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.

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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.

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.

St. Matthew

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

–Matthew 9:9-13

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Adam Seeking

It was at the point when Adam hid himself that he was seeking out his own turf.  It made him uncomfortable to be naked, to be hiding and to be in Eden.  Sinners cannot stand in the presence of God.  The sin destroys us… it demands its wage.  Adam wanted out (not necessarily out of Eden because he loved Eden); he wanted away from God.  Where could he and Eve go and hide from God.  And that new turf… when he found it, had to be void of God.  God, at this point, became one that was sought (in concept only), when convenient, if at all, but not welcome in the living room of Adam’s new sinful nature.  Instead of delighting in God… by nature we run from God.  God could have just ended it there.  Death reigned and God could have let it be… just let death have its way at that particular minute.  Instead, God comes into Adam’s space and proclaims a Savior for him and for Eve and for you and for me.  God comes into our lives and interrupts our routines and by water and his Word builds us into his Son.  Its there that He delights in us.  God has grabbed us and given us new life in the birth from above.  We are his children.  We have a new man – the Godman, Jesus Christ as our brother and Savior.  By the blood of Christ we live and enjoy the presence of God and are fed by him.  Christ has made all things new.  He does all things well.  Alleluia!

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

It’s really easy to hate your enemies.  That’s the way of the Old Adam and the sinful human flesh.  That’s the norm for the world.  The thing is our Old Adam has been drowned and killed in the waters of our baptism and now we are children (sons and daughters) of our Father in heaven.  That means that he is making us to be like his only begotten Son.  We are becoming cruciform, Christlike, inheritors of the heavenly kingdom.  God reorders and recreates our hearts that his Holy Spirit may dwell there, thus instead of the evil that dwells in the heart… alone… all the time… (Genesis 6:5), now the Holy Spirit dwells there, planting faith and growing love.  We now love like Christ loves.  It’s not perfect; we trip and fall and mess things up.  We are sinners, but we have been washed.  We are righteous in the sight of our Father in heaven.  No longer like the Gentiles, now like Christ we love… that is, we lay down our lives and reach out to serve.

It’s really easy to hate those that kill and murder, spit, and lie.  It’s really easy to ignore or to spit, lie, and murder back.  All the rest do that, but you have been washed.  You have been marked with the cross of Christ as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.  We go forth in love, laying down our lives only because Christ first loved us and laid down his life for sinners.  He let himself be spit upon, mocked, slapped, and killed.  But what he laid down for the life of the life of the world, he picked back up again and delivered that life to you.  Marked, washed, redeemed, forgiven… a child of God.  We love because he loves us.

A Sermon for Reminiscere – Matthew 15

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  It looks pretty grim.  They tell me this is a dying place.  The sun and its rays are hidden and the fierce darkness of Satan’s clouds are rolling in.   The rain is sure to fall upon our heads… The day is past, your prime is over, the excitement blown out when the clouds blew in.  Some say its the neighborhood or the gangs.  Some say its just because everyone has moved on in their lives.  Our Redeemer Lutheran Church waiting for its end… no youth, no excitement, no money.  What else is there to do?

Satan’s been lying in wait.  He’s been counting the days, to stir up within us terrible thoughts, as if God our Lord had rejected and forsake us.  His sly and cunning tongue whispering the nothings of destruction in the ears of God’s elect.  By a word he cast doubt in Eve’s ear and by misusing the Word of God he wills to convince you that trouble will reign in your hearts, in this place, among those gathered here… that you aren’t worthy of the things God has in store for you, that you don’t even belong to him.  “Heathen, Jesus came for the lost sheep of the house of Israel – you are nothing, dogs at best, mangy mutts to be kicked under the table.”

Yes, even the Lord Jesus would agree.  He gave the Canaanite woman the silent treatment.   He reminded her that he came only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  He called her a dog.

The disciples were bothered by her continued pestering.  Send her away, Jesus, for she cries out after us.  Wailing and yelling she longed for the King of kings to cast out her daughter’s demon.  She wanted her daughter back.  She came to the creator of all things and called out again and again.  But he ignored her.  She was a Gentile.  He was a Jew.  He the King of the Jews.

You and I might have quit there.  He won’t answer.  His people are staring at me.  I’m uncomfortable and I’m not getting anywhere.  It isn’t going to happen anyway.  She’s been tormented for years… I’ve been looking for a job for weeks… The congregation is getting smaller and smaller… We’ve been hoping the cancer would go into remission…

We’re not getting anywhere.  We ask and ask and ask.  He doesn’t answer.  He says ask for anything and the Father will give it… but there is no answer.  We might as well just pack it up and go back home and quit there.

But, the difficulties in the way do not appall the Canaanite woman; she keeps only in view the object of her coming, and forgets that she is a heathen and he a Jew.  Her confidence and hope in Christ are so great that she never doubts his condescension.  Her faith cancels the fact that she is a heathen.  One without faith would never have acted this way, but would have concluded: It is of no use to present my request before him; I am in the clutches of the devil beyond all hope; let his own people come to him; them he will hear, but not me.

It is surely a severe and dangerous affliction when Satan comes and prompts the heart to despair of the mercy of God.  Rest assure the devil is at work to speak his lies to your hearts in this place.  You and I are his target.  He labors to convince us to refuse to pray to Christ, and rather to be ready to curse him… to think that all is lost and damnation sure… to think we are the heathen kicked under the table to be ignored by God and his Christ.

But she cried out all the more, “O Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Full of earnestness and faith she confesses with these words her faith in Christ as the Savior of the world.  And yet he says, “I came only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  And here her faith moved her like your faith has moved you today.  She worshipped him.  Casting herself to the ground she would not let him go.  “It is not good to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs.”  It was as if he said to her, “You are a child of the devil in every respect; begone, I will have nothing to do with you!”  It matters not what your problem, woman, be gone.  Stop pestering and leave me.

You and I cower and relent.  We retreat and stop asking… we decide he must have better prayers to answer, more important people to care for… and we go home.  And yet we learn a most startling thing; faith will not retreat.  It will not cower in even the most harsh of rebukes by the King of kings.  Faith takes hold of Christ’s words, even when they sound harshly, and changes them into soothing expressions of consolation.  She replies, Yes Lord – I am a dog.  Treat me like one if you like.  Give the bread to the children, and seat them at your table… only allow me to sit under the table and pick up the crumbs those children drop.  With those scraps I will be happy.  Taking the place of a dog she receives the privileges of a child.  And here, forced by his own words, Jesus gives in.

Satan would have us believe it is a dark and gloomy day.  But really it is the light of Christ that dawns.  The rays of God’s pure light make manifest what really is happening here in this place.  The Holy Spirit is creating faith in your hearts.  He is using the very Word of God come from heaven to create and sustain this faith – deep within the soil of your heart.  And this makes the devil frustrated because this faith reaches forth and grasps ahold of Jesus… just like this Canaanite woman’s faith.  It draws you to Jesus in your need.

Christ’s repulsive treatment of the Canaanite woman did not proceed from an unfriendly disposition towards the Gentiles, but it was his purpose to test and make manifest the faith of this woman, so that we might learn from her.  Jesus is so well pleased with this woman that he can no longer withhold his mercy and kindness, but tells her: “O woman, great is your faith.  Be it done to you as you desire.”

And so likewise he is please with your faith.  No longer stuck under the table eating the scraps that fall to the floor, Jesus commands that you come up higher and sit with him as he restores you in the forgiveness of your sins and gives you life and salvation.  He does this by his body and blood shed upon the cross.  This the Holy Spirit testifies to you and this your faith reaches out and grabs ahold of.  Jesus died upon the cross and now the devil’s trickery and lies have no depth.  The grave can’t hurt you and death has no sting.  For in the renewal of life, the Lord of life showered you with his blood, drowning the dog that was your old Adam and instead brought forth a new man – righteous before the Father and holy in his sight.  You are made new in the death of Jesus.  You are given new life in the resurrection of the flesh of Jesus.

Satan would have you believe this is a dark and gloomy place.  He wants you to stop praying for this congregation and to ignore its people.  The devil works overtime to make sure that there is division and strife among you.  But I tell you today – in your hearing – that Jesus, the Son of David, the Lord of life is here in this place.  Satan has no hold.  He is a liar.  But Jesus speaks the truth.  He is here and he has called this place holy and vibrant.  He looks out and sees brothers and sisters – not dogs – Children of God.  Angels are singing because of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church.  All the vault of heaven resounds because of this family.  Jesus is building you up.  He has made you alive.  Today he sets a table in the presence of your enemy the devil.  He sets it here for everyone to see.  Your faith is great – your sins are forgiven – come dear brothers and sisters and feast with Jesus and celebrate with God.

The day is now.  This is the day of salvation.  This is Our Redeemer’s prime.  Celebrate with Jesus.  The Father is celebrating because of you and because his Son has picked this people.  In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church Houston

The Reverend Steven Thomas Cholak

Invocavit Wednesday Sermon

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  —Romans 8:16-17

God would with the opening words of the Lord’s prayer (Our Father who art in heaven) invite us to believe that we are his true children.  Even the Holy Spirit testifies to the case – God has made us his own.  So that we may with all boldness and confidence use his holy name to ask him as dear children ask their dear Father.  But rather — what do we use his holy name for??  We call upon it in every unimportant moment and joke and curse with it upon our lips.  It was by this name that you were brought out of your old life and made a new.  It was by this name that you are marked and targeted by the devil.

True, God’s name is indeed holy by itself.  Without you or me – it is holy and it will remain holy despite our sinful nature.  But that it may be holy among us… holy upon our lips… holy in our use, that is what we pray here.  God has come to you and me when we did not want him in our lives, when we ignored him and ran the other way.  In our sin he stopped us in our tracks and showered his Spirit upon our hearts to make Christians out of the heathen.  This holy name he placed upon us and we were begotten in that baptism.  Begotten and birthed by our mother, the church.  A man must be born of the Spirit.  And born of the Holy Spirit you were.  He testifies with your spirit that God has made you an heir to the heavenly kingdom.  You are holy heirs.

Our Father gives us the kingdom.  We call him Father and he is ours because of that which he done to us.  The Blood of Jesus has washed you and made you a new Adam.  We have been transformed by the glory of Christ and by his blood we are made alive.  Not only alive, but forgiven.  And so the Father continues to give you these gifts of heaven.  He calls out your name and doles out the goods.  He looks out and sees his beloved and is delighted that he has picked you.

And so that name that is above every name has forced fruit to come forth from your branches.  Good works cannot be helped.  They are a natural result of the name that God has placed upon your head and that he wants you to use with your lips.  You are his witnesses and you will suffer because of it… but he has provisions.  There is nourishment for the war, and consolation for the weak of heart.  Jesus has won the victory.  Upon Calvary’s cross, he emptied his body of its life and died.  The Godman died.  You are bound to that death.  It is yours.  The water that was poured over your head and the blood that is poured down your throat have made that death yours.  And the life he lives in his resurrection is yours made real in your baptism.

Sin no longer has mastery over you, but rather it is defeated in the bread and wine here offered.  The body and blood of the King of kings has undone the power of the devil and has elevated you to the right hand of God.  Sons and Daughters of the Almighty Father.  It is real.  He is true to his Word, you are his and he is Our Father.  In +Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Reverend Steven Thomas Cholak

Invocavit Sermon

Grace, Mercy, and Peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  For forty days and forty nights it rained upon the earth.  Eight souls in all were in that boat.  As the rain began to come down, Noah and his family began to fast.  It would be some time before they would see the sunshine again, or to breath the fresh air as the wind carried it down the face of the mountains and across the valleys.  Forty days the rain came down and for forty nights, too.  It deprived them of everything they knew and loved and kept them locked up with all the animals.

Not a self-chosen fast, like “I’ll give up liver this Lent,” but a fast inflicted upon them because God counted Noah righteous.  Forty days and forty nights the rain beat down upon that boat as eight souls remembered their village, their friends, the green grass, and the warmth of the sun upon their cheeks.  They remembered the ridicule, the pain, and the violence that filled the earth.  Locked up by the Lord Himself because the Lord found favor with Noah.

Jesus was hungry.  Again, not a self-inflicted fast, but it was the Spirit of God that led Jesus to the wilderness.  For forty days and forty nights, He he did not eat.  A desolate place, alone without the niceties of life, away from everything that He knew and loved, led there to be tempted by the Prince of Darkness.  And when he was good and hungry Satan came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Satan didn’t get it.  Well, he thought he was punching Jesus when He was down.  You find the weak part in the armor and drive the sword straight through.  Tempt Jesus with food when He’s hungry, yeah that’s the way to go…and maybe, just maybe, He’ll take the bait and lose the war.  But Jesus’ answer was more devastating for Satan than he would ever know.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”

In those Words, in that short little bit of preaching, Jesus’ fast was over.  “It is written,” Jesus said.  Man shall live by the words that God has written.  Man shall live by the bread that comes from God, that comes down from heaven, that fills our ears, our mouths, and our eyes.  It is the gifts from heaven that sustain God’s people.

Beware dear Christians, it has been a long fast.  Many years have gone by since we have walked with God in the cool of the Garden.  The Prince of Darkness has waged a long and dangerous war and each of you is his target.  Get the weakest link, take down the ones that are hungry, and carry away the spoil.  Too often this devil’s lies have found willing ears nestled upon our heads, his seduction an easy mark in our wayward hearts.

A fast has begun for us this past week.  Our alleluias taken from us.  No more “Glory be to God on High”…for forty days and forty nights…our lenten fast carries us outside the walls of Jerusalem to the bread that came down from heaven.  Each stop along the way eating up the Word we live by.  Nourishment for the war that is being waged upon us.

A bumper sticker, “Pray for peace!” it said.  Peace in our world, no doubt, peace that keeps soldiers from marching through Kabul…that keeps Twin Towers from falling…that cures cancer and dries each tear before they are formed.  Satan would tempt us even with a little bumper sticker.  Tempt us to forget about the Peace nestled within the Word of God and rather to turn to the desires of sinful men.

Temptation is always temptation to break God’s Word, to go against it.  God says, “Do this” or “Don’t do that.”  And the devil says, “Oh, come on now!  That is not practical.  You’re being a prude, old-fashioned, no fun.  Surely God didn’t really mean it.  And even if He did then it is only because He is holding out on you.  What kind of a God is He, anyway?  I thought He was supposed to love you.”  This is the way he attacked Eve in the garden.  It is the way he attacked Our Lord in the desert.  It is the way he attacks us here and now.  Eve could not bear the assault. Adam failed to protect her.  He, and she, gave in, and became children of Satan and you are the spawn of their loins.  But the 2nd Adam, the perfect Adam, suffered these temptations also.  And He did not fail.  He overcame.  He lived the perfect life of faith and with nothing more than the Word He drove the devil back.

So we pray for a different peace, knowing that bombs will still kill, and soldiers will still march.  There will always be hospitals…and those that die in them.  We pray for a peace that sustains and brings us through the lies and attacks of Satan.  We pray for the peace that brings us life and unifies us with Christ.  We pray for peace that is the Word of God.  The Word that we live by.  Christ, our fighting King, has succeeded where Adam failed.  He does not stand idly by as Satan and his legionnaires taunt you with their siren songs of destruction and death.  He intervenes.  He shields you, His beloved, but weak bride.  He protects and defends you.  He attacks those who would harm you.  He goes in your place, overcomes what you and Eve could not.  He did not need to do this for Himself.  He did it for you.  He removes death’s sting, the grave’s morbid victory.  The roaring lion who once terrified you is now but a barking dog with no bite.  His teeth, his claws have been removed.  He is chained to his own torture which will never end.  He cannot have you.  He cannot harm you.  For you have a Master, a King, a Benefactor, and a Protector.  You bear the Name He placed upon you in Baptism.  Thus you belong to Him, not just because He made you, but also because He bought you.

So be forewarned.  Be prepared.  Make yourself ready for warfare, ready for sneak attacks, and dirty underhanded tricks.  Make yourself ready by eating and drinking the provisions provided in His Grace, that which He has given and shed for you.  Open your ears.  Hear the Word of God.  Pray that He would strengthen and sustained you in the days to come.  Pray lest you fall into temptation.  And learn to pray once again, O Christians, the prayer He taught, the prayer He gave.  And learn to pray as the early Church so fervently prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly!”

“And the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.”  In +Jesus’ Name.

Reverend Steven Thomas Cholak