Jesus Gives Sight to the Blind

A Timeless God

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “A Timeless God” based on Revelation 1:4b-8 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin. Delivered on Sunday, April 28, 2019 Let’s play a game to start today. I’ll name an object from popular culture, you tell me the decade it was popular. Ready? Leg warmers. Saved by the […]

He Appeared to Peter

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “He Appeared to Peter” based on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019

He appeared to Peter.  It’s a phrase of just four words.  It seems innocent and innocuous enough to just pass over when you read or hear them in Paul’s exposition on the gospel message.  Clearly Paul, in sharing what was of primary importance to the Corinthians, wanted to make sure that they understood how that gospel message didn’t stop simply with Jesus’ death.

Yes, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.  However, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul’s explanation of the gospel goes in great detail to declare that, while Jesus did indeed die, he did not stay dead.  In fact, in accordance with the prophecies of Scripture and witnessed by hundreds of people, including Paul, himself, Jesus also rose from the dead.

He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and…he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers…then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also.

Now, from the Gospel accounts, like the one from Luke that you heard earlier today, the first people to whom Jesus appeared were the women who went to the tomb.  But, Paul doesn’t even mention them.  Instead, the first person he mentions is Peter.  He appeared to Peter.  That phrase of four little words.  Why did Paul include them?  What was so special about Peter?

Well, you remember Peter, right?  He walked on water—well, sort of.  He got a little scared and then began to sink into the water.  Peter defended Jesus when they came to arrest him.  He pulled out his sword and lopped off another man’s ear.  But, then, after just promising to Jesus, in front of all of the disciples at the Last Supper, that he would never forsake Jesus and that he would even die for Jesus, Peter stood, warming his hands by the fire, and denied even knowing who Jesus was before the rooster’s crow.

As he watched Jesus, then, die on the cross the next day and as he gazed from a distance while Jesus’ lifeless body was placed into a tomb, Peter must have been wracked with guilt.  He must have been so sad and heartbroken at his inability to help Jesus when it seemed like Jesus needed him the most.  That sin must have been so overwhelming.

How could Peter ever live this down?  Imagine the heartache, the sadness in his mind.  What could be done to get Peter’s attention?  What could be done to ease his pain?

He appeared to Peter.

Jesus appeared to Peter to let him know that his sins were forgiven.  Jesus appeared to Peter to let him know that He still loved him and there was no need to worry.  Jesus appeared to Peter to let him know that his denials were forgotten.  Jesus appeared to Peter to prove to him that the death he had been preaching about happened, and so did the once for all time payment for the sins of the world.  Jesus appeared to Peter to let him know that God accepted the payment.

But Jesus didn’t just appear to Peter.  He appeared, “…then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time…then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles…

And he didn’t stop there.  Jesus continues to appear to his followers, even today.  Jesus appears to you.  He stands in front of you week after week in front of that altar and behind this ambo.  He appears to you in flesh and blood in your hand and in your mouth.  He shows to you his body, given into death, and his blood, poured out for you, for your forgiveness.

He appears to you for the same reason he appeared to Peter.  Like little Simon Peters, you, too, have walked and talked with your God, through the power of his Word, and watched him as he cured the sick, healed the lame, and made the blind to see.  You, too, have heard him preach about the prodigal and the Samaritan, tax collectors and Pharisees, prostitutes and the seed of faith he planted in your hearts.

And, yet, like Peter, haven’t there been times where you, too, have allowed the sinful nature inside of you to doubt the God in which you have believed—wondering about some of the promises he made or confused about the difficulties he allows in your lives?  While you may be ready to make your promises to Jesus to serve him with every ounce of your being or to take up a metaphorical sword in his defense, haven’t you had your fair share of times where you’d rather warm your hands by the fire to fit in with the crowd than put your faith on display?

Brothers and sisters, that is why Jesus appears to you.  He appears to you to forgive you for the times you have doubted and for all of your sins.  He has forgotten them.  He appears to you to give you assurance that you are holy and blameless in the eyes of your God.  Your Savior appears to you as proof of his resurrection.  He is the receipt, the “paid in full” stamp put on your record of sins to let you know that the victory he won over sin, death, and the Devil has been shared with you.

Still have doubt?  Still have worry?  Bury it with Christ in your baptism.  Bury it deep in the tomb where your sin was laid right next Him.  Leave it there as you rise up in your resurrection alongside your Savior.    Because he rose, you rise, too.

The next time you think your sin so great that Jesus could never forgive you or when the doubts and fears of this world begin to overcome and overwhelm you, remember, Jesus appeared to Peter.  Jesus appeared to the man who had nothing special about him.  Jesus appeared to the man who had shown mistrust, shown ignorance, and shown pride.  Remember, Jesus appeared to Peter to prove to him his share in Salvation.  Remember, Jesus appears to you to prove to you the same.  Christ is risen! Amen.

 

 

 

 

See Your King Comes to You!

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “See Your King Comes to You!” based on Philippians 2 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019

We humans are strange creatures. Other species avoid pain and struggle. We actually seek it out. Other species do difficult things because they have to. We do difficult things because we like to. We think it’s fun. Introducing the all new 2019 Ford Ranger–built for the strangest of all creatures. Yep, commercials with words like that played over images of extreme mountain biking, skydiving and icy rock climbing try to convince us that we actually seek out pain and struggle. That we do difficult things because we like to. And that makes the 2019 Ford Ranger the right vehicle for us pain lovers and struggle seekers, because we are the strangest of all creatures.  Yeah, right. You know the truth and so do I.

We don’t do difficult things because it’s fun. We’re much more likely to beg out of pain than to seek it. We’re much more likely to procrastinate in doing difficult things than to embrace them. And that’s a real problem when the difficult things in question are things that God wants us to do. Because…he demands obedience. There’s a very real part of us that says “Ok. As long as it’s not too hard.” He deserves total commitment, even if it’s difficult, uncomfortable, painful. In response we say, “Yes. But maybe that difficult thing can wait till tomorrow.” What are we pain haters and struggle shunners to do?

Well, first—stop listening to silly commercials that try to convince us that we’re something we’re not. Second—look in faith to the Man on the donkey. See your king comes to you this Palm Sunday. The way Paul describes him in Philippians, chapter 2—Jesus is the strangest of all creatures, embracing pain that no one else could, that no one else would, so that we could be his own.

Paul writes, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (we’ll come back to that!)….who being in the nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” Jesus didn’t grab onto his divine rights like a starving Great Dane grabbing a piece of steak left too close to the edge of the kitchen counter. You know, what that big hoss takes that tnederloin over to the corner and starts working on it, don’t even think about trying to pry it away from him.  Jesus didn’t forcefully, violently snatch up his divinity and guard it possessively. He was willing to set it aside.

In fact, he made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant.” He made himself nothing! We spend so much of our lives trying to convince ourselves and the people around us that we are something. Something successful at career or family or money or sports or academics, depending on our age. Something to be admired in people’s opinions and liked on social media. Something worthwhile to be respected and remembered and recognized when people see us. So “being something” becomes our pursuit, our goal in life, our idol.

Oh, Jesus, do we need you! Hosanna! Save us! See your king comes to you, the Strangest of all creatures comes and willingly makes himself nothing. And you know why he does? To truly make you something, something in God’s opinion, which carries far more significance and lasts far longer than any person’s opinion of you, including your own opinion of you.

You might say, “Wait a minute. He didn’t make himself nothing on Palm Sunday. He was the center of attention, acclaimed by many voices as king and deliverer.” Well, yes, that’s right….on Sunday. But the Sunday celebration was the beginning of the week, not the end. Sunday wasn’t the reason he came to Jerusalem. Sunday was only a checkpoint on the way to Friday where He became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

People don’t embrace pain. We put it off. We wiggle out from under it. In Gethsemane, even Jesus himself, fully human, recoiled at the thought of death on a cross. Of course, we should mention that it was more than crucifixion that sat heavy on his heart. It was the anvil of humanity’s evil, yours and mine. So what kept him from running? Putting off, shrinking back and shirking out of his mission’s agonizing culmination? Why would he show up at all on Sunday, knowing that rough wood and soldiers’ spit were waiting for him on Friday? Why would he willingly ride into his destruction? The answer’s simple. You.

He became obedient to the point of death, because he knew that only perfect obedience could make you right with God. He died on a cross because he knew that blood spattered wood was your only hope for heaven. So he showed up on Palm Sunday, the Strangest of all creatures, moving forward with determination toward the struggle that was coming, knowing that his pursuit would lead to unimaginable pain. That is so strange, and foreign to us. And marvelous. That is indescribable love. That’s why we call him our king.

And it is right that we should do so. For that is what he is. Paul writes, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” Including mine and yours.

Jesus had his heart and mind unshakingly focused on us that Palm Sunday. Now we unshakingly focus our hearts and mind on him. That’s why Paul can write. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

If we’d talked about that first without a whole lot of context, you might’ve said, “Thanks a lot, Paul. The same attitude as that of Christ Jesus? Should I also have the same athletic ability as Giannis Antetokoumpo? Should I also have the same brain power as Albert Einstein?”

But while Paul is encouraging something that doesn’t come naturally to us—being like Christ—he’s not encouraging something that is impossible for us. There’s something more going on inside of God’s people than just what comes naturally. We have something that comes super-naturally. We have a new heart, created by the Holy Spirit at baptism and powered the means of grace.

Through Him, we are able to do something that doesn’t come naturally to us. We carry our crosses, painful though they may be. We are drawn toward the struggle rather than only seeking to avoid it. What is that Christian struggle and pain for you? Is it the pull of the world which promises ease and happiness if you fall in line with their way of thinking? Is it the nagging angst of a future full of questions, but no apparent answers? Is it a specific set of temptations that the devil has custom fabricated for you over the years? They loom in your memory, they poke at your conscience, they beg for your attention, and they don’t show any sign of getting tired. You know who else isn’t getting tired? The God who neither slumbers nor sleeps, the God who gives you daily strength. He doesn’t get tired. The power of his Word. It doesn’t get tired. The promises of daily renewal and forgiveness and life in your baptism. Those things don’t get tired.

See your king still comes to you today. That is so very unusual and so very beautiful. For in this life, we go to see powerful people, they don’t come to us. We might buy a ticket and pay for parking and gather in one place with thousands of others to see them perform or speak, but we go to them. Powerful people don’t come to us. But this one does. Our God does. See your king comes to you. To save you, to serve you, to sustain you. Heavenly King, thank you. Now one more thing. Make us like you. Amen.

 

 

 

 

The Stone The Builders Rejected

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “The Stone The Builders Rejected” based on Luke 20:9-19 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, April 7, 2019

During the most holy of weeks, starting with his procession into the city of peace on the first Palm Sunday and finishing with his resurrection on Easter Sunday, Jesus spent his time among the people who lived inside that city, preaching and teaching.

The reading from Luke that you just heard is a recording of one of those times of teaching and, on this particular occasion, Jesus used a teaching tool beloved by him and billions of Christians throughout time.  He used a parable; that is, an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, a made up tale meant to instruct its listeners on the inner workings of God’s Kingdom and the attitudes and actions expected of the subjects of that Kingdom.

Is it safe to assume that, while there may not be any of you who are actively growing or cultivating a vineyard, you understand the responsibilities of the characters in this story? The owner hired people to work in the vineyard.  The workers of the vineyard tended to the plants until the time of harvest.  The owner’s servants went not only to check and make sure the workers did their job, but to reap the benefits of their labor – likely bushels of grapes to make wine.

However, in all honesty, the point of this parable doesn’t have so much to do with the process of planting and harvesting grapes.  Rather, again, it is much more focused on the attitudes of its major players—the attitudes of the owner, the workers, the servants, and the owner’s beloved son.

Even if those major players of the parable left you a little perplexed, Jesus’ original audience understood perfectly.  They knew that the owner described was God, himself, and that his vineyard represented his Kingdom; not so much a physical space, but the spiritual space of faith.

They also correctly ascertained that God had given those rulers and religious leaders the responsibility of working in his Kingdom, tending to his tender plants, the people of Israel.

When Matthew and Mark recorded this account, they also added a little more color by explaining the care with which the owner, himself, cultivated this vineyard.  God provided everything that those rulers and religious leaders needed for the Kingdom.  He protected them and the Kingdom with the hedge of his Law and watered and fed his precious sprouts with his nourishing Word of gospel.

But, unfortunately, as those details of this parable unfolded, they had to connect the dots about their treatment of God’s servants – his prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Micah—how they rejected them and their message.  How they insulted them, treated them shamefully, and even, at times, physically assaulted them.

This is where the importance of the attitudes of the parable’s participants comes into play.  While his servants, the prophets, were being welcomed with hatred and enmity by the people he had loved and cared for, God continued to respond with patience.

And, in the greatest show of love and patience in their history, God finally sent his final servant, one who deserved their respect and honor, the one he loved, his own Son, Jesus.  They did not, however, respect and honor him, as you well know.

The problem became so clear.  The so-called city of peace, Jerusalem, and the people who lived and worked inside, breathed the plague of loving things more than their creator.  They thought that all their work in the vineyard made them the rightful owners of and, with much more self-centeredness, the ones who should receive credit for producing, its fruit.

After hitting the climax of his parable and letting the Law strike with its intended force, Jesus explained the consequences of their repeated disobedience and rejection of their Creator God.

Like a parent who threatens to send an uneaten supper to children starving in another country, God determined to give his Kingdom, the Spirit-worked faith in the hearts of his people, to people who would actually appreciate it.

Do you see now the part you play in this parable?  You are the others to whom the vineyard has been given.  But, here’s the rub:  how have you received it?

Are you feasting where the chief priests fasted, or, so often, does it seem too much like leftovers that you’d rather have sent to someone else who is starving?  Are you appreciative of the servants God has sent to you, or have you, too, in your own way, mistreated them, beaten them, and sent them away empty-handed?

Your God has sent Isaiah and Jeremiah to you, too, but he didn’t stop there.  With great patience, he has also sent to you Kolbow, Steinbrenner, Waldschmidt, Wittigs, and Washburn.  Have you handed over to them the fruits of Spirit-worked faith or, with apathy, ignorance, and pride have you kept the blessings and gifts bestowed upon you, and worked through you, to yourself and sent them away empty-handed?

Brothers and sisters, may this never be!  Fast from that kind of disobedience and rejection and, instead, feast on faith by fixing your focus on the inner workings of the Kingdom of your God.

Yes, in patience, and with what seems like reckless abandon, your God did send his beloved Son, Jesus, to those workers of old.  And, like his parabolic counterpart, he was killed just a few days after he told this earthly story.  But the heavenly meaning hidden inside this parable is that God turned the saddest event in this tragedy into the most compassionate piece of what is the greatest love story ever told.

In sending his beloved Son onto this earth and having him die at the hands of people who should have respected him, your God counteracted the consequences you deserved for your own disrespect and disobedience.  Instead of having you be broken and crushed, Jesus was pierced for your transgressions, he was crushed for your iniquities.  The punishment that brought you peace was upon him and, by his wounds, you have been healed.

Yes, this story contains a twist better than any theatrical thriller has ever uncovered.  The intent of those tenants, in killing the owner’s son, came to fruition.  The inheritance of his Father, which Jesus rightly warranted, is instead bestowed upon people who are undeserving; you and me and all the rest of the people in whom God has cultivated his Kingdom of faith.

The stone those original builders rejected has become for you the capstone of God’s Kingdom – everything is centered and built upon him and his work done in you, through you, and for you.  And that, brothers and sisters, is no earthly story, made up for instruction.  That is his true love story that he has shared with you, through his servants, while you sit in tiny preschool chairs, classroom desks, and these pews week after week.

As you prepare for your holy week observations, listen to your Savior’s love story again and focus your faith on how he has worked all things in his Kingdom for you and for your good.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God Gives Us Freedom & Life in Christ Jesus

Seminarian Martin Loescher delivers a sermon entitled “God Gives Us Freedom & Life in Christ Jesus” based on Romans 8:1-10 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, March 31, 2019

Transcript not available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repent or Perish?

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Repent or Perish” based on Luke 13:1-9 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, March 24, 2019

Have you ever played “Would you rather?” It can be a fun game to pass a little bit of time. For example…

  • Would you rather lose all of your possessions or all of the pictures you have ever taken?
  • Would you rather be completely invisible for one day or be able to fly for one day?
  • Would you rather be married to a 10 with a bad personality or a 4 with an amazing personality?
  • Would you rather find twenty dollars on the ground or find all of your socks that have ever gone missing in the dryer?
  • Would you rather sing a hymn that never seems to end or listen to a sermon that never seems to end? (Don’t answer that!)

Most “would you rather” questions are intended to provoke deeper thinking. They’re not supposed to be easy to answer. By contrast, the would you rather? question that links together our three readings for today seems very easy to answer with no thought at all. “Would you rather….repent or perish?”  No, I understand that it’s not even once asked in the form of a question. In fact, with the Gospel lesson, it’s an exclamation. Repent or perish! Nevertheless, it seems like a no brainer. Repentance, it is. But that’s not to say that real repentance comes easy to us.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Our sinful nature resists turning away from sin every step of the way. Left to ourselves we can only, ever remain mired in the ways that will make us perish. Only the powerful working of our God can bring our stubborn hearts to repentance. We see that powerful word at work in the word of God before us today from Luke 13.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Apparently, both stories were in the news and therefore hot topics of conversation among the people. Now, you have to know something about the way religious people thought about tragedies that happened in people’s lives back in those days. It was almost universally accepted back then that if something bad happened to you, you must’ve done something really bad that caused that badness be visited upon you. And so the people around Jesus may very well have been looking at the Galileans who had been murdered while offering sacrifices and the victims of the tower that fell with a bit of self-righteous disdain. “They must’ve done something pretty bad to have this happen to them.”

Jesus had to turn that thinking upside down. We shouldn’t try and draw a one to one correlation between a particular sin and bad things that come into our lives. And it’s particularly dangerous when we’re playing that game with other people’s sins and troubles in mind. Because when we’re obsessed with shining a white light into all the dark places of others’ lives, we’re conveniently ignoring what’s going on in our own lives, and minds, and hearts.

Repentance doesn’t come easy to us. It’s much easier to concentrate on others’ sins than to hold ourselves accountable before God’s law. You know what I mean? Do you ever do a “backhanded” confession of sins?  I know having a heart full of hate for someone is wrong. But Jesus, that person does so many hateable things! I know that not being content is wrong. But Jesus, you have to admit that I have it worse in life than other people. I know that I’m not the spouse or parent that I should be, and that’s wrong. But Jesus, at least I’m doing a better job at it than my no good brother in law, sister in law, coworker, neighbor or some random guy I see on the news! I know that (fill in the blank) is wrong. But Jesus, let’s be serious, despite what I say, I don’t really plan on putting a stop to it in my life.  When we make that sort of “but Jesus!” confession, it’s a sign that we’re really not taking sin seriously, sin that—if we continue to coddle it—is indeed serious enough to send us to hell. And so we, too, hear Jesus say, “Repent. Or perish.” Repentance is the right choice and now is the right time to do it.

That’s what the parable of the fig tree illustrates. If we see the vinedresser pleading for another year for the fruitless fig tree and we think to ourselves, well that buys me a little more time to snuggle up on the couch with Satan—we’re missing Jesus’ point entirely. Our God is patient, but that patience is not a license to keep punching Him in the nose. The next breath could indeed be our last breath.  Now is the time to get tough on pet sins. Or we will see Him get tough on us because of our pet sins for eternity. God will not be played. You know he’s deadly serious about sin when Jesus looks us square in the eyes and says, “Repent or perish.”

We can loathe our sin with a red hot hatred, but that doesn’t fix the problem of our sin. Inasmuch as seeing an x-ray doesn’t fix a broken leg–it only confirms that there’s a pretty big problem going on. We can change our attitude about our sin today, but that doesn’t change the sins of yesterday. Only Jesus can do that. Jesus covers over the sins of yesterday and last week and five months ago and fifteen years ago with the perfect blood he poured out on a cross. As serious as Jesus is about our sin. He’s equally as serious about saving us. The same one who says “turn away from sin” says “turn toward me in faith.” The same one who looks you in the eye and says “repent or perish” is also the one who says “believe and live.”

When you see that you realize that there’s something more powerful than fear of God’s punishment at work here. It’s called love and gratitude for God’s deliverance. If fear of perishing eternally is only our motivator, we might do the right thing but it with a grudging and grumbly heart. And let’s be honest, fear loses its legs after a little while, slowly regressing back to comfortable complacency. But there’s an even more powerful reason to hate our sin. Because Jesus hates sin and our singular goal in life is to be like him. And that has legs because it’s constantly fed and powered by God’s Word.

Did you catch the plea for patience from the gardener in that parable? “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.  He pleads for one more year, but he doesn’t then just sit back and wait with arms crossed. He acts to nourish and nurture, to feed and fertilize. That’s what our Heavenly Gardener does for you in Word and Sacraments, so great is his desire to care for you personally and see a fruitful life in you.

Let’s be honest. Does repentance today stop temptation from coming back tomorrow? You know that it doesn’t. You know that on this side of heaven, sin is a never more than a heartbeat away. But this isn’t about never sinning. It’s about how we handle the sin that inevitably ensnares us. Will we coddle it or plead for mercy? Will we continue to make excuses for it or be repulsed by it? Will we be bare trees or will we produce fruit in keeping with repentance, that is to say will we take steps to stop that specific sin in our lives?

Repent or perish! A serious Savior speaks in serious words to us today. But understand why he does so. His love for us is so massive that he can’t sit idly by while we destroy ourselves with a casual attitude toward sin. That love brought him down from heaven. That love carried him to a cross. That love drives his urgent words to us here. Let us listen too with urgent ears.

Let us repent, trust in him and live. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Is Unstoppable

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Is Unstoppable” based on Luke 13:31-35 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, March 17, 2019

From the mid 1930’s to the mid 1940’s the German Army was a force to be reckoned with.  In part because they had some top-notch generals but also because they began using some surprising war strategies, like the Blitzkrieg – attacking with lightning speed and overwhelming force.  The German Army seemed unstoppable.  But it wasn’t.  The Allied Forces eventually won some key battles and closed in on the Germans.  And it took teamwork, particularly from two countries that aren’t always that friendly with each other – the United States and the Soviet Union.  Those two countries worked together, not because they had a common trust or a common set of values or a common friendship but because they had a common enemy – the German Army.

We see that happening in our Gospel for today – two unlikely groups joining forces against a common enemy.  The Pharisees weren’t particularly fond of the ruler the Romans had placed over them.  They didn’t like King Herod.  But the Pharisees and King Herod worked together – not because they had a common trust or common values or common friendship but they had a common threat – Jesus.  If they work together, could they stop him?  Not a chance.  Last week we saw the devil himself try to stop our Savior; Jesus beat him fair and square.  In today’s Gospel Jesus shows again us how unstoppable he is.

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else.  Herod wants to kill you.”  Jesus isn’t in Jerusalem yet.  He’s slowly making his way there, from Galilee…and he goes from one town to another.  He teaches.  He heals.  He cares.  And he’s interrupted by these Pharisees:  Herod wants to kill you.  Those weren’t empty words.  Herod had some power…and violence and viciousness ran through his veins.  He was the one who took the head of John the Baptist.

His father was the one who ordered the babies to be killed at the time of Jesus’ birth.  Herod was not a nice guy and, according to the Pharisees, Herod wanted Jesus dead.

A death threat from a powerful governing official would be enough to take me off the grid.  Not Jesus.  He replied, “Go tell that fox, I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.”

In other words, “I have work to do and I will do that work in broad day light…today…and tomorrow…until my work is complete!”  What did that mean short term?  Jesus would go to Jerusalem…willingly…and go to the cross.  Nothing can stop that from happening (not the meddling Pharisees and not a blood-thirsty king).  What does that mean long term?  Jesus will watch over the subjects in his kingdom.  They may endure trial and tribulation for a season, but he will bring them to their heavenly goal.  Nothing can stop that from happening.

I need to hear that.  Because it’s too easy for me to get discouraged by what I see.  Christians are persecuted world-wide.  Churches are burned to the ground.  Even in our country where our economy is stable for the moment and we can freely worship whenever and wherever we please, anti-Christian waves seem to be getting bigger in the media in society and in government.  It sometimes feels like the one sitting behind the big executive desk calling all the shots is the Big Mob Boss Satan.  But take comfort.  Those who lived in Galilee in Jesus’ day would have thought Herod was calling the shots and the Pharisees were people of influence.  But the One in control was the One who came to seek and to save the lost.  The One calling the shots is the One slowly making his way to Jerusalem….healing and driving out demons…today…and tomorrow…and no one could stop him.

You Savior has unstoppable power.  He’s still in control….no matter what political party has the majority…no matter what the balance of power at the supreme court level…Jesus is in control today…and tomorrow…and his church shall never perish – not today, not tomorrow…until he returns in glory to bring you to your heavenly goal.  You’re on the right team.  Just don’t forget it.

It isn’t just his power that is unstoppable.  His love too.  What’s on the mind of the Pharisees?  How can we stop Jesus?  What’s on the mind of Jesus?  Showing mercy…healing and teaching…and ultimately, getting to Jerusalem where he will show the full extent of his love.

What’s even more amazing, his love never stops and his heart never ceases to ache for the very people who despise him.  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who sent 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!

His Old Testament prophets – the Isaiahs and the Jeremiahs and the Ezekiels – had been sent by the Lord…and they had been rejected by the people.  But God never stopped loving and calling to them.  And even now, the Son of God is in the flesh among the people – and he’s still treated poorly.  What does John say in the first chapter of his gospel?  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him (John 1:11).  Could you blame Jesus if he had just said, That’s it.  I quit.  I’m not going to carry their sins – they don’t even want me here!  Yet his love just wouldn’t stop.  I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day.

Jesus just wouldn’t quit…on his Old Testament people…on the people in the towns and villages in Galilee…and he just won’t quit on you and me.  And he knows…he knows just how many times we’ve quit on him….how many times we’ve honored him with our lips but our hearts were far away…how many times we’ve forgotten that our citizenship is in heaven and instead wrapped our hearts around earthly things…he’s seen us, clothed so beautifully in our baptismal garments of grace, and then he’s watched as we’ve rolled around in the slop of sin again and again.  Would you blame him if he’d just say, I quit.  I’m not going to keep reaching out to them.  They had their chance.

Instead, “Come,” we hear him say.  “Come, there’s room under my wings.  Come, there’s a place here to confess your sins.  Come, there is font here under my wings, here you can drown your sinful nature again and again.  Come, there is room.  I will not stop loving you.”

Of course our Lord has something very special in mind.  Not only does he want to restore you…not only does he want to assure you of his ability and faithfulness to carry you all the way to heaven even through these seasonal trials and tribulations…but does he not also want to reach many more through you?  In other words, he doesn’t want his unstoppable love to stop with you.

You haven’t been given the power to change hearts, shape governments, heal diseases or uphold the church of believers – the Lord has.  You have been given the ability and the opportunity to love as you have been loved, to encourage fellow believers, to be kind and soft-hearted to those who are down-trodden and forgotten, to forgive as you have been forgiven.  Do that.  Jesus went from town to town teaching and healing.  How does he get around from town to town, from family to family today?  In part, is it not through you?  You haven’t been given the power to change hearts – the unstoppable Jesus does that, just as he has changed yours.  But you have been called to share the love of Jesus – in word and in deed.  Do that.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If You Are Children of God…..

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “If You Are Children of God….” based on Luke 4-1-13 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, March 10, 2019

At his baptism in the River Jordan, marked by the Father’s voice from above and the Spirit descending in the form of a dove, Jesus was anointed and appointed to carry out the work of being your Savior.

The Gospel for today shows that his first steps as your Savior took him into the wilderness.  You see, unlike some science fiction movie or television show where the hero travels back in time to right what once went wrong, Jesus went there, not to change what happened in the past, but to change the future for all people that have committed sins in the past.

Where, in the past, did it first go wrong?  It wasn’t one of the readings appointed for today, but you probably know it so well that you don’t have to have it read.  In the Garden of Eden, after God created a perfect world, and Eve and Adam to care for it, the serpent slithered his way in to ruin everything with one little question: Did God really say…?

Eve was tempted and fell for it.  Her husband, who was with her, neglected his headship principle and allowed her to be tempted.  Sin happened and, ever since then, temptation and sin have continued to be a regular part of everyday life.

So, in order to change the future for all those who deal with temptation and sin on a daily basis, including you and me, Jesus worked to change the future by facing those temptations himself.  Only, in order to change that future, Jesus would have to endure them without falling into sin, himself.  And that, as you heard in the Gospel for today, is just what Jesus did.

It is interesting to note, though, that as Jesus faced the temptations of the Devil, out in that wilderness, the temptations of the Devil were really the same that Eve and Adam faced, and the same that he tries to use against you and me as well.

Oh, sure, the wording is somewhat different, but the goal of Satan’s sneaky saying is the same.  The goal wasn’t necessarily to get Eve to eat the apple, or whatever fruit it was.  Instead, the serpent was focused on getting her and her husband to doubt the Word of God.  Listen again to the Devil’s words to Jesus and note that his ultimate goal really didn’t have anything to do with bread.

If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.  He didn’t come right out and say, “Did God really say…,” but the effect is the same.  He just used a little more logic.  He knew that Jesus knew what God did and did not say—in fact, he was counting on it.  He knew that Jesus is the Son of God and he knew what God says about those who are his children; how he will care for them and provide not only for their spiritual needs, but even for their physical needs.  And so, if that is true, if you are the Son of God, and, therefore, God cares for you and provides for you, then why are you hungry?  God must be lying to you.

Does that sound a little more like the temptations that the ancient serpent spews out toward you?

He knows that you are children of God.  If you weren’t, he wouldn’t spend so much time trying to convince you otherwise.  He knows that you know what God has said about caring for and providing for his children.  He’s counting on it.  That’s why and when he attacks.  He waits for his opportune time and asks you, if you are children of God, then why doesn’t your God act like it?

He says he will provide, but he doesn’t.  You don’t even have to look at all the starving and homeless out there in the rest of the world.  Look at all that he hasn’t provided for you.  Where is the soul mate he promised to pair you up with?  Where are the Christian friends he placed in your life to help pick you up when you are down and to celebrate with over your bounty of blessings?  Where is the dependable vehicle, the house that doesn’t need a new roof or properly working pipes, the job that gives you an opportunity to use your spiritual gifts, and the health you need to enjoy any of those things?

He says he loves you, but he doesn’t show it.  You put in your hours, week after week, worshipping him, here in this building and even in your own home.  You go to him, but when was the last time he came to you?  Doesn’t he see how, even though you may be surrounded by so many people, you are so lonely?  The real reason there’s only one set of footprints in the sand is because you have been walking in your own wilderness, without anyone who understands what you’re going through.

You are children of God.  And, for the most part, you have been doing your part.  When is he gonna start holding up his end of the bargain?   You have seen what God really says, but, quite obviously, he lies.  You can’t trust him or his Word.

When those temptations came to Jesus, he was able to refute them.  How?  Well, not surprisingly, he went straight to God’s Word for the answers.  Notice, when the temptations came, Jesus didn’t point to examples from his own live to prove how God had been working in his life.  He wasn’t concerned about the past.  He went to the promises God made and put his faith in them.  And, in so doing, was able to change the future for you and for me.

When Satan slithers his way into your wilderness to tempt you, if you really thought about it, you could probably point to periods in your life where God has, indeed, kept the promises he made to you.  But, as Jesus clearly shows in enduring and overcoming these temptations, the solution to success against Satan isn’t found in producing evidence from your past experience that he is wrong.  Rather, it is found in faith.

Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.  Faith is saying to Satan, I don’t care what you say.  I don’t care what points you make.  I don’t care how convincing of an argument you make, I put my faith in my God because he tells me to—even if it might mean that I am going against every natural recourse and inclination my mind can come up with.

And that faith, friends, is what God says overcomes the temptations of the Devil.  Faith trusts that God is not a liar.  Faith trusts in his Word which tells you that because Jesus didn’t fall for any of the Devil’s temptations, he lived a perfect life and that he lived that life in place of the imperfect one that you have lived.  Faith trusts the Word which promises to you that when Jesus sacrificed that perfect life, he did so to pay the atonement price that curbed that wrath of God that he rightly held against you because of your sin.  Faith trusts the Word of God that says that even though death seems like the final enemy that no sinful human being on this earth has ever overcome, your death will be the entrance to life eternal because Jesus defeated death in his own resurrection and he shares the spoils with you.

Jesus is the Son of God, anointed and appointed to be your Savior.  You are children of God, protected and cared for by your God.  Don’t listen to the lies that Satan spews at you.  Stop looking at the past and what your God has or hasn’t done for you lately.  Keep your eyes on the prize.  Focus on the future your Jesus has won for you.  If you are children of God, do what his children do.  Put your faith in the promises that your God has made and believe that he will keep them for you.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glorious Savior, Glorious Life

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Glorious Savior, Glorious Life” based on 2 Corinthians 3 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, March 3, 2019

My senior year at the Seminary, my wife and I lived on a couple acres along the Lake Michigan seashore. Don’t be overly impressed. We were renting a well to do family’s guest cottage. The total square footage? I’d estimate it at about 700 square feet. We didn’t have a lot of stuff back in the day, but trying to fit what we had into that place was like trying to fit a bulldog into a ballerina’s tutu. There wasn’t a whole lot of breathing room. We were pushing maximum capacity. That’s how this portion of God’s Word feels. It’s densely packed with grade A prime theology from beginning to end.  It’s a challenging section. But walk with me as we unpack it slowly and as we do, Lord willing, we’ll be led to see that a glorious Savior for us means a glorious life for us. Hear the Word of the Lord as it’s recorded in 2 Corinthians, chapter 3.

It’s easy to see Jesus’ glory in our Gospel lesson as He shines brightly on the mountain. It’s also easy to see how we will shine brightly one day in eternity because of that same Jesus. It’s a lot more difficult to see how a glorious Savior for us means a glorious life for us now. In fact, we rightly condemn what we might call a theology of glory, the popular teaching that Christians should expect only good things and prosperity and smiley faces in this life. Jesus didn’t say that. He said “take up your cross and follow me.” He promised that the life of a Christian would be full of the most unglorious things.

But I don’t have to tell you that. We come here hoping find a little respite from the unglories of life. When you look back on your life so far, you see a lot of blessings, but you also see times when you were having to reach in the darkest depths of the kitchen sink trying to clean out a clogged drain. You see times when the news was good and celebration was called for, but you also see times when the unexpected brought sudden tears, and reduced you to a crumpled mess that could barely get out of bed. When you look back on your life, you see times when you boxed the devil on his pointy little ears, but you also see times when you put your arm around him like he was your best friend in the world.

We are sinful people living in a sinful world. And that means that unglory and ugliness will never be far away from us on this side of heaven. But again, you know that. What the apostle Paul shows us today is that because of Jesus, glory is never far away from us either.

As always, Jesus is the key. Glorious doesn’t mean always happy. Glorious doesn’t mean always spiritually successful. A glorious life is not, is not defined by our outward circumstances. A glorious life has Jesus and the hope he gives us as its beginning, middle and end.

Paul writes, Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. Lack of hope crushes a person’s spirit. But an abundance of hope makes them bold.

I was just talking with veteran Christian this week whose eyes have seen a lot of years. And a lot of dark days. She’s lost children and grandchildren in sudden, devastating fashion. And she told me the same thing many of you have also told me, “I don’t how someone without faith can manage.”  People without faith also get cancer, people without faith also mess up their lives and families, people without faith also have to stand at gravesides. I don’t know how they cope. But I know how you cope. You cling to hope. Hope that comes from a God who loves you unconditionally. Hope that comes from a God who has proven himself to you in the past. Hope that comes from a God who promises a better future, if not today, one day, in eternity.

There’s something glorious about being bold in a world where by all appearances we should be freaking out a little! We don’t know what’s going to happen five minutes from now, much less five years from now. We don’t know what the next election will bring, what the next wave of secular societal peer pressure will bring, we don’t know how that might affect our jobs, our churches, our schools, our families. We don’t know what personal challenges, diagnoses, or tragedies are looming just over the horizon. We don’t know. And yet we do not cower or shrink back from tomorrow. Because we have Jesus. Covered by his perfection and bought with his blood, He makes us bold to stand in the face of Judgment Day. And if we can stand unafraid before an Almighty Judge, we can certainly stand unafraid and face tomorrow, no matter how uncertain it may be. That boldness is glorious and it can only come through faith.

We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.  Moses’ phosphorescent kisser was pretty awesome, even though it eventually faded away. How much more awesome is a ministry where the glory never wears off or fades away! That’s what Paul had because he was blood-linked to the Lamb sent from heaven. Unfading glory. Because Jesus has unfading glory.

That’s what set Paul apart from the rivals who so tenaciously tried to tear him down. His rivals held on to the law of Moses like it was the foundation of the people’s relationship with God. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.  They could offer no hope. They could only hand out report cards. You did this wrong, this wrong and this wrong. You fail! For them, the veil remained. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

You might say, “Wait a minute. We don’t see Jesus like Peter, James and John saw him on the mountain!  Many things about him remain veiled to us. And when he does come to us, he doesn’t come in full glory mode, he comes in veiled fashion in Word, Water, Wheat and Wine.” All of that is true.

But there’s something pretty glorious about how the Holy Spirit, moved only by love and acting only because of grace, used those seemingly unimpressive things to draw back the veil of unbelief that covered your heart.  And to give you a living, breathing faith. And to give you victory over death. And to give you the ability to live forever.

Though he may not yet show us his full glory, that doesn’t mean that he can’t occasionally show a little bit of his glory to us and in us. Paul states it in much stronger language. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Transformed into his likeness. That means the glorious change we saw Jesus undergo on the mountain isn’t the only glorious transformation we’re seeing this evening/morning. I’ve been trying to eat a little more healthy and exercise a little more often. And if you’ve ever done that before you it can be hard to be patient. When you look down at the scale and it’s the same as it was yesterday, or heaven forbid higher than it was yesterday. It deflates you. We want big changes and we want them immediately. That’s not how it works. Transformation happens slowly and eventually when you consume the right food.

Our spiritual transformation happens similarly. We want big change and we want it immediately. We also have the same expectation in the people around us, but that’s another sermon for another time. We want big change and we want it immediately, but that’s not how it works. Transformation happens slowly, over a lifetime, fed and nourished by regular, consistent, dare I say every week, dare I say every day, consumption of the Word and Sacraments. That’s how we are transformed into his likeness.

Wouldn’t that be a neat way to be thought of and remembered? As one who looked like Jesus? I don’t mean long hair and beard or however you picture him. I mean, having a heart that looks like Jesus’ heart. Wouldn’t it be neat if the people around you thought of you as someone whose heart looks like Jesus’ heart—one that is full of compassion and patience and mercy? One that pushes away ambition and selfishness and hate. Oh, Lord Jesus, make us like you—there and there alone do we find ever increasing glory.

Boldness that comes from hope. Unveiled eyes that see your Savior. Transformation that comes from a lifelong, consistent diet of Word and Sacrament. No, life will not always be glamourous. But with Jesus, life will always be glorious. Amen.