Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter - Jubilate - Isa 40:25-31


                                                                                                Easter 4

                                                                                                Isa 40:25-31



            Do you feel like God is ignoring you?  Does it seem like God is treating you in a way that is not fair?  It’s not surprising that sometimes we feel this way.  When we experience problems with our health, we want to ask God, “Why is this happening to me?”  If they are severe, or if they drag on it can indeed seem like God is ignoring us.  It is discouraging to deal with ailments that sap our strength and take joy out of life as we deal with them day after day.

            Do you feel like God is ignoring his people the Church? Does it seem like God is treating us in a way that not fair? You know the world in which we live today.  It is discouraging to see that the life of a faithful Christian is becoming and more difficult.  You know what it is like to talk to a person who has a completely secular world view - a person for whom the idea of a God who acts in our world and reveals himself is the stuff of fairy tales.

            Does it seem like God is ignoring the problems that are occurring in your life, or that of family and people you care about?  I will tell you that I learned of a tragedy this week that really struck home for me.  Chris was a guy I played baseball with at Concordia College, Ann Arbor.  I certainly liked him while in college, but honestly, at the time I wasn’t sure what kind person he would turn out to be. 

            After losing track of him for years, Facebook became the means by which I reconnected with Chris and had a chance to see what he had become.  It was wonderful to see that he was a man of faith, family, teaching and coaching at a Lutheran school. He was a really good guy.  Then, I learned that Chris died this week of Covid.  I was shocked.  I don’t know anything about the circumstances, but his death leaves behind a widow, several children who are around college age, and a grieving church and school community where he had clearly impacted many lives.

            Our text from the prophet Isaiah addresses these kinds of experiences. The prophet reminds us first, that God is simply out of our league.  We don’t want to hear it, but we are just not in a position to understand, much less question what he does.  But while that is true, Isaiah also assures us that God does not just leave us there.  Instead, he is the One who gives us strength – a strength that is grounded in his remarkable and dramatic action to save us.

            Isaiah wrote in the eight century B.C. In his day, the Assyrian empire was the great threat from which Yahweh miraculously delivered Jerusalem.  The Assyrians had conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and taken the people into exile.  God had used the Assyrians as the instrument of his judgment against Israel, for from the very time when it broke away from Judah after the death of King Solomon that nation had embraced the false gods of paganism in every way.

            Judah too was sinful in this way. The experience with the Assyrians was a warning – a call to repentance.  But the people were not going to pay attention.  And so in his prophecy Isaiah writes about the exile that would occur to Judah in the sixth century B.C. The Babylonians would take them into exile.  But in his prophecy Isaiah also speaks Yahweh’s word of promise and good news that he would bring them back to their own land. 

            God says through Isaiah at the beginning of our text, “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.”  Yahweh begins by reminding the people that he is the true God – he is the Creator – and there is no one else like him.

            In Isaiah’s prophecy Yahweh continually reminds the people that he is the almighty Creator.  He has all might and power and there is no one that can be compared to him. In the verses just before our text Isaiah writes, “Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.”

            Because this is so, the complaint by the people of Judah – and by us – has no justification.  God says through Isaiah, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God’?”  There are two accusations here. The first is that God does not know about the problems experienced – that he is oblivious to them. The second is that he doesn’t care and isn’t doing what it right for them – what they should be able to expect from God.

            Yahweh’s response to Judah and to us is very direct.  He says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” God is the almighty One who never lacks power.  He never grows weary.  And his understanding is unsearchable. 

            This is one of the moments when we just have to admit that we don’t know what God is doing. We aren’t capable of knowing what God is doing.  He is God and we are not. We say things like, “I don’t understand what God is doing.”  And that is precisely the point. We don’t, and we won’t. Later in Isaiah God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

            We can’t understand what God is doing because he is God and we are his creatures.  Beyond that, we can’t understand what God is doing because we are sinful people.  Even as those who are a new creation in Christ our lives are still pulled down by the old Adam. We may not understand what God is doing, but God has revealed in his Word that he uses the circumstances I described at the beginning of the sermon to crucify the old Adam in us.  He uses them to force us to turn away from ourselves and toward God. He uses them to cause us to grow in faith.

            In our text, God promises that he gives strength to faith. He says, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

            The source of this strength is God’s action in this world. This chapter begins with the words, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.” God speaks of the rescue he is going to provide to Judah.  He will act to bring them back from exile. Isaiah then writes: A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

            Isaiah speaks about the return from exile. But this saving action by God pointed forward to something even bigger; something even mightier. The careful listener will hear in that text the prophecy about John the Baptist.  Matthew tells us in his Gospel, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”

            The glory of the Lord was revealed as God sent his Son into the world to win salvation for us, and defeat death. This is what happened when Jesus Christ died on the cross. Although he is true God, he took on a human nature in the incarnation – he became man without ceasing to be God.  He did this in order to take our place as he suffered and died receiving God’s judgment against us.  Jesus Christ was the Servant of the Lord who fulfilled these words of Isaiah: “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

            Jesus died on Good Friday to win forgiveness for us. He was buried in a sealed tomb.  But during this season of Easter we are celebrating the fact that God acted in our world in an incredible and new way.  He raised Jesus from the dead. He raised Jesus with a body transformed so that it can never die again.  Jesus lives!  And because he does, death has been defeated.  He is the first fruits of the resurrection.  Because Jesus has risen, we will too.

            There was nothing about Good Friday that would have led us to expect this blessed outcome.  Jesus hung on the cross in weakness, failure, shame, and humiliation. It certainly looked like his way was hidden from the Lord, and that his right was disregarded by God.  But God’s understanding is unsearchable.  His ways are not our ways.  And what looked like failure and rejection, was actually God’s most powerful action to take away our sins.

            We know this now, because God raised Jesus up on Easter. And in fact, we have learned that Jesus’ death was the means by which God has defeated death forever. Because Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead we have been reconciled to God. Baptized into Christ’s death, we are saints who already now possess eternal life with God. And because Jesus has risen from the dead, we know that Christ will raise and transform our bodies on the Last Day.

            The resurrection of Jesus gives us living hope.  This is what allows us to trust in God when it seems like our way has been hidden from the Lord, and that our right has been disregarded by God.  The Spirit gives us grace to trust in God because we have already experienced his amazing love in the death and resurrection of his Son for us.

            In circumstances of difficulty and hardship, we wait for the Lord. But we wait for the One who has already acted in the death and resurrection of Christ. The Spirit of the risen Lord gives us strength through the knowledge of what God has done for us. And because he does, Isaiah’s words are true for us:He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Commemoration of Anselm of Canterbury, Theologian


Today we remember and give thanks for Anselm of Canterbury. Born in Italy in 1033, Anselm is most closely associated with England, where he served as Archbishop of Canterbury for many years. A brilliant scholar and writer, Anselm used his political skills with the British kings on behalf of the established Christian church, affirming that it is the leadership of the church and not the state which has the responsibility of establishing structure and maintaining order among the clergy. Anselm is especially remembered for his classic book, Why God Became Man, which taught that the reason for the incarnation was that Jesus, the Son of God, would suffer and die in place of sinners.

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, you give the gift of teachers to your Church.  We praise you for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant Anselm, and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Mark's thoughts: What does it mean to "Love Your Neighbor"?


Recently there have been signs on lawns around my town that say:


Love Your Neighbor

No matter how they are challenged.

No matter their sexual orientation.

No matter their gender identity

No matter their religion.

No matter their race.

No matter who they voted for.

No matter their economic status.

No matter their immigration status.

Love Your Neighbor. No Exceptions.


The signs bear the symbol of a Christian group.  On the one hand, there is no question that faith in Jesus Christ leads us to love all people.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes how those who have received the kingdom of God – the reign of God – (Matthew 4:17; 12:28) in him are to live as a result of this.  He says, “You have heard that it was 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” (Matthew 5:43-45).  Jesus taught, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (7:12)  In a similar manner, St. Paul wrote, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4), and then he goes on to provide Jesus Christ as the pattern of this sacrificial love (2:5-8).


Because of the love we have received in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christians will seek to assist and help their neighbors.  We will love not in word or talk, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). God demonstrated “his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6).  If God loved us in Christ when we were this way, then we will share the love of Christ with others no matter who they are.


Yet the phrasing of the sign also raises the question of what it means to love our neighbor.  In Ephesians 4:14 Paul says that Christians are not to be tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Having established that there is error that must be avoided, the apostle writes in the next verse, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (4:15).

The sign mentions “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “religion.”  While loving those identified by these categories means helping them, it does not mean considering their status to being completely acceptable.  The phrase “sexual orientation” indicates that there may be some other way of using sex in addition to that between a man and woman (in marriage).  Yet this violates God ordering of his creation (Genesis 1:26-28) and God’s Word says that those who do so will not inherit the kingdom of God (1Corinthians 6:9-10) – they will not experience salvation with God.  In the same way, “gender identity” indicates that a man or a woman may choose to “identify” as the opposite sex.  Yet this denies the fact that our bodies are God’s creation and gift.  He creates us as male or female, and to reject our body is to reject the Creator who gave it to us.

In the case of other religions, Christians are called to proclaim Jesus Christ as the crucified and risen Lord. We are to tell others that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Only through faith in Jesus Christ is there forgiveness and salvation.

Loving those referred to by the phrases “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “religion” will also mean speaking the truth in love.  It will mean calling sin, sin.  It will mean sharing God’s will with these people as we have opportunity.  Loving will not mean accepting, or even encouraging, such false beliefs and practices. It will mean speaking the truth to them and to our culture as a whole.

Finally, it should be noted that “immigration status” indicates the possibility that an individual is in the area in violation of the law – that he or she is here illegally.  This too is not something that we can consider acceptable.  God’s Word teaches us to obey the governing authorities (Fourth Commandment; Romans 13:1-7), and that means following the laws of our land.

Loving our neighbor means helping and supporting him or her as we would want to be helped. This kind of love is indeed directed to every kind of neighbor – even an enemy.  But love never considers sin to be acceptable.  Love speaks the truth of God’s Word and will to our neighbor for their good, and ultimately, in the hope that he or she will come to know Jesus Christ as Lord, who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).







Commemoration of Johannes Bugenhagen


Today we remember and give thanks for Johannes Bugenhagen.  Bugenhagen (1485-1558), from Pomerania in northern Germany, was appointed pastor of Wittenberg in 1523 through the efforts of Martin Luther and thus served as Luther's own pastor and confessor. One of the greatest scholars of the Reformation era, he helped translate the New Testament into Low German and wrote a commentary on the Psalms. He also worked to organize the Lutheran Church in northern Germany and Denmark, journeying to Copenhagen where he crowned both King and Queen and consecrated seven men to the offices of superintendent and bishop.

Collect of the Day:

O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Johannes to be a pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Sunday, April 18, 2021

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter - Misericordias Domini - Jn 10:11-16


                                                                                                Easter 3

                                                                                                Jn 10:11-16



            We are currently studying the book of Revelation in Bible class. There the apostle John shares what God revealed to him while he was in exile on the island of Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 

            In chapter six, John has had his first exposure to what the last days will bring.  It is one of war and suffering.  In particular, it is one in which the Church suffers as Christians are martyred because of faith in Jesus Christ.

            Then in chapter seven, John experiences the first example of what will be a pattern in the book.  Descriptions of the suffering by the Church are followed by a scene that comforts as it shows that Christ’s Church is victorious in the midst of suffering. God will preserve the fullness of his Church, and those who die share in the victory of Christ.

            In chapter seven John sees a great multitude from every nation, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. The heavenly elder tells John: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  John is told that now they are before the throne of God. He learns: “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

            These are words that we hear every time we observe All Saints’ Day. They are tremendously comforting. Because they are, and because we are so familiar with them, we often overlook the very unusual image that is presented here. The elder tells John, “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd.”  Notice here that the Lamb is serving as the shepherd.  Of course, that’s not how things really work in the world. A sheep does not serve as the shepherd, a person does.

            Naturally, we know who the Lamb is – it is Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God who died on the cross and rose from the dead.  He is the One who was sacrificed to take away sins.  It is his blood that has made the robes white.  He has given the Christians forgiveness.  As John said in the first chapter of Revelation Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. He loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. That is why he can be described as both the Lamb, and the One who shepherds his people.

            When the apostle John wrote his Gospel, he included words of our Lord Jesus about shepherding that are just as unusual. They are unusual and striking, yet they are understandable, because they are based on the exact same truth. 

            In our Gospel lesson, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  Now here again, we have heard these words so many times that we probably don’t stop and think about how odd they really are. No shepherd in the ancient world would give his life in order to save sheep. Sheep were property – they were a commodity in which there was always some element of loss to due to disease, or wild animals. A shepherd who gave his life to save the sheep was not the good shepherd.  He was the dumb shepherd. It’s an absurd statement.  And yet, it is a statement that captures the blessed absurdity of the Gospel.

            The part here that does make total sense is the use of sheep as a metaphor to refer to us.  Isaiah wrote in chapter 53, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” This statement only made sense in Isaiah’s day, because everyone knew that sheep do go astray.  They are dumb and wander off.  They leave the safety of the flock watched over by the shepherd, and goes places where they then find themselves in danger.

            That’s what we do.  God has given us his Word that tells us his will.  He has even written his law on our hearts.  He has told us the ways that bring blessing and the ways that bring harm. And yet, we choose to ignore this as we go off and do our own thing. We put the things of this world first, and God second.  We act in selfish ways. We act in ways that we know are wrong, and yet we choose to do them anyway. Or worse yet, we can’t seem to stop ourselves from doing the very things that we know are wrong and destructive for us.

            Yet in spite of this – or actually because of this – Jesus is the good shepherd who has given his life for the sheep.  He did it because, just as we learn in Revelation, Jesus the Shepherd is also the Lamb.  When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he declared, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” 

            Immediately after our text, Jesus says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”  The Son of God was sent by the Father into the world in the incarnation to lay down his life for us. On the evening when he was betrayed, Jesus said, “but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

            Jesus gave himself as the sacrificial Lamb who atoned for our sins. The apostle John wrote in his first letter that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” By his death, Jesus has given us forgiveness.  But Jesus is also the firstborn from the dead.  As I noted earlier, immediately after our text the Lord says, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

            On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. He defeated death.  Because of this we already have eternal life with God, and Christ will also raise and transform our bodies on the Last Day so that they will never die again.  As Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

            It is as the crucified and risen Lord that Jesus now gives us forgiveness.  He just did it at the beginning of this service when he spoke to you and said, “I forgive you all your sins.”  You experienced exactly what Jesus was talking about in last week’s Gospel lesson when on the evening of Easter he appeared in the midst disciples.  He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

            Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for you. The shepherd gave his life for the sheep.  It’s absurd. And that’s why it is Gospel.  When you weigh things in the way of the Law, it makes no sense. But the gracious love of God does not work in the way of the Law. Instead, God loved us so much that we have been drawn into the love shared by the Father and the Son.  Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.”  And this love has prompted the ultimate sacrifice for us. Our Lord said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

            We have no right to claim such a relationship.  But it exists because Christ has loved us and called us through his Spirit.  Jesus says in our text, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”  Earlier in this chapter Jesus said about the shepherd, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

            Jesus has called you by name in Holy Baptism as he made you his own. Now, you continue to hear his voice through the Means of Grace.  You heard his voice in absolution this morning.  You hear his voice through the Scriptures and the proclamation of his Word.  You hear his voice as he speaks in the consecration of the Sacrament of the Altar and gives you his true body and blood. In so doing he enables you to follow him each day.

            The unthinkable happened. The shepherd gave his life for the sheep. And then he took it up again. This is how Jesus has love us.  This is how Jesus has shared the Father’s love with us.  Our Lord said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.” 

            Jesus has loved us. Because of this we have forgiveness, life, and resurrection.  Yet it means something else has well.  Christ said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  Jesus did the unthinkable by giving his life for us the sheep, so that now we too can think and act in the same way – the Gospel way.  The apostle John wrote in his first letter, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

            Jesus loved us in deed and in truth.  He is the good shepherd who gave his life for the sheep – for us.  He gave his life because we are sheep who wonder away in sin.  But Jesus is the shepherd who is also the Lamb who gave himself as the sacrifice to win forgiveness.  He laid down his life, but then on Easter he took it up again.  Jesus lives!  And because he does, we have eternal life now.  We have received Jesus’ love, and we seek to share it with others in word and deed we as look for Jesus’ return and the resurrection of the Last Day.
















Sunday, April 11, 2021

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter - Quasimodo Geniti - 1 Jn 5:4-10


                                                                                    Easter 2

                                                                                    1 Jn 5:4-10



            Do you feel like a world beater this morning?  Perhaps things are going really well in your life right now.  However, I am guessing that most of us look at our life and see difficulties and struggles that we wish weren’t there.  For many of us there are health issues that are constantly drawing our attention. These range from life threatening conditions, to those that are annoying and make life frustrating and less enjoyable.

            There are concerns about family members who are having problems.  We see them struggle with physical or mental illness, and often this impacts the whole family. We are worried about how school or their career are going.  We are concerned about the spouse he or she will choose.  We see family members drifting away from Christ and his Church.  And we have concerns about our own schooling, career and the future to come.

            As Christians it is impossible to look around at our culture and not be concerned.  The number of people who identify themselves as Christians and attend church is declining.  The culture is antagonist to Christianity as it seeks to force acceptance of sexual beliefs and practices that violate God’s Word.  Our culture acts like faith in Christ doesn’t matter – Sunday morning is just another day for a sport’s tournament and Marion High School schedules a football game for the evening of Good Friday.

            The epistle lesson for today, the Second Sunday of Easter, addresses this. On the one hand, there is no denying that the kinds of things I have just mentioned exist. But at the same time, the apostle John tell us that what God has done for us in Jesus Christ overcomes the world.  Through faith in Christ, we have victory.

            John begins our text this morning by writing, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.”  The starting point here is what God had done to you. You have been born of God.  This is not the way you started.  Instead, like everyone since the fall of Adam and Eve, you were conceived and born in sin.  You were not born of God.  You were born of the devil.  He was your lord because you were fallen and sinful.  No one had to teach you to be jealous, or selfish or angry.  Instead, it was just there in you as a sinful person.

            Jesus told Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.”  Sinful, fallen nature gives birth to sinful, fallen nature. That’s why Paul told the Philippians, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

            But God did not leave you there.  Instead, he acted in his Son Jesus Christ to give you forgiveness and salvation.  Jesus also told Nicodemus, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” To be born of God is to be born again. Jesus left no doubt how this happens when he went on to say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  Through the water of Holy Baptism you have been born again by the Spirit.  You have been born of God.

            God’s Spirit has worked faith in Jesus Christ, and your baptism is the source of the Spirit’s continuing work in our life.  How do you know that you have been born again – that you have been born of God?  You have been baptized!

            John has said that the one born of God overcomes the world.  He then goes on to clarify this further as he says: “And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  John says that our faith in Jesus Christ gives us the victory that overcomes the world.

            John states the reason for this as he goes on to say: This is he who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.”  John the Baptist had come baptizing in water. Yet John tells us in his passion account: “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness--his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth--that you also may believe.”

            Jesus Christ died on the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. As the incarnate Son of God, he had become flesh to be nailed to a cross and die for us.  In death, he poured forth water and blood. But that blood is the means by which he has given us life with God.  John says in the first chapter of this letter that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Where sin once cut us of from the holy God, now because of Christ that is no longer the case. John tells us in this letter, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The water that flowed from Jesus’ side has become the water of Holy Baptism that washes away all our sins.

            John says in our text, “And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  Faith in Jesus Christ overcomes the world. “The world” refers to all of the ways that devil is at work through sin.  Jesus referred to the devil as the “ruler of this world.”  Here in this letter John says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world.” 

            The end result of the world is death. It cannot be otherwise, because Jesus tells us about the devil, “He was a murderer from the beginning.”  Jesus Christ had no sin, but John tells us in this letter, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”  Jesus died as the atoning sacrifice in our place.  Our sin brought death to him.

            On Good Friday, as the sun was about to set, Joseph and Arimathea and Nicodemus hastily buried Jesus in a tomb.  Yet Jesus had told his disciples that he would rise from the dead.  On the morning of Easter there was confusion. The tomb was empty.  The women reported seeing angels who said Jesus was alive, and some had even met the risen Lord. But for the disciples who had followed Jesus there was nothing certain and sure.

            However, we learn in our Gospel lesson that on the evening of that day when the disciples were together in a locked room, the risen Lord Jesus appeared in their midst. He said, “Peace be with you,” and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples learned that Jesus lives! He has risen!  And because he lives, we have life too.

            Jesus had said, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  Note that our Lord said that those who believe in him have eternal life, and that then he goes on to mention the resurrection as well. Because you believe in Jesus who has risen from the dead, you already have eternal life.  You already possess life with God that has no end.  Nothing can change this fact, not even death itself.  If you die, your life with God will continue.

            And Jesus also promises that because he has risen from the dead, he will raise you as well.  If we die before Christ’s return, on the Last Day he will raise us up with bodies transformed to be like Jesus’ resurrected body that can never die again.  This morning our Lord provides you the guarantee and assurance that he will do so.  In the Sacrament of the Altar the risen Lord gives his body and blood into your body, and so you know that your body will be raised and transformed too.  Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

            In the incarnate Son of God, our Father has given us forgiveness and eternal life.  This is what the apostles experienced in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  John began this letter by saying: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

            Because you believe in Jesus, you have this life.  Because you believe in Jesus Christ, you have fellowship with the Father and his Son.  That is why John can say in our text, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

            This victory does not mean the absence of the kinds of troubles I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon.  The Lord Jesus told the disciples on the night before he died, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

            Instead, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have the living hope, peace, and life.  In the midst of the challenges we always have hope because we know that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. This reality changes the way we look at everything.  This is the source of encouragement that carries us through all the challenges.

            Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have peace.  The crucified Lord has risen and so we know that we have peace with God.  We have the peace of knowing that God’s continuing love and care is present for us through the work of the Spirit. Through the Means of Grace, he will sustain us in the life of faith – because after all, he is the one who created faith in the first place.

            And because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have life.  We already have eternal life with God now – life that will not end no matter what happens. We will have resurrection life on the Last Day when Jesus Christ returns and gives us resurrection bodies like his own. Yes indeed, as John says in our text today: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”