Sermon Start for Oculi Exodus 8:16-24

Here’s what one of my rough drafts looks like. It still needs to be edited down. Parts need to be re-written for better oral flow. You get the idea.

Oculi OT Sermon 2013
Exodus 8:16-24
March 3, 2013

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You can make an argument that Pharaoh was a strong man. He was a great and powerful man who had some great and powerful magicians at his disposal. They kept up with Moses in turning their staves into snakes.

The turning of the River Nile into blood was a pretty nice trick to watch, but Pharaoh’s still not impressed with YHWH or Moses. Pharaoh just dismissed what he saw happening. He thought, “maybe some red algae was growing in the river and all came dislodged at the same time only looking like blood.” It’s amazing the excuses we can come up with when we don’t want to believe the truth and when we’ve hardened our hearts to God and His Word.

The second miracle plague of frogs was also nothing special to Pharaoh and his mighty magicians who were the special spawns of Satan. Frogs could have come because the water was resting and there was an over abundance of insects for them to munch on. Maybe it was the end of dry spell and all of their natural predators fled earlier for some better prey leaving all of those tadpoles they would have eaten to mature at the same time. More and more lame excuses we can make for Pharaoh.

But gnats can get your attention, especially when they swarm and fill the sky blocking out the sun like a dust storm. And that’s what Jesus told Moses to do. Jesus told Moses, “Tell Aaron. ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.'”

Millions upon millions of the little buggers causing all sorts of havoc on the Pharaoh’s citizens all throughout Egypt. No corner was safe from these gnats. There was nowhere to run. There was nowhere to hide. Gnats are so small they can find their way into anything.

Compared to gnats, dust is no big deal. When a dust storm comes, you cover your mouth and nose, watch your eyes, because some dust may get in there. Sure you may get sore from the beating of the wind and dust particles flying at high speeds. You might get some dust up your nose, in your ears, or in an open wound and it would sting, but no long lasting effects to slow you down.

Gnats are worse… way, way worse. They can fly in your nose, ears, wounds like dust, but then they bite. Millions of these things flying around like a dust storm biting every piece of exposed flesh they can find. And if it’s not exposed to the eye, the gnats will still find a way to get to it and cause you pain and irritation. No part of the body is safe.

Those special spawns of Satan just look in awe and shock that someone would do something like conjure gnats upon them. So they try to do the same. They try to prove that they are stronger than Aaron and that their god of this world, Satan (2 Cor. 4:4), is stronger than Jesus. They try to prove that they are stronger than the miraculous plague told by Jesus to be done. When these spawns of Satan fail all they can do is say, “This is the finger of God.”

Today, taking a cue from Jesus, the devil sends gnats and also the fourth plague of flies to Christians in the world. They are the false teachers, the heretics, and the unbelievers who occupy pulpits and preach unionistic, pop-psychology, all paths lead to whatever creator god you believe in, can’t we all just get along, civil religion loving sermons.

The flies are larger, easier to see and swat away. When they bite you, you immediately feel it. When you hear their sermons or read their teachings you know it’s full of false-hoods and half-truths. You brace yourself for their attacks and insidious teachings with a bottle of Raid or Deep Woods Off in hand. These are the teachers that those with faith can spot a mile away and stay clear of because they can smell the stench of DEET before these heretical fly’s even open their mouths. True Christians are safe from them, living in Goshen like Israel. Being all safe and sound from the big-time heretics of this day and age in the Church.

The gnats, the false-teachers who teach mostly the truth, but add just a dash of falsehood are even more insidious and harder to spot. They can burrow into your skin and find a way to figuratively nest in your brains. They gain your confidence because most of what they say is true, but by the time you notice you’ve been bitten, you have hundreds of more bites around your body all itching and aching. Your soul is in anguish from their law-filled preaching and mandates upon your life instead of the Gospel and Christ-won forgiveness for you. The devil attacks all with gnats, leaving no place safe, especially in this post-modern world where all thoughts are equal, except for Christ crucified.

Only God’s finger is greater than all of the power that these special spawn of Satan could possibly hope to muster. This is because the “finger of God” is the Holy Spirit… and the spawn of Satan, and even Satan himself are no match for the Holy Spirit.

How is the Holy Spirit the “finger of God?”

Exodus 31:18 says, “And He gave to Moses, when He had finished speaking with Him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.”

And Moses in his farewell address in Deuteronomy 9:10 tells the Israelites, “And the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God and on them were all the words that the Lord had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the first on the day of the assembly.”

We discussed this in our Bible Study on the Gospel reading today. The “finger of God” is the stronger man that comes and cleans out the house of your hearts from the strong man, the devil and his offspring, that live in there uninvited. The Spirit crashes in and takes out the trash leaving your heart cleaner than it was when He arrived. And He stays and dwells within making your heart that is dead in sin alive in Christ.

Martin Luther’s alternate baptismal rite emphasizes this point. Immediately prior to the Baptism, the pastor proclaims over the child, “The Word of God teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own.

Therefore, depart, you unclean spirit, and make room for the Holy Spirit in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The devil will continue to send his gnats and flies to this world until Jesus comes again. The devil wants to get as many people away from Jesus as he can. He doesn’t worry about the world and unbelievers because they’re already in his bag. So he focus’ all of his attacks on believers. He “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

And the more you strive for Christ, the more you suffer attacks from this old evil foe. And the more you reject his false-hoods and half-truths, the harder he is going to attack you. But have no fear because Jesus is the even mightier Lion from the Tribe of Judah, “the root of David; He has conquered” the lion (Rev. 5:5). The “finger of God” dwells in your heart and will not give up His dwelling place without a fight.

Have no fear, because Jesus has already walked this path of faith and assaults of the devil. Jesus has walked in the valley of death and made it but a shadow of what it once was (Psalm 23). Stay close to Christ who knows the way through. Hold onto Him and don’t let go like Jacob who wrestled with Jesus last week.

Christ has already won the decisive victory on the cross of Calvary for you. There upon that cross, during those three hours, Satan unleashed all of his spawn, all of his army, all of his tricks. Satan left no stone unturned and fought with all of his strength and was vanquished by weakness… and love.

For it was in the weakest act of drying on a cross that Jesus’ true strength is shown and your victory was won and made secure. Yes, God our loving Father still allows you to be tempted and tested so your grip on Christ can be strengthened.

Cling to Christ… cling to the cross… cling to the baptismal font… cling to Jesus in body and blood in the Sacrament… cling to Christ in forgiveness and like a beggar who finally gets some money, don’t let go.

When the devil attacks you with what sins you’ve committed, when he calls you the sinner that you are, when he tells you in fly-like and gnaty false-teachers to earn God’s love, reply, “Jesus came only for sinners.” Call the devil a liar. Tell him you are “Baptized into Christ and are not so easily enticed” and that the Holy Spirit has swept the house of your heart clean and Jesus alone sits on the throne.

Amen.

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Sermon for Reminiscere Genesis 32:22-32

Reminiscere OT Sermon 2013
February 24, 2013
Genesis 32:22-32 

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         The Patriarch Jacob was not accustomed to misery. Rather he was accustomed to using other people’s misery, doubts, despair and worries to give himself an advantage. Today, however…. today, he was experiencing misery in spades.

         You have to remember that what takes place today is before Jacob loses Joseph. Rachel is still alive and kicking. His family was great and he has been mighty prosperous working for his father-in-law Laban. His flocks are huge. But today… today’s not a good day for Jacob. Today is a day of misery and pain the likes of which Jacob has never experienced before. This is a pain, misery and anguish that his grandfather Abraham experienced when God told him to offer Isaac, his son of promise, as a sacrifice.

         Pain and misery, feelings and emotions that Jacob had never experienced before are all becoming real. Sure, his father-in-law betrayed him over marrying Leah before marrying Rachel and needing to work more years as a shepherd… but pain and misery. This is all new to Jacob. 

         This misery that Jacob feels is akin to the misery he caused to fall upon Esau, his brother, twenty years before. Esau was the firstborn. He should have received the firstborn blessing, but he was tricked and conned out of it. Jacob wanted it. Rebekah, his mother wanted it for him. All they needed was a plan, and a plan they had. Jacob would put on wool and make some of his blind father’s favorite stew and say he was his brother. 

         The plan worked. Then Esau found out. He wept aloud in misery and pain and plotted his revenge like Khan in Star Trek 2. Jacob fled for safety, not out of misery or pain for he had gotten what he had wanted. Rather, he fled out of fear. Jacob fled to his mom’s family, to her brother, Laban. 

         While there the Lord blessed Jacob and mightily I might add. Verse 13 described only a portion of this blessing when it described his envoy to Esau. Jacob sent, “two hundred female goats, twenty male goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.” This was just the tip of the iceberg of blessings. Lest we forget his familial blessing as well, “two wives, two female servants, and eleven children.”          

         Jacob was a blessed man… a blessed man who never experienced misery. He never had to experience watching a loved one slowly loose themselves to dementia. He never had to experience the misery of having cancer of some other disease. He never had the misery of having lost a child to stillbirth or miscarriage. Jacob never experienced true unadulterated misery. Tonight that changed… 

         Orthodox Lutheran Father Valerius Herberger in his book, The Great Works of God Part 3 says:

         “God never gives anyone great fortune without first putting him through great hardship. Before Joseph became a great lord, he had to go to jail. Before Job had great renown in the world, he had to experience the most profound suffering in the world. Before David became king, he had to be hunted down like a partridge. For he remembers not the sweet who had not tasted the bitter. Jacob was to have great joy at the friendly and noble reception of his brother Esau, so he first had to fall into great distress and anguish.” 

         Jacob’s misery stems from places that you can relate to.. fear and doubt. Jacob is afraid of his father-in-law Laban because Rachel stole his household gods and he is chasing them. He fears being caught and watching his beloved wife be punished in horrific ways that he can’t possibly imagine. He also fears his brother’s wrath. He knows he hurt, conned and caused misery by the bucketful to befall upon Esau and that Esau would be right in getting his revenge. Yet, Jacob fears what that revenge would be and if it would mean his own life. This is why he sent family on ahead of him, hoping that seeing his long last family would soften Esau’s heart from wrath to love. 

         Jacob doubts God. Jacob doesn’t know if God is going to protect him or let him suffer the just consequences of his unlawful actions. He doubts the truth of his conversation with God in Genesis 28 and God’s promise that the whole earth would be blessed through his offspring. How can the world be blessed in Esau gets revenge and kills them?

         Fear and doubt have put Jacob into a pit of despair. Jacob has been brought lower than he has ever experienced. The only action that Jacob has left is to question God. Lest we get tempted to look down upon this great Patriarch, we question God when our world comes crashing down as well. How often do you question God’s presence and promises of never leaving you? How often have you abandoned God when things don’t go as planned and blame God for leaving you first? 

         How often do you join with Jacob and cry out “where are you God? Why are You allowing this to happen? What sin have I committed that is so heinous that you feel the need to punish and abandon me so?” 

         “Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (Ps 22:2). “My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.” (Ps 57:4). 

            And to add the cherry to this ice cream sundae of misery flavored hot fudge a storm is brewing. This storm is not an emotional storm that will ravage the insides of Jacob even more. Rather, this is a physical storm the likes of which Jacob had never experienced… more pain and misery to bring this once mighty Patriarch to his knees and closer to the bowels of his own personal hell.

         When Job laments the misery that has befallen him all those years earlier, Jesus spoke to Job. He asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7).        

         Jesus continued to ask Job questions about creation, from who sends the rain, to who can catch Leviathan. To each of these questions Job is speechless and immovable. He is in awe speaking to Jesus. Not fully knowing what to make of it, only knowing that he needs to repent, and repent Job does. 

         Jacob is different than Job. He has no problems being in the face of Jesus and holding Him to His word, like the Canaanite woman who saw the absolute misery of her child in today’s Gospel. He wants a blessing, an assurance that Jesus is a God of His Word and not some loser God who backs down when things get tough.

         How do we know that Jacob wrestled with Jesus and not some angel? Hosea 12:3-4 says, “In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his manhood he strove with God. He strove with the angel and prevailed; he wept and sought his favor.” This morning the Wrestler even says, “you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Who can be both God and the messenger of God if not Jesus Christ? 

          How comforting this news is for all of us in our times of misery and despair. Jacob thought that God had abandoned him and left him to die. Yet, this was not the case. God was closer to Jacob than any other time in his life. When Jacob thought that he was forsaken by God, that God had forgotten His promises, it turns out that Jacob was safe and secure in God’s warm and gentle arms that gently played with Him like a father rough-housing with His child.

         The greater the trouble the nearer God is to you. Even when it appears that your life is headed down a road of misery and despair take heart. Hosea 6 says, “Come, let us return 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.” 

         Jesus took this tearing down upon Himself as He suffered the assaults of the Father’s wrath upon Himself while hanging on the cross. Jesus was struck down, bound up and laid in a tomb. He rested for two days and on the third day He was raised to raise you up eternally from your death in sin to new life in Him.

         In baptism Jesus has killed you in his death on the cross and raised you in His resurrection. He held you in his loving arms that wrestled with Jacob, and He sprinkled His own blood upon you … washing you clean with a promise that He would never abandon you, a promise that included damnation into hell to fulfill.

         You are now Israel, one who has wrestled with God, and God has won at the font giving you the blessings of eternal life in paradise where misery has no existence.

         Amen. 

Sermon on Joshua 3:1-3, 7-8, 13-17

Baptism of Jesus OT Sermon 2013
Joshua 3:1-3, 7-8, 13-17
January 13, 2013 

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         Joshua and the people of Israel are about to finish their 40 years of wandering. They’re at the Jordan River waiting to cross into the Promised Land. They should have been in the land 40 years before, but the people were afraid of the people living there and didn’t believe that God would give what He promised. So they grumbled, they complained about everything and anything as long as someone would listen. We need meat because manna from heaven just isn’t enough. We need water. We need rest. We need something to heal us from those poisonous snakebites. Oh, how our time in Egypt was so much greater. 

          Complainers, the whole lot of them. They were never satisfied with what God had done for them. Then that generation died off. Moses their leader was now gone and his servant Joshua, another type of Jesus, was put in charge. 

         I say again that Joshua is a type of Jesus. Besides them having the same name, Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua. Joshua is a type of the coming Messiah Jesus by what he does. Joshua was the servant of Moses, yet after Moses’ death he distributes the inheritance of the Lord. In Gal 4 we read that Jesus was born under the Law, the same Law that Moses gave. Jesus then served that Law for you. And like Joshua brought Israel into the Promised Land, Jesus established the Gospel, bringing you over the Jordan River in your miraculous baptism to live and reign with Him in the New Promised Land forever.

         Now we see Joshua and company at the Jordan River waiting to cross, but what does Israel know about crossing a river unless it’s been parted by miracle? How will they land safe on Canaan’s side when they have no boats? How will 2 million plus people gonna ever get across this river?  

         In chapter 4 we’re told that they are at the Jordan River during the first month of Israel’s calendar, Abib/Nisan. If these months sound confusing, don’t worry, they correspond to our months of March/April. Spring is here.

         What happens in the spring? Just like the snow on Pike’s Peak melts, if we have a snowy winter, so does the snow on Mount Hermon.  The melted snow needs a place to go, so it flows into the Jordan River. During these months the river is between ninety and one hundred feet across, twelve feet deep, and the currents are racing. Good luck getting two million Israelite’s, plus sojourners, cattle, the ark, tabernacle and other goods across without fording. 

         Basically, Joshua and Israel’s timing to cross the Jordan couldn’t be any worse for a safe crossing if they planned it. But the timing is perfect for God. What we can’t accomplish God does with ease. When Israel couldn’t get across, God created a path with the ark, His presence. God showed Israel, yet again, the power for salvation that is His alone.

          It began when God created water not with a word, but the Word that would be made flesh. That same Word, Jesus controlled the flood that left eight survivors in all. Jesus opened the waters on the Red Sea for Israel to flee from the Egyptians. Jesus then closed those same waters when the Egyptians were in the middle to drown them. We even see Jesus command and control the wind and the waves during a rather nasty squall with only a word, leaving his disciples speechless. Creation listens to its Creator Jesus. 

         Besides stopping the flowing water, Jesus performs another miracle for His children. He dries up the riverbed so they can walk on it. Think about it. The water has stopped flowing, but what’s left? Mud, fish guts maybe even some refuse that was on the bottom of the river flowing with the current. Mud would have taken days to dry to make it crossable, but we’re told in verse 17 that the priests carrying the ark stood on dry ground. When all of the people are safety across, the water began its normal flow.

         We have an obstacle that we face today. It’s larger than a one hundred feet wide, twelve feet deep Jordan River. This obstacle you are born with. It is part of who you are. You have inherited it from your parents, and they from theirs. The current from this river of sin drags you into the Sea of the Dead. It is unable to be crossed by any human means, or man sought inventions. Yet, this obstacle is not too great for God. He allowed Israel to cross safely to Canaan’s side, He does the same for you.

         That day Israel experienced baptism. They were washed in the glory of the Lord that freed them from their wanderings. This baptism ended with them entering their land first promised to father Abraham. They were reminded that they were God’s children and nothing could separate them from the love of Christ Jesus, their Lord. 

         The same is given to you in your baptism. The obstacle of sin is washed away. Jesus has drowned you in His death thereby making you truly alive. Jesus standing in the middle of the Jordan has held the flowing water of God’s wrath back from attacking you. You walk on the dry ground of His righteousness and will enter the Promised Land. Just like Andy Dufrense in the Shawshank Redemption, you will have crawled through muck, mire, and sewage of this prison of a world, and will end up on the other side in Paradise smelling like roses. Because all of that muck, mire and sewage was washed off in the Jordan and put onto Jesus when you were baptized. 

           Jesus who created the waters to begin with has washed you clean by the water and blood that flowed from His pierced side upon the cross of Calvary. On that cross Jesus suffered the wrath, the punishment and the damnation of God for you. Justice that was needed for your sins was doled out upon Jesus. In His death Jesus has cast your sins; not just several, or a few, or many, but all of your sins into the depth of the sea (Mic 7:19) never to be seen, or held against you, ever again. 

         In Jesus you will land safe on Canaan’s side. You have already passed from life to death…. dead to sin and alive in Christ (Rom 6:11). Your eternal inheritance in heaven is booked, it’s just waiting for you to arrive and check in. Until then, Jesus leads you through the Valley of the Shadow of Death to the eternal mansions He has prepared for you in heaven. Praise be to Jesus who is among you, the Lord of all the earth who safely delivers you from this veil of tears to Himself in heaven by stopping the current of the Father’s wrath against you with His own life, death and resurrection. 

         Amen.

 

Gaudete OT Sermon 2012 Isaiah 40:1-8

Gaudete Sermon 2012
December 16, 2012
Isaiah 40:1-8 

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         For my money the sounds of nature while camping in the spring are some of the most beautiful sounds we can experience.  The fire crackles with wood that is still wet on the inside and sizzles as it pours out trying to escape as steam. The birds are each singing their unique and blissfully simple tunes for all to hear and enjoy. You may have a creek or river with water that is flowing fiercely nearby. The animals are coming awake after a long winter’s nap. 

         Like Superman had his Fortress of Solitude in the blistery cold of the Arctic, I had the various campgrounds in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and a few of the northern lakes in the Minnesota Boundary Waters that I used to go to with my Boy Scout Troop and occasionally with my family. During the hustle and the bustle of the school year I would look forward with anticipation to a monthly weekend trip, or weeklong trips in the summer. My friends and I would spend two or more Scout meetings in preparation. We had to decide who was going to bring what, what was going to be cooked and by whom and who got stuck with KP. 

         I loved the freedom we had to hike, fish, play cribbage and other cards games or just to sit and relax around the fire while enjoying the stars in their heavenly courses. The sounds of nature providing their comforting siren songs, knowing that everything was going to be alright when I got back home and to school again on Monday. 

         The wilderness was a great contrast to the sounds of life in the Chicago suburbs. The town had sounds of children playing and enjoying themselves. There were sounds of birds, but not as many as in the wilderness. There were also the sounds of cars speeding down the streets not acknowledging Stop signs and speed limits as more than suggestions. There were trains rolling by and planes making their descents to the town airport. 

         There were also the soul-destroying sounds of parents screaming profanities at their children. The sounds from a homeless man or woman begging for money outside of the liquor stores. The sounds of prostitutes looking for Johns. There were the joyous sounds of concert bands having concerts in the park and marching band putting on half-time shows. So it goes in the cities. So it goes in the suburbs. 

         Sounds are an important part of our lives. Some sounds remind us of good times gone past. Others remind us of pain and loss. But today … today I want you to consider the sounds of Advent. Let these sounds comfort you by entering your hearts through your ears. Let Isaiah echo all around you. As Simon and Garfunkel might sing, listen to the Sounds of Advent. 

         We begin with Sounds of Comfort. 

         “Comfort, comfort my people says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” 

         Isaiah prophesized these words to Jerusalem, that is to ‘her’ the bride of Christ, and also to you. The comfort is that your “warfare is ended and your iniquities are pardoned.” Sin that causes you to fear, doubt and despair before the face of the living God has been removed. Sin that is the source of so much pain in this world has been removed. Sins that cannot trust Jesus and His promises of peace have been removed. 

         The internal warfare that sin causes inside of you has been removed by the Gospel, by the sweet sound of Comfort that proceed from the mouth of Jesus when He says to you “Child take heart. I have taken on your warfare and your battling with sin into my very incarnate flesh for you. You no longer have to wage war for I have won the victory for you. You are forgiven.” 

         Just like Jerusalem who first heard these words a few hundred years before she fell in 586bc, we have to take Isaiah’s words from Jesus to His people of comfort by faith. Your forgiveness is taken by faith. Yet your daily experiences tell you otherwise. They tell you that this sweet sounding comfort hasn’t been experienced by you yet. You don’t have a destruction, captivity and return to validate the words of the prophet. 

         You have the forgiveness, and the promises that ancient Israel had. Your victory is won. Your troubles are over. You have received double forgiveness for the sins that you have committed in this life. The tree of death whose fruit is sin has been removed. The axe in Jesus’ hand has chopped it down and destroyed its roots. 

         You have received this comfort, in the words of the explanation of the Third Article of the Creed: “not by reason or senses.” Grace is wonderful. There isn’t a one-to-one correlation of Grace to sin, but double Grace for sins. This is pure mercy of God. Endless works and labor will not win this Grace for you. There is no merit needed. You are given double because of God’s Grace Alone. Jesus comes with hands and sides pierced by nails and spear and says, “Take eat,” “Take drink.” “Comfort, comfort my people. You are forgiven” 

         The second sound is the sound of anticipation. 

         “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”” 

         All, or parts, of these words are in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to describe the last prophet before Jesus, His cousin, John the Baptist. John is the voice that prepares the way of the Lord… for the new message of the Gospel. 

         Martin Luther wrote in his lectures on Isaiah that: “The voice of one crying, that is, a new kind of teaching which should be proclaimed everywhere. In the wilderness. This voice is sent forth in the wilderness both by the preacher himself and by the hearers. By contrast wilderness is placed opposite the teaching of the Law. For like a jail, a wall, and a city, the Law secures and fences us in. The voice of the Gospel, however, is a free wilderness, open to all, public, and unrestrained like a wilderness. There is indeed a limitation about the Law, but the teaching of the Gospel is most free and most unrestrained. Hence all these words are as by contrast set against the teaching of the Law. The voice of one crying in the wilderness. This voice of the Gospel takes the place of the whispering murmur, which teaches the Law in specified localities. This voice, however, has no definite place and teacher. Moses whispers, but the Gospel shouts confidently and most vigorously (p 8). 

         In summary, Luther is saying that the Gospel is where freedom is. The Law cages you in. It puts boundaries and barriers upon you that control, limit and eventually destroy your faith. The Gospel is free. There is no boundary to it. You cannot stop it because Jesus and His voice of forgiveness in His death echo everywhere. They are for everyone.

         It is the Gospel, the sounds of forgiveness in the incarnation that we anticipate celebrating on Christmas morning. This is when we remember that Jesus, God of God from eternity, took on flesh to lower the mountains and raise the valleys in His ministry so that all may be saved. The mountains are those who are puffed up with pride, arrogance and feelings of self-salvation like the Pharisee. The valleys are the beggars, the sinners, and the publicans, who stand before God in all their sinful glory knowing that they cannot save themselves. All are made equal before Jesus who dies so that all may live. 

         The third and final sound we see in Isaiah today is the sound of the Eternal Word.

         “A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

          When I was a boy and would camp in the wilderness the sounds of the city would fade away. So too will the sounds of the world. The world preaches death and only death. You get pregnant and don’t want the child? Answer of the world: death to the child. You get old, feeble and don’t contribute enough financially to society and get sick? The answer: death. The rationale is that its cheaper than paying for medication. Have a poor quality of life, whatever that means? The answer: death. Death is all that the world knows and it shouts this sound of despair at the top of its lungs for all to hear.

         To some extent the world is correct. Since the fall, all flesh is like grass. Eventually we all will fade and wither, but in Christ we will never die. Jesus made sure of that on the cross. When Jesus died upon that tree of death He made it a new tree of life that whoever eats its fruit shall live. When Jesus rose He defeated death ensuring that those who pass from this vale of tears, pass through death as if like a dream, to awaken with Jesus in paradise of His making. This is Jesus’ promise to you when He baptized you in His blood that was spilt upon that new tree freeing you from the bondage of the city of Law and putting you in the wilderness of the Gospel. 

         Contrasted with our limited time upon this earth is the Word of God that you hear spoken into your ears that will stand forever. This Word reveals Jesus because Jesus is the Word made flesh. The Word of Jesus that says, “you are forgiven” silences all others.   

         In conclusion, there are so many sounds that surround us on a daily basis. There are so many sounds that disturb us as well as delight us. But in the midst of them all are the sounds of Advent. The voice of Jesus has spoken tender words of comfort, words of anticipation, and words of everlasting life. Absorb the sounds of Advent and live them out! Amen.

Populus Zion OT Sermon 2012

 

Populus Zion Sermon 2012
Malachi 4:1-6
December 9, 2012

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There is a theme in the collects we pray during the Season of Advent. Last week we prayed that God would “stir up His power”. Today we just prayed that God would “stir up our hearts”. In two weeks we will pray that God will “stir up His power” again. This is because during Advent we are reminded that we don’t have a complacent God. We don’t have a God who is content with the status quo of how the world is being  destroyed by its Prince of Darkness. We don’t have a God that accepts sin as a reality that has not been brutally and bloodily destroyed on the battlefield of the cross.

Rather, we have a God who has battled and who has defeated sin in all of its seemingly great glory. We have a God who came into the world 2000 years ago as a single cell that multiplied and grew in His mother’s womb just like you did. We have a God who foolishly suffered for us to save us from the destructive joy that have when we sin by thinking that we can free ourselves from our bondage to the old evil foe. We have a God who comes to us still today in His Word and Sacraments because He doesn’t want any soul to be lost forever in that bondage to sin, death and the devil. We have a God who will come again in glory to bring forth righteous judgment on believer and unbeliever alike. Our God is not complacent. Far from it actually.

So this morning we read from Malachi whose name means “my messenger.” Malachi was the last prophet for about 430 years, give or take a few years, before John the Baptist came preparing the way for Jesus. Like many prophets before him, Malachi was sent to stir up the people whose faith had become, to put the best construction upon it, complacent. In truth their faithful living and worship had become a joke once again. The Babylonian captivity was over and the temple was restored and the walls rebuilt. You think that their parents and grandparents would have told them about the captivity. You would think that this would have been mentioned in the Rabbi’s teachings, “don’t become the lazy faithful thinking that because you’re God’s people, God won’t punish you for your sins. Remember the captivity!”

Given enough time, just a few decades in the case of God’s people; laziness and self-reliance will win out. Gone were the messages of fear, dread and hope that is found in the midst of sorrow that were prophesied and preached after the captivity and the people’s return from exile. So God sent Malachi, the last messenger with a message to stir up the people to repentance, faith and confidence in God’s love and forgiveness.

Just like in Jeremiah 23, Malachi tells us this morning, “Behold, the day is coming”. Jeremiah meant the coming of the incarnation of Jesus. Malachi does not. Instead Malachi is talking about the day of judgment. “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”

In Matthew 24 Jesus mentions that before this happens we’ll have wars and rumors of wars. Nations will rise against nations. We’ll have famines and earthquakes. We see and hear all these and other worse atrocities on a daily basis. On the worst of days we might pray the oldest prayer of the Church, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” But not always.

Rather we live day to day. Sure, evil’s in the world, but we’ve become rather desensitized to it, unless it happens in our own backyards that is. Evil seems to reign supreme without consequence  or punishment. You go about your daily business without a load of care unless the evil happens to you or someone you know personally. When it does, you forget how powerful and mighty God truly is because He seems so impotent by not stopping evil from happening to those whom you love so dearly.

During this time of year, you get busy trying to get through life without evil and worry that you forget about eternity. You forget about the righteousness that is yours in Christ. You can easily forget the real reason for the things that you are busy planning… the incarnation of God and His birth in a dirty, smelly, manger. A beautiful and humble birth that leads to a grotesque and humiliating death on a cross.

You forget the reason we gather on Sunday is because Jesus is the Sun of Righteousness that Malachi talks about. Jesus is the Sun that rises bright and glorious at the start of the new week… the new day… the eighth day when creation is made anew in the resurrection from the Tomb on Easter.

Malachi was sent by God to deliver a message of how great and quick the day of judgment would be. All will be reduced to stubble by a great fire. Nothing will be saved from the fire’s path of destruction.

Malachi, like John the Baptist, whom Malachi calls “Elijah the prophet” is sent to bring the people to repentance. His job is to bring people back to the Lord of Hosts, back to Jesus who has “healing in His wings”. You received that healing that only Jesus can give. Your sins are forgiven. Your death sentence has been removed and taken on by Jesus who burst a hole in the side of death so you may live.

When Malachi called Jesus the “Sun of Righteousness,” he was signifying two different comings of Jesus. In Jesus first coming, He was the great light for man. Or as John 1:4-5 puts it, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The second coming of Jesus is like the new day that we are anxiously awaiting during this long cold night. Jesus is the rising of the sun that will awake all, the living and the dead.

During Advent we have the wreath and the extra light that it provides. This wreath points us to Christmas Day, when we joyfully remember and praise God for Christ’s coming as a light into this world darkened by sin. At the end of the Christmas Eve service we will dim the lights and each be holding our own lit candles in this sanctuary as we reflectively sing Silent Night. Each of you holding a light that serves as a tangible reminder to you that Christ came into the world not for a thousand million people, but for you to save you and to rescue you from sin, death and devil.

The next time we darken the sanctuary during a service will be Good Friday when you reflect on the price Jesus willingly paid for you. What it cost Jesus to save you and how He freely did this without any merit or worthiness in you. You can’t buy what God has freely given you… life, salvation, forgiveness of sins an eternity in heaven with the rays of the Sun of Righteousness shining down upon you and warming you from His throne.

This day of judgement is coming soon. This day of swift and eternal terror for unbelievers who have rejected God’s love in Jesus. It is also the day of eternal rejoicing for those who anxiously await to be with their Lord. Their hope will be fulfilled at last and for all eternity.

Until then the Lord’s Supper bridges the time between Jesus’ time on earth and His second coming in glory that we so anxiously await. When you come up here this morning and kneel before His table you enter timelessness. Time and eternity meet and paradoxically become one. You are both between and present at the Last Supper on earth and the eternal supper in paradise.

Like Israel you eat with sandals on and bags packed. You eat like they ate the first Passover meal in Egypt; locked, stocked and ready to rock into the night at a moment’s notice. And you eat and drink food prepared by God in the Holy Sacrament and your faith and hope are strengthened in your earthly journey until Jesus comes again. You are given the strength to proclaim with all the saints in the prayer of hope: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”

Amen.

Orthodox Lutheran Quote of the Day

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Just like a person, when he is about to die, at times still takes a hungry bit, as it also generally occurs: the older, the more scanty––and, the closer a person is to the end of his life, the more a person seeks to store up supplies for this life––so also it will happen at the end of the world, that the people will be preoccupied with the capacity to gobble up food and get drunk and worry about nourishment. The Lord Christ knows this; that’s why He very faithfully warns His true disciples about not treading along this broad, wide path.

The reason why Christ especially warns about these sins is because many others spring forth from these sins. Wherever there exists gluttonous eating, drunkenness, and worry about nourishment, inordinate manners result: unrighteousness, quarrelsome strife, greed, shameful words, and the like. Consequently, the Lord Christ herewith wants to plug up the well-spring (source) of these behaviors.

Johann Gerhard
Postilla
Second Sunday of Advent 
trans. Rev. Dr. Elmer M. Hohle

Orthodox Lutheran Father Quote of the Day

Matthew 21:1-9 

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,“Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting,“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

 

         In the first book of Kings in the first chapter is described the installation and the royal entry of Solomon. With him, at the royal decree of his father David, things were conducted in this way: He was set on the king’s mule, he was anointed with sacred oil by the Priest Zadock, the prophet Nathan, and be Erethi and Plethi; that is, he was led away by the bodyguard of King David to Gihon, preceded by trumpet blasts and cheered by men: “Success to King Solomon. Also, the people followed after him, publicly proclaiming their joy with pipes and shouting so that the earth shook from all the shouting.

         In this story, Solomon is a prototype of the Lord Christ, the heavenly Solomon, Mat 12:42, for the word “Solomon” means a peace-prince; now, however, Christ is the true Prince of Peace, Isa. 9:6. Accordingly, as Solomon was anointed king with the sacred oil, so Christ was anointed as our eternal King with the oil of joy, the Holy Spirit, Psa. 45:8. Just as Solomon also prepared himself at Gihon (which was a beautiful, bubbling spring at Jerusalem) for his royal entrance from there into the city, so also Christ, in order to fulfill this prototype and especially to fulfill the prophecy of Zec. 9:9, conducted His royal entry into Jerusalem. Solomon was set upon the king’s mule, and at his coronation everything was carried out with pomp and glory, because his kingdom was an earthly, worldly kingdom. However, Christ wanted to carry out His royal entry upon a donkey, which does not have a special regard before the world, for His kingdom is not of this world, John 18:36. At the entry of Solomon, one heard fifes and trumpets, all the people rejoiced and shouted out to Him: “Success to King Solomon”; thus the evangelists announced that the Lord Christ was welcomed by the people at Jerusalem with great jubilation, and he was shouted at with [the words of] Psa. 118:26: “Hosanna to the Son of David, praise to Him who comes in the Name of the Lord.” At the installation of Solomon were found those who enviously begrudged him, such as Joab, Abathar, and others who wanted Adonai for their king; but yet Solomon’s reign was established and upheld. Thus it similarly aggravated the Pharisees that Christ conducted His entry with such rejoicing and jubilation: they wanted a different King and Messiah, but contrary to all their plots, Christ’s kingdom was established, has been maintained to this very hour, [and] will also be established eternally.

Johann Gerhard
Postilla
First Sunday of Advent 
trans. Rev. Dr. Elmer M. Hohle