Many are called

A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. At last, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. She will be called woman because she was taken out of man. And the two shall become one flesh. Each wedding was an extravagant event. A suitable, perfect, wonderful helper was found for Adam, and likewise the perfect helpmeet for each husband [for you]: to show the world the love of Christ for his bride the Church. The day God gave Eve to her husband rocked the newly formed cosmos. He changed his creating pattern, got his fingers in the dirt, and even moved flesh and blood so that Adam would have a wife to die for. Every marriage is a mystery, but I’m talking about Christ and his Church. Your marriage, my marriage, Adam and Eve’s marriage, defined by a better, more perfect, most perfect union: Christ for his bride the Church.

But we have made it into a burden. Whether a mere annoyance to our calendar or a conflict that harbors hate and anger, we have degraded, misused, and discounted this gift, this extravagant and lavish gift. But this gift is a lens by which we see Jesus and his love. This gift is what defines who the church is…Your marriage does not define marriage. Likewise, the state or the opinions of men and women cannot and do not define what marriage is. No court or judge can define what was established at the cross of Jesus as some blanket civil union between the emotions of two people—regardless of who they are. Call it what they will, the facts remain. The marriage of Christ to his bride, the Church, is what defines marriage. Today we see into that wedding. Today we see that not only our own marriages are defined by Jesus’ marriage to the Church, but our faith—our Christian life—is defined by this Jesus by virtue of his death and resurrection, which is of course his marriage to the church.

[We have made Christianity into a burden. Jesus says, “If any man would follow me, let him deny himself, pickup his cross and follow me.” We must lose our life in order to find it because if we hold on to our life, our selfishness, if we try to make a name for ourselves, we will lose ourselves to the outer darkness. The world would have you believe that you have a unique identity by yourself, by virtue of yourself. But your baptism changed that. Your identity is not of yourself, but of Jesus. Your identity is of the Church, of absolution, of self-sacrifice, of denying yourself.]

The school children often ask what heaven will be like. Today, Jesus gives us an answer. The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a King who gave a wedding feast for his Son. Not a wedding feast like your wedding or my wedding. This kind of wedding feast was not a short event, a day or evening alone event. A wedding feast was an event that required lodging, clothing, food, drink, entertainment. It was days long…it was extravagant. And the wedding feast prepared by this King would have just been over the top. When it’s all set and ready to go, the King sends out the servants to find those invited and escort them in. The Word goes out. This is the preaching of the Gospel. In the Garden, from above the waters of the Flood, from the mountains of Moriah, from the burning bush, the midst of the Red Sea, from Canaan, and Israel, Judah, Babylon, and Bethlehem. From Corinth, Rome, and Spain, India, and Asia…Africa, Europe, America…the four corners of the world. And even to the midst of New Mexico. From the mouths of apostles, evangelists, and pastors everywhere, the Word goes out.

But there are excuses. They pay no attention to this great gift, this extraordinary invitation. You didn’t have to pay for anything! The King wants his people in his presence and he’s stopped at no expense to take care of his guests. [It is a testament to his character, his very identity. This Father has given us our body and souls, our reason and senses, he gives us our eyes, ears, and all our members and still takes care of them, wife, land, animals, and all we have. Only out of his Fatherly divine goodness and mercy.] And instead of running to hop on the carriage—the people invited seize his servants, treat them shamefully, and kill them. Anger rules in our hearts. Selfish desires have us wrapped up so tight that we even think of the Gospel and the heavenly gifts as hostile to us. We think our own way and our own plans are just as good or better than the King’s. We are proud of our own dirt and our own sin and even the fig leaves we have tied together as our clothing.

This is not some text to shame us into coming to church on Sunday and to make you feel bad about missing church on a given week. No, this is a text to show us that we have forsaken God and his gifts.

But the King will not have an empty wedding hall. Compel them to come in. I will clothe them and feed them and they shall be my people. It isn’t some decision in your heart. You didn’t cause the others to forsake the invitation. You were just walking the main roads. The servants found you minding your own business. They invited you to something out of the world. It sounds too good to be true, but it is true. It’s a wedding feast that has no end. The King will take care of you forever. There will be no need to fear anything. The Son of the King has married a wife. She is without spot or blemish. The King will attend to your every need. Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live!

The stops on Sunday morning are tastes of the feast that has no end. When the Church worships, it is the Bride of Christ gathered together. The little pieces of the whole, the members of the Body together with the Head. You’ve heard it called a foretaste of the feast to come. You’ve never tasted anything like this. But there is the temptation to say you don’t need to taste. The devil, the world, or maybe your own heart will say you’re okay another week. Perhaps you’ve been used to making it. Maybe you have your own business, your own plan. For the King, he bids you come. He says, they are weak, my Son is strong. They need to eat. My Son leads them to the green pastures of his body and his blood. The Hall won’t be empty. He compels you. Come, eat! Come, drink!

And just as he did in the Garden so long ago, he still does. He walks in the midst of you. He looks as his guests. He brings his Word right up to you. Even here, he brings his Law and Gospel: to show you your sin and to give you your Savior (the BrideGroom). It was necessary that he clothe you. Like Adam and Eve, the fig leaves we have used to cover our shame—whatever you have conjured up to cover your sin and guilt, won’t do. He must kill the Lamb and use his righteousness to cover you. No one can gather in the presence of the King if the King doesn’t first clothe him. In the waters of baptism, he does just that. He wraps you in the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus, too. Having been wrapped in Jesus’ clothing, the King delights in his Son and in you. He delights with you.

A suitable, perfect, wonderful bride was formed for Jesus. She was created as his hands were nailed to a tree. And so the man has left his Father and has been joined to his bride. She has been taken out of him. By virtue of the Water of Baptism and the Blood of the Sacrament she is joined to him—bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. They are no longer two, but one. He sustains her. He keeps her in safety. He feeds and nourishes her. He gives his everything to have her. Jesus dying on the cross is the definition of marriage. His resurrection is the bride’s life: your life. The day Jesus died on the cross, the cosmos was rocked to its very core. He created by dying. He sustained her by giving up himself to take her to himself. You are the Eve he died for and now he lives to give you forgiveness and life with him.

Come, for all things are now ready. The King has prepared the dinner, the Lamb has been slaughtered, and now he lives again. Come, all you who thirst and are hungry. Come to the waters and to the Lamb. Eat and Drink. Come to the wedding feast. Christ will transform you. You are his beloved.

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Walk by the Spirit

There can only be two masters. One is good and the other is not. The entirety of the human experience is summed up in this: you are either born of the Spirit and walk by the Spirit or you are not and are caught up in transgression. The human heart is either aligned to a religion of Law or it is called to the religion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Either you are on your own, pleasing the flesh and the manifestations of your own heart… or you are redeemed and washed by the living God who is Jesus Christ.

One who sows by the Law will also receive the harvest of the Law’s demands. There can be no escaping the Law’s stern requirements and accusations. Do not depend upon the Law to save you, it is no respecter of persons, and you are incapable of meeting the demands it sets before you. It’s a sharp sword and will cut you open and leave you for dead.

However, the heart will convince you that you are actually fulfilling the law and you are pleasing your false gods…even as the world delights in providing you pleasures and sweet nothings. Your focus is upon yourself and your envy is for things…whether they belong to others or not. Instead of bearing burdens and loving the neighbor, there is deception, envy, and strife. But the day of harvest will demand instead of provide. He who sows by the flesh will reap by the flesh. The wages of sin can only be death.

But the one that sows to the Spirit will reap from the Spirit eternal life. It is the Lord Jesus who has paid for your sin. Cast your cares and your worries on Jesus. He is the true master that rescues and restores, he creates new and buys back from death to give life and salvation.

The world and our sinful flesh will grow weary of doing good. But the Spirit of God does not weary. You have been created for Good Works. There is much to be reaped as the burdens of the neighbor become your own. What does God do to your focus? He redirects it from within to your neighbor and to love that is given and shared.

One master sacrificed on the cross to give everything to you. He also is no respecter of persons. His blood covers all —even you and me. He did fulfill the law completely so that he could give you all of the Gospel. The life of a Christian is one of testing and discipline. We give and help and bear the burdens of those around us. We love because the Lord Jesus, our true master, became a servant and loved us so completely that he died and shed his blood. Shed blood as the payment for your sin and mine. The wages of sin are paid.

So put your worries and cares on him. He will care for you. What will we do? What will we drink? What will we eat? What will we wear? It is all prepared for you. It is all ready. Come, recline at table. Wear the robe of Christ’s righteousness, eat his body, drink his blood, and live.

Galatians 5:25–6:10

Holy Cross of Jesus

There is no food and there is no water! The sinful nature speaks in lies and hyperbole. We grumble by nature, we tell everything in exaggerated terms. We don’t like the daily bread come down for us and we love to worry and be anxious. Yesterday’s Gospel in the one year lectionary told us that we can’t serve two masters and that sufficient is the day for its own trouble. But we won’t listen. The sound of our anxious grumbling has wafted up to the ears of God. Perhaps we meant it for our other master. The Israelites meant it for Moses, but God knew that they were really rebelling against him. It was his plan. His exodus. His daily bread that we don’t like.

What about you? What cares have you cast on your spouse, your neighbor, your children? What grumbling have you insisted on and what worry have you orchestrated trying to add one moment to your span of life?

The Living God hears your grumbling and he listens to the prayers you pray to your false gods. He is a jealous God and he will not let it be. There may not be fiery serpents coming for you, but there is fire for those who serve a different master.

Cast all your cares on Jesus. You need a intermediary. Apart from him, your grumbling only produces more pain and trouble. Apart from Jesus we will see and know only death. Indeed, apart from Jesus there is nothing but wrath, anger, and death. But the living God hears the prayers of his people. In the midst of our pain and darkness he gives hope, life, and salvation.

God gave the people a bronze serpent to look upon to live. He did not get rid of the snakes. There is an antidote, there is an answer in the midst of pain and sorrow, but it may not be that he will take away the pain and the sorrow. What he will give is Jesus and his cross. That he gives to you and me. He gives his only begotten Son that you would have love, mercy, and grace in the place of anger, wrath, and death.

Through the blood of Jesus lifted high for everyone to look at there is life. It is the cross alone that is our theology. We wish to see Jesus because our faith bids us look to the sacrificed for our transgression. We not only see him, but we taste and see that the Lord is good.

You have one master. You have one Lord. He is the crucified one. He is the Son of God. He is the one that speaks to the Father for you. There is no need for worry and there is no need for anxiety. Jesus comes for you. Jesus comes near you and gives you himself.

There is food and there is water and there is wine. Food has come down from heaven for you to eat and water that wells up to eternal life. What will we eat? The bread that is Christ’s body. What will we drink? The wine that is Christ’s blood. Listen to the Word of God. Eat his body. Drink his blood. See the one lifted up on the pole and live with him forever.

Numbers 21

The Cupboards Are Bare

At the city gates the widow of Zarephath stooped down low, gathering sticks, so that she could prepare her final meal. The God of life is found in the depravity of death. But the anxiety and worry of life will cloud our sight and we’ll miss the God who is standing in the middle of our troubles. The cupboard was bare, the flour was running out, and there was barely enough oil to do anything. Her anxiety about life, with many worries running through her brain, are interrupted from above. “Go fetch me a glass of water,” Elijah said, “and while your at it, grab me a small morsel of bread.” But I don’t even have enough for my son, the flour is running out, there is barely enough oil to do anything, and I’m preparing a meal of sticks. It seems as if death is reigning, worry is supreme, fear is everywhere.

The depravity of life had met this woman. Times were hard in Zaraphath. But, times were harder in this woman’s life. The weight of hunger, the disease of malnourishment, and the alienation of picking up sticks off the ground – had brought her beyond anxious. Her worry was her life, and her master was death.

Life is hard. Age gives aches and pains. We loose loved ones and the dinner table isn’t as full as it once was. Our minds are quickly distracted by worry and anxious thoughts. What will I wear? How will we feed our family? . . . How long will we have? What are you seeking? Even the wicked seek their own righteousness and love those that love them.

And how many masters do you have? You will love one and hate the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You either have one master or you have the other. It is impossible to serve them both. The widow’s master may be yours. One has many names and faces, as many, in fact, as you could possibly want. You can call him “God.” You can call him “Allah,” or “Buddha,” or “Scratch,” or simply make up a new name. He doesn’t mind. He’ll go by anything. He’s kind and tolerant…oh and patient. He’s never jealous and hardly ever gets upset. But he’s a liar…and a cheat. He’ll tell his followers they can have as many masters as they want. He’ll give you choices and let you indulge yourself. But it’s all so he can trap you…devour you and ruin you forever.

The other master is jealous and stubborn. He never bends and always demands. He won’t let you call him something else. He exposes the sensitivities of man. He calls you a sinner. He won’t let you have other masters. He is the God of truth. He is light of light. He has no empty promises and fading pleasures. He is life…but he is found in death. If you belong to him then you can follow no one else. But there is no need for anyone else. Jesus is life and comfort. He is help in every time of need. He is our rock and our fortress. And this Jesus still wants you.

Is your cupboard bare? Is your master anxiety, worry, and death? Who arrays the grass of the field? And who is it that makes the flowers grow and the sparrows fly? It is Jesus. Elijah answered the widow of Zaraphath with the truth of God’s word. As that woman made a small cake for Elijah, he gave that woman food from heaven. Jesus became her master there, even as he was her servant.

Standing in the midst of your trouble is Jesus.

Life will be hard. Times will be rough, and the cupboard may from time to time seem bare. To the human eye, the small morsel of bread on the altar may seem like the fixing of your last meal before you die. All the world seems like it is resting on your shoulders and your mind will seem like your master. Death will be your focus, and work will overwhelm you. But our God does not reign from heaven above—not yet, not now. His wisdom and power is only made known in Christ Jesus who reigns in the midst of his people. His reign and his work is here. Awesome and powerful and mighty only in Jesus. Without him and his righteousness, without Jesus, he has no mercy, no grace… we would not call him awesome, but awful.

What shall we eat? We shall eat the Body of Jesus, born of the Virgin, executed for crimes He did not commit, and raised again to glory by His Father given for you. What shall we drink? We shall drink the Blood of Jesus poured out outside the city gates for the remission of your sins. What shall we wear? We shall wear His righteousness, the wedding garment of joy that He provides by Grace.

You have a bread that will last forever. When the times are hard, and the morsels look small, know that God dwells here. His reign, his kingdom is here and everywhere his Word is preached and Holy Supper given…in a small voice and a morsel of bread, a sip of wine. He has conquered your hurts and sorrows. He has died so that you live. And so when you partake of his body. . . When the pastor places Jesus on your lips, you are partaking in your death. Life is found in the depravity of death. It is your death and it is Jesus’ death. It is a putting of his cross before you and in you…It is a death that frees you from Satan and eternal torment because it is the death of Jesus’ cross that stomped the head of the serpent and undid death and sin’s debt. It is your foundation and your life. It is your reward and your nourishment. On your knees, before that altar, your strength and your song are placed upon your lips and you are in fellowship with God.

Despite the temporary nature of the things God provides for us now, we know this: Jesus is coming back. Death has been defeated. He will not abandon us to the grave. For the meantime, it might get better and it might get worse. Lilies bloom, wilt, and die but new ones rise up behind them to bloom again. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Eat the Body of Jesus. Drink His Blood. Wear the clean garments of righteousness that He gives to you. All things pass away except this one thing: the Word of God. The Word made Flesh has paid your debt. You are forgiven, clean, and whole. And on the last day He shall call you forth from the grave. No one will stop Him.

Matthew 6

Ash Wednesday

Fasting and bodily preparation are fine outward training. Of course, it isn’t commanded, but it trains us and points us to the giver of all good things. It is a personal thing for you and for God. It isn’t for the world to know about, for our friends to commiserate or rejoice over for brownie points or status or popularity. It isn’t something to boast over. Just do it for training, do it in secret, and you will be rewarded by the God who dwells in secret things. We can’t boast in things, in our works, in our world. Moths and rust will destroy these things. Boasting in our popularity or our ability to give up chocolate or soda or anything else will only separate us from the God who redeemed us from death and the devil.

Repent.

What you did today is not fasting. You marked your heads with ashes because you are the people that will die. There are those who would ridicule you for marking your foreheads with ash while reading Jesus’ words: Do not disfigure your face… But Jesus is talking about fasting, and fasting for the sake of popularity, fasting in public. The imposition of Ashes is not fasting. It isn’t concerned with popularity, but with reminding you and me that we are dust and to dust we shall return. We are the people of Adam’s curse. For by one man, sin entered into the world and that sin was given you in your conception. It is the same reminder that God gave to Adam in the garden and the same reminder that Saint Paul gives us when he says, “all have sinned and have fallen short of the kingdom of God.” Ashes are not the medium of fasting, but the sign of mourning and sadness. They are the mark of the mortal.

Don’t be fooled by a world that would convince you there is no need to mourn. The world is not interested in weeping. We are not of this world. We are the people of the Crucified one. And that means that we acknowledge that death is not how it was meant to be. It is not an escape, it is a punishment. Our sin has done this. Man has perverted what was God’s perfect gift of life and now we suffer and we die. We weep and we mourn. We grieve and know that this isn’t right. And to grieve is okay. Death isn’t the way it was meant to be. To suffer isn’t how we were created. We grieve and will continue to grieve because we acknowledge that we are sinners in need of a savior. We are sinners that can’t save ourselves. We grieve because our loved ones aren’t supposed to be separated from us. But we grieve and we endure suffering because we have hope. Hope in the Christ who has conquered death and has suffered on our behalf.

You mourn with ash upon your forehead, but not just a dot or a swipe. We mourn with a cross on our forehead. Usually you don’t see it, but it’s there everyday. Usually it is forgotten and looked over. But today, we see it. We see what God has place upon your head. We see what infuriates the devil. Today, the Lord makes known again, what he showed the world at your baptism: you are a child of God. For in your baptism, Christ has clothed you in his righteousness. The death he died on the cross is your death and the life he lives is your life. So it is today that we remember our baptism. Today we remember and we see the cross of Christ. Jesus has died and rose again. He did it so that you would not be separated from him, but that you would have all things, even the treasures of heaven.

So a cross, to mark us as the mortals that have been wrapped in immortality: The immortal mortals. A cross on your forehead… put there when you were baptized, seen again today, declaring you the people of the cross… the ones that suffer with Jesus, for the ones that suffer with Jesus are the ones that live with him forever. Thus our lenten fast begins… in penitence and preparation, we set our eyes on Jesus and his cross. He sets his death before us again today and our eyes and our ears and our mouths behold his glory, the salvation of God has been given to us.

Stir up your power + Christmas Eve

The coming kingdom of David is at hand. “Come,” the Father said, “Come, it’s time to have compassion—a King to sit on my servant David’s throne forever, God, yet man, to free my people from their sins. To save them—stir up your power and go—have compassion and from sin and sorrow set everyone of them free.” And where did he go?

At once, to find you, to Royal David’s little city… from heaven above to earth below taking on the flesh of you and me, to suffer all things, to take that which he knew not—sin and sorrow—from you. And to save you, he gives you his life by dying your eternal death to bring to you salvation. He comes a baby born to die that you may live with him forever.

But why a king? What need have you for a savior? Why must God be with you?

Evil comes forth despite the good Law of God. Thus God sends a Savior because you have been left for dead, indeed dead in your trespasses, your reason, your will, your power, leaves you fighting for more of your own good pleasure—fighting against God’s judgment, DEAD, a living hell, no good remaining. A flesh that is a full and steady accomplice of your spirit…weak and teetering on hell’s steep cliff. Every good plan, every program—all pushed aside. And thus we wallow in lies told, promises forgotten, anger harbored, and love left undone.

And even then, we’d have Jesus be a king like we have a man be our president. Someone to do our bidding, always under a magnifying glass and prepared to boot him if he doesn’t deliver, waiting for his November. A Jesus like you’d have your holiday season…to be jolly and love everyone, giving no one coal, but things you like and want and covet, and when you’re done with him, push him back up the chimney or over the river and through a different wood until the next time. The religious establishment seconds your thoughts as they implored Jesus, “Make your disciples be quiet!” We don’t like the noise, the ruckus, the hoopla. It’s causing a scene, it’s not always convenient, it’s loud, and the rest of the world doesn’t like it.

Remember when they lined the streets with their cloaks and palm branches, and hailed him as their king? Have you lined his road in your life and then pulled it up again when you noticed he wasn’t the Jesus you thought you needed or wanted?

Repent. The coming kingdom of David is at hand. For God has seen your poor state before the world’s foundation. That’s right. Your state, your sin, your person—personality, heart, and soul… you! And thus he planned to free you, bless you, and save you.  Not from your plans, neighbors, and the things you want in this life, but to save you from sin and death and the devil. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in this one night, in this one child, in this baby born of Mary. GO! My Son, have compassion on the world. Bring to all salvation. From sin and sorrow set them free…from Satan’s cheap tricks, poisoned tongue, and tormenting lies, from your sinful flesh and the temptations of the world—GO! Be their king, their Savior! Slay bitter death, undo Satan, and steal the sting away from death and the grave.

That is exactly what he did. The Son obeyed his Father’s will and was born of Virgin mother. His power? stirred up…complete obedience to his Father’s will, God’s good pleasure to fulfill. Now this changes everything forever. God has flesh and blood, God who is now a man (the God-Man, the Son of Man, the Son of God) now leads the devil captive and came to be our brother. A servants form — just like you and me — he wore to lead away our enemies forever.

A king forever— what is his crown? Thorns. And his throne? A cross. A kingdom forever to make you his own, giving life to the dead, sight to the blind, hearing to the Deaf. He is your rock and your castle, never leaving you, never retreating up up and away, instead always remembering his promises and delivering his life into your midst, things of need, things of salvation, the very things for you.

The world isn’t going to like it. Satan will scowl, fierce as he will. You will even war with your own nature: the old Adam with the new. All kinds of people, places, things, demons, and the like will tell you to put this farce, this hoax, behind you…to grow up and get serious. But the Spirit of God at work in you will not be silenced by that which has been defeated. The faith that is alive in your hearts and in your lives cannot be dismantled by that which is judged and dismantled itself. Don’t listen to the lies of the devil, don’t be coerced by the sweet whispers of a world captivated by sin, don’t let your Old Adam have a word in edgewise. Instead, listen to the God-Man Jesus. Come to him and bring with you all your cares. You who are heaven laden, come! Be gathered to the manger of the newborn King. Rejoice in the death of death and the undoing of the grave. Stand at the feet of the cross of Jesus and be transformed into his image by his work and mercy and love.

And thus the great power of our Lord has been stirred and He has come to us. Like little John the Baptists still in our mother’s womb leaping for joy, our hearts for that very joy must leap and skip at this the Christmas greeting. Our lips cannot silence keep, our tongues with joyous words must sing. Glory to God in the highest heaven, who unto us his Son has given. The end of all time has come. The reign of sin and death has ended. The peace of heaven reigns in our hearts, in this world, and even to highest heaven…and God is born in Bethlehem, a Savior for all the world.

God has had compassion on you. The great power of the living God has been stirred and he has come. This shall be a sign unto you… you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger, teaching the priests in the temple, announcing the year of the Lord’s favor to the crowds, feeding thousands, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, giving hearing to the deaf, crucified to a cross on Golgotha, raised from his tomb, present in the preaching of this Gospel, in the water of Baptism, and the bread and wine of his supper. The compassion of our God is found in this Jesus who has saved you from your sins and now dwells here with you.

Happy Christmas! Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace and good will among men!

Midweek Advent 3

The work of the church revolves around the absolute truth of God’s Word and his work in the creation. It has been kept from some and revealed to others, made manifest to gentiles and Greeks, even to the far ends of the world. Saint Paul calls them mysteries… and this is true: God has sent servants, stewards, to minister to you with an unchanging, unbudging, performative, and absolute truth. Therefore, the work of a pastor and the content of what goes on in the church is the truth and a pastor must be trustworthy. The work is dependent upon a foundation that was laid by God himself and maintained by the God who has been born of the woman.

That makes the work of these stewards the work of the Word of God in this place. We would like to interject reason and feelings. We would be sensitive to whether or not we understand the things of God and whether or not reason can properly tear apart the things revealed in Holy Writ. Preachers and pastors tossed to and fro by every whim of the world, of reason, and popularity contests will do much harm to the flock of God.

The Word of God has been under attack by the devil and the world since the Garden of Eden. The very word, “Satan,” means deceiver. The truth is something that Satan wants you to think is malleable. Opinion is something that weighs at or above what we know to be true and the idea, the thought, that someone can be judged or weighed against something outside of themselves is absurd to today’s world. We are labeled haters and bigots.

But the Word of God is not malleable and the work of that Word in the lives of Christians makes us different from the world. It makes the judgment of the world a small thing… it focuses us on the very gifts that come from heaven and the love that is manifest by the Babe of Bethlehem —crucified on Calvary’s cross.

And this truth, these mysteries are proclaimed here today. The absolute truth of God’s work for sinners is shown as that Word breaks into the darkness and tears apart the reign of death and the devil… Jesus proclaims the victory won and the devil a footstool.

This is the great absolute truth seen and made known, proclaimed and preached, to the world tonight. God has united with Benjamin and Logan and with you against the tyranny of Satan and death in the waters of Baptism. Baptism now saves! Baptism unites sinners to the death of Christ, destroying the debt of sin, Baptism unites sinners to the resurrection of Christ, giving the life of Jesus to you and me.

Today the mysteries of God are made known to you! Christ our Lord has done a great work. Satan cannot accuse you and neither can the Law or the world, culture, or any enemy. Death cannot end your gladness. When you die, you leave all sadness to inherit paradise. You inherit paradise, a child of God. An absolute truth is proclaimed, an absolute truth is made known. Angels rejoice and the whole cloud of heavenly witnesses rejoice… You have a treasure worth more than anything… it has brought you salvation free lasting to eternity, Jesus has made you his own and forgiven all your sin.

In the name of +Jesus. Amen

Gaudete (Matthew 11:2-11)

A voice cries out to you.  Can you hear it?  No longer is it coming from the wilderness, but it still has the same purpose…a voice carrying the Word of God to your ears.  John the Baptizer is now behind Herod’s bars in prison.  Being deprived of his beloved Jordan river and his locusts do not put an end to his vocation.  Advent is not over and his God given purpose has not come to an end even as Herod has locked him up behind bars.  He will not rest until the path is straight.  He will not stop until the way is prepared.  And his tool, his weapon, is not stopped by handcuffs and prison food.  Can you hear it?

The Baptizer continues to decrease, but the Lord continues to open his lips and through his mouth the Lord Christ continues to increase.  The world insists on clinging to false prophets and Satan’s deceptions – idols that cannot guarantee anything.  The Lord knows that you have succumbed to the work of the Devil and his demons.  He knows that you don’t believe how deep and powerful his deceptions are.  The heavenly Father knows that you make more friends and influence more people with fine clothes and king’s palaces.  Gold and silver will turn more heads but it is the Word of God that will carry you out of eternal damnation.  Advent is not over, you are not done waiting for the LORD to judge the living and the dead.  And therefore the voice will not end.  Can you hear it?

Do the conveniences of life impress you?  Do the worries of earthly incidentals pull you away from the love of God with your whole heart and soul and mind?  What about loving your neighbors as yourself?  All of your neighbors…your brothers and sisters in Christ, every last one of them?  Do you love them as yourself?  I know I don’t.  I would never treat myself the way I have treated others.  You all love yourselves.  But Satan has tricked you into using your voice, your thoughts, and your actions to show hate instead of love.  To show a connection to condemnation rather than eternal life under the heavenly Father who is only LOVE.  But this earth and its gold and silver – its iron bars, and even a word given by a king to execute will not silence the Word of God.

Repent!  The Kingdom of God is near!  Repent and listen…can you hear the voice?  The eternal Son of God has redeemed you, a lost and condemned person…he has purchased and won you from all your sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.  He did not use gold or silver, but his holy precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death he lifted you out of condemnation and eternal damnation.  It is the voice of God…the Word that became flesh and dwells among you.  God spoke and it happened.  The Father opened his lips and Christ – who filled his mouth – came forth for you to hear, to see, to feel, and to taste.  God, who’s Word formed you, fills you.  He desires that nothing have your attention but himself.  And so your ears are filled with the preached Word of forgiveness, while you feel his Word mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified and the coolness of that heavenly water runs down your cheeks…and your same tongue that sings his praise with hymns and psalms tastes your salvation.  It forms you and completes you.

God made you and all creatures.  His Word performed the work.  It came with a purpose and it did not leave without accomplishing what it came to do.  Herod’s ax was laid at the root of John’s tree but that ax did not silence God’s Word.  Can you hear the voice?  The voice is crying out to you!  It defends you from all danger and guards and protects you from all evil.  It calls you with Good News…and that Good News breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and your sinful nature.

Combined with water it works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe…certainly it is not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water that does these things, along with the faith which trusts this Word of God in the water.  There in the font, the voice of God has made you his child.  He has given you Christ’s crucifixion: and through Christ you are no longer blind.  You who were lame and dependent upon the world’s crutches now walk again…and you are made whole.  No longer dead, but raised…Blessed are you!

The Word of God continues to come to you to deliver absolution, that is, forgiveness, from your pastor as from God himself.  Can you hear the voice?  It is calling for you.  The Holy Spirit brings it here to you.  To the body of Christ.  Advent is not over and you continue to wait for the Christ to come to judge the world…but until that time, nothing will silence the voice of God.  It prepares you for the way of the LORD…it makes your way straight – mountains low and valleys high.

Even from prison, John pointed all people away from himself, away from the earth and their worldly fortunes and filled them with the heavenly riches of Christ’s body and blood.  Christ is the one that has come for you!  His voice is crying out to you and he gives his Word to you.  From pastors and preachers his Word comes to you to make your way straight and to lead you from the valley to the Mountain – for on Mount Calvary, Christ shed his blood to forgive you and release you from the Devil.

His Word of forgiveness endures forever…and forever you have the assurance of your baptism: where Word and water have made you heirs to the Heavenly Kingdom.  Children of God traveling through this advent…waiting for the judgment.  The true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ will sustain you.  God’s voice, his Word combined to bread and wine, gives you the very thing that forgave you in the first place…the body and blood of God.  Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Expect no one else…you are renewed, prepared, and forgiven!  Can you hear the voice?  It speaks here to you!

In the Name of +Jesus. Amen.

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.