Pentecost John 16:5-11

O Holy Spirit, through the Word, guide us into all truth. Amen.

John 16:5-11

In the name of Jesus, who sends his Holy Spirit to comfort us, dear Christians:

Isn’t it impressive? The whole account could send shivers down the spine. The sound like the blowing of a violent wind, what seemed to be tongues of fire, the speaking in other tongues – other known languages – it all adds up to an impressive display of God’s power. But really that is not the most impressive part of Pentecost. Hidden in the midst of all these amazing signs of power is the way the Spirit really works, Peter stands up to preach. It is through the proclamation of the Word that the Spirit works to convict, to convert, and to keep. So Luther writes in his Large Catechism: “Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe on him, and have him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel.” Scripture states: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” The chief work of the Holy Spirit is to call us to faith and keep us in faith. He does that work through the Gospel. So on this precious Pentecost we pause to consider – The Holy Spirit comforts us by convincing us …

Jesus speaks to his bewildered disciples in the upper room or on the way to Gethsemane about his suffering and death. He also hints about his departure from them. He knows that this will make them deeply sorrowful. However, he wants them to begin to see a bigger picture and wants to comfort them with the promise of his Holy Spirit. So John reports the loving words of our Savior: “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going? Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

Jesus has ascended into heaven. Christ has sent his Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit doing? What is his job? Jesus later will say that the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. That is what the Spirit does for us once again today. He comes to us and explains his work to us. That work is all about pointing people to Jesus as their dear Savior! So the Holy Spirit comforts us by convincing us of sin. This work is often referred to as the Spirit’s foreign or alien work. Our Lutheran Confessions state: “Christ’s Spirit must not only comfort, but also through the office of the Law ‘convict the world concerning sin.’ In the New Testament, as the prophet says, he must do the work of another, in order that he may afterward do his own work, which is to comfort and to preach grace.” The Spirit must first convict the world of sin. He comes to us through the Law and convinces us of the fact that we are lost and condemned sinners before God. He further convinces us through his foreign work of law preaching that we have no hope of saving ourselves by deed or decision. Through the Law he convinces us of our sinfulness. And he keeps doing this. In fact, the more we grow to know the Word of the Lord, the more we recognize and realize our sinfulness, our complete corruption, our thorough inability to please God. This serves to demonstrate to us our deep need for a Savior. As we run down the list of the commandments we honestly see how we have failed to live up to God’s standards. We fail to keep God the number one priority in our lives at all times – self gets the best of us so often! We fail to love our neighbor which means we have broken the fifth commandment in regard to murder. Yes, even those commandments that seem relatively easy to keep, we have broken. So we need a Savior. We need forgiveness.

And we might wonder where the comfort is in all this. Ah, but this is a comforting thing! Once we have been struck down by the law we have no self-reliance left. The sinful nature is beaten down by the sting of the law. So the Spirit through his alien work of law preaching takes our focus away from self to our Savior. Instead of looking at our own misdeeds, sins, and failures – we look at how Jesus kept the law perfectly in our place. This is how the Spirit convincing us of our sins serves as a comfort. He doesn’t leave us hanging in despair. He points us sinners to our Savior from sin! He announces to troubled sinners that they are forgiven in Christ! Forgiveness is yours dear friend – celebrate with the angels in heaven who rejoice over each sinner who repents!

The Holy Spirit also convinces us in regard to righteousness. In regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer. The unbelieving world stands condemned before the Father. They have to earn his favor. The problem is the Father demands 100% perfection. Yet, in each person the sinful nature produces the opinion of the law that foolishly thinks, “I can do it! I can earn salvation for myself!” So many religions in our world appeal to this concept of self-salvation. They teach people to do what is in them and God will be pleased with it. It all seems to make sense. But it is a false, misleading dream.

Listen to the reality. All our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Yes, even the good that we do doesn’t cut it before God. We have no righteousness of our own. All righteousness comes not from what is in us, but from outside of us. You see, Christ is our righteousness. Those who are connected to Christ by faith are credited with his perfection, his righteousness. The good news we celebrate on Pentecost is that the Holy Spirit in calling us to faith by the gospel has connected us to Christ, so that his righteousness is now our righteousness! Without a Savior we are condemned! With a Savior we are forgiven! Thank God for the work of the Holy Spirit!

The Holy Spirit also convinces us regarding judgment. Because the prince of this world now stands condemned. Bad news for the world! This means that nothing in this world has any lasting value. Nothing in the world lasts – it rusts, its stolen, it loses value, it rots, it becomes useless. Nothing in the world comforts – a brief pleasure here or there, perhaps. But what comfort does money give you, when it comes with a continual lust for more? Remember gold and silver cannot buy forgiveness or comfort the troubled conscience. Nothing in the world saves. Only Jesus can forgive you and give you eternal life.

What is bad news for the world is great news for God’s people. There is nothing but comfort for those the Spirit has touched. For our hope, our comfort, our focus is in Christ alone. He is the only one who could save us and he did! He defeated the devil for us! Yes, the devil is doomed! One little word can fell him. In Christ we find ourselves free from judgment. In Christ we will hear judge Jesus say to us on the last day, “Well done!” We in turn will be surprised by the compliment and thankful to him for his saving work on our behalf. So it all comes down to faith or unbelief. This is what makes the Holy Spirit’s work so important for he works faith in us and keeps us in the saving faith. Without the Spirit we would be lost!

What comfort we receive from this important festival day! The Holy Spirit calls us by the gospel, enlightens us with his gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith! He does his work through Word and Sacrament. He does his work quietly and deliberately not drawing attention to himself but always shining the spotlight on Jesus!

May we stand comforted and convinced! Convinced of our sin. Convinced that the only righteousness we have is Christ’s righteousness. Convinced that the devil stands condemned – he can harm us none, he’s judged, the deed is done! May we leave truly comforted that our sins are indeed forgiven! May the Spirit lead us to faithfully apply these words of Jesus about his work to our daily lives. May we never be comfortable about our sins – rather let us daily come before God in sincere sorrow over our sins. May the Lord bless us to be comforted to know that as far as the east is from the west so far has our God removed our transgressions from us. So may the Spirit daily convince us – we are sinners who are forgiven in Christ alone, we are recipients of Christ’s righteousness, and our old evil foe has been defeated. In comfort and joy we live in thankfulness to the Father and the Son, for the gift of the Holy Spirit! To our gracious three in one God be the glory! Amen.

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God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets! Amen.

1 Peter 5:6-11

In the name of our risen and ascended Savior, dear disciples:

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” That is the question the angels asked of the disciples right after Jesus ascended into heaven. They followed their question with a statement of fact and comfort. They went on to say, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Jesus wasn’t gone forever. He would be in heaven ruling over all things for the good of his church and then would return one day. Jesus had informed his disciples just before he ascended that they would not know when he would return but he would return. Jesus said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” So this is where we find ourselves still today – living in the time between Jesus’ ascension and his return. We our called on to wait … wait for Jesus. But what shall we do as we wait? Certainly we know that our Lord wants us to spread the good news about him – that is the main task he has given us. We also know that the task is difficult and stressful. So what are we to do as we wait and as we struggle? Through the apostle Peter, the Holy Spirit answers that question. So we consider – While you are waiting for Jesus …

While you are waiting for Jesus humble yourselves! Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Just before these poignant words of advice to struggling Christians, Peter quoted from Proverbs 3: He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. So we humble ourselves before God as we wait for Jesus to return. This means we refrain from being full of ourselves – for all forms of selfishness come from the sinful flesh and not from the Spirit of God. So we really need to work on the way we think. It is so easy to look at life from the perspective of what I think, what I like, what is good for me, and how I feel. It is much more difficult to think in terms of others and serving others. How can I help? How can I assist? What can I give? We need to approach life the way that John the Baptist approached life – he said of Jesus, “He must become greater, I must become less.” That is indeed the motto of disciples waiting for their dear Lord to return – He must become greater, I must become less. There is no room for braggarts and one-uppers. There is no room for selfishly clinging to what I like even when it may stand in the way of others hearing about Jesus. Instead of selfish desires, let us rely on God and him alone! Listen to the godly promise connected to living in humility – that he may lift you up in due time. Your time of glory is coming, just as soon as Christ returns. So let us wait in patient humility as God enables us through Word and Sacrament.

While you are waiting for Jesus, cast your anxiety on him. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Wow! Does this hit the do-it-yourself culture in which we live square between the eyes! Don’t try to gut it out and live with it! Don’t think I can handle it all by myself. Don’t let the burden of sleepless nights get the best of you. It is not your prerogative to sit at home and worry about every little thing. No! Listen to what Peter says! Cast all your anxiety on him. Every little worry. Every sniffle and stubbed toe. Every big worry. Every personal worry. Every family worry. No need to worry whatsoever. Take all your troubles to the Lord in prayer he promises he will hear you, he will deliver you in the day of trouble, he will protect you, and he will bless you. Don’t ever forget this most important fact – HE CARES FOR YOU! Don’t let the devil try to convince you that God does not care about you! He sent his one and only Son to die for you! God does care! He cares enough to number all the hairs on your head. He cares about you down to the most minute detail! So don’t spend your time waiting for Jesus in worry and fret. He wants you to have life to the full – a life in which you leave the worrying to him. Simply trust that your Lord Jesus is with you and he will take care of all your needs – no worries!

While you are waiting for Jesus be alert. Life out there in the world is a battle. So Peter reminds us, Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. It may be easy for us to dismiss the devil as some cartoon character with horns and a pitch fork. But Peter reminds us that the devil is very real. He is a very real threat to your faith and to your eternity. The devil is no one to joke about or dismiss. He is your arch-enemy. He is looking to devour you. Watch out for people who bring temptations your way! Perhaps the same warning the disciples received in the Garden of Gethsemane is in order for us today – Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. This is a dangerous battle we find ourselves in. All the forces of hell are working against each person’s salvation. They will stop at nothing to discredit the church and the Word. They will lead you astray. So be aware of what is being taught and aware of the devil in all his many disguises and tactics. It is easy for us to dismiss the devil as some old fairy tale, or join with others in dismissing hell and downplaying any kind of sin or wrong-doing. The reality is that the devil is our enemy, the one who seeks to destroy us for eternity. So stay alert! Learn to see through the lies of the devil. Trust that the truth of Scripture is the way to remain self-controlled. Reject sin! Say no to all ungodliness! This is how we wait for our dear Lord Jesus!

While you are waiting for Jesus stand firm in the faith! Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered for a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. This is a recurring theme in the Bible – resisting the devil. In fact, James writes, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you!” But the attacks are many and varied and the battle wears us out so we need the Lord to help us stand firm in the faith. So Peter shares two kinds of encouragement with us. First, he reminds us we are not alone in this – many brothers and sisters in the faith are facing the very same kind of struggles. So lean on each other! Second, he reminds us of the God of all grace. Our gracious Lord Jesus has brought us into his eternal glory – we will go to heaven just as Jesus did! Wow! What incredible comfort! The hardships we face are very short in comparison to the eternity of bliss that awaits us. Our gracious God is the one who makes us firm, strong, and steadfast! And he is working to do that right here this morning! He works on our faith through his Word and Sacraments. So make use of these tools and the Lord will strengthen you for all the struggles you may face!

While you are waiting for Jesus to return, don’t stand starring into heaven, don’t sit around doing nothing but waiting. Jesus encourages us to work while it is day to share the gospel until he does return. This is indeed strenuous and nerve-wracking work, but the Lord promises to strengthen us for this task. So while you wait for Jesus’ return humble yourselves, cast your anxiety on him, be alert, and stand firm in the faith! May our gracious God help each of us to do these things to his glory! Amen.

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Sermon Sunday May 29, 2011 1 Peter 3:15-22

May grace and peace be multiplied to you! Amen.

1 Peter 3:15-22

In the name of Jesus our dear Redeemer – fellow Christians:

Life throws some pretty big troubles our way at times. We begin to wonder how we can cope. We ask the question – where do we find hope? This is nothing new to the experiences of people throughout history. St. Augustine who was born in the year 354 AD wrote, “Our hearts our restless, O Lord, until they find their rest in you.” Only God can set our hearts at rest amidst the turmoil. Only God can strengthen us to face the ongoing challenges of life. Only God’s love for us in Christ can give us the comfort we need in the face of temptation, frustration, and hardship. So the secret to facing the struggles of life is found in Christ. He is the one who loved us and set us free from sin by his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death! So the direction given us today for our comfort is In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord! This is a priority of hope and a comfort from hope.

Set apart Christ as Lord! That is the spiritual life-advice that Peter wants to share with his fellow followers of Christ. Certainly Peter writes not only by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but also fro personal experience. For he had failed to set apart Christ as Lord in his heart, when he denied even knowing Jesus. He repented, Jesus forgave him, and now Peter is encouraging others not to make the same mistake he made. These are words of encouragement for people who are facing hardship because of their connection to Christ. So we are encouraged: But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Christ is your priority – set apart Christ as Lord. He takes priority over everything else. That may seem like a harsh statement and you may anticipate that this preacher will now proceed to tell you of all your sinful neglect of making Jesus your priority in life above all else. However, I want you to consider the other side of that coin for a moment. There is great value to you in setting Jesus apart as Lord in your heart. This is a priority of hope. When Jesus is first in my heart then my heart is filled with hope – a sure and certain kind of hope that knows that I am forgiven in him and that he has given me eternal life. So my heart hopes for what he has won for me, or I look forward to the heaven he has given me! This hope makes all problems appear very small. We are absolutely sure that in the end we overcome all because Jesus has overcome all for us! So see all that follows as an encouragement to live your life in this kind of a positive hope.
Yet, you all know that there are many things that work against this hopefulness in our lives. Our own sinful flesh rebels at the thought of setting apart Christ as Lord because the sinful flesh wants to be lord and master of our lives. So we need to very consciously think of Jesus as having first place in our hearts. We will examine our lives to see if we are just giving Jesus lip service or if we are indeed putting our faith into action. We can examine our time spent in worship and Bible study – what does the amount of time we devout to the Lord each week say about us? How does it compare to the amount of time we spend on other things? We can take a look at the checkbook and see where the monetary wealth God has given us is being used. What story does that checkbook tell about our lives? How important is the Lord and his work to us when compared to the other things in our lives?
Life always comes down to priorities. The priority of the new person of faith is always focused on Jesus. The priority of the sinful flesh is always set on self. So Peter speaks to us about our daily struggle here. He encourages us always to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus. The preparedness consists of three things: 1) a priority on the Word – to hear it, read it, study it, live it. Every year in training camp coach Lombardi would gather the team together, hold up a football and say, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” The point was to emphasize the fundamentals of the game. Today the I hold before you God’s Holy Word and say, “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is God’s Word.” The point is go back to this and study and know it so well that you can share its message with others! 2) a desire to confess. God’s people cannot keep silent about their Lord and Savior Jesus! We are compelled to tell the world this good news of a God who loved us so much he died for us! We are so filled with joy over the fact that because Jesus rose from the dead we will live for eternity, that we can’t help but share this good news with the people around us in life. 3) Peter also encourages us to speak of Jesus with gentleness. While the time may be short and the need for the gospel is urgent, we need not become impatient about the results of our witness. Speak the gospel and leave the results in God’s hands. Trust that the Word will work – God promises as much! So keep on gently sharing the gospel!
As you confess Jesus to the world you will face hardships. The sinful world and the sinful flesh don’t care to hear about Jesus. Our witness will cause us hardship. As we face these hardships, let us remember that Jesus endured much more to secure our salvation! Let us also remember that heaven awaits us! We have an eternal life ahead of us free from all trouble because Jesus died and rose again!
We have a sure and certain hope in the Lord Jesus! This hope is our priority in life! It is also our deepest comfort!

Peter speaks of a comfort we receive from the hope of heaven that we have in Jesus. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

These verses remind us that Jesus is in control of all things for the good of his Church. His descent into hell is all about his victory over Satan and his offspring – unbelievers. Our Lutheran Confessions state the teaching of Scripture about Jesus’ descent into hell clearly when they assert: “ Therefore, we confess, ‘I believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, God’s Son, who died, was buried, and descended into hell.’ In this creed the burial and Christ’s descent into hell are distinguished as two different articles, and we believe simply that the entire person, God and human being, descended into hell after his burial, conquered the devil, destroyed the power of hell, and took from the devil all his power.” What incredible comfort! The old evil foe is defeated! Satan’s lies, temptations, and accusations have been emptied of their power over us!
All of that also means that sin is paid for in full! It means that our deep guilt before God is removed forever! What a comfort to know that through faith in Christ we are declared not guilty!
Holy Baptism gives us this sure hope! It connects us to Christ’s death and resurrection. It also connects us to Christ’s ascension. Just as Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, we too, through him, will rise from the dead and be taken off to heaven! Jesus promises that he will not leave us as orphans. He will come back to get us and take us to be with him in heaven. Baptism connects us to Jesus for eternity. It makes us sons and daughters of our heavenly Father and brothers and sisters of our Savior. We are assured of the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation through Baptism. So cherish this gift that God has given to his Church and to you – Holy Baptism! Relive that baptism through daily sorrow over sin and daily trusting that your sins are indeed forgiven in Christ!
Put your hope in Christ and you will not be disappointed ever! We find our only rest from temptation, accusation, and guilt in Christ. So dear friends , continue to set apart Christ as Lord in your hearts! For this is where you will find comfort for today and for ever! Amen.

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May 22, 2011 Sermon 1 Peter 2:4-10

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

1 Peter 2:4-10

In the name of our risen Lord Jesus, dear people of God!

It is a striking carving in the center of the altar. It is a picture called “The Pelican in her Piety.” It is a symbol of Christ and his work of salvation. As medieval legend has it during a time of famine the mother bird plucks open her breast and, at the sacrifice of her own life, feeds the young her blood. So the mother pelican is a type of the self-giving Savior, who gave up his lifeblood so sinners might live. This is what we learn about our dear Savior once again in these incredibly comforting and encouraging words from the Apostle Peter before us today. Through these words the Holy Spirit comfortingly reminds us: You are the people of God! As such you are: 1) Recipients of a powerful message. And 2) Chosen by mercy to praise Jesus!

Jesus is our living stone! He was dead but now is alive! He is the rock on which the entire Christian church and our salvation is built. There is no way of getting into heaven except through him! Yes, Jesus is THAT important! This fact makes the opening words of this portion of Scripture so powerful. As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. “As you come to him . . .” Peter writes. How do we come to him? He finds us. He came to seek and save the lost. He seeks us by sending his Holy Spirit into our hearts through Word and Sacrament. So the Small Catechism states, “I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel . . . “ What an amazing thing that we should belong to Jesus! That he should love us so much he laid down his life for us – the wandering sheep!
This connection of faith that the Holy Spirit brings to life in us makes us into living stones like Christ, so that by his grace we are included in the Holy Christian of Church, the Communion of saints! But there is more! We are not only declared holy in God’s sight because Jesus has washed our sins away, we are also a holy priesthood! We have the honor and privilege of serving as priests. This means we can go directly to our heavenly Father in prayer. This means we have sacrifices to make daily – but this is no chore – it is a joy! We are privileged to belong to God as holy ones and serving ones. Yes, in Jesus, we are saints and priests! Make sure you understand this though! It is not on our own merit that we are saints and priests, the only way we are acceptable before God is through Jesus Christ.
So let’s talk about Jesus! Peter continues with a series of quotes from the Old Testament, quotes about Jesus. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame. Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” And, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for.
In a quote from Isaiah Jesus is first described as a chosen and precious cornerstone. A cornerstone is carefully chosen by the stone mason and it is precious because it sets the line for the wall – it makes the building straight. For the mason will line up everything else on the basis of this stone. Jesus Christ is the standard of straightness in our lives. In a world of confusion and endless information with varying degrees of accuracy – the Word of our Lord remains straight and true! His word of law cuts through all the excuses and rationalizations for sin and condemns us – holds us accountable to God. His word of gospel cuts through all of Satan’s lies about our worthlessness and despair and holds before us the constant love of our Savior who died and rose again! Whoever builds their life around this straight cornerstone will never regret it!
In a quote from Psalm 118 Jesus is described as the capstone. The capstone is the center stone in an arch – the stone that bears all the weight to keep the arch from falling to the ground. Jesus is the capstone of our lives. He bears all the weight of our sin and guilt. He keeps us going and sustains us in trouble. He is always there for us to lean on! You see, to those who believe, Jesus is indeed precious!
In another quote from Isaiah, Jesus is described as “a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” This is truly a sad description of what happens all too often. Think of the tears Jesus shed over Jerusalem when he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” The most monstrous thing about the sinful nature is that it makes us stubborn to listen to what God says. The sinful nature leads us to tune out and reject the message of Jesus. So to those who reject Jesus, he becomes something that makes them fall. The message of warning is powerfully clear – woe to all who reject Christ!
My friends in Christ, this tells us that it is all about the message. It is the Gospel message that makes us God’s people. It is the Gospel message that keeps us as God’s people. So the message is of greatest importance. So as we serve as priests we will encourage each other to listen to the message of Christ crucified and risen from the dead! We will encourage each other to keep on meeting together in this sanctuary to hear the voice of Jesus in his Word, to be reminded that we are God’s children through Holy Baptism, and to receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith. This is our priority. For without the message we are lost!

We are the recipients of a powerful message. A message that has called us out of the darkness of sin and unbelief into the light of eternal life! A message that sustains us in the faith in spite of the fierce opposition of the devil, the world, and our own flesh. A message that we are privileged to share with the people living in darkness around us to call them to the light of eternal life through faith in Jesus! This message has made us God’s people. This message preserves us as God’s people. This message is what we use to call others to follow Jesus with us!

You are the people of God! You are people chosen by mercy to praise Jesus! So Peter writes, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Notice how precisely and completely the life of God’s people is summarized here! In one short paragraph – the purpose of our lives as God’s people is presented. We are the chosen ones – that is chosen by his grace alone! There is nothing in us or about us that caused God to choose us – it was only and completely an act of his grace. You are chosen as a priest to serve God. How? Declare his praises! Declare those praises here in song and prayer. Declare those praises in the world as you share Jesus with the people around you. You have this high and noble privilege that by the grace of God you are his priest! You are chosen as a holy nation – yes, you are saints: people set apart for God, made holy – all of your sins are washed clean by the blood of Jesus! You are chosen as God’s children – from holy Baptism on through eternity you belong to God as his own dearly loved child!
A change of status is yours as God’s people! You have gone from being guilty as sin to being not guilty in Christ! You have gone from being undeserving of anything but eternal punishment from God to being the recipients of his undeserved love! You have been given so much – a new attitude toward God as well! You know him as your dear Father in heaven, the one who sacrificed his only Son for you! You have a want to approach to his Word – as in you want to do what he says in his Word.
So this is it – the priesthood of all believers. There is no need for the Old Testament priesthood – God’s people are all priests. You have the privilege of serving him! You can do his will because you are connected to Jesus by faith. You are his holy people and he his equipped you with what you need to serve him. So why even have a pastor? God’s people certainly can do it all!
Oh, but wait! The public ministry is another gift from God to his priesthood! While all believers have the ministry of the keys to forgive and retain sin. While we are all charged with preaching the gospel. God also calls some to serve the church on behalf of believers. This is the gift of the public ministry. The two are not in competition – they work together to praise Christ! So each of us should boldly exercise the office God has given us and encourage our brothers and sisters in the faith to do the same. We are God’s people! As such we have been given a powerful message and have been chosen by God to praise Jesus! Lord help us always appreciate such gifts! Amen.

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Easter 2 Sermon May 1

Grace and peace be yours in abundance. Amen.
1 Peter 1:3-9
In the name of Jesus who has conquered death – dear triumphant ones!
A week of bickering had come to an end. It must have been exhausting in the way a week of bickering between husband and wife can be sometimes. But the bickering was over the events of Easter Sunday. You see, ten of the disciples had seen the risen Lord Jesus, Judas was out of the picture, and Thomas had not seen Jesus yet. Thomas refused to believe the eye-witness testimony of his band of brothers. He stubbornly insisted on holding out until he saw Jesus’ hands and feet, and touched his pierced side. One can only imagine the turmoil amongst the disciples! Thomas simply would not listen to anything they had to say about the resurrection. A week of turmoil. A week of heated discussions and debates. It took its toll and everyone began to wonder just a bit about what exactly was happening. The peace of the resurrection was in question all week long because Thomas doubted the fact of the resurrection. Finally, by the amazing grace of Jesus, Thomas stopped doubting. The turmoil was over. Peace reigned supreme amongst the brothers! Now Thomas saw it! Now he felt it! Now he heard it! Doubt often robs us of the peace that the risen Lord wants us to have. Doubts about forgiveness. Doubts about eternity. Doubts over God’s love and care. Doubts, doubts, doubts. The devil uses them to rob us of the peace of the resurrection. But Jesus has defeated the devil. His resurrection is sure! Doubts must disappear! Today the Spirit reminds us through the Apostle Peter – Easter Changes Everything for us!
We spend much of our time in the doubt-filled world of Thomas. Temporary problems abound in life. There never seems to be a shortage of problems to deal with. Even Jesus advises that each day has enough trouble of its own. It is so easy to become down, so easy to become discouraged and to give up. But take notice that God always describes these problems in terms of being short. Yes, friends the difficulties we face are short-term difficulties. Jesus said to his disciples in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday: “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart you have overcome the world!” That is the way Jesus puts our troubles into perspective. It’s as if he says, “Don’t worry about it! I have it all under control!” In this same spirit Peter writes: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Peter reminds us that we have eternal life through the risen Christ. That fact makes any and every problem we face a mere temporary one. Paul put it this way: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Each time we face hardship our faith is exercised. Just as one needs to train for a running race or condition the body for an athletic contest – so we need to put our faith to use by facing the challenges of life with the confidence only Christ gives us. As we face the trials of life our faith is proved genuine – it is no fly by night, lip service thing, we truly believe it. In the end as we face these challenges to the faith – Christ will give us strength and help us overcome them, which results in praise, honor and glory. Even in the midst of life’s toughest challenges, challenges that don’t go away – there is still a place to praise and honor and give glory to God. We simply follow in the steps of our dear Lord. We gladly take up our crosses and follow him. For he is leading us to our heavenly home! As we face the problems of life our faith is exercised – it is pressed and pushed and stretched and tested. All of this is a refining process – which pushes faith to seek its object Jesus more and more!
Here is the paradox of Scripture all of God’s people must wrestle with – it runs counter to our natural way of thinking. We tend to think that these are terrible things that are punishments from God. Instead these are the times when God blesses us the most as he forces us to turn our attention to him and away from ourselves. God is not the author of anything evil, however he does allow trouble to come our way so that he can show us his loving care and gracious blessing. God is always involved when we face hardships. He deals with our trials in one of three ways. Sometimes he takes our troubles away. Other times he uses our troubles to strengthen our trust in him and his Word. On other occasions he makes our troubles turn out for our good – like Joseph – sold into slavery by his brothers, wrongfully accused and thrown into prison, but eventually God made him second in command of all of Egypt. Members of Immanuel, you have faced these kinds of challenges individually and collectively for the last 11 years that I am aware of and for years before that. You know what Peter writes about here. Praise God for them! Trust that this same God is always with you and is always working to bless you through everything that happens! Patiently wait to see how God will use your struggles for your good! The risen Lord appears to you today with his greeting of “Peace!” Easter changes everything for us – it changes our perspective on problems. All the challenges we face as God’s people are indeed opportunities – opportunities to see God’s grace and mercy, to grow in our trust, and to receive his blessing.
Peter goes on to write: Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Jesus works with the same power that he used to conquer death to keep us in the saving faith. So we are comforted to know that our faith is shielded by God’s power. We are comforted to partake in the Word and Sacraments for our spiritual nourishment. So the encouragement for you today is keep trusting Jesus for everything! He knows your needs, he knows the needs of your Immanuel congregation trust that he will provide you with all you need and always at just the right time. Patience goes hand in hand with this kind of trust in your risen Savior.
Above all else find your greatest comfort and assurance in these confident and joyful words of Peter – for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. With this comfort we are truly prepared to face every challenge life throws our way! For in the end – we have eternal life! We belong to God! Easter truly changes everything for us! Death is dead! Fear is gone! Guilt is taken care of! Joy is ours – an unending joy. Because Jesus lives so do we – eternally! Face all the challenges of life knowing your risen Lord Jesus is always with you to guide you and to comfort you! The resurrection changes everything for us – it changes our perspective about problems – they will not last – it changes our outlook for eternity – we are going to heaven!
When faced with your own troubles recall the resurrection – it is our game changer – it is our victory that Christ has won for us! In the light of the empty tomb problems are temporary and eternal life is ours! So we confess with the Psalmist – I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. The risen Lord has rescued you for eternity! You are his! Find constant comfort in this fact! Amen.

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The Resurrection of Our Lord Matthew 28:1-10

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it! Amen.
Matthew 28:1-10
In the name of our risen Savior – dear Easter worshipers:
Life, as we know it, is full of fear. We find ourselves afraid quite often – afraid we said the wrong thing or acted the wrong way, afraid we will lose our jobs, afraid something bad will happen, afraid God is punishing us, afraid that God doesn’t care about us, afraid that we will die – the fears that swirl around in our heads and in our hearts are constant. We just can’t stop the fear. But the good news before us on this grand and glorious day is that Jesus puts an end to all fear. This is the day we remember the resurrection – the greatest event of all time! In his rising from the dead Jesus took all fear away. So we hear the message of the angels and the message of the risen Lord himself – Don’t be afraid!
Christian friends, don’t be afraid because your salvation is secure. Consider the amazing display of God’s power in this resurrection account: After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. This display of divine power announced the resurrection. This important  event couldn’t go completely unnoticed. So God sent an angel to announce to the women and the disciples that Jesus had risen. He rolled the stone away to reveal to the world the great news that the tomb was empty – Jesus had risen from the dead! This demonstration of divine power overwhelmed the tough soldiers guarding the tomb. They were so afraid that they passed out. What a frightening sight this must have been to see the angel come and remove the stone and discovery that Jesus’ body was no longer there!
Of course the women coming to the tomb see the angel and are stunned, amazed, and fearful at such a sight. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you. The angel immediately urges the women to set fear aside. Why? Because God’s rescue mission was now accomplished. Jesus did precisely what he came to do. Jesus did precisely what he said he would do. All the facts of this story prove it: the announcement, the empty tomb, and the terrified troops.
What does all this mean? What is the meaning of the resurrection? The message of the resurrection is that Scripture is truth. Not only did Jesus say, “My word is truth,” he proved it. He proved it by bursting forth from the rock tomb. He proved it by slipping out of the grip of death’s icy fingers. He proved it by doing what he promised – rising on the third day! The Word of Jesus is true – always has been, always will be! The Holy Scriptures are true, accurate, and reliable.
But that is still not enough to completely describe the meaning of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead declares to the world that sin is forgiven. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” The empty tomb marks our debt of sin to God Paid In Full! God has indeed accepted Jesus’ payment for the sins of everyone! So this morning hear the words loud and clear – in an unmistakably powerful way – YOU ARE FORGIVEN!
There is one more important thing about the resurrection. It is a simple connection but a treasured possession. Jesus’ resurrection gives us eternal life! Jesus testifies, “Because I live you also will live!” He plainly states: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” The Apostle Paul proclaims: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Just as Christ came out of his tomb, so believers in him will come out of their tombs at the end of time!
What joy is ours today! Fear is removed by Christ! The Word is absolutely true and trustworthy! Your sin is forgiven! You have eternal life! These are the important messages of Easter. It all adds up to demonstrate that your salvation is secure. So do not fear and fret about your eternity – it is absolutely secure in Christ! There are no what ifs when you are connected to Christ in his resurrection. Eternity is yours without a doubt. There are two things that testify to the certainty of your eternal life. One is this empty tomb that clearly shows that Christ has conquered death for us! The other is your baptism through which you were connected to Christ in his death and in his resurrection! You are a child of God! Heaven is yours!
An absolutely certain outlook for eternity is yours because Jesus has risen from the dead. Through faith in him you too will rise! That is not the only reason not to be afraid. This account also shows us that we need not fear because we have great news to share!
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Not only did they receive the instruction from the angel to tell the disciples, now the women saw Jesus and heard the same thing from him. What an amazing thing it must have been to see the risen Lord and to begin to comprehend the remarkable reality that he had risen from the dead! The main thrust of the message for the women was to tell the disciples. We may gloss over all this but it is worth noting that at this point of history women were not considered to be reliable witnesses in court. If the disciples were making this all up and trying to pull off a hoax, they would not have written the story this way. It is indeed a surprising selection of first witnesses to the resurrection. At the same time we know that this ladies were faithful followers of Christ and that their testimony is indeed true. In the post-resurrection world there is a role for all of God’s people to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and the eternal life he has secured for all.
Of course, when it comes to sharing the good news about Jesus there is always a bit of apprehension. That fact is so well summarized in this account when we are told about the women: So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Isn’t that an accurate description of us all? Afraid yet joyful. We may be fearful to share the good news of Jesus with the people around us in life – at the same time we are joyful. We know that because Jesus lives we will too. We know that this gospel message will have an eternal impact on people. So even when we are fearful, let us constantly be filled with the joy of the resurrection – that is the certainty that eternal life is ours. This is the certainty that we want to share with the world.
We note that the women were encouraged by seeing Jesus. We get to see Jesus through Word and Sacrament each Sunday – let’s do that so our fears will subside and our joy will increase! Strengthened by our risen Lord let us tell the world this good news that the Scriptures are true, that our sins are forgiven, and that eternal life is ours!
Friends, not even death can separate us from the love of God that is ours in the risen Christ! So leave this sanctuary today filled with joy that knows no end – share this joy with the world! Amen.

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Good Friday Sermon Isaiah 53:4-6

Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed! Amen.
Isaiah 53:4-6
In the name of Jesus who died for the sins of the world – dear Christians;
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written” “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” So wrote Paul to the Galatians. How did Christ redeem us? He became a curse for us. He took our place. The chief tenet of Christianity must be Christ for us. So we see today as we stand at the foot of the cross. We see Jesus hanging on a tree – cursed for us. Cursed so that we will not be cursed, punished so we will not be punished, and killed that we will not die. So today we behold the Lamb of God hanging on the tree of the cross for us! On this day, just outside the walls of Jerusalem, at the place of the skull we see the awful, glorious sight – A Lamb Sacrificed for us!
See your dear Savior as he is crushed for your iniquities! Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we consider him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Jesus did the heavy lifting for us. We were too weak and frail to labor under the burden of our many sins so he carried our infirmities and sorrows. He not only paid for our sin, he also suffered the consequences of living in a sinful world. In his life he wept, he was filled with compassion for others, he went hungry and thirsty – he suffered for us. We deserve to be forsaken by God – but Jesus did that for us. So we see him stricken, smitten, and afflicted. The wages of sin is death. Death is what we had earned for ourselves. But Jesus was pierced, run through, or suffered death for us – all because of our transgressions. We deserve the just and horrific wrath of God – Jesus took that for us. He was crushed for our iniquities. Take a look at that lifeless body after it was pierced through and see how Jesus emptied himself for you. Giving his very life for you!
We often used the word crushed in an emotional sense. As in, I was crushed when they told me the news. Consider the emotional toll that this Friday took on Jesus. He is the perfect, pure innocent Son of God – but now he carries on his soul the sins of the whole world. Now he feels the guilt of all sinners. Now he is punished for us. Without him there is no forgiveness – but we note with great thanks, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him. He was wounded for us not just physically! Who could bare the pain of rejection! He cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was forsaken for us – so that we will never be forsaken by God.
Take in the scene! Listen to the loving words he speaks! “Father, forgive them!” “Today you will be with me in paradise.” “Dear woman, here is your son. Here is your mother.” Hear him groaning in pain. Listen to the crowds jeer and taunt. He does this all for us! For you! For me!
This is the deep love that God has for you even though you are indeed a poor, miserable sinner. Here is your salvation on display. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This love moved Jesus to willingly go to the cross where he was crushed for us. This means that our sins are gone!
Now Isaiah paints the big picture for us. That picture contains an ugly likeness of ourselves. We are portrayed in all our ugliness, our vileness as God’s enemies – those who refuse to listen and obey. So the prophet describes: We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. Yes, we were brought into this world in sin. We stand condemned from the first breath. This original sin shows itself in our disobedience and our selfish insistence on going our own way. We are people that find it comfortable and convenient to walk the selfish, stubborn path of sin. You know the steps you have taken on that path! You know were you have gone astray in thoughts, words, and actions. You know your thoughts and desires. You know the feelings in your heart. You know where you have acted outside the way the Lord commands. Today is the day we stand looking at the cross knowing that this is all our fault. Our sins put Jesus on that cross. We are guilty.
But something amazing happens here at the cross. This is why we can’t take our eyes off our beaten, bloodied, crushed Savior. Here on this horrible hill outside the holy city God makes sin go away. He deals with sin decisively. He undoes what the old evil foe had done back in the garden. He cleanses our hearts and comforts us by removing our guilt. He puts all the sin and guilt on Jesus and punishes him instead of us – for us! And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all! This Lamb of God sacrificed on the cross declares, “It is finished!” There he announces the best news ever. He says to you and to me and to the whole world of guilty sinners – Your sins are forgiven! He invites us to believe this and find our comfort in it.
In response to this great news and encouraging us to a proper response to God’s love demonstrated on the cross, Martin Luther writes, “Consider the price of this ransom, look carefully at this captive. He is the Son of God who is greater than all creation. How will you respond when you hear that such a priceless ransom was paid for your sins? Will you still want to offer your works done under the Law? What is the works of all men, the suffering of the martyrs, and the obedience of the holy angels compared with what the Son of God has given in his death, even death on a cross?
Our iniquities are gone, our sin atoned for – our debt is paid in full! So let us be comforted at the foot of the cross today. We know with all certainty that God loves us! We know heaven is open by Jesus – he is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him! Let us also be encouraged at the foot of the cross – encouraged to thank our Lord with lives of service to him who saved us. May this moment at the foot of the cross focus our attention on our Savior – so we are comforted in his forgiveness and so we are compelled to live our lives for him! Lord, thank you for your dying love! Amen.

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