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

3rd Sunday of Pentecost June 21, 2020

“Faith in Jesus and Standing Before Our Heavenly Father!” Matthew 10:21-33

      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, the Chapter.

      “5These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, . . .

      21“Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. …. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

      Blessed and happy Father’s Day. Certainly we need to hear the blessing from somewhere, because this passage seems antithetical to words of blessing.

      When we think of having a father, there is a certain expectation of protection and support. A father who cares for his family provides such material blessing for them. He gives guidance and encouragement when needed. He also gives discipline out of love for his children. Children should feel secure with the presence and attention of their father.

      As we hear the words of Matthews Gospel account, there is a difference of response within the household. Instead of security and encouragement there seems to be an air of discord and rebellion. There is adversity and betrayal. What could possibly have planted such a seed of discontent in the household that bears the fruit of rebellion and betrayal?

      As we heard last Sunday, Jesus gave authority to His disciples to go into the towns and villages of Israel to bring them the reign of heaven. This Sunday we continue the reading from St Matthew. These words follow the instructions given by Jesus to His disciples. Jesus is warning them of the response to the message they were to proclaim, to herald.

      To understand this response, we must first understand the problem is not the message that is heralded. No, the problem is what is already present in the villages and towns. The problem is what is already present in the homes of Israel. The problem is what is already in the hearts of those who live in the homes of Israel.

      What is that problem? It is nothing less than rebellious and sinful hearts. Consider what the rebellious and sinful hearts of people already inflict upon themselves and those around them. There is already depravity of thinking and desire. There is already anger and strife. There is already mistrust and misplaced condemnation.

      This is what Jesus is teaching his disciples about the people they will encounter on their mission. In another place Jesus tells his disciples that he is sending them out as sheep among wolves. As we know, wolves look upon sheep as prey. They ravage and destroy the sheep and consume them fully. There is no mercy shown and no quarter given.

      So this is the situation and the response that will be given to those who are bringing the message of the reign of heaven. Family relationships will become ever more strained to the breaking point. It will be as if there is war within households. Siblings will become adversaries. Parents and children will be opposed to each other. Death will reign because sin abounds.

      Why will this be so readily visible? What is the catalyst for setting this process in motion? It will be the message brought by Jesus’ disciples. What is that message? It is the proclamation that God has truly come to His people. God comes to save that which is lost. God comes to set right what has been wrong. God come to redeem that which is sold into the slavery of sin. God comes to free that which is bound in the chains of death. God comes to break the reign of Satan and to defeat this strong man in his own realm.

      What is so devastating about this message from God? It is a message of accountability and obedience to someone other than oneself. We chafe at the command of God to live humbly and under His will and commandments. We cringe when God seeks undivided worship and faithful obedience from us. Consider what happened to the first pair of brothers born to Adam and Eve. One brother gave undivided worship and faithful obedience to the God of all creation. One brother only went through the motions. The latter brother delivered up the former brother to death.

      How did Cain respond to God’s call to repent of his sin? Cain denied responsibility for both his sin and his brother’s life. Instead of repentance he continued in rebellion, even to the point of denying God’s authority to punish sin. He accuses God of being unjust in His punishment, and seeks to negotiate a more just outcome. Cain desires God to be more tolerant of sin.

      What of our day? Insurrection and violence continue as they have in every generation since Cain abused his brother Abel. Cities are ablaze by the hands those who are anti-government and anti-police. They rebel against authority and seek to transfer power from the properly established order of government to radical factions that seek to spread chaos and unrest.

      It is into this roiling mess of human devastation that Jesus sends his disciples. They bring with them a message that will turn this world on its head.  They bring a message of healing and reconciliation. They bring a message of peace and humility. They bring a message of righteousness and the forgiveness of sin.

      In contrast to the worlds view concerning the value of life, human or animal, we have God’s view of life, human or animal. Jesus compares the lives of his disciples to the life of a small sparrow. Such small birds were sold in the market place two for less than one cent. There is little value placed upon them by society. They are plentiful but insignificant to people.

      Yet, God places great value upon them. He knows when they fall to the ground. Their deaths do not fail to register on God’s heart and mind. Why is this so? It is so because God gave these small sparrows life and purpose in this world. They add to the beauty of this world and have a place to fill in this world. They are not insignificant to God.

      Likewise the hairs on your head. I read somewhere that we have approximately 140,000 hairs or hair follicles. God numbers them and puts them in place. He also created them to grow and lengthen over time. He created them to have color and texture. The hairs on our head serve a purpose of protecting the head and conserving the heat produced by the body. Such a gift from God is valuable in His sight. He knows when the follicle stops producing hair. He knows when a hair falls out. He knows why the hair falls out, be it genetic or caused by stress and trial.

      Jesus then says that we are of much greater value to God than the sparrows who fall to the ground and the small hairs of our head. We have been created in the image of God. We have been given the gifts of God for support of our day to day life. These gifts are spoken of as the rain which falls on the evil and the good, and the sun which shines on the just and the unjust. Such provision from the hand of God is to be received with thanksgiving.

      Moreover, the provision of God for our salvation is great. This is the word the disciples are to bring to those to whom they are sent. The sheep whom we heard about last week are to be told of God’s redemption which is drawing near in Jesus Christ. They were to be given the hope of which God promised long ago. They were to hear the voice of David’s Shepherd who brings God’s provision for those who are weighed down under the burden of sin and unrighteous treatment.

      Would this message be favorably received? Not in every case. Our Lord instructs His disciples to leave those people who reject their message and seek people from other places. There will be others who will listen and find hope in the One who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary and subsequently to suffer under Pontius Pilate, to be crucified, to die and rise from death on the third day.

      You have received the benefit of this great salvation. God has called you through this same Gospel of salvation to know His mercy and care. Such mercy and care is much needed in our time. We have been somewhat separated from each other by social distancing. Some are still unable to leave their homes and venture out into the public. It is easy to begin to think that you are truly alone in this confusion. There are feelings of abandonment. Even Christians may begin to think God has left the building and turned His back on them.

      Nothing is further from the truth. God is where He said He will be. He is the true Father who provides for His children. He continues to make His presence known even in the face of this current time of opposition and time of trial. Over the past few weeks you have continued to be fed on God’s Word. Albeit it was online live video. Yet, the Word and presence of God was still made known to you. God confessed His presence to you if you will.

      You are reminded of God’s presence in the hymns that we sing. You are reminded of God’s presence in the liturgy we speak. You are reminded of God’s presence in the readings you hear and the sermon which is proclaimed. God comes to you in His most sacred meal give to you from His altar.

      Through these means God assures you of His presence. God is here in this house of worship.  He is also where you find yourself from day to day as you walk by faith in Jesus Christ. He relieves your fears and strengthens your faith so that you will not become anxious and doubt His control for your life. The cause of anxiety is fear. The cause of fear is doubt. The foundation of doubt is feeling a lack of control. The perfect love of our heavenly Father cast out such fear. As Scripture says, “cast all your anxiety upon Him for He cares for you.”

      In such time we must remember the words of our Savior as He endured the cross of suffering. He felt such abandonment when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet, Jesus continued to entrust His life to the hands of His Father in heaven. We may be bowed down for a brief moment of time. Yet, we have the assurance that God will lift us up in His time and bring us salvation and relief. With Jesus we give our souls into the hands of our heavenly Father and He shelters us in His almighty hands.

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

2nd Sunday After Pentecost June 14, 2020

2nd Sunday after Pentecost – “God’s Sheep Receive a Shepherd!” Matt. 9:35-38

      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 9th Chapter.

      “35Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.””

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

      The imagery which Matthew places before us today applies equally well in every generation. Within this passage of Matthew’s Gospel account Jesus makes two observations regarding those who He comes to save. Firstly, Jesus looks out over the crowds and sees sheep in need of compassion. Secondly, Jesus sees a harvest that needs to be gathered. We will consider for a few moments Jesus compassion for the sheep.

      We who no longer live the life of a farmer or shepherd have little understanding of these allusions which God places before us. We must turn to those who have the experience of raising sheep in order to gain some understanding of the truth which we must see. One such sheep herder, Phillip Keller, writes:

      “Sheep are notorious creatures of habit. If left to themselves they will follow the same trails until they become ruts; graze the same hills until they turn to desert wastes; pollute their own ground until it is corrupt with disease and parasites. … No other class of livestock requires more careful handling, more direction, than do sheep.” p.61-62, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm.

      Keller goes on to elaborate that sheep have no concept of the effect their habits have on their surroundings. Left to their own devices both the land and their health wastes away and is rendered useless. Head down and grazing they will eventually eat the very roots of the grass that grows. Following the same paths day in and day out. They create ruts which aid in eroding the land and washing away nutrients. Remaining on the same land their waste accumulates and parasites and diseases which afflict them individually soon spreads to the whole flock.

      So this description of what Jesus sees when he looks out over the crowds is quite appropriate for our life on earth. Wandering sheep soon find trouble in life. They are afflicted by others and even bring trouble on themselves. Isaiah rightly says, “we all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way …” [Is. 53:6]

      To be fair though, we first consider the people whom Matthew says are “harassed and helpless.” There is no one to show them compassion. Compassion means to feel deeply what these people are feeling. The one who shows compassion knows exactly what these people are suffering, how deep that suffering goes and how long the people have suffered.

      In this description we are given a glimpse to what life would be like without compassion. The two words, harassed and helpless are apt descriptions. The basic meaning of harassed is to flay the skin off an animal. The implication of this word applied to those upon whom Jesus looks is that they were set upon by those who had authority over them. Their lives were made difficult by those who were to relieve their suffering. They were given little hope or comfort for the trial under which they lived.

      Matthew has in mind the spiritual guidance and peace which their priests and teachers of the Law were to give them. They were harassed by a righteousness that was far different than the righteousness ordained by their God. Pharisees and teachers of the Law increased the burden of perfection, rather than mitigated the burden of perfection. The people were flayed by the unrighteous demand of their spiritual leaders who controlled the most minute areas of life. Law upon law was added to coerce righteousness. Certainly this was a form of righteousness, but there was no compassion.

      So what is life like without compassion? I thought about this question as I listened to the Chief of Police in Minneapolis during his press conference this past week. I came to this conclusion. Lack of compassion breeds lack of compassion and in turn lack of restraint. When restraint and compassion disappear there is a vacuum to be filled. That vacuum sucks in all manner of dirt and debris. It is what we have witnessed in major cities in the past few weeks.

      Once peaceful areas have become war zones filled with demonstrators. Some legitimate who have suffered from being shown lack of compassion. Some illegitimate brought in from other places to upset, overturn and destabilize otherwise peaceful protests.

      Without compassion there is only unbridled passion. The voices of the crowd are raised in retribution and their hands are raised in rebellion. There is violence, destruction of property and businesses, looting, lawlessness. Communities once thriving are turned into wastelands, monuments to our sinful nature run amok. Those who once lived there no longer know security and peace. Businesses that once supplied the needs of the community are boarded up, some never to reopen.

      Like the people in the time of Jesus, those who are suffering the onslaught of unbridled passion are harassed, even helpless. The implication of helpless is even more disturbing. The word used by Matthew indicates the people were laid prostrate by a mortal wound. Their security is in question. They have nowhere to turn. There is no one to give aid. There is no relief or restoration on the horizon.

      Such is the human condition, of which we are participants. We may not be causing disturbances, or walking in rebellion against seemingly unfeeling authorities, but there are sins which are just as serious of which we need to repent. It matters little what those sins are. For God does not differentiate between sins or those who break His Law. Consider this truth written for us in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

      “12Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned …” [Romans 5:12]

      We may look upon others and decry what evil they commit, rightly so. Yet, we must also confess to our God the very evil we ourselves commit. God’s judgment is equally upon all people as Paul says – “death spread to all men because all sinned.” We are like sheep who have gone astray. We have created our own vacuum of unrighteousness and filled it with all manner of evil. We flay ourselves and flay each other. We strike our own lives with a mortal wound and strike others in the same way. We don’t need to use bricks, Molotov cocktails, sticks or flames. We have thoughts, words and deeds of our own making and imagination of which we need to repent.

      While we might live without compassion, we are blessed to have One who looks with compassion upon all people. Jesus looks out over the crowds which still gather today. He sees each individual sinner who needs to be shown compassion. He desires each sinner to know the healing power of His word and the restoring touch of His hands. He wants us to know that He comes not only to address the sin but also the effects of sin.

      Jesus ministry is twofold. He reveals that salvation is not only according the spiritual needs of sinners. Salvation is also with regard to the needs of the body. This is for what we pray in the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray “Give us today our daily bread” we are speaking of the physical needs and wants of the body. Dr Luther’s explanation to this petition provides a whole list of those physical needs of the body. Among them are good government and peaceful homes, peaceful neighbors and pious families.

      Jesus addresses these needs richly and fully with the compassion and grace of God. We see first that Jesus goes to those who are so afflicted. This is not the first time Jesus comes to those who are suffering. Jesus first descended from the very throne of the Creator not to see what evil has been done, but address such evil and to heal such evil. Consider the words which Matthew writes. “Jesus went into every village and town and healed all manner of illness and disease and cast out demons from the demon-possessed.

      The greatest healing would be given when Jesus entered the city of God, Jerusalem. There in that city Jesus would confront the self-righteous sinners in their place of authority. In that confrontation Jesus would bear their false accusations, deceitful justice and unjust condemnation for evils He did not commit. Jesus would suffer the final torment of His Father’s righteous justice in His crucifixion and death upon the cross.

      Jesus continues to come to us today as He did in the time of Matthew. He sent workers into His harvest field. Jesus gave authority to His apostles to preach and act as He proclaimed and healed. They carried with them the message of the reign of God who comes to heal and save those who are lost in the dark maze of unbelief and rebellion. He comes to turn their hearts to seek the salvation of heaven rather than the fleeting substance of this earth.

      The work continues in the gifts which Jesus perpetually gives to His Church. There may not be miraculous healing nor ecstatic speaking, but there is cleansing from sin and sinners rejoicing. Such cleansing comes to us in the water of Holy Baptism. Hearts are sprinkled clean from the stain of sin. Minds are healed from the searing power of sin. Lives are transformed to live in God’s righteousness that is by faith, but not by works. The body of Christ is set upon the firm foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Christ Jesus as the chief cornerstone.

      This is God’s compassion for sinners. In Christ, God both feels our destitute way of life and restores that life to the fullness of life in the Gospel. Such compassion is also shown us and given to us in the Holy Meal shared from the altar of God. From that altar we eat the very bread of heaven broken for us upon the cross. from that altar we drink the cup of salvation which was poured out for our sins and the sins of the whole world.

      This meal is a holy meal with the very healing power of God given through it. This meal supplies what is needed to restore, refresh and redeem what was lost and damaged by the things that prostrate us and distress us in this world. Rightly we proclaim this meal to be a foretaste of the Feast to come. For we who are healed by Jesus in body and soul will be gathered in God’s presence in the kingdom which is yet to come.

May our Lord and Shepherd Jesus Christ heal and supply you for the days to come and bring you into his Kingdom on the Last Day.

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

Trinity Sunday – June 7, 2020

Trinity 2020 – “Confessing the Trinity” Matthew 28:18-20

      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 28th Chapter.

        18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We have just confessed this truth concerning saving faith.

“Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally.

And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.

For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Holy Spirit is another.”

      This injunction is similarly stated three times in the Athanasian Creed. Each time the words of these injunctions serve reinforce the truth which the Christian church confesses regarding its God, His person and His work.

      This confession of faith flows from God’s self-revelation in His written Word, through the Word Incarnate, and by the working of the Holy Spirit through God’s means of grace. Such is the truth which Jesus places in the hands of His Church as He bestows the very power of heaven upon His disciples.

      Now this Athanasian Creed does not begin with a question, but with a statement of unequivocal truth. This means that there is no other way for what follows to be understood, taken or believed. In short there is no choice. There are no options. There is one way and one way only to gain the gift of eternal life. There is only one God who gives eternal life. There is only one God who redeems sinners. There is only one God who calls sinners to repentance. There is only one God who creates faith in the hearts of those who repent. There is only one God who raises the dead. There is only one God in whom to trust for salvation.

      This one God graciously reveals Himself to sinners. He reveals that He is a caring God. He reveals there is a mysterious relationship within this Godhead that must be received by faith. This Godhead consists of three persons with one divine essence. There are not three gods. There is only One God in three persons.

      These three persons are co-equal in authority, power, majesty, will and purpose. They each are ascribed separate works, but each person in the Godhead is indivisibly one. Such is a mystery that cannot be unraveled or grasped by our human reason. Such a mystery is a matter of faith. Hence we confess this truth in a statement of faith or a creed.

      Such a statement is given by our Lord Jesus as well. We are to believe that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. When we think about this truth we are brought up short. For we immediately begin to think that Jesus never had “all authority.” Such is not the case. We first must ask who this Jesus is? Certainly we know from the Gospel accounts that Jesus is the incarnate Word of God. He is the 2nd Person of the Trinity. He is true God and true Man. Does He not already have all power and authority in heaven and on earth?

      Certainly, this is true. Jesus does have all power and authority of God. We read elsewhere in Scripture that Jesus laid aside this authority and power for a brief period of time.  St Paul speaks of this in his epistle to the Philippian believers. Jesus lived in the form of a servant. When Jesus speaks of His being given all authority in heaven and on earth, He speaks of His human nature fully and always now using such power and authority.

      Indeed, Jesus showed this power and authority at various times in His ministry on earth. The people to whom Jesus ministered witnessed this authority in the miracles he performed. The people heard this authority in the teaching which Jesus gave. He spoke not as their teachers spoke, but Jesus spoke with the authority of God.

      Jesus speaks a final time to His disciples on earth. He is shortly to ascend to His place at the right hand of the Father to dwell in eternal glory with the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Now Jesus dispenses His authority to His disciples. He gives them that power in His command to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations.

      As with all God’s gifts, there is His power and authority attached. Jesus’ command also has the authority of God attached. For these disciples are to go out not in their name, but under the name of God. They are God’s representatives who are to apply Jesus message of salvation to sinners the world over.

      Where is this authority centered? God’s authority is wherever God’s Word is found. That Word is embodied in the water of Holy Baptism, and taught in the commands of Jesus Christ. As Jesus says to His disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey whatsoever I have commanded you.”

      The authority of God’s word has always been questioned. Satan questioned such authority when he tempted Eve with the question, “Did God really say …?” Satan departed from keeping this word of God and sought his own path paved with sinful pride. Such a path leads to destruction and eternal judgment.

      In our time, the question remains alive and well. There are those who believe that all who worship a god truly worship the same god. They believe that there are different paths that people may follow and still reach the same goal as all who worship a god. To say that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life is unacceptable. To say the Jesus is the only way to the Father is unthinkable. To say that Jesus blood-bought sacrifice is the only means of salvation is too exclusive. Such is the deception under which Satan seeks to destroy what the true God has established.

      In the face of these denials, Jesus leaves no doubt as to what we are to preach and teach and do. Everything which Jesus commanded is to be observed, kept, held in ultimate importance and imparted to those who have been redeemed by God. This is what we teach and confess in this House of God and hold closely in our hearts …

      “so God and man is one Christ, who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead. At His coming all people will rise again with their bodies and give an account concerning their own deeds.”

      The name of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is no ordinary name. The name of our God gives us an identity that transcends any relationship we may have on this earth. Certainly, our relationships with family are important and blessed by God. Yet, what God has done and worked in us is of greater importance. For what God does and works in us is also for life in the world that is yet to be.

      God put His name upon us in the water of Baptism for a purpose. He marks us to be heirs of eternal life. He joins us to an eternal family if you will. Those who receive the name of God are made heirs with Jesus Christ and have access to the storehouse of God’s grace and mercy.

      Consider the words of the Sacrament of Baptism. As the water is applied, the pastor speaks over the baptized these words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Truly it is not the pastor who is baptizing but it is God Himself who comes and puts His name on the baptized. Consider these words from Isaiah 43.

“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel; “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

      These words of God are sometimes placed upon baptismal banners. Why is that the case? It is the case because this is exactly what takes place in Holy Baptism. God is taking possession of your life. He is making an eternal promise to you to be your Father, Provider, Protector and Salvation. Jesus brought these words to fulfillment in His ministry, death and resurrection. Jesus poured out the benefits of these words in your life on the day of your baptism. Jesus will consummate this promise of God on the Last Day. When you are raised from the sleep of death, Jesus will restore your body and give you eternal life.

So, by God’s grace and mercy, may you always confess the Triune God. May our Triune God bring us to eternal life.

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

Pentecost Sunday – May 31, 2020

“The Presence of God is Heard!” Acts 2:1-11

      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, the Chapter.

      “1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

      If I remember correctly, one of my children recently asked me a question about this passage. They asked me also if I had ever spoken in tongues. I responded, “Yes, French!” I could also add to that list a few other languages that I had learned to speak in some degree.

      When we read this passage our attention is drawn to the spectacular event that takes place. The spectacular event for us is not the message that is spoken. Rather the spectacular event is the manner in which the message is spoken.

      We look at this passage and our focus is on these words. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues ….” We call this event a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. This means that in some way the Holy Spirit made his presence known. Each of the disciples experienced this presence, and those looking on stood in awe of what took place before them.

      Indeed, this is a spectacular event. God is making His presence known. There actually is a God whom we cannot see, but is there somewhere. He showed Himself. He has a message. He touches people. He seems to care. Why does He not do the same for us in our time?

      Now, if you were listening earlier, how much of verse four did I read? I did not read the whole verse. I stopped where our thinking usually stops. I focused on what our sin-marred mind tends to focus. There is much more to this event that just the speaking in tongues. God does not give anything or do anything without having a purpose in mind. It is our work as Christians to discern that purpose and to work according to that purpose of God.

      The rest of the verse reads “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” In these words we have the thought that God purposefully came to each of these disciples and gave them a certain gift, if you will. The gift given and received is the ability to speak the Gospel in many different languages. Each disciple was given an individual gift to serve the purpose of God. That purpose was to announce to the world that Salvation had come as long ago promised by God.

      Furthermore, God was reuniting those whom He has separated. This separation took place during the time of Noah and his sons. After the flood, Noah and his family re-established life upon the earth. Ham, Shem and Japheth and their wives bore children and began to fill the earth. Yet, sin was not erased. The filling of the earth was done not according to God’s command a purpose. The people refused to leave the plain of Shinar. They even built a monument to their rebellion. We know it as the Tower of Babel.

      Having one language, the people convinced each other to defy their God. They refused to move away from that plain. Addressing their refusal, God brought upon them the confusion of languages. Not being able to speak with one another, they were dispersed throughout the world. God forced their obedience to His will. Such is the discipline of God.

      One thing we must remember is that these people did not leave that Tower without the promise of salvation. Each person left knowing to some extent the judgment of God which was exerted in the flood. Noah and his family were present for a good number of years, centuries even, after the flood waters had receded. They recounted this judgment and will of God. More than that they also recounted the promise of God to redeem the world from sin, death and the grave.

      Rebellion against God’s will is not yet lost on us. Like the people of Noah’s time, and even before, we have not changed in attitude or desire. We still seek our own way. We still resist the wisdom of those who learned to live in accord with the will of the God of our creation and redemption.

      This is evidenced in these past few days by the rioting and destruction that has spread to many cities in our nation. What was supposed to be peaceful, quickly turned to violence, destruction, loss and injury. The reason for gathering quickly turned to mob mentality and rebellion, and a departure from reason and restraint. In short, the sinful nature of all people was clearly revealed on the streets of those cities.

      Consider why we begin each worship service with confession of sins. It is a reminder that we have sinned against God in thought word and deed. We humbly confess we are poor miserable sinners. We lack the humility to recognize God. We are miserable in our rebellion trying to fill our lives with things that do not satisfy nor give contentment. We drink from the cup of worldly treasure and feast upon the delusion of temporary satisfaction. Such offerings of this world are like drinking salt water. They leave you thirsty and destroy the things that support your life.

      Jesus offers to us the very water of life. As he spoke in John’s Gospel account, so He gives through the Spirit of God. Jesus said, “Those who are thirsty come to me and drink.” Indeed, we are thirsty for what Jesus offers us. We need Him to reveal this thirst and draw us to him to quench that thirst. This Jesus does through the work of the Holy Spirit. We confess this in the Creeds of the Church.

      We confess that the Spirt of God calls, gathers and enlightens the sinner with regard to sin, judgment and salvation. The full weight of God’s judgment is revealed to us through the preaching of God’s Law. This word of Law condemns us and weighs heavy upon us convicting our hearts that we have strayed from righteousness and wandered into the wide path of destruction. The word of Law breaks our will and cuts us to the quick that the Spirit of God may then heal our lives and make us whole.

      By nature we turn from such work of God’s Spirit. However, the Spirit does not let us run. Rather, the Spirit of God holds out to us the healing power of the Gospel. Such healing power tunes our hearts and minds to receive by faith the gift of God given in the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross.

      Listen to the words of the people who are gathered around the preaching of the Spirit endowed disciples.

7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? … we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

      Following this passage is the sermon which Peter preached, along with each disciple who spoke under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He speaks the words of God foretold by the prophet Joel. The Day of the Lord’s visitation has come to pass. The Spirit of God is poured out upon His servants. They tell of the salvation provided by God in the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They offer this word to those who have gathered before them. Moved by God’s Spirit and Word, three thousand were baptized and brought into the life of Jesus Christ.

      Such is the fruit of the Spirit. By this we mean the evidence of God’s Spirit whom we confess in the Creed. Once the sinner is enlightened they are brought into the fellowship of believers in the water of Holy Baptism. Through this means of grace. God then prepares them to fulfill His purpose for their lives. They begin the journey of walking by faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

      Does such an awe-inspiring event need to take place today? Do we need to see such a miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit? Should a baby, youth or adult who is baptized immediately burst into languages they have not learned as proof the Holy Spirit is in them and has converted them? God has not decreed such things for us. His purpose was served at that time to give credence to the message spoken by the disciples. If such a manifestation is needed in our time, God will work such a thing. We are to be content with the gifts which Jesus gives as proof of His saving grace.

      We gather around those gifts each week in this House of God. Before our eyes is the fount of God’s blessing. There at the fount, God pours out upon each baptized soul a full measure of His Holy Spirit. Once given, that Spirit works to create and build faith and lead the redeemed sinner to fulfill his or her upward calling in Jesus Christ. The tongue of flame does not avail us anything. The power of God’s Spirit working through the Word of God avails us much, even all that we need for eternal life.

      Until that day, when we reach eternal life, God moves us to fulfill our calling as His people. He works in us and through us to bear the fruit of His Spirit. As St Paul writes in Galatians 5 such fruit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” In a word living our faith in Jesus Christ. These are the visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. Such living begins with daily return to your Baptismal grace. Seeking opportunities from God to proclaim His mighty works to those from every walk of life.

      As it was at the time of the apostles of Jesus so it will be for us today. People will be drawn to the strange manner of living. This manner of living is contrary to the way of the world. For the world rejects such presence of God. The world is impatient and ruthless. The world seeks its own benefit. The world takes but does not give. It thirsts but is not satisfied.

      The world needs what Jesus offers. The world needs the sacrifice of forgiveness, the water of eternal life, and the peace of salvation. Such gifts of God have been given us to be used for His purpose. May the Spirit of God dwell in us richly, that we bear witness to God’s grace, and serve His purpose.

      The Lord of bring you to eternal life on the Day of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Seventh Sunday of Easter – May 24, 2020

“The Hour of Glorification!” John 17:1-11

      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 John, the 17th Chapter.

      “1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

      Glory always has an object. The glory which people seek therefore, can take on many different forms. One person may seek glory in accumulating the wealth of nations. Some have been quite successful. Consider Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey or even President Trump. These three people and many others throughout recent history have accumulated much worldly wealth. Some more than once.

      Other people have as their object more humanitarian ideas. They seek glory in being benevolent and caring for their neighbors who are less fortunate. Here in Evansville, there was a pastor who established Tri-State Food Bank to be a resource to feed the hungry in this city. The food bank serves three states, Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana. The food bank provides food to community food pantries and backpacks with food for children in need.

      The common factor in all earthly glory is that such glory is not inherent in the individual. It must be sought, chased, garnered, given or even taken. There is needed some form of recognition in order for the glory to be bestowed.

      As we hear His prayer, we may think Jesus is pursuing the same kind of glory. We may think that Jesus wants to be praised by men in an earthly manner. We may think that Jesus is seeking the place of honor as would a politician, a king or some other self-important person. Such thinking would be in great error.

      Looking again at the words of Jesus’ prayer, we read that there is something quite different between our sinful human desire for glory and Jesus request for glory. Jesus glory is not found in the gathering of the wealth of nations. Jesus glory is not found in the praise of men. Jesus’ glory is not given by men, but is revealed in the work which Jesus came to fulfill. Jesus’ glory is revealed in the authority which Jesus has to give eternal life.

      Now, I say that Jesus’ glory is revealed glory. Glory revealed in the work Jesus came to fulfill. We confess Jesus’ work fulfilled in the Creeds of the church. We learn in the study of the catechism, concerning the two states of Jesus in His ministry on earth. There is the state of humiliation. This we confess when we speak the words:

      “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.”

      By humiliation is meant that Jesus hid His divine nature from the eyes of men. We see the beginning of this humiliation in the incarnation of the Son of God. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. What glory is in this conceiving and birth of Jesus? God condescends to take on the form of a servant, which we are before God. In this incarnation, God comes to dwell with His creatures. He comes to reveal His will and to work salvation. He comes to redeem and cleanse His creatures. He comes to give them life and to give the abundance of God’s mercy and grace to those who are bowed down under the weight of sin and the fear of death.

      Jesus is clearly revealing the glory of God in the salvation fulfilled in His final act of self-giving. These words of Jesus which we hear are the words of His High Priestly prayer. Jesus prayed this prayer the night he was betrayed into the hands of His enemies. He is kneeling before His father in heaven and recounting that the time has come for the act of redemption to be displayed before the world.

      Jesus alluded to this act when He spoke to His disciples shortly after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be gloried. Amen, Amen, I say to you unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. … Father glorify your name. … And I, when I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.”

      The glorification and the glory of God is revealed in the suffering and death of Jesus. There is more to this suffering and death than we might think or understand. We indeed know and believe that Jesus’ suffering and death is for the sin of the world. We indeed know and believe that Jesus suffering and death brings us peace with God and enables us to live in peace with one another. Such truths are to be held in faith.

      Yet, there is also the fulfillment of promises made to the whole of creation. Such promises were given by God from before the foundation of the world. God planned for them in eternity and brought them to pass in time. God knew that His perfect creation would become marred by sin. He determined this world shall not continue in endless suffering, sin and death. He determined this world would be redeemed by the blood of His one and only begotten Son. Jesus is the seed that would fall to the earth from heaven. His life would be planted in the world to bring healing and hope to those who were lost in the darkness and despair of sin’s maze.

      Such is the work which Jesus came to fulfill. Jesus was lifted up, nailed to the cross of suffering. Upon that cross, Jesus gave up His life into the hands of His Father in heaven. His lifeless body was planted, if you will, in the tomb. There Jesus lay for three days and was lifted up from death. He took to himself His body and walked unhindered from the tomb. Thereby glorifying God and revealing the glory of God who has power over life and even death. Thereby revealing the God who alone keeps His Word, reveals His Word and gives eternal life to His people.

      As we continue with the creed, we confess the exaltation or “lifting up” of Jesus. In this lifting up is the great revelation of Jesus’ glory with His Father in heaven.

      “He descended into hell. The third day he rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.”

      This past Thursday marked the celebration of the Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of his Father. What does this ascension mean? Jesus is returning to the place of His inherent glory. As Jesus says in this passage from John’s Gospel account:

        “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

      Jesus did not need glory bestowed upon himself. He already enjoyed the glory of the Godhead. It was hidden for a short time incarnate in human flesh and blood. Jesus glory is eternal and now with His ascension to the right hand of His Father, He enjoys and takes up again this glory.

      Is the glory of our Lord still visible today? Yes, even though Jesus is seated at God’s right hand, His glory is visible, but not to human eyes. The glory of God is visible only to the eyes of faith. The glory of Jesus is seen by faith where Jesus tells us it is. The glory is nothing less than where the Gospel of salvation is given. It is again enshrouded in earthly gifts from God. As Jesus hid his glory in human flesh, so now he cloaks it in water and bread and wine.

      The water of the Gospel touches the sin weakened bodies of those who are redeemed of God.  The word of the Gospel washes the heart and a mind of the redeemed of God and gives sight to see and believe what takes place in that washing. In that washing the sinner is immersed in the sacrifice for sin. They are crucified with Jesus Christ. They are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. The glory of the cross of Jesus is poured out upon the sinner and they rise with Jesus to new life.

      Likewise in the Supper of salvation, we eat nothing less than the very glory of Jesus sacrifice for sin. God grants us to taste in this sweet meal the very glory of the suffering and death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The leaven of sin is removed from those who eat the bread of the New Covenant. The cup of salvation is poured out upon those who drink the wine of joy and salvation. Such gifts of grace bring us the very body and blood of Jesus Christ given and shed for the forgiveness of sins.

      We might think that Jesus is not present, as he promised His disciples. We may wonder where the right hand of God is. We may struggle against hope when the trials of life surround us. Yet, we must remember the right hand of God is His Word. That Word is sure and certain. That Word of God is effective, it gives what has been fulfilled for us in Jesus Christ. The glory of God is truly embodied in the earthly elements of water, bread and wine. It is a foretaste of what awaits us when Jesus returns in glory.

Yes, we are awaiting the final revelation of the glory of Jesus. That final revelation will be upon the return of Jesus when He returns in judgment. As the angel told the disciples on the mount of Jesus’ Ascension, so also we must hear as well.

        “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

      Indeed, our hearts are set heavenward. Our eyes of faith are set upon the visible means of salvation and eternal life. We look in faith upon the hidden glory of Jesus now in expectation of standing with Jesus in glory in the Day yet to come.

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

Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 17th, 2020

“Remember Your Hope in Christ!” John 14:15-22

      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 according to St John, the 14th Chapter.

15[Jesus said:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and especially for our three catechumens,

      Today is a most important day. Today we celebrate the Rite of Confirmation for three of God’s children. They have spent a good amount of time studying and committing to memory the Word of Life and eternal salvation. Earlier this morning these Children of God gave evidence of their studies. Well-done, but not finished.

      Nor is anyone truly finished who confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior. Such a confession is not a one-day event. Such a confession is a life-long confession of faith for those who are called by God to be His children, baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and admitted to Altar of the Lord to receive the gifts of Jesus given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

      It was somewhat difficult to decide which passage to preach upon for today. The theme of each passage, Acts, 1 Peter and John’s Gospel account is the same. We learn in Acts how Paul continued to confess salvation in Jesus Christ. We learn in 1 Peter of the effects of confessing Jesus Christ. We learn in John’s Gospel account of means by which we are able to confess faith in Jesus Christ.

      We begin with the means by which we may confess Jesus Christ. Jesus speaks to His disciples shortly before His arrest and crucifixion. He speaks of a condition by which the believer will confess salvation in Jesus Christ alone. Jesus says that if anyone loves Him they will keep His commandments. 

      To love Jesus means you must first know Jesus. This knowledge of Jesus does not come out of thin air. Jesus must be revealed to you. Such knowledge comes by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit comes only through the means by which God determines to send His Spirit. What are those means by which God sends us His Spirit? There are only three means. They are through the speaking of God’s Word. The other two means are by water, and by bread and wine which are connected to God’s spoken Word.

      Everyone in this sanctuary today, has been a beneficiary of the means by which God gives us His Spirit. At a minimum, you have all heard the Word of God. The same Word of God was applied to your life by the hands of God’s servant who washed you in the water of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit. Through this washing and teaching you were given to know and to love Jesus.

      Moreover, you were given to know the commandments of Jesus. Love one another as you are loved by Jesus. Confess your Savior before men and Jesus will confess you before His Father in heaven. Bear the cross of faith and you will receive the gift of eternal life. Take and eat the body of Jesus. Take and drink the blood of Jesus. Such are the commands which Jesus gives His disciples. These are the commands which the believer in Jesus is to keep faithfully.

      Such are the commands which you, who are gathered here today, have been taught. Not only these three young adults over the past two years, but all who have gathered in this sanctuary on the Lord’s Day to hear His Word and sing His praises. Earlier we reviewed what our Lord considers to be the foundation of faith. You heard from the mouths of these young adults the very truth of God’s salvation established for you in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Such is the means of grace by which God enables us to confess Jesus Christ.

      As the Lord gives us opportunity we are to confess our faith in Jesus. Thereby we keep the commandments of Jesus. Where will this confession of faith take place? With St Paul we see that confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will take place wherever we find ourselves. St Paul finds himself in Athens, specifically in the Areopagus.

      The Areopagus was a court in Athens, Greece, in which philosophers and teachers gathered to teach and discuss religion and new thoughts. Into this place St Paul brought the word of eternal life and salvation through Jesus Christ who rose from death. St Paul took the opportunity to address the spiritual ignorance under which people live. When he saw the pedestal dedicated to “The Unknown God,” Paul taught about this unknown God. He revealed to these men the truth that there is one God and only one God who created the heavens and the earth. This God took on human flesh to live, die and rise from death to bring forgiveness of sins and to impart eternal life to all who would believe in Him.

      Where will you find yourself when God gives you opportunity to witness your faith in Jesus Christ? Such things are future events for you. You will not know when God will give you opportunity. You will not know where that opportunity will be. You can be sure that such opportunities will be given you.

      When I was much younger, about your age, I lived in place far from where I wanted to be living. My father had taken a job with a company that had factories and offices in many different countries. He was sent to Sydney, Australia, and my mom, brothers and sister moved with him. While we lived there, we joined a small mission congregation in Epping, NSW. The mission congregation was named St Mark’s Lutheran Church. We started worshiping on Sundays in a boy scout hall. After a couple years, the congregation had grown so that it was able to build a sanctuary and fellowship hall. It was in that sanctuary fifty years ago, that I went through what you are doing here today.

      I checked my Confirmation Certificate after my wife mentioned this important anniversary. We were both confirmed in the same year, same month, but on different days and in different places. Fifty years ago I did not know where I would be, or what I would be doing. I did not think I would be called by God to be a pastor. I had not planned to go to seminary. Rather, I planned to work in engineering, designing machines to produce automobile parts. I planned to serve the congregation of which I was a member as a lay person. By coincidence that congregation is also named Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Hartland, Michigan.

      The Lord has plans for each child whom He grants rebirth in the water of Holy Baptism, and to whom He gives His Spirit. God gives us experiences that may not be what we want in our life, but they are what we need. St Peter also reminds us of this in his epistle. Peter encourages the believer in Jesus to be zealous for the faith, to be excited to live in righteousness and obedience to the commandments of Jesus.

      Peter also reminds us that this will not always be well received by those around us. We may face rejection and persecution for the faith we have in Jesus Christ. Why is that? It is because the world does not want to hear the truth nor abide by the truth of God’s Word. You expressed these truths in your brief life, as did your parents, siblings and all people. How many of us truly like to be shown our errors? How many of us eagerly attend to the spiritual needs of faith and the life we are to lead as God’s called people? How bold are we when we are called upon to witness to the hope that is within us? Consider Peter’s words to us today.

“14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;…”

        Peter was not always a bold and fearless witness to his Savior, Jesus Christ. Remember what happened in Gethsemane, Peter fled in fear. He gathered his courage and followed John to the high priest’s house. Yet, when he was confronted with his relationship to Jesus, what did he say? Peter denied his Lord three times, as Jesus said he would.

        Peter learned from such experiences that confessing Jesus as Lord and savior will be difficult, but it is the work which we are given to do. Peter was restored to apostleship by Jesus and never looked back. He spoke with boldness in the righteousness of faith and gave a bold witness to the One who called him out of darkness into the marvelous light of salvation.

        Why was Peter able to make such a confession? Why will you be enabled to make such a confession? Why will any of God’s called children be able to make such a confession? It is because He who is in you, Jesus Christ, is greater than the one who is in the world, Satan.

        You have been redeemed by Jesus and washed in the Water of Life for God’s purpose. That purpose is to live in the gift of faith you have received and are ready to confess. You have been taught the very truth of God’s Word. You have committed to memory the truth of God’s Word. God will work through that Word to guard and keep you for His kingdom. He will test your faith in the rials of this world, but He will not destroy you. Rather, God will walk with you through life as you continue to lean upon Him in faith.

        God increase your faith and bring you to eternal life.

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

Fifth week of Easter May 10, 2020 – “New Born Infants of The Church!” 1 Peter 2:2-10

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 First Epistle of St Peter, the 2 nd Chapter.
“ 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The imagery displayed in motherhood is readily seen throughout Scripture. From Genesis to the Revelation to St John we may see references to the importance God places of this blessed work. After the fall, God promised Adam and Eve that the Seed of the Woman would overcome the seed of the Serpent. Eve is called the mother of all the living. Isaiah proclaims the promise of God that a virgin will conceive and bear the Savior. Mary is approached by the angel Gabriel, and informed that she will bear the Savior of the world.

We also see the desire of women in Scripture to bear children. Sarah desired a child. God blessed her with Isaac. Hannah prayed to the Lord for a son. God blessed her with Samuel. Elizabeth was blessed with her son John, the forerunner of Jesus. Mary gives birth to Jesus, whose death and resurrection affords us so great a blessing from God.

Motherhood is important and precious to our Lord. Through this means children are born into this world, nurtured and brought to maturity. Such is the teaching which St Peter places before us today. He speaks of the children of God living like newborn infants.

Now we consider this thought for a few moments. For parents who remember the privilege of raising children, new born infants are a blessing, and take quite a bit of attention and care. If you remember, your infant children are rather focused on a few things. They are focused on sleeping, eating, being clean and seeking comfort. A faithful mother will provide for such needs. She will provide a place of security for her infant. She will nurse her infant when her infant is hungry. She will bathe her infant child and give that infant child attention and comfort when her infant is in distress.

I mention these things because we as grow older we do not remember such things. We do not remember receiving the two o’clock feedings. We do not remember the changing of our diapers. We do not remember the distress from which our parents comforted us. We do not remember the times we demanded attention from our parents and they dropped everything to soothe our fears and dry our tears.

St Peter is reminding us of this when he says, “like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation.” Now you begin to understand this imagery which St Peter uses. Each Christian has an earthly mother who gave them birth. He is directing our attention to the fact that when you were an infant your attention was on receiving the needed care and nourishment to grow and reach maturity.

You also have a spiritual mother who gave you new birth. Like your earthly mother, she wants to feed and nourish her children that they will receive what is needed for their growth in faith and to obtain maturity in faith. Elsewhere in Scripture this same image is described. St Paul writes in his epistle to the Galatian church, that “the Jerusalem from above is our mother.” St John in his Revelation writes of the woman giving birth to her son. This son is pursued by the dragon who seeks to destroy the child.

Such imagery depicts the Church which is the Bride of Christ. The Church, the mother who gives birth to her children who bear the name of Jesus. They are born again from above through water and the Spirit of God. They are given new birth by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. They live within the protecting arms of their spiritual Mother. In her arms, these children of God receive everything necessary to grow to maturity in faith.

Sadly, though, we are not always mindful of the nourishment we need from the Church. Like children with picky palettes, we tend to choose the food we like to eat, rather than the food we need to eat. We are attracted to fast food and snacks. We like to mindlessly dip our hands into the chip bag, or pull into the fast food parking lot and order from the menu of empty calories, and non-existent nutrition. We want a full stomach but care little about nourishment or healthy eating. There are many places today where the fake spiritual food is offered. It is a shallow and anemic meal that does not build life, but rather drains life from those who eat it. Peter describes this as the empty way of life. These words precede the words we consider today. Peter uses the words former ignorance and futile ways, perishable things and perishable seed.

God will take me to heaven because I am a good person, is fake spiritual food. I won’t go to hell because I’ve already been through hell in this life, is fake spiritual food. I deserve to go to heaven because I’ve helped other people, is fake spiritual food. I must be right with God because I have everything I want, is fake spiritual food. Such thinking is founded not on the Word of God, but on the wishful thinking of sinful hearts and minds. Simply understood, anything other than salvation by the precious blood of Jesus is fake spiritual food.

Your Spiritual Mother has the full feast of God’s grace and mercy placed before you. God is ready and more than able to meet your spiritual needs. St Peter directs us to the place where those needs are met when he says, “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” Where do we taste that the Lord is good?

Consider how we eat? What draws us to a meal? Certainly the feeling of hunger, this is first. These thoughts and feelings move us in the direction of the dinner table. You begin to imagine what would begin to satisfy the hunger. Then you envision the meal you are to eat. Then you look at the plate set before you. You look at it with your eyes and begin to decide if the meal will taste good. Only then will you take fork in hand and bring the food to your mouth. Simply said, “You eat with your eyes first.”

So it is in the Church. You eat with your eyes first. You study the word of God and read of the need you have for the saving work of Jesus Christ. You read of God’s Law and how you transgress that Law every minute of every day. You see how empty your life has been because of your feasting on the empty hopes which this sin-broken world offers you. You realize you lack the very food of eternal life which God alone can give you.

God in His great mercy reaches out to you to give you the rebirth prepared for you from before the foundation of the world. In the feast of God’s holy Word you are brought to repentance from the empty life in which you lived. Then you are washed and cleansed from the empty life of unbelief. Your soul is healed. You sin-scarred heart is soothed in the precious words of forgiveness and grace in Jesus Christ.

When a baby is born into this world is wants nothing less than what it’s mother will give. For nine months this relationship between mother and child has been building. The baby in the womb is joined through the umbilical cord to its mother. Through that narrow tube flowed the nourishment provided by the mother. The baby learned to recognize the heart beat of it mother. The baby learned to recognize the voice of its mother. All this so that when the baby enters life in the world, it knows where nourishment and security may be found.

God has built His relationship with the believers through the womb of the Church, if you will. This is the Temple of God where His Word and Sacraments create faith and renew life in the believer. Within this Temple of God we hear the faith nourishing Word of God as it is preached and taught by God’s faithful pastors and teachers. God prepares for us a rich feast that is distributed from His altar. This feast is the food of eternal life and salvation, forgiveness of sins and restoration. The nourishment value of this heavenly food is far and above anything we could hope for or want.

What we see with our eyes is not what God offers us by His grace. For, we see only common bread and wine. There is no visible beauty or tangible glory to appeal to our base sinful inclinations. Yet, what is unseen is the very glorified body and blood of the New Covenant.

This New Covenant was established in the crucifixion and death of the Son of God. This New Covenant was ratified and made sure in the resurrection of Jesus Christ early in the morning on the third day of His resting in the tomb. This is seen only by the children of God who live by faith in Jesus Christ. Living by faith in Jesus Christ, you are reborn of God for eternal life.

We give thanks for our earthly mother who carried us and gave us life. We give thanks for our Spiritual Mother the Church of God who gave us rebirth for eternal life.

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