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Jesus Is Anointed to Make Missionaries

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Is Anointed to Make Missionaries” based on Luke 5:1-11 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, February 10, 2019

Did you notice the strong connection between the readings in Isaiah and Luke today?  In both, God calls workers to share his Word; first Isaiah, then Peter, James, and John.  In both, before the call is made, there is an impressive showing of God’s glory; for Isaiah, it was in a vision where the Temple shook and something as simple as the train of God’s robe filled the Temple and, of course, for Peter, James, and John there was this miraculous catch of fish that happened after catching nothing all night long.  And, in both these readings from God’s Word, that show of God’s power elicited the same reaction from his prospective missionaries.  Both Isaiah and Peter recognized that they were in the presence of God Almighty and were absolutely terrified—and then they were comforted, and then they were called.

It is actually quite interesting to note the timeline of Peter’s call into the gospel ministry.  He had already been in Jesus’ company for some time.  He must have witnessed some of the other miraculous signs that Jesus had been performing.  He would have been a part of the crowds that had been gathering from all over to hear Jesus preach and teach.  In fact, he was so enamored with Jesus that Luke records, in the chapter just before the Gospel appointed for today, that Peter had invited Jesus into his own home and, subsequently, watched as Jesus healed his mother-in-law.

Peter had been praying with Jesus.  He had been meditating on the words that Jesus had been saying.  He was gaining quite a bit of respect for this great teacher.  So, naturally, when Jesus asked to use his boat as a pulpit to preach to the people on the seashore, he obliged.  And, even when Jesus tried to tell him how to do his own job, after fishing and catching nothing all night, he submitted his pride and acumen to what the Rabbi wanted.

Prayer with Jesus and meditation on what Jesus said.  That’s actually two-thirds of what Martin Luther said makes for a great theologian and missionary for God.

And, so, as the time was coming for Jesus to call Peter into his ministry, it was time to initiate that important third aspect.  Prayer, meditation, and, in German, Luther called it Anfechtung.  In Latin it’s called tentatio.  In English?  Well, there’s not really a word for word translation, but it is often described as an agonizing internal struggle—you know, like the kind when you find yourself face to face with the Almighty God who created you and, if he so wished, could destroy you.

You don’t have to read a biography about Luther to understand why he emphasized that last part, do you?  Haven’t you experienced the same to be true?  Don’t you find out the most about your God and your faith when you are going through or have gone through an agonizing internal struggle?

Or, maybe it’s easier to look at it in comparison.  You just got a promotion at work.  Your marriage couldn’t be stronger.  Your kid just won another award and you just finished your basement renovation.  Sure, you may recognize the guiding hand of your God behind it all and be thankful for his blessings, but which one causes you to spend all day talking to your God?  Which one forces you to your knees, recognizing your helplessness, completely dependent on him?

That’s not to say that God’s physical blessings in your life are bad or that they somehow would disqualify you from being one of his workers here on earth.  But, as it was for Isaiah and for Peter, it is important for you to recognize and remember exactly who God is, who you are, and what he has done for you before you seek to share that truth with others.

Your own personal Anfechtung and tentatio may differ from those around you.  For some it is sickness, disease, or the separation of death.  For others it is persecutions that come for being a Christian.  Still others experience it when the Devil continually reminds them of that one scientific fact that doesn’t seem to jive with what the Bible says, when a Christian doesn’t act very Christian-like toward them, when, for what seems like no reason at all, a wife turns her attention to another man, or when all that life is throwing at them just becomes too much to handle.

It is in those moments when Christians, who have spent time in prayer with Jesus, who have meditated on the words that he has said, seek to find strength outside themselves because they recognize they cannot do it on their own.  They realize, like Isaiah, that they are ruined in the presence of God and, like Peter, that their sin causes them to be unworthy of his care and concern.

There in the depth of despair, helpless and hopeless, in an existential and anxious awareness of your own failings and faultiness, is when you can finally search for, and find, true hope and assurance outside of yourself.

Don’t be afraid.  That’s what Jesus said to Peter and that’s what he says to comfort you as well.  Yes, the consequences of sin surround you in this world and they are difficult and painful and cause agonizing internal struggles.  But none of them, no matter how powerful, can overpower Jesus and his work done for you or take you away from the love that he has for you.  In fact, in his love for you, he often uses those terrible times in your life as opportunities to draw you closer to himself.

When you are sick, he sends you to pray and meditate more on his Word, where he tells you I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

When you are afraid, he sends you to pray and meditate more on his Word, where he tells you fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, and uphold you with my righteous right hand.

When you are overwhelmed, he tells you to Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

When you sit your 7-year old on her pretty pink ballerina bedspread, hold her tiny hands inside your own, and tell her that her mother is dead, he speaks and says 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.

He overcomes your anfechtung and tentatio with the only thing that will work; the only thing more powerful than them all: himself.  He gives you all that he is and all that he has done for you—from his perfect life lived in your place and sacrificial death to pay the price for your sins to his ability and promise to work all things for you and for your good; to fulfill for you each and every one of your needs.

He has cleansed you.  He has made you worthy in the eyes of your God.  He has given you the strength to endure anything that this world might throw at you and now—after prayer, meditation, and an agonizing internal struggle, he calls you to share that cleansing, that worthiness, and that strength with everyone that you may meet.

Yes, God has made missionaries to share that good news with people in far off lands who do not yet know it, but even here in Hartford, among your co-workers and in your own circle of family and friends, God has called you to be his theologians and missionaries.  The fields are ripe—go harvesting.  Even if you have been working to catch your fish all night, drop down your nets again.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Believe and Therefore Speak

Guest Pastor John Boggs delivers a sermon entitled “We Believe and Therefore Speak” based on 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, February 3, 2019

Transcript not available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifting Our Spirits

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Lifting Our Spirits “ based on Psalm 51:10-12 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, August 12, 2018

Goldenseal, Grape seed extract, St. John’s Wort, Dandelion root, Cytogreens and something called “Mushroom Emperors”—which I’m assuming are legal, but also sound kinda’ shady! You know what they all have in common? They’re all dietary supplements touted by the testimonials of world famous internet “physicians”—who may or may not be real. One thing’s for sure, they promise big things. One supplement I came across hyped its effects this way:

This powerful enzyme has been proven to dissolve non-living
tissue and leave any living tissue alone.  It can safely remove the
fatty deposits and fibrin buildup on the inside of your arteries
without any side effects.  The dissolved deposits flush harmlessly
out of your body!

In other words, take a pill and that little tiny enzyme will go to work cleaning up your heart,  chomping up years’ worth of garbage and restoring veins and arteries to pristine condition. Does it work? I have no idea. But when I read that I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be cool to have something that works like that on our stubbornness, on our selfishness, on our apathy, a spiritual drano that gets rid of all the junk that clogs up our hearts with things that keep us away from God? And is that what David was praying for when he penned the words of our text for today, the familiar of the words of the “Create in Me” from Psalm 51? Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Perhaps one of the reasons that Psalm 51 is so familiar and so dear to so many of God’s people is because we see so much of ourselves in David. He messed up, big time, he knew it and he knew there wasn’t anything he could do to make it right. Specifically, he’d committed adultery with another man’s wife and then had that man, a faithful soldier named Uriah, killed on the field of battle. It seemed like the perfect cover up. But God knew the truth. And when the prophet Nathan called David out for his sleazy behavior, there was no place to hide any longer, there was no way to deny the facts any longer. He was bad guy.  From inside the vice of public shame and profound, sleepless night, never a moment of solace guilt, David does the only thing he can do. He begs for mercy. Can you hear the frantic nature of his crying out, just in these verses? Look at all the imperatives, every phrase is begging for something. This is not the sound of a man bossing God around. This is the sound of man drowning in his sins, going under for the last time, desperately pleading, “Save me!”

Isn’t that at the heart of our worship service confession? “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” Isn’t that at the heart of our bedtime prayers? “Jesus, Savior, wash away, all that I’ve done wrong today.” Isn’t that at the heart of our pre-communion self examination? “Lord, may your body and your blood be for my soul the highest good.” There’s a deep need in all those entreaties, the sound of the helpless drowning in their sins, going for the last time, desperately pleading, “Save me!” If we speak those words thoughtlessly, merely going through the motions we have some serious soul searching to do. For the sins that clog up our hearts are not benign—they are ugly cancers that kill faith and will grow out of control if left unchecked.

But when we cry out, “Create in me a clean heart!” our desperate cries do not fall on deaf ears. Jesus hears, his heart is moved, he reaches out a nail marked hand and he says—every single time, without fail—“The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. If you are lost, you are the one that I’ve come to find. If you are a mess, you are the one I’ve come to clean up. If you are the one drowning in sins, you are the one I’m here to save.”

Once we’re in the boat, so to speak, the question inevitably comes to mind. “What happens next? If I’m pulled out the depths by my Savior, it would be pretty stupid to jump back. But, you know, I can be pretty stupid.” When we pray Create in me a clean heart, we’re not only praying “forgive me,” we’re also praying, “change me from this day forward.” That’s where the Holy Spirit really starts to shine. It’s true that No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. It’s also true that no one can truly hate sin, daily drown the Old Adam, consistently offer up sacrifices of loving obedience—except by the Holy Spirit. You can see it in David’s words. In verse 10, David pleads for a steadfast spirit. In verse 12, David pleads for a willing spirit. But the meat in that sandwich, the thing that ties our text together is found in verse 11. “Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me.”

How does the Holy Spirit change hearts? In Baptism, he creates a new person in us, and then recreates that new person in us each day throughout our lives. In Lord’s Supper, he empowers us to believe that Jesus’ in really present and strengthens us to leave sin behind. In the Word, he tells us how we are loved by God and how we can live for God. Through what we call the Means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments, he goes to work on our hearts, chomping up the bad stuff, daily clearing out the things that alienate us from the Giver of All Good.  Now…you, me and every Bible writer as well, understand that we’re still people who wrestle with temptation living in a world full of temptation. But no longer does the devil always win. In fact, it’s our goal that he doesn’t win and  a lot of the time, he gets a real beat down. That wouldn’t happen, those attitudes wouldn’t exist in us if the Holy Spirit wasn’t at work. He’s the one who cleans hearts, who makes us want the things that God wants and love the things that he loves and actually grow in those things.

With that in mind, David’s words in Psalm 51 give us something to take with us today. Whether you call them prayers, commands, requests or desperate pleas for help, there are a whole bunch of them in these verses. Maybe we could shine the spotlight on just one. “Renew a steadfast spirit within me.” The Hebrew word that’s translated “steadfast” means to be firmly established—it’s used to describe a roof that’s held up by cement pillars. The roof can bear a lot of weight, it can remain unshaken in many storms, not because of any power or strength by itself, but because it’s held up by the pillars. Oh, Holy Spirit, give me, give us that kind of spirit—a steadfast spirit! That we may remain unshaken in many storms—not because of our strength, but because we’re held up by you.

A believing soul. A cleansed heart. A steadfast spirit. The works of the Holy Spirit are indeed great and glorious! His name is worthy of praise! Amen.

 

We Believe Jesus Is Lord

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled ” We Believe Jesus Is Lord based on 1 Corinthians 12:3 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, August 5, 2018

When amazing, miraculous things happen…and they happen often enough, they begin to lose their luster…the WOW-factor, and we begin to view them as routine.

For instance…

  • A small seed is planted into the ground. Weeks and months and years later, that small seed is now a large tree producing shade and fruit and turning carbon dioxide into oxygen.
  • A human life is formed in the womb (knit together by God, the psalmist would say)…we watch through ultrasound eyes. 12 weeks – fingers and toes and developing lungs; 16 weeks – heartbeat; 32 weeks – unique fingerprints being formed.  And then delivery…and then a toddler…and then a teenager.
  • A giant orb of rock and dirt and water hurls through space as it circles the sun. It spins at a rate of 1,000 miles per hour and moves over 60,000 miles per hour.  And yet we aren’t violently shaken and flung off?  Why not?    No one can understand how or why gravity works.  It’s amazing.  But since it’s always happening, we view it as rather routine.

Here’s another seemingly “routine” occurrence.  For generations the Lord has used people as his agents.  He’s used prophets and preachers and parents and they have delivered and proclaimed and shared the gospel message of Jesus.  It seems so routine, so unremarkable…but when teachers teach God’s about Jesus….when missionaries or neighbors or friends introduce unchurched people to Jesus the Christ…something amazing is happening.  Yes, those people…those agents are telling others about Jesus but it is the Holy Spirit who is explaining and enlighteningconverting and capturing hearts…creating and growing faith.  And that, my friends, is amazing…it’s a miracle.

And you are the living proof.  It is not just highly unlikely, but by human standards, it is impossible that any of you should be here today, confessing together: We Believe Jesus Is Lord.

It’s true, the human mind seems to have almost unlimited potential.  Are you amazed at the advancements in technology? (you can pay bills, buy/trade/sell on the stock market, turn off the lights in your home or adjust your air conditioning just by typing a speaking a few words into your phone).  Medical advancements have been enormous.  So many diseases have been cured or curbed by medications.  Some disease remain a mystery, but research and development continues…because the human mind has almost unlimited potential.  Except for this one important thing.  The human mind can never and will never be able to grasp or understand or believe in Jesus Christ.  Not without help.

Why not?  Remember our second lesson for today?  The Apostle Paul told us:  “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God…they are foolishness to him…he cannot understand them”…those truths are “spiritually discerned.” 

Whether we like the description or not, the Bible says that ALL people are conceived and born in sin.  Yes, we know that.  Yes, but the Bible also says ALL people are conceived and born in unbelief.  It uses words like spiritually dead and living in darkness to describe you and me and all people.  Isaiah in his 59th chapter describes this spiritual blindness and need for the Spirit when he says:  We look for light but all is darkness; for brightness but we walk in deep shadows.  Like the blind we grope along the wall (Is 59:9). Yet, here you are.  You aren’t groping, you are worshiping…you aren’t stumbling in darkness, you are basking in the light of Jesus…you aren’t searching, you are confessing, “We Believe Jesus is Lord.”  What happened?  The Spirit happened.

He used agents – people who told you about Jesus.  All of it seeming so routine.

  • A baby is held over the font by a parent or sponser.
  • A toddler sits on dad’s lap as he reads a Bible story.
  • A preschooler listens to Sunday school teacher explain why Jesus was born and why he died and why he rose.
  • A Teenager memorizes Bible passages and then systematically sorts through the basic teachings of the Bible in catechism class.
  • A young couple…a family…an elderly couple…a widow…a widower sits in the pew.

It seems so routine…and to some, maybe even a little boring.  Where’s the luster?  Where’s the WOW-factor?  Here it is.

  • The same Word Jeremiah says can smash rocks to pieces.
  • The same Word Paul says is powerful like dynamite.
  • The same Word that made Timothy wise for salvation.
  • The same Word the writer to the Hebrews says is sharper than any double-edged sword.

That same rock-smashing, light-giving, faith-nourishing Word is spoken and taught in every inch of that school and read as God’s truth from this very spot and taken in every time you have your own morning or lunch-time or evening devotion.  And there’s the Holy Spirit.

  • He loosens your grip on self-reliance and helps you hold tighter to Jesus.
  • He turns your eyes away from decaying material things and helps you see value in eternal treasures.
  • He entrances you with a story that so many in the world consider too simple and too silly for them to take seriously…but here in the powerful Word the Holy Spirit tells you of a Jesus…who was perfect for you…who was punished for you…who is alive for you.

No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.  The deep love of the Father.  The selfless sacrifice of Jesus his Son – all that would be meaningless to you, had the Holy Spirit not done his routine, amazing, miraculous work and so enabled you to say, “Jesus Is Lord”…Jesus is my Lord.

Let me close with these two points.

  • The fact that saving faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit ought to keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves. There’s a danger for us to look around at the inhabitants of this world and identify those who malign conservative Christianity and see them as lesser human beings.   Just remember, you and I were among those ranks too…we also, in our unbelief, found God and his message foolish.  We were just as blind as they are now.  Those blind folks need our prayers and they need someone to introduce them to Jesus…to share the gospel of Jesus…so the Holy Spirit can start swingin away with his powerful, rock-smashing, faith-creating Word.  You see, God wants them in heaven too. Young people, our world needs more pastors and teachers.  Members of Peace, our neighborhoods need more Christian witnesses.
  • Also, the fact that faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit is a big comfort. The deep love of the Father and the selfless work of Jesus is not contingent upon how big or small your faith is.  On your down day, when you feel lost and alone and weak in faith…Jesus still is your Savior and God still loves you.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t use his power to manipulate your emotions…he uses his power to keep your eyes focused on the facts…to keep your grip galvanized on Jesus.  And that is amazing, miraculous.

And there’s your Wow-factor.  There’s your luster.  God has seen fit to love you, send Jesus for you, and give you the best teacher ever – the Holy Spirit, who enables you to say now and forever:  I believe Jesus is Lord!  Amen.

 

The Things You Don’t See

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “The Things You Don’t See” based on Isaiah 53:10-12 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, July 29, 2018

Man, Chicago Cubs fans are real pieces of work. That’s what a lot of people were thinking—not to mention openly proclaiming—after they saw this video that went viral earlier this week. In case you missed it, Cubs First Base Coach Will Venable tossed a souvenir ball toward a little boy in the front row. The boy missed…the ball rolled under his seat…and the full grown adult sitting in the row behind him gleefully scooped it up and presented it to his significant other, totally ignoring the fact that the ball clearly wasn’t meant for him, but rather for the poor kid in front of him. TV cameras were rolling, soon people posted the video online, and as you might expect the internet responded in its usual gracious, measured, thoughtful manner. Not so much!

There was outrage, name calling, and not at all subtle suggestions for major acts of physical harm to be rained down on this joker. The only problem….it was all a misunderstanding.  Eventually, the true story came out. Apparently, earlier in the day, from his seat in the second row, this guy had already caught a ball and given it to the kid in the row in front of him.  Then he caught a second ball and gave it to a kid in his row. When this third ball came into the stands, he picked it up and gave it to his wife. But the third time was the only time that the cameras caught!  Why am I telling you this story? Because it perfectly illustrates how one brief snapshot often fails to tell the whole story.

The same is true for Jesus’ life, and we see it in our text today. Imagine if our text ONLY consisted of the brief snapshot that we see in verse 10.  Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer. What kinds of things do we crush? Aluminum cans and paper cups. (Things we have no use for.) Spiders and mosquitos. (Things that repulse or annoy us.) The Holy Spirit doesn’t use any words accidentally. He knew exactly what he was trying to convey when he talks about the Lord’s will (the original Hebrew word is even stronger—to delight!)…about the Lord taking delight in crushing Jesus.

Our text is talking about the cross, of course—where Jesus was crushed to billions of pieces under the mountain of our sins. When you see the blood oozing out from under that mountain, you realize that somebody paid an unspeakable price. Being crushed is gross, and it’s ghastly. And maybe that image sticks with us. So the next time we take inventory of our hearts and see ugly bitterness there, the next time we have opportunity to look at things we should not, and to lash out in hateful words, or to explain away our sins as if we are totally justified in giving ourselves to them…the next time those temptations come, maybe we remember that God is serious enough about sin to draw blood. So serious is he about sin, so much does he hate sin,

What you don’t see is often as important as what you do. If you only concentrate on verse 10, you don’t see what Isaiah says next, especially what he says at the end of our text. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.

He was numbered with the transgressors, so that we might be numbered with his holy ones. Through the pouring out of his life, he opened the doors to eternal life for you and me. Only if he first died, could he then rise from the dead three days later. And only a living Savior could hold our hands as we lay dying and say, “Because I live, you too shall live.” The snapshot of the crucifixion is a vital one, but only when we confess, “On third day he rose from the dead, he ascended and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty”—only then do we know the whole story.

God crushed him. But then he put him back together and exalted him. Through faith you and Jesus are inseparable. And so that’s what he does for you too.

I don’t know about you, but so many days I feel crushed. Not by God necessarily, although there certainly Biblical precedent for that sort of thing. Moreso though, we feel crushed by responsibilities and demands—family, work, financial, house and home—they come at us from every direction, there are always new ones being added to our “to do” list, and they all need our immediate attention. That’s enough to leave a person crushed beneath their weight.

Worry can be crushing as we wonder what problem is just around the corner, what issue might occasion our next trip to the doctor, what feather or firestorm will finally be the one that carries a tenuous relationship over the edge. Worry can crush a person beneath its weight.

But perhaps the most crushing weight one can carry is the cargo of conscience. Every day we want to do the right thing, say the right thing at the right time, make God happy, lift up the people around us. And every day, no matter how well we do, or how much good we do, we come to our bedtime prayers with things that haunt us, and a devil that taunts us. The past—be it long ago or quite recent can crush us beneath its weight.

But when you’re crushed, remember—you’re only seeing a snapshot. Even if it feels like you’ve been crushed for decades, it’s really only one page of your eternal story. The God who sees us crushed is also the God who gently, purposely, skillfully puts back together. And exalts us. As it was with Jesus, so it will be with the friends of Jesus.

So understand a few things as we try to tie this all together.

  • Contrary to appearances and real live feelings, crushed isn’t all that bad of a place to be. In the Bible, it’s the people who appear to have it all together are actually the ones who are furthest away from the kingdom of God. “But a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
  • Even when he’s the one doing the crushing, Our God sees the big picture. When Jesus was crushed, the Father knew exactly how, when, where and why he was going with all of it. Though the humiliation was great, God saw the exaltation that was coming like unstoppable freight train barreling down the tracks. So it is with us. I think that’s one of the neatest things about believing in God. There are so many days, when all I see is the snapshot, a ten second video clip of our existence. I can’t make sense of much. It all looks like swirling chaos. But I believe, you believe, we believe that there is one who knows exactly where all this is headed. And even if he doesn’t explain it, he’s doing what’s necessary to get us to his side forever. Only then will the unseen be seen, and unknown fully known.

So we entrust ourselves fully to the One who is seated at the right hand of the Father. He’s living proof that what God breaks apart, he can beautifully restore. Today we may be crushed, but because of Jesus, we know—and we rejoice–that one day, our crown is coming. Amen.

 

Jesus Was Humiliated For You

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Was Humiliated For You” based on Matthew 26:47-56 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, July 23, 2018

Friend, do what you came for.

Judas had arranged a signal with those chief priests and elders of the people.  The one I kiss is the man.  Even if Jesus wasn’t omniscient, the all-knowing God, he would have known that this kiss from Judas was something different.  The very word that Matthew used to describe it is only used a handful of times in the New Testament.

When the prodigal son, practicing his apology speech, wandered back home with hopes to become his father’s slave, his father ran out to meet him on the road, threw his arms around him, and kissed him because of how much he loved him.

When the Apostle Paul, preparing for another missionary journey, told the Ephesian elders that he would likely never see them again, they cried and embraced him and kissed him because of how much they loved him.

And, just days before this night in Gethsemane, when Jesus was staying at the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany, a woman came to him, knelt down in front of him, washed his feet with expensive perfume and her own hair, and would not stop kissing his feet because of how much she loved him.

This was the type of kiss that Judas gave to Jesus. The same kiss and embrace he had given him in the past.  The same kiss he had received from Jesus when troubled times wreaked their havoc in his life.  And yet, with this kiss, Judas betrayed Jesus and handed him over to his enemies for sure and certain death.

And, because he is omniscient, the all-knowing God, Jesus knew why Judas came to the garden that night, with the crowd from the chief priests and elders of the people, with their swords and clubs.  He knew why Judas came in close and gave him this kiss.  But he didn’t stop it.  He didn’t call down twelve legions of angels to be at his defense and disposal.  He knew it had to be this way.  He knew the Scriptures had to be fulfilled, so there was only one thing for him to say.  Friend, do what you came for.

Jesus’ words did not excuse Judas’ thoughts, words, and actions.  Rather, Judas’ thoughts, words, and actions were the reason why it all had to happen this way.  Not just on that night in the Garden of Gethsemane, but throughout his whole life.

Can you imagine the emotions Jesus must have felt 3 years earlier as he called Judas to be one of his closest companions?  Among the rag-tag team of disciples, Judas must have blended in well enough; at times asking Jesus important, faith-filled questions, and putting his trust in Jesus’ response.  Other times, like when that woman washed Jesus’ feet, Judas, as did the other disciples, expressed his misunderstanding of Jesus’ ministry.

The whole time, Jesus knew that Judas would betray him with a kiss and not only did he allow it to happen, but he allowed all the event of that evening to happen so that he could win forgiveness for that betrayal and for all of Judas’ sin.

With how much Jesus loved Judas and with how much Judas loved Jesus, one begins to wonder why Judas would have gone through with it.  Yes, the Scriptures had to be fulfilled, but that wasn’t the priority on Judas’ mind.  He also wasn’t some robot, programmed by God to carry out this task without any consideration for his own will or volition.

Judas, while not the omniscient, all-knowing God, did know who Jesus was and did know what the chief priests and elders of the people wanted to do with him once they could get their hands on him.  And yet he not only allowed this betrayal to happen, but even did all he could, with secret midnight meetings, in full premeditated motive, to make it happen.

Do you ever try to come up with an excuse for Judas’ thoughts, words, and actions?

It was just a rash reaction, as the treasurer of the disciples’ bank account, to the woman breaking the alabaster jar of perfume and wasting it on Jesus’ feet.

He was just fulfilling the purpose for which he was put on this earth.

He was overcome by the temptations of the Devil.

He was confused.

He made a mistake and didn’t fully understand the repercussions.

Say what you want, but none of those excuses remove Judas’ fault and culpability for his sin.  And, unfortunately, the same is true when you try to use those same excuses to remove your own fault and culpability for your sins.

One thing led to another and, before I knew it, it got out of hand.

I didn’t know how strong that last drink was going to be.

It started out so innocently and then I made a lapse in judgment.

I didn’t know what else to do.

It was a simple mistake.  Everybody makes mistakes.  Nobody’s perfect.

You know right from wrong.  You know who Jesus is and that, when you sin, you are disobeying him.  You know that you are not simply allowing sin to happen but, so often, you are, with full premeditated motive, making it happen.

Try as you might, you cannot excuse your sin away, diminish it, or sweep it under the rug.  The only way to get rid of it is for your friend to do what he came for.  You need Jesus to be humiliated for you.

Jesus’ humiliation was not simply some sort of embarrassment therapy he underwent as some spiritual journey throughout his years on this earth.  His humiliation was him accomplishing a task that was outright inconceivable for the almighty God to undertake.

Jesus left the honor and praise of his throne in the glory of heaven to become an embryo in the womb of a woman.  The sinless Son of God submitted himself to the authority and commands of sinful human parents.  The author and very personification of the Word of God spent day and night studying, meditating on, and teaching the Scriptures in the Temple and its courts.  The almighty God, the Sabaoth LORD, in control of the myriad armies of heaven, allowed humans with crude weapons to take him into custody.  The one whose face exudes glory allowed it to, instead, be marred by fists and spit, cuts and bruises.  The very Resurrection and Life in human form died the death of a common thief and was buried in someone else’s tomb.

He did it all, not to excuse your sin, diminish it, or sweep it under the rug; but to fulfill the most ancient prophecy in the Scriptures and conquer sin, death, and the Devil for you.

Knowing all that you would do, all the sinful thoughts, words, and actions that you have committed and all that you will commit in the future, Jesus was humiliated for you; to live his perfect life in your place and sacrifice that perfect life as payment for them all.

Friends, knowing who Jesus is and what he has done for you, do what you came here for today.  Do not do what Judas did, seeing how greatly he sinned against his Jesus and, in despair and desperation, think that your sins are unforgivable as he did.

Instead, confess your sins to the one you have sinned against and repent of them.  Kneel down in front of your Savior and, because you love him so much, lay everything you have at his feet.  And, because he loves you so much, know that he did what he came for.  Jesus was humiliated for you.  He fulfilled the Scriptures.  You are forgiven.  Amen.

Jesus Has Something to Say

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Has Something to Say” based on Matthew 6:25-34 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, July 15, 2018

Have you heard the one about the mouse and the magician?  A mouse has this great fear of cats.  A magician took pity on this poor, little mouse and turned it into a cat.  Before long, that cat developed a crippling fear of dogs…so the magician turned the cat into a dog.  The dog soon became afraid of panthers…the magician turned the dog into a panther.  And in short order, the panther was deathly afraid of hunters.  He begged the magician to turn him into a hunter.  He magician replied… “I will not.  You may look like a panther on the outside, but you still have the heart of a mouse.”

This may be a silly fable, but it does reveal something about you and me.  We may try to look tough on the outside…we may try to look like we’re ready to conquer the world…we may want to look like panthers to all who see us…but so often on the inside, we’re just a little mouse…frightened and worried about many of the things around us.

What is it that occupies your thoughts at this stage of your life?  What worries you?  I’m guessing all of you, if given enough time, could come up with a list of a handful of real-life issues that stress you out.  I’m also guessing, that somewhere on that list you’d have something that has to do with finances or money.

Will we have enough?  Have you ever asked that question when it comes to finances?

  • Will we have enough once we get out of college?
  • Will we have enough to start a family?
  • Will we have enough to take care of our kids and put groceries on the table and put gas in the car…without putting thousands and thousands on credit cards?
  • Or maybe we already have thousands and thousands on credit cards…will we ever be able to dig ourselves out of debt?
  • Will we have enough to pay for school or pay for medical bills?
  • Will we have enough to retire? How much will I need?

Finances are important.  Because we live in a world where so many of our decisions have to do with money, it’s important that we think about and talk about and plan and spend wisely.  But it’s also very easy for us to become consumed.  And it’s easy for us to worry and be afraid.  That can lead to poor decisions like failing to hear and listen to the voice of Jesus.  Jesus has something to say.

First of all, worrying doesn’t work.  Just like it doesn’t work or help when I yell at the TV when my favorite wide receiver drops the ball or the running back fumbles at a crucial time during the game.  My telling doesn’t change the outcome.  So also, my worrying and stressing won’t pay any bills or shrink my credit card debt or put the kids through college.  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  So why do it?  Because there are so many unknowns.  Weren’t you listening before when we wondered if we’d have enough?  Haven’t we all been conditioned, in this economy-minded world, to think that the more we have in the bank…the more equity we have in our home…the more stocks and bonds in our portfolio the safer and more secure we will be?  That’s why I worry!  Even if it doesn’t do any good, it’s natural for us to worry, right?

Wrong!  Worrying – listening to what the world has to say and NOT listening to what Jesus says…that’s not natural; that’s sinful.  So yes, Jesus has something to say.  And he uses two unlikely preachers:  a bird and a flower.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin…yet, your heavenly Father clothes them.  It’s a little embarrassing that birds, possessing no soul and no reason, know how to instinctively trust the Creator more than we do.  While we’re fretting over whether or not we’ll have enough, the birds take God’s blessings, day by day.  While we’re losing sleep over whether or not we can afford a new home or wondering about how we’ll retire, the beautiful flowers of the field stand as a testament of God’s ability to wrap wonderful clothing around his creation.  What are you worried about?  To worry is to miss the valuable lesson Jesus wants to teach you:  you are valuable!

  • For Jesus did not humble himself and take on the flesh and form of a bird or a lily…he took on the flesh and blood of a human being – that’s because you are more valuable.
  • Jesus wasn’t punished for the transgressions of the animal or plant kingdom – he paid for the sins of the world…a world of sinful human beings.
  • In your baptism, Jesus put the sign of the cross on your head and your heart…not the sparrow’s…and your baptism stands as a testament of God’s ability to wrap wonderful clothing around the crown of his creation…a garment of righteousness more beautiful and pure than anything worn by Solomon or anything seen in the fields.
  • And it’s true, the Bible says the Lord is so caring and so invested in the whole of his creation that even a sparrow will not fall to the ground without his knowing and caring, yet when Jesus looks at the palm of his hand he doesn’t see the names of sparrows engraved there…but he does see your name. Are you not much more valuable than they are?

You can give your ears to what the world has to say about finances and money.  You can follow their advice: Greedily grab as much as you can and stock up as much as you can for the future.  You can put your trust in the economy and the size of your savings, which can disappear as fast as you can say Great Depression or Great Recession or Stock Market Crash.

Or you can give your ears to Jesus and put your trust in him. He has something to say.  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

  • He won’t promise to drown you in worldly wealth, which can rot and rust – he’s already given you an inheritance which can never perish, spoil, or fade…he’ll make sure you also have bread and water and house and home.
  • He won’t promise to be a magician who waves his wand and removes any and every circumstance that seems big and scary – instead he’ll stand by you and invite you to cast your cares on him.

So don’t worry.  Why not?  Because worrying doesn’t help.  Worrying replaces the promises of Jesus with stress about the future.  Worrying is unnecessary – for you already have eternity in your hands…you have Jesus!

Amen.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” based on Psalm 139:14 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.