer, regardless of strong their faith is, and he will protect that faith.

      Jesus had just dismissed the crowd which he miraculously fed on Word and bread and fish.  They came to Jesus and his disciples on the hillside near the sea shore.  While Matthew does not say anything, John records that the people were seeking to make Jesus king.  His powerful words and his miraculous works convince the crowd that Jesus would be a good king.  If Jesus could multiply loaves and fish, what else might he be able to do?  Perhaps this Jesus is powerful enough to remove the yoke of servitude to Rome.

      Jesus knows the thoughts of the crowd.  He does not want his disciples to be swept away by such thinking or desires.  More than that, it was not time for Jesus to reveal his kingship.  He certainly revealed his kingdom through word and miracle, but his kingship was for another time yet to come.

      Jesus knew his kingdom did not come through earthly bread and fish.  Such earthly things were only multiplied blessings to fill the body and meet the needs of the flesh.  Jesus kingdom would come through the cross of suffering and death when he would be crucified for the sins of the world.  So Jesus sends his disciples away protecting their faith and defending their faith from false hope and misdirected thinking.

      We are in need of such protection even today.  For, we are no better off than the disciples in Jesus’ day.  There is danger all around us that would lead us in to misbelief, despair and other great shame and vice.  We are surrounded by the turmoil of a virus. People are fearful because of what this virus may do. Precautions are taken, but still one may contract this virus. Politicians, news people and doctors are not in agreement regarding how best to address this medical need. Hearts are fearful. People are unsettled. Attitudes are riddled with anxiety. Faith is shaken. God’s mercy is questioned.

      Consider, also, the church bodies today which are departing from the path of truth and promoting politically correct thinking rather than Biblically sound teaching.  For the politically correct, marriage is no longer between man and woman.  It is now acceptable in these church bodies for two men to marry or two women to marry.  Instead of confronting sinful behavior, these church bodies are encouraging sinful behavior.  Instead of calling sinners to repentance, these church bodies are confirming sinners in their sinfulness.  Instead of protecting faith, as does Jesus, they destroy faith. Instead of bringing sinners to God’s grace, they lead sinners to God’s judgment.

      Jesus desires to protect his gift of faith. Jesus always works toward that end.  He does this because he chose his disciples, and knows the weaknesses of each disciple.  He knew these men would be swayed by the crowd.  Jesus knew these men would face the temptation to think His kingdom to be an earthly kingdom.  Jesus wanted the faith of his disciples to mature and strengthen and become unwavering even in the face of temptation and the enemies that were surely to come.  Jesus wanted his disciples to be with Him when he revealed the kingdom yet to come. For, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.

      Jesus desires to relieve fear.  His disciples face the great storm in which they are trapped.  They fear the force of the storm.  All its fury is revealed in the wind that is blowing fiercely and whipping up the waves which buffet their boat.  They fear the supposed ghost walking toward them through the storm on the waves. 

      Scripture teaches us that “perfect love casts out fear.”  God is love.  Jesus is God.  Jesus is perfect love.  Jesus in perfect love calls out to his fearful disciples with the voice of the Good Shepherd.  He speaks the words that calm the most troubled soul.  Jesus says, “Be cheerful, I Am!  Stop fearing!”  Jesus is comforting his disciples by telling them, “God is near.” 

      God is near.  The God who created the heavens and the earth, is near.  The God who brought the wind and the waves into existence, is near.  The God who set the boundaries for the waters, is near.  The God who controls all things, and sees that His will is done, is near.  He comes to you walking upon the waves.  He will grant you relief from your trial, and give you courage to face your fear.

      Peter responds with faith. Peter asks this God to bid him leave the boat and walk upon the water. 

      “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you upon the water.”

      Peter was commanded by Jesus to come to him.  Peter climbs out of the boat and walks on the water toward Jesus.  Can you imagine the exhilarating feeling of this short journey?  Peter is actually walking on water, contrary to those who would doubt.  Some theories about this event are that there was an ice shelf just under the water, a sand bar just under the water, rocks just under the water, or it was plainly shallow water.  Both Jesus and Peter knew this and that it only appears they are walking on the water.

      How ridiculous and slow of heart such people are to believe the God who creates heaven and earth, and who also controls the wind and the waves.  How slow they are to believe what is written for their learning.  They are worse off than Peter.  For, Peter began to fear what he saw in the rough water and howling wind. He began to sink beneath the waves, but cried out to his Lord for salvation.  On the other hand, those who deny the ability of the God of love to walk on the water, sink below the waves of unbelief, and will not cry out to this same God for salvation.  Their destruction is complete for they do not believe.

      Even in times of fear and doubt we have hope in and help from our God.  It is at the time of trial that our God would have us know and believe that he remains near to us.  He is as close to us as he was with Peter and the other disciples.  He lifts us individually out of our trials as he did with Peter, and collectively as he did with the others who were in the boat.  For, after lifting Peter out of the rough waters, Jesus enters the boat with the others. Upon entering the boat, Jesus calms the wind and stills the waves. He rescues those who are His.

      Let us look at the question Jesus asks Peter and the other disciples as well.  “One of little faith.  For what did you doubt?”  This is a good question is it not?  Jesus is telling Peter to look at what even a small, weak faith can do.  In another place Jesus said faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains or trees.  Faith is the miracle of salvation which God works in the sinner’s heart.  Faith is the gift that gives to the sinner all the blessings and power of God.  Faith allows the sinner to look past the trials of this world and see that God is near and His kingdom is ever present.  Faith reaches out to the hand of the Savior who is always ready to rescue the sinner from the perils of this life.

      Most assuredly, faith holds fast to the One whose hands were stretched out upon the cross. Those hands outstretched effected the greatest rescue from the peril of eternal death.  Jesus came not only to relieve us from worldly troubles.  Jesus came also to rescue us from the spiritual destruction that comes upon us because of sin.  The same hands that rescued Peter and the other disciples from the raging sea, rescue all sinners from the tempest of sinful fear and doubt.  Those same hands carried the burden of our sinful fear and doubt to the cross. Those same hands were pierced that we might have divine power over such sinful fear and doubt which pierce our hearts.

      There are times when we desperately hope for God to intervene and reach down from heaven to rescue us.  We fervently pray that God would heal us, or a loved one from serious illness or injury.  We wait in expectant hope that God will answer our prayer as we desire to see it answered.  Hezekiah was given such an answer.  On his death bed he prayed for restored health and was given 15 years longer to reign over Israel as king.  Peter was given such an answer.  Jesus reached down as Peter was sinking beneath the waves and rescued him.

      However, we must remember that perfect relief from the trials and toil of this world will not always be as we desire it.  Sometimes perfect relief comes to us through healing and restoration here on earth. Sometimes the perfect relief is given when we are carried by Jesus to the throne of the Father in eternal life. 

      In all this we are to remember that the gift of faith, while it may be small and seemingly weak, it is able to accomplish much.  The same Jesus who lifted Peter out of his fear and doubt, strengthen and defend your faith unto eternal life.  Amen.

9th Sunday After Pentecost August 2, 2020

Pentecost 0920 (PR13)- “The Lord Provides!” – Matthew 14:13-21

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

      The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 14th Chapter.

      13Now when Jesus heard [about the death of John], he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.

14When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;

      These past few months have put a strain on many peoples’ lives. There are many trials and unexpected results that have followed the outbreak of the current pandemic. One such unexpected result has been the shelves in store that no longer are filled to overflowing with needed good. Early on in this pandemic, panic ensued over toilet paper, sanitizing supplies and other products that one time were readily available. Now we are moving into a lack of ability to process animals for food. Meat packing houses have had to cope with the large number of workers who contracted the virus which continues to plague this world.

      This is a far different picture than the one painted for us by the Prophet Isaiah and our Lord feeding the five thousand men plus women and children.  There seems to be abundance from the hand of God equally spread among all people.  There is no want because all needs are met from the storehouse of God’s bounty.

      At times we may wonder at God’s provision.  We may question whether God has our best interests in his heart and mind.  Consider the verses prior to the Gospel reading.  John the Baptizer, Jesus’ cousin and forerunner has been executed.  How many Christians today will face this same threat?  Does God not intervene to defend His people?  Does God not hear their cries?  Does God not desire mercy? Does God not show mercy?

      We hear that God does show mercy, even to those who would reject Him?  What daily food does the Lord give to us, and even to all the evil?  What rain does God sent to us, and even to all the evil?  What sun light does God shine on us, and even upon all the evil?  What life does God give to us, and even to all the evil?  What blessing do you and all the evil have that did not come from the hand of God?  Do we not sing in one of our hymns “From Him my life and all things came?”

      Adversity is, and always will be a part of life upon this earth.  What we do when adversity comes to our doorstep is important.  The disciples have received the knock of adversity on their doorstep.  Jesus took them away to a solitary place to teach them, and discuss with them the events leading up to the death of John the baptizer. He spoke to the disciples about the ministry which both He and John were carrying out.  Jesus is interrupted in this discussion by the crowds who followed him to what was once a solitary place.  Now the mountainside is bursting at the seams with people – men, women, and children.

      Looking out upon these crowds, Jesus was touched to his innermost being.  The word translated as “compassion” is a word only attributed to God in Scripture.  The idea is that God alone can feel what we feel.  He sees the dire straits of those who are sick, ill, injured, worried, concerned, or troubled. 

      When someone tells you they can feel your pain, you will look at them from the corner of your eye and skeptically say, “Um hmm, right.”  You know what their telling is not true.  If you hit your thumb with a hammer, it is your thumb not anyone else’s thumb.  When you have stomach flu it is your stomach that is sick.  When you are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, it is your life.  No one except God understands or feels your pain.

      God looks into the recesses of your life and sees what is troubling you.  He experiences your suffering?  He feels your sorrow, rejection, depression, guilt, even your joys when life is better for you.  In other places, Jesus looked out over the crowds and saw their spiritual struggles as well.  One place tells us Jesus saw the people harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.  They had no one to minister to their spiritual needs.  They were wandering aimlessly in their spiritual vacuum.  They hungered for the spiritual food of God’s mercy and grace.

      Jesus brings this mercy and grace to bear in their physical lives.  Jesus heals the sick in fulfillment of the promise given by God through the prophets.  (Is. 35)

      “Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!  Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.  He will come and save you.”5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

      Again in fulfillment of the prophets, Jesus feeds them an evening meal.  This is a test of faith for the disciples.  Jesus sets them up to encourage their trust in his word and work.  The disciples approach Jesus with a quite reasonable request.  The people have been with Jesus for most of the day.  Looking at their meager supplies, the disciples realize they do not have enough food for the crowd to eat – two loaves of bread and five small fish.

      They expect Jesus to agree with them in this impossible task to provide food for so many.  However, Jesus commands his disciples to feed the crowd.  Jesus said, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.”  What is Jesus telling his disciples?  What have they just witnessed this day?  What have just seen and heard?  Whose hands have they watched touching and healing the sick, lame, blind, deaf and mute?

      Are the hands of God limited in their strength and ability?  Is God too little to do more than make men’s bodies whole?  Does God heal sick and diseased bodies and not provide sustenance for those bodies?  Jesus would have his disciples realize the power and mercy of God who sees to even the seemingly smallest of needs for the greatest number of people?  10000-15000 people will eat from the very hand of God that day.  Jesus multiplies the meagerness of the disciples and turns it into an abundance of satisfying food.

      Those same hands of God were destined to take the abundance of man’s sin and make it empty of its power to accuse and condemn sinners.  Those same hands would multiply the grace of God by being nailed to the cross of suffering and death.  Jesus would feel in his body and in his soul the full weight of God’s wrath and punishment for your sin.  He did this so that you would not feel it.  We who are washed in the blood of the Lamb of God will never know how Jesus felt under that heavy burden, but we will know the joy of salvation and release from guilt and sin.

      There is abundance of grace for all, superabundance of grace as shown in the abundance Jesus pours out in that divine feeding.  How much was left over?  There was enough left over to sustain the disciples of Jesus.  Matthew accounts for twelve baskets full of food.  Jesus would have seen to it that no matter how many disciples were with him, all would be fed and nourished.

      So it is for us today.  There is always more grace than we can imagine.  There is always more forgiveness than we can imagine.  There is always more divine love than we can imagine.  There is more divine strength than we can imagine.  Think of St Paul who called himself the chief of sinners.  What did Paul say of God’s grace and mercy? (1 Timothy 1)

      “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

      Those hands that feed the fifteen thousand and were nailed to the tree are still with us today in Word and Sacrament.  They reach to us from the water of baptism to touch our lives with God’s gift of salvation and faith. God touches us with His healing to give us ears to hear His Gospel, eyes to see His miraculous salvation, hands and feet to serve His will. 

      When we gather before the Altar of the Lord he multiplies to us the bread of life and the overflowing forgiveness in the Cup of His New Covenant.  As Jesus satisfied the crowds physical needs with bread and fish, He satisfies our hunger and thirst for righteousness in giving us His body and blood.

      We need to hear this today as we seek relief from the trials of pandemic, politics and social upheaval. People are hungering for things that will bring neither peace nor promise. They put their trust in the princes of this world who seek their own well-being above the needs of those they are sworn to serve. Truly we need a shepherd who will provide for the sheep and feed the sheep. This we have in Jesus Christ. He alone will, out of the abundance of His mercy, relieve and rescue and restore His called people. This is given as we gather at His feet here in God’s house. This awaits us at the foot of God’s throne in eternity. May we always seek such grace of God.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

8th Sunday After Pentecost July 26, 2020

Pentecost 0820- “We are more than Conquerors.” – Romans 8:28-39

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

      The text for our sermon meditation is the Epistle of St Paul to the Roman Christians, the 8th Chapter.

      28 We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;

      Reading this passage from Paul, I often wondered why he included the words from Psalm 44. 

      “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

      we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

It is not until you consider the sacrifices of faith that these words become clear.  For whose sake do Christians suffer and face death?  For whose sake do Christians face daily threat from those who would silence their witness to God’s saving grace?  For whose sake are sinners brought to repentance and faith?  For whose sake are the sheep offered as a sacrifice on the altar of rejection and persecution?

      The psalmist is very clear that the subject of the words quoted by St Paul is God himself.  For the sake of God’s righteousness His people are facing difficulty and death every day they walk the earth.  For the sake of God’s gracious election His people may at times experience every trial of life listed in the catalog of suffering Paul gives in this letter.

      So, are you having a bad day?  What is a bad day for you?  Do you feel downtrodden?  Do you feel put upon by co-workers?  Do the everyday tasks seem monotonous or even pointless?  Do you wonder why these things are happening to you?  Do you think God may be playing a joke on you?  Do you see no avenue to get away from what is troubling you?  Do you feel defeated? 

      On the other side of the coin, do you rejoice in the day which the Lord gives you?  Do you look at life as having challenges to stretch your faith?  Do you see the hand of God in the events of life by which your faith will be strengthened and your election becomes sure?  Do you marvel at the love of God who still gives hope in seemingly hopeless situations?  Who encourages you to stay the course of faith, because in the end you will be a conqueror?

      Each of today’s readings speak of the certainty of salvation, and the work of God to bring into His Kingdom those whom He foreknows in His Son Jesus Christ.  Moses recounts the grace of God who chose Israel from among the nations of the world to be His holy people.  God delivered His chosen people from the hands of their enemies time and time again.  He led them out of slavery in Egypt and established them in the land promised to their father Abraham and to his descendants.

      Jesus recounts in parables the work of God to bring sinners into the same kingdom.  He puts us where he wants us to live and places before us in hidden ways the means of salvation and life eternal.  The pearl of the Gospel and the treasure of eternal life are the gifts uncovered when the foreknown sinner reads and hears the Word of life.  This message is hidden in earthly means, word, water, bread and wine.

      Through these means of grace administered by God’s Church, sinners come to know the God who knows them.  The word of God taught and preached brings the power of that word to bear in the sinner’s life.  Just as we confess in the third article of the creed – the Holy Spirit calls, gathers and enlightens us that we believe and confess saving faith in the God of our salvation.

      Like the man who finds the treasure in the field and the merchant searching for the pearl of great value, we rejoice when we hear and believe the treasure of eternal life.  Like St Paul who wrote in his epistle to the Philippians, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

      What Paul speaks about gaining, when he says that I main gain Christ, is to receive from God the fulfillment of His promise to us in Christ.  If God calls us to be His children, God will certainly see to it that all things spoken of to us will be given to us.  Paul follows the whole panoply of God’s grace and desires it above all else.  Paul seeks the justification of God, and the final glorification of God in accordance with the path of life upon which the forgiven sinner is placed.

      Paul also reminds us the path of life is not an easy road to travel.  It will be marked by tragedy, struggle, toil, adversity, trial, and death.  Why, because there are enemies arrayed against those who walk the path of life.  Political forces will rise in opposition to the will of God.  The Church will be viewed as intolerant when it speaks against the moral decline of world leaders.  The believer will be labeled as an extremist or even a potential terrorist by holding views contrary to public opinion and against what may be or become accepted social practice.

      Our Lord suffered such opposition from those around him.  Certainly, he had his faithful disciples.  However, His words and message were not well received among those who opposed him.  Our Lord was destined for this treatment by His Father in heaven.  It was for that reason Jesus was sent to this world.  He took on human flesh to restore and to redeem human flesh.  He was born to be the righteousness of God and to glorify God by perfect obedience and suffering to break the power of Satan and pay the eternal wages of our sins. 

      In His suffering and death, Jesus looked forward to the completion of His saving work and what that saving work would accomplish.  It was his joy to suffer the pangs of death and the darkness of the grave to restore and redeem that which was lost.  It was his joy to endure the rejection and persecution of this world so that this world would receive the acceptance and mercy of God.

      Our Lord now asks us to bear such treatment for His name.  The name placed upon you in the water of Holy Baptism.  The name which marks you and sets you apart as the people of God.  The name you hold dear because you are precious in the sight of God.  The name that promises you the fullness of joy at the Return of Jesus.  The name which you proclaim and under which you live in faithful obedience now in preparation for God’s coming Kingdom.

      It is true that God gifts us with a radical faith, but not radical in the sense of doing violence.  Rather it is radical in the sense of bringing unworldly peace.  This peace is a settled peace with God in that the dividing wall of hostility no longer exists.  We are made like-minded with God, desiring to be at peace with our neighbors as well.  This means we live in the unworldly state of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Modeling that life may be difficult, but there is joy that we live as lived our Lord and Savior. We forgive as we have been forgiven. We serve as we have been served. We welcome as we have been welcomed.

      This makes the words of the psalmist all the more precious who wrote: “This is the day the Lord has made … Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

      Therefore, with confidence and faith we may face any and every situation with future hope and present help.  For as St Paul reminds us: “… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

7th Sunday After Pentecost July 19, 2020

Pentecost 0720 – “Who Are You?” – Matthew 13:24-34,36-43

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

      The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 13th Chapter.

      “[Jesus] put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

      Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;

      Once again we consider a parable of our Lord.  As we heard last week, we know that the word of God is cast into the world to create faith in those who hear and lead them to salvation and eternal life.  The word of God fell upon four types of soil and in some cases produced faith while in others the Word of life was taken from the hearer because the hearer rejected God’s counsel and grace.

      Today we hear of the ones in whom the Word grew flourished.  That Word of God created faith and bore the fruit of faith.  These are the good wheat or corn spoken of by Jesus.  We hear also of those who look and act like the good wheat or corn, but are really hypocrites or unbelievers who simply go through the motions of faith.  These are the tares or weeds which grow alongside the wheat or corn.  Their works are not revealed until they mature and show their true nature in works and words which are contrary to the Word of God.

      What are God’s people to be doing about this?  How are they to address the hypocrite or unbeliever who lives near them and perhaps sits in the same pew with them each Sunday?  How does the believer respond when they are told not to judge their neighbor?  What does Jesus mean by telling His people not to uproot the tares among the good wheat?

      First we note that Jesus has planted his people in which place?  Correct, Jesus has planted his people, His Church in the world.  They have been strategically placed by Jesus in every place for a very specific purpose.  Paul writes of this purpose in Acts 17.  Hear his words.

      “24] The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26] And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27] that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him.”

      The believer will truly love this passage.  These words of God spoken through St Paul give the believer comfort knowing that you are here for a purpose.  For those who wonder why they are on this earth, these words reveal the reason you are here and why you walk this world.  You never have to question your purpose in life.  God gives you His purpose.  The question is whether you believe this or not?

      Regardless of what you believe, God placed you here in this place to warn you of His impending judgment upon sin, to reveal to you His grace and mercy in the cross of Jesus Christ, and bring to you the message of His salvation.  God has done this for all people.  He placed them where they live that they might seek God, the true God, their Creator, and be restored to a right relationship with Him.

      This is the work of the Good Seed, the Church of God.  We do not transform society into a theocracy as some would want to do.  Rather we reach out to individuals that God would transform their lives and recreate them in the image of God through Word and Sacrament.  We preach and teach a kingdom that is not of this world, but is for this world and for the world that is yet to come.

      This work will not be easy for the people of God.  For Jesus reminds us there is and will always be resistance to and rebellion against the Word and will of God.  Jesus says that Satan will plant unbelievers in the midst of the Children of God.  Look at the description of those whom Satan plants in the world.  They look and sound like true believers.  They have the image and words, the actions that seem pious and faithful.  Yet they are truly anti-Christ, anti-God and anti-Church.

      Consider Judas who was an Apostle of the Lord who revealed he was apostate.  Judas went through the motions of faith and obedience to God.  He piously watched the money bag which served the needs of Jesus and His followers.  He spoke up when the penitent woman anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment.  He said the ointment could be sold and the proceeds given to the poor.  But in the end Judas revealed the god he worshiped was not the true God, but an idol.  Judas was a thief who coveted earthly riches at the expense of his eternal life.

      Today many churches piously proclaim that love and acceptance is the message of the Gospel.  Jesus demands that we love each other, and get along with each other, and accept each other without reservation, or without regard for the instruction of God’s Word.  They may go so far as to say that the Word of God is culturally conditioned and applicable only to the time of Moses or the apostles.  They profess that we in our age are more advanced in understanding. We know better than those of centuries past what is right and pleasing in the sight of God.

      They speak so as to justify sin, and to convince others that such sin is no longer evil before God, because God is love.  If you love someone, that is enough, regardless of their sexuality.  As a nation, and it is creeping into the church, we have confused love with lust.  Lust is the total debasing nature of sin, which seeks to serve the desires of fallen man.  Paul speaks of this in his epistle to the Roman Church.

      “22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.  24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25] because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

      26] For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27] and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

      We are still foolish people while we live in this world.  We still need to warn, and to be warned against foolish behavior.  We still need to heed the call of God to repent of sin and seek God’s grace and mercy.  We still need to proclaim the coming judgment of God that sinners turn from their ways and seek God while He may be found.  For, as Jesus warns, there is a time that is coming when God will reveal Himself in all His glory.  Doubt will be replaced with certainty.  Rejection will be replaced with acknowledgement.  Discipline will be replaced with eternal judgment.  The unrighteous who lived apart from God in this world will live apart from God in the anguish of hell.

      It has been given to you to know the Way of Life.  God in His mercy called you through His Word to be His child and heir of eternal life.  He washed you in the Water of Baptism to set you apart for His Kingdom.  He gave you a full measure of His Spirit that your ears would hear and your eyes would see the wonders of His grace and mercy.  He irrigated your ears and removed the hardened wax of unbelief.  He washed your eyes and removed the cataracts of sinful blindness.  God marked your heart and mind with the name of His Son to set you apart from the world, and to make you His possession and heir.

      St Peter writes these words of encouragement in his first epistle.

      “9] But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10] Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  11] Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12] Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

      We are truly blessed of God to know Him in His judgment and grace.  We are chosen of God for the purpose of salvation and proclaiming that salvation.  As God’s concern for us is merciful, so our concern for our neighbor is also merciful.  We proclaim God’s Word in mercy not in judgment.  We faithfully warn against sin with our voices and live against sin in righteous lives.  Our goal is God’s goal, that sinners be brought to repentance and faith, that God’s Kingdom is enlarged, and the faithful are gathered to stand before God throne in eternity.

God keep us in truth faith for that day.  In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

6th Sunday after Pentecost July 12, 2020

“The Good Seed!” Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

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

      The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of, the Chapter.

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

9He who has ears, let him hear.”

      So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;

      Jesus is now into his third year of ministry and the honey moon is over. We understand this because of the manner in which Jesus begins to speak.  Prior years, Jesus’ taught in plain language.  People rejoiced in His powerful preaching and in his miracles of healing and raising the dead.  They received the blessing of multiplied loaves of bread and fishes to stave off their physical hunger. They continued to follow Jesus because of His preaching and miracles.  But did they truly hear and see what Jesus was doing?

      Now our Lord begins to speak in parables as he teaches and heals those who come to him. Perhaps the first question is why Jesus teaches in parables. The verses which follow the text today give reason for Jesus teaching in parables.  Simply said, Jesus is fulfilling Scripture, specifically Isaiah 6.

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

      These words of God depict the condition of God’s people at the time of Isaiah.  They were dull in their thinking and seared in their souls on account of their rebellion against their God.  They no longer heard with ears that were attentive to the need to repent.  They no longer feared, nor loved, nor trusted in their God above all things.  Instead the people gave in to the idolatry which surrounded them and had crept into the Temple worship through the sin-corrupted leadership of the people.

“And utter a parable to the rebellious house and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD …” Ezekiel 24:3

And again through the psalmist God speaks these words.

“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,” Psalm 78:2

      What then does Jesus teach in this parable of the sower? Jesus reveals how well he knows us.  Jesus shows the root cause of our rebellion against the Word and will of God.  We learned in confirmation class the truth that the devil the world and our sinful flesh tempt us to rebel and lead us from the path of righteousness into rebellion. So where in this parable do we see these truths portrayed by Jesus?

      Jesus begins with the direct rejection of God’s Word.  Jesus speaks of the sower casting seed that fell onto the hard path.  What happens to this seed?  It is not given place by the birds to even begin to produce any growth.  The birds fall upon the seed and devour the seed keeping the seed form germinating. 

      So what is the hard path?  Perhaps we should consider the hard path to be the state of life or death in the sinner before coming to faith in Jesus Christ.  Steeped in sinful rebellion against God, we reject out of hand the call of the Gospel.  We reject the call of the Gospel because it is foolishness to our ears. We give in to the temptation of Satan who directs our attention elsewhere than to the cross of Jesus Christ and the need for repentance from sin.

      Satan places before us his perversions of the good things God would give us.  One pastor I follow on Facebook has a very descriptive demonstration of these perversions of Satan. He speaks of the perversions in reference to the Catechism, which we know as the summary of God’s will for the believer in Jesus Christ.  Satan’s perversions of the truth are called Anti-Catechism.  Each of the six chief parts are attacked by Satan with temptations that appear to be good, but are truly death to those who follow them.

      We face these perversions every day.  They are paraded on social media, news media and entertainment media. Marriage is projected as being unnecessary and irrelevant.  Fathers are shown to be unimportant. Relationships with anyone you choose, whether it is with a male or a female is promoted as acceptable.  You are not happy with your birth gender, then you can take hormones, counseling and surgery to reassign your gender. In effect we tell God he made a mistake and we want to correct it.

      Then there is the rocky shallow soil.  Some seed falls upon this shallow soil and begins to grow. Yet when the sun begins to beat upon it, the growing seed is burned by the heat and dies.

      So what is the rocky soil?  Perhaps we should consider this soil to be those who are brought to faith in Jesus Christ.  They hear the word of God but they do not keep the word of God. They are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. They rejoice in their faith for a little while but then when their faith is put to the test they turn from grace.

      These are the people with unmet expectations for the life of faith.  These are the people who are brought to faith in Jesus Christ and think life is going to be all peace and comfort.  They think people in the church are never going to fail.  They think they will never have to suffer, struggle or go without. God will see to it that all they want will be provided. God only gives what is needed. At times wants and needs are the same. More often than not, we should expect they will be different.

      These are people who also turn from grace in the time of persecution.  When confronted for their faith in Jesus Christ, or when faced with going along with crowd, or witnessing to the truth, they give in to the forces they think are greater than God. Their reason pushes back against faith, and faith crumbles under the pressure. The Word of God did not have a deep root in their lives.

      This is the tyranny of our flesh. We enjoy the good times, but are repulsed by the difficult times and the persecution we face because we go against the emerging norms of sinful society.

      So what is the seed cast among the thorns?  The thorns are the cares of this world. We become sinfully engrossed in our income. We chase the dollar and the creature comforts of this world because we are dissatisfied with what we have been given by God.  We seek the pleasures of this world because it is much more interesting than seeking the treasures of heaven. These things steal away the joy of salvation and the comfort of forgiveness.  They draw our ears away from hearing the words of absolution which assure us of God’s love, to the delusion of equating God’s love for us with the trappings of this world.

      Where do you find yourself on this spectrum of unbelief?  Which of these sown fields best represents your life?  What expectations of yours have been dashed?  Which trials of faith have you failed to resist? Which cares of this world have undermined your hope in Christ? I believe that, at various times we will find we fall into each of these categories.  As long as we walk this earth, we will be faced each day with various trials of faith.  That faith will be tested to the limits. You will be shown as was Paul, what you are able to endure for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

      This last soil is interesting. For it shows the life of the true believer in Jesus Christ. We note that the soil is called good and it produces fruit. First, we ask what makes this soil good?  How do you answer that question? The seed makes the soil good.  For the seed, as Jesus says, the seed is the Word of God.  It is proclaimed and applied to those who are dead in trespasses and sins. God gives them the gift to hear with understanding and live in faith.

      Why then are the other soils was it not effective? Why did the seed not grow and produce fruit in the other soils? The Word of God produces two effects, but always has one purpose.  The purpose of the Word is to bring God’s truth to bear in the sinner’s life.  This remains true for all time and for all sinners. What is that truth other than the sinner’s need to repent of sin and seek forgiveness in the shed blood of Jesus Christ?

      Upon hearing the call to repentance what responses are expected?  There are two. First there is rejection of the Word of truth. The sinner continues in unbelief and rejects the call of God to seek eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  This may be outright rejection or rejection that comes later on when life does not go as expected. This is the first effect of the Word of God.  The sinner is the source of such rejection.

       The second response is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  These are the ones whose eyes and ears are opened by God to believe what is seen and heard.  These ones remain steadfast and immovable in faith. They gather with the saints in the house of God to receive the gifts of God in Word and Sacrament. They speak of their salvation to others who have ears to hear and eyes to see that fruit may be harvested from the fields in need of God mercy and grace.

      There is a prayer of the Church which is periodically offered to God for the growth of the Word and its fruit in the lives of those who hear it. This prayer is a direct reflection of this parable taught by Jesus.

“Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”

      How are your ears and eyes?  What has God given you to see and hear? Each Lord’s Day we gather here in God’s house, God sows His Word in your life. Consider your life as a field growing green grass.  There are patches that are lush.  There are patches that brown quickly.  There are patches where the grass dies off.  What is done to restore that grass and make it lush and vibrant?  New seed may be planted.  More water may be poured upon it.  Fertilizer may be applied.

      What do you do when your life has its rough patches?  Where will you go? Our Lord encourages you, His people, to return to the Word of life and seek restoration and strength in the means of God’s grace. As was said above in the collect:

“… grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life…”

God grant you ears to hear and eyes to see with understanding His call to repentance and faith.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

5th Sunday after Pentecost July 5, 2020

“I’m Burden Free!” Matthew 11:25-30

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

      The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 11th Chapter.

      “25At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

      I am not sure if you are familiar with Dave Ramsey. He has a financial program named “Financial Peace University.” It is a program he developed to help people in debt to rid themselves of their financial burdens. His program has a series of steps to follow so that you can gradually pay off your debts and live with financial freedom. There is a ritual that some people go through when they finally pay off the burden of their debts. They call his program and shout into the phone, “I’m debt free!” The burden of debt is removed.

      As we hear these words of Jesus there is a similar thought placed before us. Jesus speaks to those who are weighted down with a burden. He invites them to come to him in order to have their burden lifted from their life. Jesus promises a better life that is free from the burden that weighs you down. He invites you to partake of the Gospel so you can stand before God and proclaim to the world “I’m Burden Free!”

      Life is filled with many burdens, is it not? These burdens weigh down upon heart, mind and body. We have already mentioned the burden of financial debt. When I graduated from the seminary, many fellow pastors left seminary with a considerable burden of debt. I also had education debt as well as consumer debt. The turmoil and fear that played on the mind while under that burden of debt was quite a worry for my wife and I. Each month when the bills were paid there was a sigh of relief. But the tension would build again for the next month, and so on and so on. It was not until a few years ago that all that debt had been paid off. Now we are burden free.

      There are other burdens which we do not bring upon ourselves. These burdens may come from the outside. Much like what is happening in some of our nation’s cities. You can have instant invitation to watch such burdens by staying connected to social media. Crowds of people are gathering in the streets of those cities to protest one thing or another. With the current racial problems being brought to light, people a being burdened with the perceived need to take a stand on one side or the other.

      To speak from a neutral stand is not sufficient for some of the protestors. One race is demanding apologies from another race because of the color of their skin. Those being coerced to apologize are being held accountable today for deeds carried out centuries ago. In Seattle’s once autonomous zone, one race was forced to pay a certain sum of money to another race for those wrongs committed centuries before. Such thinking and actions do nothing to resolve these burdens. It only exacerbates the problems and increases the tension. The burden remains until proper atonement is applied.

      In these examples we witness the striving of sinful flesh against sinful flesh. This is the true burden against which we struggle as individuals, communities and as a nation. Blinded by that sinful flesh we seek short-term answers to long-term problems. Such short-term answers do nothing to address the real need that underlies our sinfulness. So we struggle under the burdens of the flesh and we are wearied.

            This is the same weariness that Jesus addresses in the Gospel reading today. Jesus speaks of the people who are laboring and heavy laden. Let us consider those words for a moment. The laboring of which Jesus speaks includes everything associated with it. This includes the activity, the process and the fatigue or exhaustion that causes you to labor.

      In high school I played rugby. I really enjoyed the game. However, the practices were another thing. Part of practice involved running. The coach had us hold our cleats in front using both hands. Then he had us run up and down a steep hill for twenty minutes. This simulated carrying the ball while running across the playing field during a game.

      I made the mistake of racing up the hill on the first try. I soon realized my mistake as I labored the next few times to make it back to the top of the hill. I was quickly exhausted and struggled to put one foot in front of the other. In my mind I was berating myself and hoping the coach would give us a break. Unlike Jesus’ invitation to rest, the coach said keep on running. So I was stuck bearing the weight of my irresponsibility.

      Jesus is addressing those who also are bearing the weight of their irresponsibility. Their lives were marked by striving against the weakness of the flesh to fulfill the burden of God’s Law. They were under the mistaken belief that they were able to keep God’s Law and obtain His favor. Yet, in the underlying thoughts there was the visible reminder this was a lie. Consider the sacrifices offered daily in the Temple at Jerusalem. Consider the yearly festivals of Passover, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Booths. These were reminders of the weakness of human flesh.

      Animals were substitutes for the people. Their blood was poured out and their lives taken in place of God executing divine judgment upon His people. Through these sacrifices, God intended His people to realize the futility of trying to earn God’s favor. Like my coach, God says go up the hill one more time. Go to the Temple one more time and bring a sacrifice. Once there offer your sacrifice, then come back again tomorrow until I tell you to stop.

      Unlike my coach, Jesus does give invitation to have relief from the burdens of sinful human weakness. Jesus calls out to the people to draw them to the haling power of the Gospel. “Come to me,” Jesus says. These words call out to sinners the world over to draw them out of the darkness of sin and into the light of God’s grace and mercy.

      Such grace and mercy lifts the burden of trying to make right what was wrong. Such grace and mercy gives peace to troubled hearts and minds burdened by guilt and sorrow over personal failures. Such grace and mercy leads sinners to see the cleansing power of the Gospel that restores and renews sinners to live in fellowship with God and neighbor.

      Such grace and mercy breaks the yoke of sin and replaces it with the yoke of Jesus atoning sacrifice for sin. The Temple in Jerusalem is replaced with the Temple of Jesus’ body. In that Temple is the blood that was poured out for full atonement for sins past and present. Reparations are not needed, for they have been erased in the blood of the Lamb sacrificed on the cross of Calvary.

      Jesus brought us into the Temple of His body by grace in the water of Baptism. In that washing God lifted the burdensome yoke of our sin. In its place God laid upon the yoke of salvation and the reigns of peace through Jesus Christ. No longer is sacrifice needed. Rather, in its place is repentance and contrition. As Scripture says, “A contrite heart, O, God, you will not despise.” And again in the liturgy we faithfully confess, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

      Remember these words, “You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” You are not guilty of another’s sin. You are guilty of your own. The sins committed by the generations of people past cannot be laid upon you in the present. Nor do you take upon your hearts and minds the guilt for those sins committed by the preceding generations. They are not your sins. Moreover they have been forgiven in the blood of Jesus Christ. Such sins and the ones who committed them are in the hands of God. It is well for us to leave them in God’s hands. His judgement is perfect and His righteousness will prevail.

      Lastly, what would Jesus have you learn? Jesus is gentle and lowly. He does not come to us with harsh words of judgment and condemnation. Rather, Jesus comes to us with words of invitation and reconciliation. Jesus holds before us the solution to sin. He is the one who reconciles sinners to God, their conscience and to their neighbor. He pays the cost for sins committed and sins imagined, for sins projected and sins perpetuated. Retribution is replaced with redemption. Accusation is replaced with acquittal. Punishment is replaced with peace. Guilt is replaced with grace. Condemnation is replaced with pardon. Judgment is replaced with absolution.

      Remember the words of hope and assurance sung earlier.

“Come unto Me, ye weary, and I will give you rest.”

O blessed voice of Jesus, Which comes to hearts oppressed!

It tells of benediction, Of pardon, grace, and peace,

Of joy that hath no ending, Of love that cannot cease.

Is your heart oppressed? May the benediction, pardon, grace and peace of Jesus rest upon you.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

4th Sunday After Pentecost June 28, 2020

“Jesus Brings His Sword!” Matthew 10:34-42

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

      The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 10th Chapter.

      “34[Jesus said:] “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.””

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

      If we would consider the way the world is going today we might think Jesus fits right in. We have been plagued with news of protests in various cities. We have been faced with bizarre political slogans that divide communities and homes. We have been shown lack of understanding on every hand. We have seen threats and violence displayed many places. If you do not agree with these forces of violence, you have no part of them. You are declared unworthy in their judgment of you. Staying silent does not give you escape either. You are declared to be complicit with those who oppose the protestors.

      Our Lord seems to be fitting right in with all this turmoil. Jesus says he does not come to bring peace but a sword. He comes to cause division in the most precious of relationships. He comes to demand from us, if you will, unqualified love for himself. Jesus demands you bear your cross and follow him. Not to do so declares you to be unworthy of His attention. To remain silent makes you complicit with those who reject Jesus.

      This seems a far cry from the angels’ message at the birth of Jesus. Remember their song of praise as they joined the herald of Jesus’ birth. “Glory to God int highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Isaiah also named Jesus as the “Prince of Peace.” The coming of the Messiah is marked by peace according to these words. Yet we see that Jesus says he does not bring peace, but a sword.

      Moreover, Jesus proclaims he comes to divide the most precious of relationships, ones of familial love. Is this not contrary to the commandment of God which tells us to honor father and mother? Is this not contrary to the command of God to love your neighbor as yourself? Is this not contrary to Jesus teaching to forgive you neighbor seventy times seven?

      Not in the least. These words of Jesus are not contrary to the will of God. Nor are they lacking honor or respect for the basic foundation of society. There is no hint of rejection of God-ordained relationships. Nor is there any hint of rebellion against God-established authority.

      What is being held before us today is a return to the way of life God planned and created for us in which to live. In returning to the way of life created by God we will be at cross purposes with the way of the world. I say cross purposes because it is an appropriate description of the believer’s manner of life in this world.

      First, we must consider why the Son of God took on human flesh. Such an incarnation was promised long ago. God promised to be born in human flesh in order to redeem the world from sin and death. Such sin and death are the result of the fall of those to whom God first gave life. Their fall follows Satan’s fall from grace as he sought the throne of his Creator. Since that time, all the world has been at enmity with God, everyone seeking their own way and turning from the way of their Creator.

      Today we see this quite clearly in the slogans that have signaled our rebellion against the authority of God. If you look at the reason for being for some of the organizations you will see the evil and rebellion which they want to sow in peaceful communities. Peaceful protests were turned into full-fledged rebellion and rioting. These organizations have gone so far as to demand the defunding of police departments. One city has even passed legislation to defund their police. Such an action opens the door for further destruction and violence.

      There indeed is something satanic behind such movements. It is cloaked in deceptively acceptable words, but hides the truth that what is sought is the disruption of all authority and the undermining of societal norms that promote the welfare and protection of the community. Through these means Satan is tearing down what God has built up.

      Recently monuments to historical figures of our US history been torn down. The reason being given is to fight racism. This past week statues and artwork depicting Jesus and His mother Mary have also been included in such destruction. A testament to the true goal of these protestors. That true goal is to oppose all authority and remove the witness of God from this world

      Consider what St Paul writes, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood … but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Our life in this earth is plagued by not only our sinfulness, but also by the rebellious spirits which have also fallen from grace. They oppose God’s will at every turn. They know they have been defeated by the Son of God, and soon will receive the due reward for their rebellion. Until that day when all of creation is judged these rebellious spirits do what they do best. They seek to undermine and destroy the works of God.

      Our Lord now speaks to us of a greater power than the words and hands of those who oppose God. Jesus speaks of the sword He brings to this world. Certainly, it brings division. Certainly it brings disruption of normal life. Certainly, it sets those who live under the sword against their community. But this sword is the sword of truth. Not man’s truth, but God’s truth. Jesus uses that sword to do battle against those things which oppose God’s will.

      The first use of this sword of truth is to call sinners to repent of their rebellion. There is the warning of coming judgment upon those who continue to reject the God of creation. Jesus speaks of this when he warns against loving this world more than the Creator of this world. He says, “Whoever loves father or mother … son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

      Jesus is not saying don’t love your family. He desires us to love one another and care for one another. Rather, Jesus says your relationships on earth are important, but there is one relationship of eternal importance. That relationship is with your Creator. He is here before you to do you good. He has come to you to redeem you from your life of rebellion. He has come to bring you life and the favor of God. He has come to restore and to heal. He has come to bring you into the Kingdom of God.

      So then, what does it mean to be worthy of Jesus? The word worthy is understood to be one of a comparison between two objects. These objects are placed on opposite sides of a scale. So you have a known quantity compared with an unknown quantity. Much like a gold assayer will measure the quantity of gold that is brought to him to prove its worth.

      Jesus is the measure of worth. He is the known quantity against which everything must be measured. Jesus speaks of the standard of measurement. He says the standard of measurement is the cross. When we consider this cross, we must understand its nature. The cross is a sign of suffering for the truth. The cross is the sign of redemption for sin. The cross is the sign of deprivation of life upon this earth. The cross is the sign of God which draws sinners to see the Lamb of God sacrificed for them. The cross is the sign of God which gives life to those who were dead in trespasses and sin. The cross is the sign of Jesus which penitent sinners bear.

      To this end Jesus says that true worthiness before God is to find your life in the cross of Jesus. So Jesus tells us to bear the cross He gives. Where is this cross given? What sign was placed upon you in your baptism? The sign of the cross was made over your head and over your heart. It is the sign that in Holy Baptism you were redeemed by Jesus Christ and received the cross of faith.

      Bearing that cross of faith, Jesus empowered you to die to self and live for your Savior. This means that you live as Jesus lived. Not counting yourself better than others, but rather counting others the same as yourself. You were redeemed from sin and the power of death. Live then as one who is blessed of God to be rescued from judgment and freed from eternal punishment for sin.

      This means that at every opportunity given you by God, you are to boldly proclaim your life in Jesus Christ. It does not necessarily mean standing on a street corner calling sinners to repentance. It does mean that your life will now be lived contrary to the way of life in this world. As you were measured in the scale of Jesus righteousness and sacrifice for sin, so now you will measure the voices heard in the public square against the Sword of God’s word.

      What is the truth underlying the messages placed before us by politicians, activist groups or neighbors? How is their worth to be measured when set against the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Do such voices incite rebellion? Or do they encourage humility and peace? Do such voices rail against the servants of God? Or do they respond in submission to governing authorities? Do those voices seek social justice at the expense of civility? Or do they promote forgiveness and repentance at the expense of Jesus’ sacrifice for sin?

      As we live our faith before our neighbor, we must also remember to live our faith before our Savior. This will not be and easy task. For this task will reflect the life of Jesus Christ in thought, word and deed. The voice of the Gospel is not a welcomed voice because this world seeks revenge and rather than repentance. The voice of the Gospel is not welcomed in this world because the world seeks hubris, sinful pride, rather than humility. The voice of the Gospel is not welcomed in this world because the world seeks to crucify rather than to be crucified. The voice of the Gospel is not welcomed in this world because the world did not welcome Jesus.

      Yet, Jesus has received you through the Gospel. Jesus died in your place. Jesus called to His presence. Jesus poured His salvation upon in the water of Baptism. Jesus marked you for His kingdom under the name of the Triune God. Jesus gave your life purpose and meaning by clothing you in His righteous death and resurrection. Jesus gave you the sword of His Gospel to defend your faith and give witness to the hope that is within you. Jesus strengthens you to bear your cross of faith. Jesus counts you worthy by faith for eternal life.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen