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

Forth week of Easter May 3, 2020 – “Jesus Is Our Good Shepherd!” John 10:1-10

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

The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St John, the 10 th Chapter.
“ 1 [Jesus said:] “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door
but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today, on this Fourth Sunday of Easter, we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. This is the
Sunday in which the believer’s attention is drawn to consider the very intimate relationship he or she has with Jesus. Jesus lays this relationship before His Church with these encouraging and comforting words recorded in John’s Gospel account.

When reading this tenth Chapter of John’s Gospel account, you may also drift in your mind’s eye to the Psalm of David that begins with these words – “The Lord is my shepherd.” Jesus embodies the Shepherd of David’s psalm. He seeks to guard and keep His flock, and lead His flock to the green pastures of God’s grace and the quite waters of God’s Word. Such places afford the believer the untold gifts of God which are rich in God’s mercy and eternally sustaining for faith in the Good Shepherd, Jesus.

Our Lord begins his parable by designating the place where the Good Shepherd tends his flock. That place is named a sheepfold. This is the area that protected by a surrounding wall with an entry point, a gate or a door. Within the walls of this sheepfold, the shepherd tends his flock. The walls are to keep predators and danger out. They also prevent the sheep from wandering away from the watchful eye of the shepherd.

There is one entrance and one entrance alone through which the anyone or anything might properly enter. The person with no intent to do harm or cause disturbance among the flock will come to this entrance. The Shepherd will come to this entrance to approach his flock because it is the path through which he has led his flock. His voice will be heard by his flock and they will become calm and unafraid.

When we consider this sheepfold we are led to understand the nature of the Church. Our Lord has led us to the security of His sanctuary. The walls are the word of God which serve as the defense of God’s people. The gate or door of this sanctuary is Jesus Christ alone. As Jesus says in another place, he is the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Jesus alone.

We are to understand that going through Jesus alone is more than just a passing knowledge of Him. It is fine to know that Jesus lived and died. It is fine to know that Jesus rose from the tomb after lying there for three days. It is fine to recognize Jesus as Lord. Yet, Jesus warns against relying on this cursory knowledge for salvation. He says to His hearers, “Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord!” will enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Think of saving faith as a triangle with three equal sides. Each side being necessary for saving faith. Knowledge of Jesus is but one side of the triangle of faith. We must first hear of Jesus to know Jesus. We must then agree that what we learn of Jesus is divine truth. We must then trust this divine truth is eternal life and salvation. Any side of this triangle is lacking, there is no eternal life and salvation. For this reason going through Jesus means having this faith.

This faith is a gift of God which is given within the walls of Jesus’ Sheepfold. Our lord brings us into this fold to tend our lives and strengthen our faith. Within the walls of this sheepfold, Jesus voice is heard as it speaks to us from the pulpit, the fount and the altar of God’s presence. From these places Jesus tends His flock, feeds His flock, and nourishes His flock. The flock recognizes the voice of the Good Shepherd and they rest content in His presence.

The faithful pastors and teachers in the church bring the living word of God to the members of Jesus’ flock. They do not speak of their own accord. Nor do they teach their own truth. They speak and teach only what the Good Shepherd gives them to speak. We consider the disciples of Jesus who spent three years listening to His teaching and observing His ministry. They learn what truth and faith are and bring. Jesus gives them of His spirit that they would faithfully proclaim the word of truth and rightly administer the forgiveness of sins. John writes in his Gospel account, “Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit; if you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgiven, if you do not forgive them they are not forgiven.”

Likewise St Paul, who calls himself the unseemly apostle, writes in the same way. He cannot speak but of the things which he learned from Jesus. to the Corinthian Church he writes, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” He continues later saying, “What I received from the Lord, I also delivered unto you ….” Later on he writes those very familiar words which give the penitent believer peace and hope. Paul writes the very words of Jesus connected to the Sacrament of forgiveness and eternal life. “Take eat! This is my body given for you… Take drink! This cup is the new testament in my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

The Good Shepherd also exhorts His flock to be wary of those who teach contrary to His word. Jesus calls these false teachers, thieves and robbers who seek to take from the flock the gifts of God. Thieves are those who use deceit wrest the kingdom of God from His Son. They teach a gospel foreign to the Gospel revealed in Jesus Christ.

As Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world so is the Gospel not of this world. Social justice is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Promoting relationships contrary to God’s will and purpose have no place in the sheepfold of Jesus. Saying taking the life of unborn children is to show compassion erases God’s call to preserve and protect life. Those who support such practices in their hearts and minds, if not in word and deed, are placing themselves outside the sheepfold of the Good Shepherd. Those who teach such false gospels are the thieves and the robbers who come to wrest the kingdom from God’s Son and set at naught all He has done.

In contrast to these false gospels, Jesus the Good Shepherd of our souls does not seek social equality, self-serving relationships or ending lives with violence and impunity. Rather, the Good Shepherd equally saves all people with His holy body crucified and His pure and innocent blood shed upon the cross. The Good Shepherd knows us by name and shows divine compassion to us. For God does not delight in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked would turn from their sin and live. The Good Shepherd leads us out of self-serving relationships and teaches us to care for our neighbors in a God-pleasing manner. This is accomplished in honoring the marriage bed, defending the family and building the community of faith according to the will of God.

The shepherd at the gate of the sheepfold will let each sheep enter the fold one at a time. As they enter, the shepherd looks at each sheep to see its condition and minster to injury or wound. Jesus the Good Shepherd places His hands upon each sheep that is brought into His sheepfold. Jesus ministers to our injured souls and our wounded hearts.

We enter Jesus’ sheepfold through the water of Holy Baptism. In that washing with water and the Holy Spirit, Jesus tenderly places his hands upon us and heals us of our sin-injured lives.

The guilt of our sin is cleansed from our lives. The wrath of God upon our sin is exchanged for the life refreshing grace of the Gospel. The eyes blinded by life’s troubles are healed and given to see the mercy of God poured out upon the world in the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep.

There is more in this washing with water and the Spirit of God. God gives you His eternal promise that He has named you as His own child. Consider God’s words spoken through Isaiah. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” God promises that the trials of life will not destroy you. Nor will these trials of life take from you the gifts and presence of the God who redeems you.

God will shelter you in the sheepfold of His Son. He will guard your life. He has named you as His child and heir of eternal. He will defend your faith that you may endure this life and be found in His presence of the Day of Jesus’ Return in Glory.

The Good Shepherd, even Jesus Christ our Lord, guard your faith and bring you to eternal life. Amen

Third week of Easter April 26, 2020 – “Jesus Strengthens Weak Faith!” Luke 24:13-35

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

The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Luke, the 24 th Chapter.
“25 And [Jesus] said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We often think we know better than God how things are to be. We plan. We prepare. We
wait. We are disappointed because plans are not brought to completion.

Such is the case for us today. How many families are sitting home with unmet expectations? There are graduation parties that will never be held. There are weddings that have been postponed. There are worship services that have been physically unattended. There are jobs that have been terminated. There are families that are separated by shelter in place orders.

The disciples of Jesus were struggling with unmet expectations as well. The two disciples walking to Emmaus were discussing those things which were leaving them with unmet hopes and shattered dreams. Into this time of uncertainty for both the disciples of Jesus time and the disciples of our time Jesus appears to give strength to those whose faith is tested.

These two disciples are walking a short distance to the village of Emmaus. It is the third day after Jesus death upon the cross. He was taken down from the altar of God’s salvation and laid in a new tomb. His body had been prepared for burial according to Jewish custom. A large stone was used to close the tomb. Soldiers sealed the tomb and were standing guard to keep people out. Yet, they could not keep Jesus in.

While the disciples discuss these events, Jesus comes near them and begins a conversation. Unknown to them, they treat Jesus as a stranger who is incredibly uninformed. They also give evidence of their shattered hopes. For Luke records they are sad as they relay the events regarding Jesus of Nazareth.

They tell Jesus their view of his person and work. They confess Jesus to be “a prophet powerful in work and word before God and all the people.” Do you see in your mind’s eye the Lord as he listens to these words of praise and faith? Perhaps he is nodding slowly as these men relay their account of his person and work. They go on to relay Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion and death.

The men continue to confess their unmet hopes. They confess their confusion regarding Jesus and His person and work. They were looking for the One who would redeem Israel. Such hopes were crushed for these men when Jesus was laid out in death three days before. These hopes included a miraculous restoration of Israel to former glory and power. God had so promised through His prophets that Israel would be rescued from its enemies and established as God’s holy people once again. Now there is something amiss. Jesus did not rise up and rule as God’s King. The throne of David is still empty. Or are these hopes unfulfilled?

These men are not fully raised to glory. They are still living with their feet firmly planted on the sin cursed earth. Their eyes are not fully opened to see the great work of God to redeem them from sin and death. They do not grasp the power of God to bring them to full knowledge of this precious Gospel hope. Their eyes are still fixed on the tomb. Their thoughts are still fixed on Jesus lying in that tomb. Their ears heard the strange word of Jesus resurrection, but they reject this truth as foolishness.

This is the way of the world. The truth may be laid before our eyes in all its glory and splendor. Yet, eyes are still closed to the truth. Hearts are unmovable in the death of unbelief. Minds reject the power of God and accept the weakness of human reason. Consider those people you know who grew up in the faith. They were taught the same truth and doctrine which you have received and believed. Yet, they have neither eye to see, nor ear to hear, nor heart to believe the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb. Nor do they acknowledge their need for the death of Jesus. Their hope is only for this world.

Will God change the with regard to the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb? No this truth will always remain unchanged and unchangeable. The death Jesus died, he died for sin. He died once that you may be forgiven and redeemed from sin and death. The resurrection of Jesus is for the justification of you who believe that Jesus died for your sins.

Yet, in our weakness of wavering faith God does not treat as it deserves. God is patient with our weakness that we may be led to the wellspring of God’s grace and be given to drink from the water of life. This patience is shown by Jesus as he teaches the two disciples the truth of God’s Word.

Indeed, Jesus begins in a rather hard manner. He convicts the two men of their weak faith and exhorts them to repent and believe the Gospel. “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Jesus does this to remove from their hearts and minds the unbelief which would hinder the Word of God. Jesus desires to wake them from the sleep of doubt and despair and open their eyes to see the wonder of God’s Gospel fulfilled in Jesus who was dead and is now alive again.

Jesus has mercy on their sorrow and seeks to strengthen their weak faith. He does not leave these disciples in their doubt. Nor does Jesus allow temptation to disbelief take root and destroy the gift of God for eternal life. Jesus reminds them of the only source of hope and strength for their troubled hearts and grieving minds. He directs them to the words of the prophets and the writings of Moses.

Jesus opens their minds to see the necessity of sacrifice for sin, and to look with joy and faith upon the Lamb of God who was given as the sacrifice for sin. It would be a great blessing to know which passages Jesus drew upon to confirm His death and resurrection in the hearts and minds of these two men. But then would we search the Scriptures as He instructs us? Instead we now see the response of faith built up and strengthened through the teaching of God’s Word.

These two disciples desire that Jesus remain with them. As they approach their home, they exhort Jesus to stay longer. Their hearts are filled with wonder and a burning desire to learn more. Yet, Jesus discerns he overcame their sadness and doubt. He determines to reveal himself to these disciples and confirm the truth of His resurrection from death. He does this in a familiar manner.

All three are preparing to share a common meal. They are reclining at table and Jesus takes the place as head of the meal. These disciples were still looking on in awe. Their hearts were still eager to hear the voice of this Teacher, their Teacher, though did not yet see Jesus. They wanted only to continue to hear his voice and listen to His teaching. Yet, Jesus determines his work must lead him elsewhere. Jesus takes the bread in his holy hands. As was His custom, Jesus blesses this bread and breaks it. Jesus gives each disciple their portion and opens their eyes to see and their hearts to believe their Teacher is living. He is raised from death.

In this time of our sadness and sense of loss, Jesus would have us continue confident and in true faith. As He desired for his disciples, so Jesus desires for us. Would that we were eager to continue in faith. Would that Jesus would create the same burning desire to hear His Word and sing His praises. Would that we would lift our eyes from the hour of trouble and turn them to the very pages of Scripture used by Jesus to encourage and embolden faith.

Indeed we are in a time loss. The life we knew before this pandemic has all but passed away. We are in a period of mourning that loss. Many live in fear of what could happen. Many live in sadness over what has been given up. Many are confused about what the future may hold. Many face the day to day tasks of caring for those who are ill. Many watch as those who are seriously ill succumb to this disease. There is stress from the burdens placed upon people. There is guilt that more might have been done. There is frustration that life as it was known before may not be known again. There is anger that this present struggle should not be.

Yet, in these moments we must turn to the true Word of God and search the Scriptures for hope and strength. Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble.” In those precious words of God we hear that these trials are part of the sin-fallen world. These moments are to be expected as we move closer to the day of Jesus’ final appearing. These are moments in which our faith is tested, refined and strengthened. For God reminds us of the truth that this life will some time come to an end.

Our hope, then, is not in what we see, but rather in what we do not see. This time is a call for us look to the rock from which we are hewn by God. As St Peter writes in his epistle: “[Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

In a few moments we will sing these words of confidence and faith in Jesus Christ.

In these last days of great distress
Grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness
That we keep pure till life is spent
Your holy Word and Sacrament.
Stay with us, Lord, and keep us true;
Preserve our faith our whole through-
Your Word alone our heart’s defense,
The Church’s glorious confidence. LSB 585 vv 2,6

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

Second week of Easter April 19, 2020 – “Peace and Joy in the Resurrection!” – John 20:19-31

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 20 th Chapter.

“ 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  23 If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.””

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!
How comforting these words are for our day! We have the advantage, if you will, of knowing the whole story of Jesus’ life from His conception to His Ascension to the right hand of His Father in heaven.

Yet, this was not so for the first disciples of our Lord. Their first Easter was not, at first, marked by comfort. They were gathered in fear behind locked doors. Certainly, the disciples had heard the message from the women who had gone to Jesus tomb early that same morning. John and Peter had even entered Jesus tomb and saw the evidence that Jesus had risen from the dead, or at least Jesus’ body was no longer there. Perhaps there is a little Thomas in all of these disciples.

Be that as it may, we have a wonderful commentary on our human weakness and God’s divine strength. We tend to walk by sight. We trust only what we are able to touch and see. We have confidence in only those things that agree with our thinking, or conform to our standard of reality. God would have us to trust what we cannot see, and find value in what we cannot hold in our hands. Trust my Word, God asks of us.

So now we observe the disciples some twelve hours or so after first hearing of the resurrection of Jesus. They have heard the message from the women. They have waited in Jerusalem for Jesus to come to them. Yet, there is an element of fear in their waiting. They are closed in a room behind locked doors. On their minds is the thought that they may face the same end as did Jesus. Yet, their Lord has other plans for His disciples. He appears in their midst to establish those plans.

So what plan is there for us to consider concerning these Resurrection Day events? Consider these things from this Resurrection Day account – faith, peace, joy and forgiveness of sins. Without the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, such things would be unobtainable. Our Lord comes to His disciples as He said, and by His presence among them confirms their faith and prepares them to face the world outside their locked door.

But what is the nature of faith. We know from elsewhere in Scripture that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Faith directs one to look outside themselves. Faith has an object upon which to look, in which to trust, and in which to hope. Faith brings with it the blessings offered by its object.

In the case of the disciples, Jesus offers them the gift of God. Jesus comes to His disciples gathered behind locked doors and speaks a word of mercy and grace. Jesus says to His disciples, “Peace be with you!” Indeed, these fear-filled followers of Jesus needed peace. Their hearts were cowering, the confidence was crushed, their hope was all but dashed. Jesus comes to them and restores them with two words, “eirene humin.” [Peace be to you all.] Jesus continues this greeting with the bestowing of divine authority upon His disciples. He tells them they are being sent with a message for the world to receive. Jesus gives them the Holy Spirit and proclaims them to be the bearers of God’s proclamation of forgiveness of sins.

As we continue with this account we read of the effect this greeting had upon the disciples. They were glad to see the Lord. Jesus assured them of the reality that he had risen from the tomb. He who was once dead, is now alive again. He holds out his hands and pulls open his clothing to reveal the very marks which accompanied his death upon the cross. The marks of the nails in his hands, and the mark of the spear in his side are living proof their Lord and Teacher had truly died and was now raised to life.

From this appearance of Jesus, and His bestowing of the authority to forgive, we draw this truth. Believing that Jesus rose from death is well and good, but there is more that must be held as truth. For without believing Jesus died and rose for you, there is no benefit. You must believe that Jesus died to atone for your sins. You must believe that Jesus rose from death to show God accepted the sacrifice for your sins.

You must believe that everything Jesus did was for your salvation. You must believe that through Jesus’ resurrection sin, death and hell are rendered impotent, crushed and defeated for you. You must believe that the resurrection of Jesus is not a victory that benefits Jesus, but a victory that is God’s blessing for you. This is the foundation of Christian joy.

Jesus standing in the midst of His disciples teaches this truth to us today. Jesus stands among His disciples not for himself but for them. So also Jesus stands among us today. Where two or three disciples are gathered in His name, there Jesus stands among them. We are troubled today by the separation we must endure. We are indeed fearful of what is befalling our families, our communities and even our nation. We are huddled in fear behind closed doors. We are fearful of even touching one another with a handshake or even a hug.

It is into this time of fear that our Lord would make His presence known to you. He comes to you with words of peace, hope and joy. He comes to you because barred doors, governor’s decrees, and diseases’ afflictions are no barriers to the God who raises the dead and forgives the penitent. God comes to you through the true and faithful preaching of His holy Word. God calms your fear with the resounding declaration that the Son of God was slain for your sins, and was raised from death for your justification. You have peace with God through His son Jesus Christ.

The Word of God does not come with the intent to destroy, but with the power to restore and redeem that which was broken. Take to heart these words spoken through Hosea the prophet of God.

“Come, let us turn to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” [Hosea 6:1-3]

We indeed have been torn and wounded by sin and the fear of death. When we must consider our mortality, as we do at this time, we are afflicted with doubts and worries. Satan will magnify the weaknesses we have by saying the very words which will seek to destroy your hope and remove your security in Jesus Christ. His question will always be the same, because it is all he knows and it was effective in the past. “Did God truly say ….”

However, the answer we give as God’s redeemed children is a resounding yes! For the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the visual we have to hold before our eyes the solid proof of our salvation. While we are afflicted by the outward worldly trial of this present world, we still are at peace because the resurrection hope does not change. The resurrected Lord of Life is with us. He stands beside us and dwells with us as He promises through His apostles and prophets. Living by faith in the resurrection of Jesus, our Lord promises to make His home with us. As He said through the apostle John, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” [John14:23]

The disciples were troubled in the same way. They were afflicted with doubt and filled with fear in their hearts and minds. Yet in their turmoil Jesus comes to them and brings them peace and the assurance of His defending presence. They were encouraged to proclaim the resurrection hope with confidence and conviction. They declare to those who did not see the resurrected Savior, “We have seen the Lord!”

We have the promise of Jesus presence, too. Certainly in Holy Baptism, Jesus comes to us and makes His home with us. His name is placed upon us as is the sign of the cross. Jesus name is written on our lives and His cross marks us as ones redeemed by Christ the crucified. Again we proclaim with the disciples, “We have seen the Lord.” Each time we kneel before the altar of God to receive the blessed body and blood of Jesus, we are confessing the very bodily presence of our Lord cloaked in the earthly elements of bread and wine.

In these Sacraments our Lord speaks to us the words which allay our fears and gives strength to our weak hearts. Jesus says, “Peace to you! Your sins are forgiven! This is the will of my Father. It is so upon this earth, and is true in heaven!” Trust these words for they are founded upon the atoning death of Jesus, and confirmed in His resurrection from the tomb on the Third Day.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen