Midweek Advent One

The time is at hand for you to be ready. No more sleeping. Your salvation is nearer to you than when you first believed. Be active and watchful! Saint Paul calls us forth out of our slumbers, out of the darkness of sin into the marvelous light of Jesus. The readings for the end of the church year prepared you for the readings of Advent. The end harkens to the beginning. And the beginning, our Advent together (this Advent), harkens us to the Cross and the work of Jesus in the midst of us.

Wake, awake, the time has come for you to be serious. For you to be about the work you have been given to do. The watchmen on the heights are crying… the Bridegroom is at hand…and the enemy is on the prowl. The night is far gone, and yet we pretend that it is still upon us. The work is at hand and yet we pretend that we can lollygag around and not be concerned for our spiritual situation or those of our neighbors and enemies, our family and friends. We act like we know when the Master of the house will return. We act like we have time to clean up our own messes or accumulate enough to satisfy our debts with God. But we don’t know the time or the hour.

But we do know the enemy prowls around like a hungry lion, looking for someone to devour. His work is serious. The devil knows that you are a tasty meal, ripe for the kill. In fact, he has marked you with a target clearly seen by all your enemies and they want to take you down. The problem is that you can’t see all them… and the ones you can see, the ones you interact with, are good at deception. But if we could see all the darts, daggers, swords, guns, and evil things pointed at us, we would desire the sure and ready Sword of the Word of God and his Sacraments every time it was offered, everyday, every hour, every minute.

Repent, your salvation is at hand. Do not worry. Cast your anxiety on the Lord himself, for he cares for you every hour and every minute. Don’t worry about the heaviness of your eyelids…or the devil and his accomplices. He has been judged and the deed is done. He may show his fangs, but they will not be able to destroy you. He may scowl fierce as he will, but he will not devour you. It is the Lord Jesus that has come for you. He cares for you this way: he brings the light of heaven into the darkness of sin and death. He unravels death and steals away its sting, the grave is now just a bedroom and death a sleep. And as for you, Jesus has clothed you in the righteousness of heaven. You are wrapped in the clothing of Christ. You’re being cleansed in the blood of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

The armor of light has been prepared for you. You have been dressed by the Son of God himself with protection for the fight. Know this: it is a fight. The devil is real; his minions are all around you. The world hates you. Your old Adam is fighting to live every day of your life. The situation is serious. The enemies are more real than anything you have ever met. But you have a Lord and Savior that is far more strong that any devil or demon. He has washed you in his blood, named you with the name that is above every name, vested you with heavenly armor, and marches with you on the plain. He feeds you with food fit for angels and saints triumphant; binds up your hurts and patches your wounds with the oil of heaven.

You have this promise: The cross of Jesus has undone Satan and destroyed your sins. The Law and all your enemies can no longer accuse you. Every provision has been made for you. You will not fight alone and you will not lose. God is with you in your sorrow and this Jesus will not forsake you in your pain. The hour is here. Come, feast with the Lord, let him feed you with his body and blood again. Partake of your salvation, your sins are forgiven and God has made you citizens of the light… the Light of the World.

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Ad Te Levavi Sermon

The end harkens back to the beginning and the beginning to the end. Watch, be awake, be ready, for the end is drawing nigh. The first day of the church year can only be seen in the shadow of Good Friday…where your sin, the reign of death, Satan— meets its match. The end is drawing nigh. So the King comes to you. He comes lowly, humble, riding on a beast of burden. He comes triumphant into the holy city, but he comes unlike any other king would. He comes unlike any other god would. This is the Savior of the Nations, the God of Creation, the government is on his shoulder, but he will not over throw Caesar. The emperor’s government will be an instrument to free the world and you from sin and death. “Hail to the Son of David, Hosanna!” the people shout.

So it is that the ancient Gospel text for the first Sunday in Advent (Ad Te Levavi) is the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. The characteristic of the coming Babe of Bethlehem is defined by this. Your God comes to you: Lowly and humble. Advent is a season of preparation, but its name confuses it. Advent is Latin for “I come.” Jesus comes to his people. The Second Person of the Trinity is the great apostle, having been sent to interrupt the monotony of the world…to destroy the reign of a thief prince, to destroy lies, and to establish truth. He walks in the cool of the Garden of Eden, he comes down to see the Tower of Babel, he hears the cries of his people and comes to Moses in the burning bush to rescue and make well. Immanuel is God with Us…God visiting us, God keeping his promises. He rides into the holy city to die for your sins. He comes to Roswell even to have you for himself.

A God that throws off all conceptions of what God is. Not a divine watch maker that creates the heavens and the earth and then once the machine has been set in motion, goes to start another project. Not a god that needs to be found, approached, and appeased. He’s not abstract and unique to each person and their feelings. He is the true God that comes to find you. Seeks you out and comes. He is the God that is always revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. The face of Trinity is the blooded God-Man on the cross of Calvary…and there is no other god.

Whatever the reason the people filled the streets that day, they did not think they were participating in a funeral march. Perhaps they thought it was their freedom from Roman oppression or from the oppression of the Sadducees. It makes no difference. Not even the disciples of Jesus really knew what was going on. They had been in Jerusalem many times before and this had never happened. But this is the end. The beginning of our church year is informed and defined by that end. What is that end? It is the Good Friday, death on the cross, end. We will celebrate, but we will get the focus wrong from time to time, too. Crosses are gory. Death is usually an unpleasant topic. The temptation will be to forget your God: Jesus Christ and his coming, despite this season of piped-in Christmas music and crazy shopping. Satan will try to steal away the real reason you gather week in and week out. The world will try to convince you that you are on the “nice list” and that there is no reason to worry about payment for sin, crosses, and propitiation.

Nonetheless, the people shouted, Hosanna! It means, “Save us!” The people need saving. You shout, “Hosanna!” You need saving, too. And even if you were silent, the very stones would cry out. The Savior comes, the Son of David comes, to his creation, to his people. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! They sang. A people informed by the Holy Spirit. It was not flesh and blood that revealed this to them, but the very Spirit of the Living God. The Son of David comes in the name of the Lord to save his people from their sins. Jesus means “God saves!” The words of their cry were a people, a creation, a world reminding God of his promises.

Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we sing the Words of that Triumphal Entry. You will sing them again today, in fact. The liturgy, the great cloud of witnesses, you, the Church will remind God again that he is the God that Saves. You will put your hope in the God that comes. You will delight with the saints of all time that your God comes to you, lowly and humble, riding no longer on a donkey, but on bread and wine.

Once they were in the holy city, Jesus told his disciples that they would not see him again until they said, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” You celebrate again today with the King that comes to find you and destroy your sins, to establish the truth of his victory over death and Satan…and you see him again. The words of our Lord come true, as you partake of his very body and his blood. You sing, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” with all the church with the saints of all time, with the great cloud of heavenly witnesses. You sing the acknowledgement of a God that saved and yet still comes. You sing of a God that washes you in that blood, makes you righteous, and names you with his name.

That means that the end harkens back to the beginning. Your end, your death, was your beginning, for you are the baptized of God. You have been marked by the blood of the Crucified One and Jesus has saved you from all your sins. He gives you his name. The cross is now your life. You have been made like him…redeemed by Christ the crucified.

Now the beginning of the Church year, that we celebrate today, is again the end of sin and death. And the characteristic coming of Jesus is not over, but new again today. He comes. Once he came in blessing, all our sins redressing; came in likeness lowly, Son of God most holy; Bore the cross to save us; Hope and freedom gave us. Today he comes in Word preached and Sacrament given: all our sins destroying; came by means of his Spirit; Son of God most lowly. The bread of life to give us!

In the name of +Jesus. Amen.

 

In the boat

The prophet was asleep in the bow. Jonah didn’t want God’s mercy to fall upon people that he didn’t feel deserved it. You and I have felt the same way before… or maybe you feel it right now. A grudge, a heart filled with anger or resentment… you would have done it different if you were God. And like Jonah, you are okay with yourself, so okay — to sleep while the world falls to pieces above you. Jonah trusted in his plan instead of God. He thought the boat would get to Tarshish. You don’t ever expect that the weather will divert your plans and tear apart your escape route. And so the sailors needed to wake him up. God pursued him and he ended up in the depths of a stomach—for three long days and nights.

The human existence is marred with anger and murder. We’d not love our neighbor as our self. We’d be judge of those who sin just like us and send them all to the belly of the lake of fire BUT instead our desire to hold on to this sin will send the clouds and storms of the skies or the storms of war upon us. Without the law, we would just be comfortable like Jonah, asleep in the bow of a boat heading out on a pleasure cruise. But the storms of God’s law find us anywhere we choose to hide. We won’t be able to hide from God’s Word. We won’t be able to sleep through the storm or dream through the pain. Nothing will save you. No ship, no plan, no work, no coma… the only answer is to be cast into the depth of God’s Word.

Repent. The Word of God is asleep in the bow of your boat.

What seemed like a disaster to the disciples was nothing in the eyes of faith. The one who spoke the clouds into existence would speak them into good behavior. Nothing in all the world would keep him from granting MERCY upon you and all your foes, even those we don’t feel deserve it. For Jesus, he is so comfortable with the plan set forth for him, a storm is just a normal occurrence on his daily schedule. He comes that the human existence would be rewritten. No longer will you and I be riddled by the reign of our sinful nature. No longer will Satan have dominion over us. Jesus will not let the world use its wind and rain and hail to divert us into fear and trembling. God is pursuing you and all your sin and he ended up upon a cross, died, and in the depths of a tomb—for three long days and nights.

That is your freedom, your life, your forgiveness, and your salvation. God has spoken —to the wind and the waves, to Satan, and to death. Their reign is over. Now is the reign of the Son of God and of this Immanuel, and his throne and dominion and power, there is no end.

Jesus does all things well. You can sleep secure in his loving embrace.

Amen.

The Feast of Saint Matthew

We would require sacrifice. Our heart’s desire is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We are very good at seeking out vengeance. And we’re willing to be a Matthew, a tax collector, a cheat, a liar, or a thief as long as we get a fat wallet or can stick it to the man. It’s the heart of each of us that is the problem.

“Why do you think evil in your hearts?”

And we are the ones that complain about a God that includes the less fortunate, the poor, the ones that dress differently than us, the ones that talk differently than us, the ones that we don’t like. And yet it is everyone of us that have fallen short of God’s desire. His image shattered and his likeness lost on a people that thrive on boasting, pride, covetousness, and all those things. We are a sick people.

Repent.

It won’t get any better for you on your own. You need a doctor. Rejoice with me, God has sent one to you and to me. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, if there were such a one. He did not come to yuck it up with the experts on prayer and keeping the law. Rather, he came to the sick… to you and to me. He comes to rip from your chest the heart that causes all your evil desires. He comes to give you a new heart, a right spirit. And with that clean heart, then he eats with you, rejoices with you, prepares you for the battle to come, and goes out into it with you.

He comes to the most unlikely—to the ones that don’t deserve it and makes us worthy, he comes to the sick to call us righteous. That he did at your baptism as he clothed you in the blood that he shed on the cross. That he does today as he gives you that body and blood again for your forgiveness and life. You see, the cross is his death, but your life. When he dies, he brings and end to the reign of boasting, of death, of graves, and sin. As a sacrifice, he shows his mercy… his long suffering love. For it is showered down on you today. Love calling your righteous, holy, and forgiven.

The Authority of True Love

We have the right to remain silent, but it will not help us, anything we have said, done, or thought can be used against us in the court of LAW. We have no right to an attorney present now or during any future questioning, but of course we cannot afford an attorney, anyway. O, what a burden the LAW is. Our so called rights we hold dear, that we claim are inalienable, mean nothing here… mean nothing now. Our God is staring us down, standing before us. “Let the hills hear what you have to say!” The LORD has lodged a charge against his people, he has a case against his Israel… his Church… his you.

JESUS of Nazareth, what have you to do with us??!

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Many of you were infants… some of you were teenagers, young adults, or full grown responsible types. “Not many of us were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” But how would that have helped us anyway? Who were we? We were poor in spirit (or rather lacked any spirit at all)! Day and night we mourned with all of creation from the pain of sin and the suffering that is all around us. And we were liars. We told the world that we could do it all ourselves and that we would do it all by love. But we had no love. We were like a clanging cymbal. We told our family and our friends that we were strong and that they could depend on us and our possessions… but we did not mention our God, not once did we give any credit to anyone else, let alone God! Our money, our influence, and our rights have made us thing we are powerful…authoritative… and then we lied even to ourselves.

We tell ourselves that we are powerful. We are influential and wise on our own. We boasted in ourselves and falsely built stability where there was none. God was not good enough for us. Oh what a burden he has become. Droughts here, flooding there, sickness here, disease there… he has stripped us of our rights. We deserve to be honored and loved, all the while forgetting to love and even what it means to love. We have the right to be given rain (when it’s needed), good crops, good health, and we should be showered with intelligence and with gifted children. After all we have claimed him as our God. What good is a God that cannot help us and defend our inalienable rights we have as men. We have the right to come before him when we want to… we have the right to receive his gifts when we feel we need them… and when we are happy and it is time to celebrate we might invite him when we remember to.

Repent. The Kingdom of Heaven is here. God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God is not interested in burnt offerings, or sacrifices of a thousand rams. He is interested in you, his holy people. Humans have one right… it is the right to die. You have done enough on your own to deserve that one right… in your sin, you deserve death—for the wages of sin is death.

God has no current suit against the angels or the trees. The dogs and cats of the world have nothing to worry about. It’s his people, human beings, you — that he confronts concerning sin. But before you can answer, one man stands up. Even though you can afford no attorney, one stands in your place. One man stands before the mountains and before the face of the Heavenly Father and says unto the Lord, “O Father, you have picked your people up out of their and have placed them on dry ground. You have fed them and nourished them and guided them. In the darkness you have sent light—a bright Morning Star to guide their way and to teach them your path. I will pay for their rebellion. Upon the cross, I — the God Man Jesus — shed my blood and receive the death man deserves, I die for their transgressions.”

Before another can stand, before any other —even you— can speak, the voice from heaven declares, “Guilty! Guilty as charged!” And there before you all, that man Jesus, your attorney, your stand in, your sacrifice, your Savior makes you his brother and sister, as the nails dug into his hands and feet and the spear into his side. The blood and water ran down and filled the font—Jesus, claiming you as his brother… his sister… showing you what love really is. Showing the world how true authority is exercised. And so in that font he claimed you as his own and washed you there — stripping you of all your sins. He dried you off and gave you robes of noble birth. Christ calls you to his house (here), to nourish you and to feed you. He bids you come to his table to receive his life giving body and blood—the medicine of immortality.

You have the right to remain silent, but which of you can?? God drives you forward with his Word. He has given you his life, his Son, his everything. He lights your way and teaches you his path. He gives a perfect picture of a Love that bears all things, that does not boast, a love that is not arrogant or rude, a love that never ends. Rejoice and be glad, for Christ Jesus is your great reward and he calls you. He is faithful and he will do it.

In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev. Steven Thomas Cholak

Christmass Morning

maryhadalittlelion

In the beginning was the Word and the Word created the heavens and the earth. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. Now the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep. In the Word was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Genesis and John speak of beginnings (Genesis and John speak of the same things?), the beginning of man and the beginning of sin…of death…and of darkness. We learn of darkness that continues on in every person’s life…even the lives of you and me. As Adam and Eve took the fruit all men entered with Adam into sin and death and the darkness that is such a favorite of Satan. All men entered into sin, even the Psalmist reminds us, “in sin my mother conceived me.”

Can you comprehend this idea of darkness and sin? For the action of Adam and Eve that brought sin into the world…is just like darkness. If you walk into a room and turn off the light, does only the area of the room by the lamp get dark? No…the whole room falls under the vale of darkness. It is also the case with sin, the corruption and death and darkness that entered the world affected the whole world, all the world. The entire wonderful creation, all of its beauty, all of the paradise, everything was and is tainted. It was all darkened by sin, darkened in the shadow of death – stuck in the bondage of the devil…stuck in the darkness.

But it gets worse… Like unto the darkness of the ninth plague of Egypt that preceded the Exodus… John uses a word for darkness that means a darkness that most of us don’t quite get. It is a darkness that is heavy, that you can reach out and touch, pull on, and wrap yourself in. It is a tangible darkness… a darkness that has a punch. That’s your sin, my sin, the sin of the world is a weight that wraps us up and weighs us down— not like a blanket on a cold night, but like a lead apron you must wear to have an x-ray taken, like a ball and chain, like sickness and death that plops down upon you and sucks the life from you. At first it seems fun, but then…

Even we are not immune from the shackles of death, from this darkness. St. Paul reminds us that we are all sinful and fall short of the glory of God. That means us, that means darkness, that means eternal damnation and nothing we can conjure up can save us from it. It tricks us and deceives us…we think we know better than God. Even Adam thought he knew more than God…even the Israelites thought they knew more then God as they molded their golden calf.

Repent. The kingdom of God is with us. God never fails. He continued to assure his people of Christmass. He assures his people of his Word that is life and that life is the LIGHT of men. He assures his people of the light that would overcome, conquer, and stomp out the darkness. God’s people knew of Christmas. God gave a promise of a light, a light so bright that nothing would overtake it!

And the darkness did not and could not overcome the LIGHT. The darkness will never overcome it. From the very beginning, this Christ has been the light of the world and this Christ has been our light. And this Christ has become man. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. It was in familiar ways with familiar things that God came to his people and Christmas was no exception. Christ came as baby – with skin and bones and crying set of lungs. He came as human flesh and blood to be like us, to be for us and to be with us.

But how so for us? For us on on a cross for us. He came that man’s debt would be paid and the curse of sin would be removed. He came so that he would die on the cross of Calvary and would rise again to destroy darkness and its sting. So the manger, the beginning of Jesus ministry, always sits in the shadow of the cross. But from the cross forward there are no shadows. The valley of the shadow of death all comes undone there. The sun and the stars didn’t give their light, but Christ still shined through as he conquered your sin and made the world new again.

And so this is the fullness of time, Christ still comes to us for us in familiar ways. It is here in the font with water and with Word – in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, that we have been joined to the death—the cross of the Lamb of God— and to the resurrection of Christ and freed from the darkness. With ordinary Words preached and proclaimed into our ears…we are joined to the one who was nailed to the cross for our transgression, the one that said from that cross, “It is finished!” The darkness no longer has a hold on us. It is this death of Christ that makes us alive. Alive! With bread and wine he combines his Word to give you food and drink from heaven. He comes not to better himself, but to bring light to you and me. He comes as man because of his great love. He comes out of great love—for us! Here today we have Christ! Here today we have the forgiveness of our sins! Here today we can celebrate in the light that never fades.

Christ is the light that shines on as a beacon this Christmas. Christ shines on for us! Christ who was, who is, and who always, always will be! Rejoice! Merry Christmas! The LIGHT shines!

Stones for Abraham

What did you go out into the wilderness to see? What did you wake up early on a Sunday morning to see? Was it just a man or is it something more?

John was the first to leap for joy at the coming of the Christ. But the herald of Advent, its great messenger sent from above uses his voice to prepare you and to give you the advent you need. “But among you stands one you do not know,” he says. Among you God comes to dwell. The great I AM that created you and gave you all things comes to stand among you. But you don’t know him. Your path is not straight and there seems to be too much in your way. Christ is in your way or maybe it’s his bride—the church? Maybe the Ho, Ho, Ho of Santa Claus has removed what the Holy Spirit has worked to proclaim in the wilderness?

And so God sends you John and he sends you advent. He sends you four weeks of preparation, prayer, and repentance at the voice of the Prophet John. He is not the Christ. He isn’t even the prophet or Elijah (except he is)! He wants no attention of his own but instead wants you to see God Almighty —Jesus Christ—who stands among you. He will splash the water of the Jordan river and speak the Word of the Lord as he points you to this. one. man. He came to his own and his own did not know him… yet He stands here, not by virtue of your faith or your good works or your reputation, or your building, BUT —by virtue of His Word proclaimed and his sacraments administered. John is not worthy to untie his sandals and you to be called by his name and yet he comes to serve you with his life.

A brood of vipers then —gathered at the banks of the Jordan river—a brood of vipers now. Time does nothing to cleanse and change the human nature. We are sick in our sin and dead to God because of it.

Who warned you to flee the wrath to come?

How do you deal with your sin? How do you deal with your brothers and sisters when they sin against you? How do you deal with it when you sin against others…or even against someone you love??!! Do you try to reconcile yourself with some gods of your own liking? God is not mocked. Your sin, all of your sin, deserves punishment. You can’t justify it away with circumstance, logic theory, or memory loss. You are a sinner and nothing you can do about it can change it. And don’t begin to say to yourself that you are a Christian… that you have been a member of the Lutheran church for a month or two—or well, your whole life! God is able to make Lutherans out of the very stones in the parking lot. Every tree that doesn’t bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. You can’t deal with your sin. It is too much for you. Stop trying. Stop telling yourself that you don’t need the Word of God, stop insisting that you can go a week without the holy communion… stop thinking that you can keep some sins from God and tell him only the ones for which you’ve worked out the plan! Stop reasoning that you don’t really need to hear absolution for that sin, that the one thats burning you up inside, doesn’t need the certainty of the Word preached to its context and circumstance.

Stop listening to Satan and the world tell you to forget this Christ since you don’t even know him. The message of the devil is that you will find the comfort of Christmas in your homes with family or in reindeer or in a jolly old elf or in red cheery coffee cups, but not in the Word of God and in our Lord’s holy Sacraments. The preaching of the Cross of Jesus and the celebrating of his sacraments gets in the way of the devil’s agenda.

Repent! The kingdom of God is near! The voice of one calling from the Jordan makes straight the way of the LORD. An Advent for you! The Word of God opened the lips of John the Baptizer as he stood in the Jordan’s water and drenched us in the Word of God. The Word of God comes here, too. The Holy Spirit calls you by name and leads you in a straight path…and so it is that every preacher since John has preached by the water… for in your Baptism the Old Adam in you by daily contrition and repentance is drowned and dies with all sins and evil desires, and a new man daily emerges from that water and rises to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

And God keeps sending his Word to you. He will not allow the world to hide this great gift from you. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He came for broods of vipers. He only comes for sinners. You have to be a sinner to qualify. Thanks be to God that he sent his Son—that dying on the CROSS, all sin would be destroyed, the power of Satan unraveled, and the sting of death removed.

God gives you Advent, he gives you John, he gives you your pastors and he marks his Word upon you. Christ stands here among y’all and the voice of his Word shouts in this wilderness called life. And it shouts through Water, through called and ordained preachers, through bread and wine, that Christ died upon his cross and with his blood he paid the ransom that gives you life eternal. So Advent prepares you for this life eternal. Advent is the Word of God coming to you to make Jesus Christ known to you as you live in this busy life. Advent is God giving life and salvation to you.

The font is in a slightly different spot because of the Christmas tree…which I think is good because when you stumble into it, you remember that God has made you his child and an heir to the Heavenly kingdom. Water to remind you that you have been washed from your sins and made clean by the blood of the Lamb. An altar for you to see and know that God makes his dwelling with you. A pulpit to give you the assurance that God’s Word is not hidden but heard. The Holy Spirit knows that you need this Christ and gives you his body and blood in the bread and wine and there you have forgiveness. There is Christ. That is Christmas. God dwelling here for you, in you, to forgive you. Happy and Blessed Advent. God has made your way straight and given Jesus to you. He is yours, not just today, not just December 25, but always. He is not far from you, but always with you and you know him. And because of his love…you are forgiven.

A False and Misleading Dream

The sermon preached at Matins for the Higher Things Retreat: Law and Gospel at Faith Lutheran Church in Plano.

Grace, Mercy, and Peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.  None can remove sin’s poisoned dart… we only drive it deeper. While causing sin and wrath we elevate ourselves over others. The LAW is not a stepping stone or ladder to gain heaven. The LAW is but a mirror bright to bring the in bread sin to light. And sin does indeed lurk within our nature.

It does not want us to hallow God’s name, to pray, to give thanks, and call upon his name. Have you let Satan and the world and your flesh entice you to forget? Have you been plunged into the midst of a false and misleading dream?? Would someone tell you that you can by your works gain heaven??? And that someone might be you. Because your flesh can’t abstain, and you can’t walk away… sin holds its way unceasing in our deep corruption.

So it is that God reminds you, through Paul (the apostle), through Higher Things, through Faith Lutheran Church and each of the churches you call home… and your through your pastors, but especially, most seriously, through their preaching — the delivering to you as of first importance — Christ died for our sins in accordance with Scriptures that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to many witnesses.

So we sang, “Yet as the Law must be fulfilled or we must die despairing, Christ came and has God’s anger stilled, our human nature sharing. He has for us the Law obeyed and thus the Father’s vengeance stayed which over us impended.” And thus one has removed your poisoned dart. One has elevated you above himself. One has become your stepping stone and ladder to heaven. He is the Light of heaven and sin cannot lurk in his presence. This one is Jesus.

Christ has full atonement made and has brought you full salvation. It was by his dying on the cross of shame and the curse of man’s sin that he has made new again what death had languished in despair. It is by this work, this dying, this agony and bloody sweat, that you gain heaven. Believe the Word, faith clings to Jesus Christ alone, for it is a free gift of God that you this day are saved through that faith. It is a gift of Jesus, God’s own son, delivered to you on Holy Spirit wings. Out the sermon, in the ear, and perched and nested in your heart.

Rejoice, O sinner, for today the Father has been reconciled to you again. Today, Jesus speaks a clear and powerful Word to you and to His Father in heaven. This one, these ones, the lambs here gathered have been washed in the blood of the cross and they are good and new… saints and by that blood you are saved.

How can anyone get into heaven?

As Jesus was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. At first glance, you might think this is all about wealth, riches, bank accounts, real estate, and the like. And you would be wrong. Instead it is all about stripping us of our own gods and goddesses, the delights of our hearts, and pointing us again to the CROSS of Jesus.

How difficult it is for a man to enter the kingdom of God. Who, then could ever enter the Kingdom?! The rich young man had kept the commandments…right? Just like you and me, right? You are Christian, you come to church, you pray, you may even come running to Jesus in the delights of your successes, but you have a heart just like this young man. And what kind of heart is that??

The intention of man’s heart is evil.

Every heart has been since Adam’s fall. No matter how good you look, how great you work, and what bottom line you have in your bank account or portfolio, or even what ears you can bend by the water cooler, your heart is corrupt. It’s only an evil diet of filth continually. The problem isn’t your wealth or lack of it, it is the god that you have made yourself out to be.

This young man’s sin wasn’t that he was wealthy or that he was young or even that he was greedy. His sin was trust. Jesus explains: “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” Not because riches are inherently sinful, but because those who have wealth see little need for a Savior. Wealth is an easy thing to trust in, and those who trust in wealth aren’t trusting in Christ. And so Jesus says, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”

Yes, the young man trusted in his wealth. But it may not be wealth for you or it may be wealth for you. It may be how you treat others or what you say about them or to them. Your bottom line might be how well you gossip or what you can steal from those who are vulnerable. You want to be able to trust in the things of your life, people, possessions, etc. We are very good at putting all sorts of things in our life in order to not have to trust in a Savior.

You’ve heard it said, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Jesus says, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” The Law is a gift of God for you, but it isn’t something you can handle. It does one thing, it kills you. It leaves you sorrowful, it crushes your allegiances and unravels your trust. God’s law is meant to remove those things in life that can’t save you!

Have you kept the commandments? Really, have you had no other gods in your life? Have you called upon his name in every trouble? Have you remembered the sabbath day and held the preaching of God’s Word as sacred and strived to hear and learn it? Have you honored those in authority over you, loved them, honored them, served and obeyed them? Have you hurt your neighbor? Have you spoken well of him, built him up, defended him, and put the best construction on everything – explaining it all in the kindest way?? And what of your neighbor’s possessions and family…have you coveted, schemed, and enticed?

How difficult it is for a man to enter the kingdom of God! Repent!

The kingdom of God is at hand!

Jesus looked at the young rich ruler and loved him. He taught him using the full weight of the Law and yet there was sweet and full Gospel there for him. Jesus looks at you and loves you! Who can be saved? Well, with man it is impossible. You can’t ask: what must I do! Your faith asks, what has Christ done for me! Because with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Camels can go through the tiniest of openings and you can be made new, clean, and holy in the working of faith in your heart.

And so unlike the rich young man and unlike us, Jesus picks up his Cross and goes all the way to death, emptying himself of the riches of heaven so that he could have you as his own.

But He is not finished. The Good Teacher now offers that cross to you. By His holy Law preached to you this day, He still warns and accuses of sin-not so that you walk away sorrowful, but so that you might repent and turn away from that which would destroy you. And by His holy Gospel, He gives you His cross. He takes away your sins-you need not suffer and die for them because He already has. He gives you His righteousness, giving you the credit and benefits of His perfect keeping of God’s Law. He makes you His family, members of His household. He marks you with His cross in Holy Baptism, that He might join you to His death. He gives you His body and blood as he bids you come to the table of his supper, that He might join you to His life.

You can’t. He can; and He does. Faithfully, again and again granting you forgiveness for your sins.

This is the Good News He has for us-that He has won salvation for us and gives it freely. And this is the message that He calls us to proclaim as a Church-continually, faithfully. At times, people will hear and walk away-even some such as the rich young ruler. We watch such go with sorrow, praying that they will return to the grace of God. And we continue to preach the same life-giving Gospel which our Lord proclaimed and fulfilled: You are sure of your salvation: Not because you can earn it, but because He has won it for you by His death and resurrection.

North Texas Giving Day

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Today is North Texas Giving Day… an opportunity to support various organizations from all around north Texas. Messiah Lutheran Classical Academy is part of the festivities. If you would like to support Lutheran classical education in Keller, Texas, follow the link HERE.