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

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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.

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.

 

Advent Meditation on Genesis 49:9-10

We never would have planned for it to be Judah’s reign… but then again God always seems to turn our reason on its nose.  So not only do we have a lion of the tribe of Judah (remember Judah), but Mary places her little lion cub in a manager for you and for me.  Isn’t that just strange?  The God that made you and the entire universe, that will conquer Satan and Hell and death, we first meet as innocent and harmless as a kitten.

And that is the mystery of our God.  He takes created things to deliver to you his promises and the goods of that very promise.  He doesn’t beckon you to his high and holy throne; NO… instead he comes to you as part of the very creation he made.  He comes as the man… to redeem man… by clothing himself not only in the flesh and blood of you and me, but in the temptations and the sorrows and tears of living in the valley of the shadow of death.  Indeed, he who knew no sin becomes sin and devours it like a lion – a full grown, roaring lion.

Judah’s line is a royal line and this King of the Jungle reigns by being crucified on a Roman cross.  The full strength of our God is realized in the death of a man… The full strength of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah cannot be stolen from him, but instead he rises again to life and the scepter shall not depart from him.  He stooped down, to grab you and by the water of your baptism – now you have lion’s blood in your veins.

Come Lord Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Steven CholakLion