Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 29, 2010 - Holy Trinity Sunday - St. John 3:1-17

Holy Trinity Sunday
May 30, 2010
St. John 3:1-17

When it comes to “God,” most people can say something. Lots of people talk about “God.” God can be just about anybody or anything. Christians have notions about God, too. Part of our problem, something we ought to repent of, though, is that when we talk about God with others, we usually just talk about “God” in an almost generic sense. Holy Trinity Sunday reminds us that the Word of God teaches that God reveals Himself as One God in three Persons and three Persons in One God. These Persons are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We confess this truth about God because it is what the Bible teaches. But the Bible teaches it because that is what Jesus Christ, the Son, reveals to us. Therefore, if we're going to be Christians, when we talk about God, it's not sort of the generic word “God,” it's a confession of Jesus Christ who is true God and true man, who reveals to us the Father and sends to us the Holy Spirit. Or, put another way, if you're not talking about Jesus, you're not really and truly talking about the true God.

Now, we can say lots of things about God. That He's Almighty and All-Powerful, that He fills heaven and earth. That He is mysterious and inscrutable and unsearchable and unfathomable. We can say that the height and depth of the riches of His wisdom are way farther than beyond finding out. (St. Paul says that too!) In fact, when most people talk about God, even when they talk about Jesus, the big deal seems to be the power and the majesty and the might. But what is most amazing, most unfathomable, most incredible, is that the Almighty God who is maker and ruler over all things, wraps up all that glory and power and hides it in the flesh of His Son and that the Son hides His glory and comes down to earth as a man. True God and true man, to be sure but a man nevertheless. And for what reason? To save us from our sins. Here you have everything that God is when Jesus says, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.” And He says, “The Son of of Man must be lifted up.” Lifted up as in the cross. Suffering. Bleeding and dying. Here's the big thing about God on Holy Trinity Sunday: that the Son comes down to us to suffer and die for our sins. To be one of us, to die like one of us, and to take away all of our sins. And think about this: when the Lord Jesus looks least of all like God—when He's bloody and dying on the cross—that's when God is doing His greatest work of saving us from sin, death and the devil. Yes, the big thing about God is not how big He is, but that the Son comes to be our Savior!

And we don't have to figure this God out for ourselves. We don't have to imagine what He's like or guess what He does. He comes to us! Christ sends His Spirit upon you at the holy font and gives to you a new birth, from above, from the Spirit, by water and the Spirit. How do you get to know God? You're born into His family by water, word and Spirit in Holy Baptism. How does God come to you? By water and the word. Also through the preaching of Christ and even Christ Himself in His body and blood. Jesus teaches us that true faith isn't us somehow figuring God out but rather God coming to us. Think about this: the entire Holy Trinity has this one purpose: to save you from your sins. God the Father made you and sent His Son to redeem you. Christ the Son has come into this world to give His life into death for your sins and to rise again and to hold your righteousness safe in heaven. The Spirit comes to sanctify you, to make you holy by delivering to you Jesus' forgiveness by water, word, body and blood. The Triune God is a baptismal God. He's a saving and washing God. He's a down-to-earth-to-be-lifted-up-for-you God. He's a not-condemn-you but rather a save-you God.

Now listen closely. When Nicodemus comes to Jesus, he's looking for some figure-God-out kind of religion. He wants to get to know Jesus so Jesus will tell him how to figure God out. “Jesus, we know you're a prophet from God. You couldn't do all that stuff you do if you weren't. do I get in?” Nicodemus wants to know how he gets on board with God. And Jesus corrects him and saves him and us and tells him: “You don't get yourself to God. God gives you birth from above by water and the Spirit and that new birth is His way of connecting you to Me, who am lifted up for the salvation of the world!” Brothers and sisters in Christ: religion isn't about knowing a bunch of facts and figures about God. It's about God coming to us and saving us from our sins! And that the Spirit takes us from the devil's kingdom and puts us in God's kingdom in Baptism. And that we, as Christians, don't go around showing off to others how much “God knowledge” we have but, rather, like Christ, doing for them whatever it is they need. Being witnesses to the world that Christ did not come to condemn but to save. When others see your life, do they think God has come to condemn or save? Something to repent of when we show off a God who is the Judge of sinners instead of the Savior of sinners.

Blessed Martin Luther once made the comment that he didn't understand why the Gospel from John 3 was read for Trinity. I hate to take issue with the blessed Doctor, but don't you see? It's ALL about the Trinity. On Holy Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the Holy Trinity! But not just as God who is bigger than us and mightier than us! We celebrate that the Father made us and sent His Son to save us. We celebrate that the Son became man in Jesus Christ and was lifted up for us on the cross. We celebrate that the Father and Son sent the Spirit to deliver that forgiveness to us and give us new life and to raise us up on the Last Day. Yes, we confess the Creeds and read the Bible, but not because they load us up with facts and information. Rather, we read the Scriptures and confess the Creeds because in them we have the Good News that God is not just an “up-there” and far away God but a God who comes down to be our Savior. Holy Trinity day celebrates that everything God does, He does for you! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

May 23, 2010 - The Day of Pentecost - St. John 14:23-31

Today is Pentecost. On this day the Holy Spirit was poured out on Christ's people. On this day, people from every race and tribe and language heard the Good News that the Son of God had come into this world and died and rose to take away their sins. On this day, of those who heard, 3000 were baptized! Pentecost was an Old Testament harvest festival and on this first Pentecost of Christ's church, there was a harvest of people whom the Lord brought into His church! On this day we celebrate God's work in bringing into His harvest Nick and Lindsey and Gaylene and all of Christ's people. Today we celebrate that the Lord gives His Spirit to us so that we will have His Word and know the peace of Christ which passes all understanding.

Where Christ's Word is preached, there the Spirit is and there people are being saved. Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep my Word and the Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him. This means that where Christ's Word is, Christ and the Father are. And we learn on Pentecost that where the Spirit is, there the Word is. On the day you were baptized, Christ and the Father made their home with you. On the day you were washed with water and the Word, the Lord turned you from being His enemy to His child, from being a hater to a lover of God's Word. To keep Christ's Word means to hear and believe it. To be where it is preached and given out. The Lord has given to you the most precious gift: His Word which delivers Christ and the forgiveness of all of your sins. That is the Word that declares how the Son of God has died for you and risen again, defeating all your enemies of sin, death and devil. That is the Word which washes you, absolves you, comforts you and feeds you. It is the Word by which you can be certain that the Lord Himself lives in you and you in Him and He will raise you up on the Last Day. Here today we celebrate the confirmation of Lindsey and Nick because they are lovers of the Word and because Christ and the Father have come to live with them.

But Jesus also says, “He who does not love me does not keep My words.” Understand that where there is no Word, there is no Spirit, no forgiveness, no Christ and the Father. I know there are many out there who think that they can be Christians while never coming to hear God's Word and eat and drink Christ's body and blood. What do you think? Christ says that if they do not keep His Word they do not love Him. Nobody would say out loud, “I hate Jesus.” But they say that very thing when they cut themselves off from the Word of God. People can make all the excuses they want, but if they don't come to hear Christ's Word, they don't love Him and they will perish apart from Him. Which is a warning for all of us that we do not stop coming to church to hear Christ's saving Word. It's a warning also for us parents that we don't let our kids stop coming either but bring them to where Christ is doing His saving work. So yes, some call themselves Christians but really don't love God's Word because they don't keep it, hold on to it, cling to it. But that doesn't mean the rest of us keep God's Word very well either. Sure, we might be in church, but are we learning and keeping Christ's Word? Sure, Nick and Lindsey are getting confirmed but do they always pay attention to Christ's Word? Do they always grow in it? Do any of us cling to Christ's Word as we should? There's our Pentecost repentance: the Lord gives us His Word and we despise it and don't keep it and cling to it.

We need something greater than our own willpower to do this. We need something more than our own efforts. We need something better than a tower to climb up to God with. So Jesus goes to the cross. He is lifted up on the cross for people who want to lift themselves up to God. He hangs on the cross fulfilling God's Word because we pay no attention to His Word. He suffers and dies because we always want to take the easy way out. Christ conquers sin and death by His death and resurrection because we can't even come close to defeating those enemies. Then, having risen and ascended, Christ sends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes through the word. The Holy Spirit comes to remind us of everything Christ said. He comes to deliver to us what Christ won for us. He comes so that by Christ's Word we would be made new creations who love the Lord and keep His Word. If it were up to us to keep the Word, we could never do it. But the Holy Spirit comes to us by that Word and works in us to keep that Word. because we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus or come to Him, it is the Holy Spirit who calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies us. Understand this: whatever in us clings to and keeps Christ's Word, that is from the Holy Spirit. He is the One who, through the water and the Word, has made you a new creation. He is the One who through the word preached brings a new life. He is the One who through the body and blood of Jesus strengthens and keeps you in the faith. It is the Spirit who gives you Jesus through the Word an therefore gives you forgiveness and life.

Jesus then tells His disciples that He is leaving them His peace. What is Christ's peace? It is the peace that only the Word of Christ can give. It's the peace that says simply, “God is no longer going to throw you into hell because of your sins.” He's not going to do it. Because Christ has suffered and died and risen for you. But this peace isn't given apart from Christ's Word. When Jesus says He is leaving His peace with His disciples, He doesn't mean a warm fuzzy feeling in their hearts. He means, because He is sending the Holy Spirit through the preaching of His Word. Just like on Pentecost: the Holy Spirit came and the apostles preached. They go together. You can't separate them. If you cut yourself off from Christ's Word, there is no peace. But where the Spirit is, where you have your Baptism, the absolution, the Gospel and the Supper, there is true peace, true comfort because your sins are forgiven. God holds nothing against you in Christ. Sin, devil and death have no power over you. That is the peace that Jesus promises. And He promises that peace through His Word and Spirit. Where those are, you can have every confidence that the Lord will live with you and forgive you and keep you unto eternal life.

On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came. How do we know? Through the rushing wind and tongues of fire but most of all because the apostles preached. Today we rejoice over Lindsey and Nick and Gaylene. Do they have the Spirit? They do! How do we know? Because they have been baptized. They have heard His Word. Now they come to receive Christ's body and blood. Where Christ crucified is proclaimed, there know that the Spirit is with you, your sins are forgiven and you have the peace which only Christ can give. Only holy Pentecost day, rejoice that the Lord has brought you into His kingdom and pray that He will keep you in His church so that you may keep and cling to Christ's Word until He raises you from the dead on the Last Day. The Spirit is faithful and will do it for the sake of Jesus Christ. Happy Pentecost! In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 16, 2010 - The Installation of the Rev. Alan Kornacki, St. Peter, Campbell Hill - St. Mark 16:14-20; 1 Peter 4:7-14

Today is a day of celebration! It is a day of celebration because this is the day the Lord rose from the dead! He died on the cross and answered for our sins and rose from the dead and now He has ascended to the right hand of the Father, securing your place there! It is a day of celebration for this congregation because she is once again going to be served by her own full time pastor. Today, people of God at St. Peter, the Lord is giving you a man to call upon when your sins trouble you, when your are sick, when you need the comfort of Christ's Word. A man to teach you God's Word and to care for you in the faith of Christ. Today is a day of celebration for Pastor Kornacki who has longed to once again serve the Lord in the Office of the Holy Ministry, caring for the Lord's flock. It's even a day of celebration for the vacancy pastor who can now go back to working just one day a week instead of two! So today let us hear why it is the Lord is giving you a pastor once again and remind that pastor of what the Lord expects of Him. We'll also hear from God's Word how you are to treat your pastor and how he has been commanded to love you. It is a great blessing that the Lord has once again called a man to serve as the shepherd of His flock in Campbell Hill!

In the Gospel for our Lord's Ascension, which we just heard, Jesus commands His apostles to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Whoever does not believe will be condemned.” When our Lord had accomplished the salvation of the world, He sent His preachers to announce it to the ends of the earth. Jesus, the Son of God suffered and died for all of our sins upon the cross. He rose victorious and has thrown down the powers that were against us: sin, death, devil, hell, the curse of the Law—all of it. But how does that salvation come to us? It comes through a preacher. The Lord, in order that the whole world would know what He has done and so believe in Him, sends His preachers to preach and baptize. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is why you are being given a pastor. Because even here in Campbell Hill, Illinois, sinners need to hear that they have a Savior. And so the Lord is giving you a preacher to declare that to you. That's His job: to preach the Good News that for Jesus' sake your sins are forgiven. He is sent to baptize and to remind you of your baptism. He is sent to absolve you and declare that holy pardon that your sins no longer block you from God. He is sent here to feed you with the holy food of Jesus' body and blood so that you will be forgiven of your sins and strengthened in the faith. Pastor Kornacki is being given to you, brothers and sisters in Christ, so that you will always have this comfort and confidence, so that there will be a man here to deliver to you those gifts of Word and Sacrament by which the Holy Spirit keeps you in the faith. You NEED a pastor to give you exactly those things!

Now, Pastor Kornacki, pay attention! Christ has commanded you in this Call to preach the Gospel. That is your job. That is your calling. You are not to come here with your own notions about what this church needs or doesn't need. You are not put here to come up with clever ideas or things that will impress people. You are not put here to please the people and give them what they want. You are put here for this job: to preach Christ and Him crucified, the Savior of sinners. You are put here to splash the saving water and word of Baptism upon young and old and to teach these saints to live each day in the confidence of their baptism. You are put here to hear their confessions, bear their burdens and joyfully pronounce the absolution so that they may be comforted that their sins are no longer held against them. You are put here to faithfully administer Christ's body and blood and that means teaching people to treasure that gift but also withholding it from those who have not yet been taught what it is. Your job, Pastor Kornacki, your calling, is to call sinners to repentance, no matter how hard that might be to do, no matter how mad they might get at you! But most of all, your job is to comfort them with Christ's forgiveness so that they may live in the joyful confidence that they are set right with God for Jesus' sake. Everything you do: preaching, teaching, serving in worship, visiting the sick, the homebound, and loving these people is for this one purpose: that by the Gospel you preach, they will believe and be saved. NOT because you are doing it but because you are the Holy Spirit's instrument by which this gets done.

So we know, people of St. Peter, why you have a pastor. Now, how shall you receive him and treat him? This we hear in our Epistle from this last Sunday of the Easter Season. St. Peter, whose name this congregation bears, writes: “Above all have fervent love for one another, for 'love covers a multitude of sins.'” What does this mean? Our Lutheran Confessions interpret this passage by reminding people that they must overlook their pastor's faults and shortcomings. I won't sugar coat it. People will say, “Pastor Kornacki is human too.” Well, he is, but there's more to it that that. He's a sinner. A low-down, dirty, rotten sinner. (Trust me, I know the guy! And I hear he's a Yankees fan on top of that!) But a baptized sinner. When Pastor Kornacki preaches and teaches faithfully what God's Word teaches, you are to receive Him and hear Him as if Christ Himself spoke to you. But there will be times when his sinfulness will be evident. Perhaps in his temper. Perhaps in his frustration. Perhaps in forgetting to do something or neglecting to do what he should have done. It may be that he will sin against you by not being patient or attentive or aware of something. Whatever it is, hear God's Word from St. Peter: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Love him. Forgive him. When some foolish thing he says or does is not a violation or contradiction of God's Word, then love him. Forgive him. Overlook it. Never despise him for the same sins which you do. Rather lift him up in prayer and support him by your gracious forgiveness and love. Do not hold against him what you would not want held against you and what Christ Himself has forgiven!

Your turn, Pastor Kornacki. These are the Lord's people, not yours. They are sinners. They don't know as much about the Bible as you do. They didn't go to seminary. They can't read Greek and Hebrew. They don't have Masters degrees in doctrine. They forget their Catechism. They forget the commands of our Lord to love their neighbor and to love the Lord above all things. When they blow it, when they sin, don't come raining down on them as the holy-terror Mr. Authority Figure that many think the pastoral office has made them. No, love them! Cover their sins. Call them to repentance gently. Deliver Jesus and His forgiveness to them gladly. Overlook their faults and shortcomings as you desire them to overlook yours and as Christ has forgiven yours. Brother Alan, teach them! Patiently! Teach them God's Word. Teach them the Catechism. Teach them how they should judge your doctrine according to the Word of God. And teach them how to love and forgive by showing them yourself how to do exactly that. Learn, brother, how to speak of your congregation. Always do so gently and respectfully. Do not complain about them to others. Speak of them as Christ sees them: holy and spotless and blameless for his sake. And if the temptation to grouse and complain becomes too much, then go and find your father confessor and unload your own sins upon the Lord. Never unload them on the people He has given you to serve. Love them, Pastor Kornacki, not in some feel-good way but in the true way which is the way of Christ's forgiveness and life!

Christ died and rose and sent His apostles to preach to all the world. Today He sends Pastor Kornacki into this congregation and community to be a preacher of His Word and a deliveryman of His gifts. Welcome him, people of God, with open arms and a rejoicing that Christ is promising you, by this man, that He Himself will never leave you or forsake you! Rejoice that the one who has died and risen does not leave you without His Word but graciously provides it to you through your pastor. And you rejoice, Alan, because the Lord has called you to serve these people with His Word and gifts. What joy that you are not put here to figure things out for yourself but rather have God's Word and Spirit to do the work for you! Today, brothers and sisters in Christ of St. Peter, all that Christ has is yours, to be given to you by the hand of this man that He has called to serve you. And today, Alan, all that Christ has for these people He puts you here to give them. This is a day of celebration indeed! In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

May 16, 2010 - The Seventh Sunday of Easter - St. John 15:26--16:4

Beware of people who are on God's side! When the Pharisees, who thought they kept the Law, heard the Apostles preach of Christ, they threw them out of the synagogues, thinking they were doing God a favor! When Christians in other countries are rounded up and killed by Muslims, those Muslims think they are doing a service to their god. They think that because they are holy and live the right way, the Christians who believe in Christ are worthy of death and their god will be proud of them if they slaughter those Christians. In our own church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, there is a great bias and disappointment among our leaders of those churches that are small, still use that old-fashioned hymnal, and don't send tons of cash to the bureaucrats in St. Louis. There are many out there—and I have heard them—who think that they are on the Lord's side, ready to do whatever it takes to grow His church and to look down upon anyone who doesn't fit their vision for what the church should look like. That's why congregations who get stirred up for Jesus are encouraged to get rid of their old fashioned pastors and why when a pastor who is on fire for Jesus comes in the faithful people are told to take a hike. This stuff happens, brothers and sisters in Christ! But it happens in our own hearts too. We come to church. We try to live right. We were born Lutherans perhaps. And so we have a right to look down on others because we think we have got religion figured out. Beware of people who think the Lord must be proud of them. Repent of thinking that for yourself!

Jesus tells His disciples that when the Helper comes, He will testify of Jesus. The church is not the place to get fired up about what great things you're doing for God; about how you're getting with His program and getting your life turned around. It's not about what you can do for God. The Spirit's preaching isn't how you can be a part of God's plan if you just give your life to Christ. No. The preaching that the true Holy Spirit delivers is what Jesus says: “He will testify of Me.” Of Jesus. True preaching and religion is about Jesus. Jesus who was born of the Virgin to become man and live a perfect life a scandal to those who think God could never do such a thing! Jesus who was arrested and beaten and crucified by the religious leaders who though they were doing God a favor by getting rid of Jesus! Jesus who rose from the dead and ascended so that His disciples would have that comfort even when they were being killed for His Name, that they too were safe in Christ and would rise from the dead. Jesus told them what would happen so that they would know and that even when they were being crucified upside down and skinned alive and burned at the stake, those disciples had that comfort of the Holy Spirit, that Christ had saved them and would raise them from the dead.

When the Lord's Old Testament people began to turn away from Him while all the while going through the motions and thinking they were God's special people just because—the Lord punished them. He sent them away. Sent them to Babylon. And what saved them? What rescued them? Did they straighten up and decide they had better be even more religious? No. The Lord saved them. That's what Ezekiel says. The Lord says through Ezekiel that He was going to gather them back from being scattered and then wash them with clean water and give them new hearts! What we need, brothers and sisters, are not hearts that are on fire for Jesus! We need hearts that believe that we are nothing except for God's grace. We don't need hearts that are on God's side but hearts that believe God is on our side. Not that we are for Him but that He is for us. That's the preaching of the Holy Spirit: Not how you can get on God's good side but how He has put you on His own good side by sending His Son to be your Savior on the cross.

See, when it comes to religion, we like to think we're doing all right. We joined a church. We go to church. We call ourselves Christians. We come and worship as if we're doing God a favor! As if He's better off for our being here! Repent! See that God does not need you. He does not need me. Rather by His grace He calls us in Christ. He sprinkles us, too with clean water, the water of Holy Baptism. For Baptism is not us making a choice for Christ and then proving it by Baptism. Baptism is the proof that Christ has made a choice for you, claiming you as His own and putting Himself and all that He has in your corner! When He absolves us, we are not just hearing that “it's OK, we're not that bad.” We're given the Good News that all of our sins and iniquities for which God ought to cast us into hell have been wiped out by Jesus' blood and forgotten by God, never to be brought up again. When we come to the communion rail, it's not because we presume that Christ wants us there because we're such good Christians but because He calls us unworthy sinners and invites us to feast upon Him. Being a Christian, a child of God, is HIS work, not ours. Our religion isn't our doing something special for God. It's Him doing the saving work for us. It's always Him, doing the saving, doing the washing, doing the preaching, doing the feeding. That's what the Holy Spirit bears witness to.

And that's why the world will never understand our church. That's why the churches that surround us will never understand our church. Its why our Synodical leaders won't get it. For them its all about what they are doing for God. The work hard to look busy for Jesus. But the moment you tell them that they can't do anything from God or apart from God, they will not like you. The moment you offend someone and tell them that God is not impressed with them but that they are a moldy sack of sins—well they'll not like you. In bad cases they may just ignore you and look down on you. In worse cases they'll disown you and have nothing to do with you. And in the worst cases, they'll kill you, as they do our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world. That is why Jesus tells us this. He tells us this so that when the world thinks our religion is stupid because it doesn't puff up ourselves, we won't be surprised. It's why St. Peter tells us not to get upset when we suffer for the Name of Christ. Because remember the Holy Spirit's testimony, His preaching: You are Christ's. He has made you His own by His death and resurrection, through Baptism and His Word and body and blood. You are His. He has claimed you. Nothing can overturn His work or undo His salvation or snatch you from His hand.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, be comforted by this Good News when the world is against you. When religious people attack you and belittle you. Never mind all of them. You stand firm in that simple faith that trusts that Jesus alone is your salvation. If the world and the holy people want to mock you, then cling to your Baptism, to Christ's Word, to His body and blood. When you suffer for the Name of Jesus, rejoice! Rejoice because the Spirit of God rests upon you and He testifies of Jesus and He promises to keep you in the true faith. Beware of those who think they are on God's side. And rejoice because God is on your side in Jesus Christ. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 13, 2010 - The Ascension of Our Lord - St. Mark 16:14-20

People often think that by ascending into heaven, Jesus has gone away from us. He was here on earth and now He's “up there” somewhere and isn't really around until He comes again. But pay close attention to what Luke wrote down in the book of Acts: “A cloud hid Him from their sight.” The Bible doesn't say that Jesus went away when He ascended. It says they couldn't see Him anymore. But if Christ isn't gone then where is He? That is answered in St. Mark's Gospel in which Jesus gives His apostles the command to preach the Gospel to every creature. And so they did, writes Mark, “the Lord working with them.” When Jesus ascends and is hidden, it is only to be hidden to our eyes so that instead, by the preaching of the Gospel, He would go to the ends of the earth. Before Elijah was taken away in the fiery chariot, he ordained Elisha to be the preacher after him. Before our Lord's Ascension, He ordained His Apostles to preach the Gospel and Baptize. Understand this: the big deal is not that Jesus Himself is here speaking to us but that His Word is delivered into our ears whether its by His own mouth or the mouths of His preachers. The Good News of the forgiveness of sins is what our Lord gave to His preachers to deliver to the world.

Jesus' Ascension is the celebration and seal of His work for sinners and it is the beginning of the delivery of that forgiveness. Christ's perfect life and His bloody death have destroyed the power of sin and the power of Satan to accuse us before God. His resurrection from the dead stripped Death of its power. Now His ascension means that all our righteousness is kept safe for us and no one can take it away from us. Imagine the big tall kid holding the ball while the little kid jumps up and down trying to grab it and can't. So it is with our salvation and righteousness. It is kept safe by Jesus so that the Devil can't snatch it away! Our Lord Himself holds on to your righteousness in heaven so that nothing can take it away from you. It is this forgiveness and salvation that is splashed upon you at the holy font; spoken into your ears by preaching and absolution and fed into your mouth with Christ's own body and blood! These earthly gifts that are given to us with Christ's Word attached have His promise that where they are given out faithfully, He Himself is there. Jesus isn't far away in outer space somewhere! He's right here, on earth, in His church. Hidden to our eyes, true, but plainly visible to the eyes of faith. And you have this promise that everything He gives you in this life: Baptism, Absolution, the Gospel, the Supper, all have the crucified, risen and ascended Jesus standing behind them so that their promises smash any opposition of Satan and cannot be overcome!

Notice that after Jesus ascended, the Apostles weren't sad. They rejoiced! They were happy! And what did they do? They worshiped! The angels preached that Christ will come again. His Ascension reminds us that just as He departed, so He will come again and one day Jesus will again be seen with our eyes. But until that day, we aren't sad. We rejoice! And we worship. Until Christ comes again we worship. And “worship” just means we receive Christ where He has promised to be: in His church in His Word and Sacraments. That's why the angel's say, “Why are you looking up into the sky?” You don't look for Jesus “up there.” You don't look for Him just anywhere. You look for Him where He has promised to be: in His church in the means of grace. There He comes to you and will never leave you. Here He comes and delivers His forgiveness, life and salvation which can never be snatched away from you! On this day, Christ ascended on high! Not to get away from us! But so that He would be with us always and among us to forgive and save us right here where His Word is. All thanks and praise and glory be to our Lord Jesus Christ who has conquered all our enemies and now lives and reigns on high at the right hand of the Father while yet dwelling among us in His holy church through His holy gifts. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

May 9, 2010 - The Sixth Sunday of Easter - St. John 16:23-33

James writes that we should be doers of the Law and not just hearers. When we hear God's Word and then go and forget it, it's like looking in a mirror and forgetting what you look like. Today is Mothers Day. Mother's know what St. James is talking about. A mother can have eye contact and the full attention of her child, tell them to do something and then five minutes later the child has already forgotten what Mom told them! And don't we do the same thing when Mother Church speaks God's Word to us? We come and hear the preaching of the Word here in church and then immediately go out and do the opposite. We hear how we're supposed to forgive others and we go out and get angry and hold a grudge. We hear how we are to love and serve our neighbor and we go and live as if we're the only ones in the world who need anything. We come and hear how great the forgiveness of sins is, yet we don't eagerly desire it and we avoid Christ and His Word and gifts. Be doers! Not just hearers but doers! Don't just LISTEN to what is preached and taught. Go do it!

But do you ever get the feeling that even though the Lord teaches us His Word, He operates on the assumption that we're NOT going to keep it? Consider the Israelites. Instead of asking for what they needed they grumbled and complained. So much so that the Lord sent them snakes to kill them. But when they cried out, Moses prayed for them and He told Moses to make the bronze serpent for them to look at and be saved. He punished them and yet rescued them. Consider Jesus' words to His disciples. He speaks tenderly and lovingly to them, telling them how they may ask anything in His name. But then He proceeds to tell them that they will all be scattered like sheep! It's like He's telling them to trust in Him while lecturing them that they won't do it! Like when the boy tells Mom, “I'm sorry! I won't do it again.” And Mom knows good and well that he's going to go away right now and do it again! The Lord knows good and well that when He tells you something, you're not going to do it! He knows you're going to forget it and be a hearer and not a doer. That's why Jesus teaches His disciples that He has overcome the world.

When Israelites were being bitten by snakes, their salvation was to look at the bronze snake lifted up before their eyes. When sinners are being killed by their sins, Jesus is lifted up on a cross so that we may be saved. Notice that the thing which saves the Israelites is the image of what is killing them: a snake. So it is with Jesus. When He is lifted up on the cross, it is as a sinner, as a God and neighbor hater, as an idolater, adulterer, murderer, coveter, thief and every other kind of sinner. When the Lord is lifted up on the tree of Calvary, He is lifted up there! There with your sins. Your failings. You're hearing but not doing. Your complaining instead of rejoicing. Your saying one thing and doing another. Your bad religion which glorifies yourself instead of helping those in need. All of it. All of your sin, your iniquities, your transgressions are heaped upon Jesus so that He can take them away for you. By this, Jesus overcomes the world. When he dies for your sins and rises again, He has overcome the world and anything that can destroy you.

So Jesus teaches His disciples to ask the Father for anything in His name. Now our first reaction might be to fold our hands and beg the Lord for that winning lottery ticket. But that would be being a hearer and not a doer! What we have heard is that what we need most is to be rescued from our sin. From our always turning away from the Lord, complaining and not paying attention to His Word. So we should learn to pray for hearing His Word, understanding it, and the will to do it and keep it. We ought to pray that when we walk out of the doors of church on Sunday that the Lord's Word will stick with us and that the Spirit, by that Word, will actually make us people who glorify God and serve others by what we say and do. We ought to pray that if the Lord forgives our sins, we can forgive others and let things go. We ought to pray that if God wants us to hear and learn His Word, we read and study it every day. We ought to pray that if God's Word says to love others, that He make us willing and able to help and support others in their needs.

But when you pray, how do you know the Father is paying any attention to you at all? Because Jesus says so! “For the Father loves you because you have loved me and believed in Me.” The Father loves you because of Jesus! Because in Baptism He has washed away your sins and by His Word you have been given faith in Jesus. Because you have been given the body and blood of Christ. Those things are your proof that the Father loves you and hears your prayer: because of Jesus. That's why when you ask for something, you ask it in Jesus' name. That doesn't mean we necessarily end every prayer with the words “in the Name of Jesus.” It means that we believe and know that the Father only hears us in and through His Son. Take away Jesus and the Father is deaf to us. But with Jesus we have a Savior who volunteers to do the Father's will and be lifted up on the cross for sinners so that forgiven, they may ask anything of the Father. So go ahead! Ask the Father! Anything! An don't set the bar low on junk that passes away with this world! Ask for the good stuff: the knowledge and understanding of His Word, the forgiveness of sins, the Spirit so that you will believe His Word and lead a holy life, a bronze serpent, that is, Jesus lifted up to rescue you from the sin which attacks. Ask for it in and through Jesus and know that it is yours from the Father's gracious hand!

Kids listen to their parents and do don't do what they are told. We listen to the Lord and go and do something else. But when the Father told Jesus to go and save us by dying and rising for us, there was no question, no argument, no forgetting; no hearing but not doing. The Son heard and the Son did. He was born into this world and He overcame this world. Therefore no matter what tribulations you have, no matter what sufferings, no matter what pain, no matter what is against you—know that Christ has beaten all of it. And His victory means that you have access to call upon the Father to give you His Word and Spirit so that you too overcome all these things in Christ. What has been heard has been done by Jesus so that you who are hearers may also be doers in Christ to His glory and the benefit of others. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.