Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul


Today is the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul.  Peter was a fisherman who was called as one of the twelve apostles and accompanied Jesus during His entire ministry (Matthew 4:18-22; 10:1-2).  He confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God and Jesus recognized the role of leadership that he would have in the Church (Matthew 16:13-20).  However, he also rebuked Jesus when our Lord predicted His passion (Matthew 16:21-23) and denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75).  Forgiven by our Lord and commissioned again to care for the flock (John 21:15-19) he was an important leader in the early Church (Acts 2) and God used him to indicate that the Gentiles were being received as part of the people of God (Acts 10).  He wrote two letters that are included in the New Testament.  According to Church tradition, he died a martyr when was crucified upside down in Rome.

Paul, originally named Saul, was a zealous Pharisee who persecuted the Church (Philippians 3:4-6; Galatians 1:13-16; Acts 9:1-2).  The risen Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus and called him to be an apostle who would proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:3-18).  Paul engaged in three missionary journeys to Asia Minor and Greece (Acts 13-14, 16-18, 18-21).  While in Jerusalem he was arrested and then imprisoned by the Romans at Caesarea (Acts 22-26).  As a Roman citizen, he appealed to Caesar and at the end of the Book of Acts he is in Rome under house arrest waiting for his case to be heard (Acts 28:30-31).  Paul wrote thirteen letters that are included in the New Testament.  We have little information about the chronology of the end of Paul’s life (it may be that he was released from Rome and then was later arrested again after doing further missionary work). According to Church tradition, he died a martyr when he was beheaded in Rome 

Scripture reading:

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. (Acts 15:1-12 ESV)

Collect of the Day

Merciful and eternal God, your holy apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of your Son.  Strengthen us by your Holy Spirit that we may confess your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for him who laid down his life for us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.




Monday, June 28, 2021

Commemoration of Irenaeus of Lyons, Pastor


Today we remember and give thanks for Irenaeus of Lyons, Pastor.  Irenaeus (ca. A.D. 130-200), believed to be a native of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), studied in Rome and later became pastor in Lyons, France. Around 177, while Irenaeus was away from Lyons, a fierce persecution of Christians led to the martyrdom of his bishop. Upon Irenaeus' return, he became bishop of Lyons. Among his most famous writings is a work condemning heresies, especially Gnosticism, which denied the goodness of creation. In opposition, Irenaeus confessed that God has redeemed his creation through the incarnation of the Son. Irenaeus also affirmed the teachings of the Scriptures handed down to and through him as being normative for the Church.

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, You upheld Your servant Irenaeus with strength to confess the truth against every blast of false doctrine.  By Your mercy, keep us steadfast in the true faith, that in constancy we may walk in peace on the way that leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity - Gen 50:15-21

                                                                                  Trinity 4              

                                                                            Gen 50:15-21



In the Treaty of Versailles that was signed after the end of World War I, several of the major winning nations had one goal: to punish and humiliate Germany which had started the most destructive war the world had ever seen. Germany was forced to give up is colonies in China and Africa.  It had to demilitarize the Rhineland, and give back the region of Alsace-Lorraine to France that it had taken in their 1871 war.  It had to give up German West Prussia to what became the newly independent nation of Poland.  Germany’s army and navy were limited to a laughable size.  It was not allowed to have an air force. And most damaging for a nation that was broke after four years of total war, Germany was ordered to pay $33 billion dollars in reparations – somewhere in the range of $425 billion in today’s dollars.

            The problem was that when the armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918, Germany was going to lose the war, but had not yet been defeated.  In fact, just in March of that year they had launched the Spring Offensive using troops newly freed up by the end of the war on the Eastern front where the Communist revolution had knocked Russia out of the war.  Initially this offensive was tremendously successful as the Germans drove to within seventy five miles of Paris.  Allied commanders were fearful that the war would be lost.

            But the allies stabilized the line and in August they launched the Hundred Days Offensive in which new tactics and the ever increasing presence of United States forces pushed the Germans back.  The German leadership knew the war could not be won, and military and civilian morale was failing. But the fact remained that when the armistice was signed, the allies had not yet entered into Germany, and Germany still held a large portion of Belgium.  This gave rise to the idea in Germany after the war that the military had been betrayed, and not defeated.  The humiliation of Versailles and the economic chaos that ensued, which then was followed by the Great Depression created the conditions in which a man name Adolf Hitler was able rise to power. He started an even more destructive Second World War. When Germany was defeated in that war, the allies learned from the mistakes of Versaille and took a very different approach toward the defeated nation.

            In the Old Testament lesson for today, we see how Joseph treated his brothers after his father Jacob died.  Rather than seek vengeance, he chooses to forgive them.  Yet in the story of Joseph and his family, we also see how sin and vengeance produce more sin and vengeance.  And we are reminded that God’s ways are beyond our understanding, even as he works for our good.

            Our text tells of the events after Jacob had died. With their father gone, his brothers said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”  Of course the evil they had done to Joseph was to sell him into slavery and fake his death which they reported to Jacob.

            This is the obvious sin that we remember when we think about Joseph. But in fact, it is an example of how sin ripples out and produces more sin.  When sinful people live together, there will be problems.  By definition, a family is a group of sinful people living together, and so not surprisingly we all see some kind of dysfunction in our family.  Of course, there are levels of dysfunction, and if you want to see some prime time dysfunction you need only look at Jacob’s family.

            Isaac and Rebekah had twins – Jacob and Esau.  Isaac favored Esau, while Rebekah favored Jacob. First Jacob swindled Esau out of his birthright.  Then Rebekah helped Jacob trick the elderly Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing that was meant for Esau.  Esau wanted to kill Jacob, so Rebekah sent Jacob to her brother Laban.  There Jacob fell in love with Laban’s daughter Rachel, but Laban tricked Jacob into taking his other daughter Leah as a wife, and only by having Leah could Jacob also have Rachel.

            Jacob favored Rachel.  Joseph was the son of Rachel, and so Jacob favored him.  And Jacob didn’t try to hide his favoritism. Instead he gave to him alone an expensive multicolored coat.  Joseph didn’t help matters.  When he had dreams that indicated he would have authority over his brothers, and even his parents, he announced them to everyone.  Joseph’s brothers were so fed up with Joseph that they wanted to kill him. Finally, they sold him into slavery and faked his death which they reported to Jacob.

            The thing we want to note here is how sin produced more sin. Certainly, our sins are sins against the holy God. But sins violate the ordering God has given for the world.  God has revealed this ordering for a reason.  He has created the world to work in certain ways, and if you choose to do things in your own way it will not turn out well for you. Sin will produce more sin, and our lives become caught up in ever more entangled messes.

            As we live in our marriages and families, we must recognize this fact.  Each sinful action – the selfish deed and the harsh word – sends out ripples of more sin in our relationships and family.  God’s Word teaches us that as a new creation in Christ we need to crucify the old man in us. We need to follow the Spirit’s guiding and by his power resist the sin that the old Adam wants us to undertake. 

We do this because it is God’s will and pleases him. But we also do so for the sake or our spouse and family. We need to take up the struggle against sin for their sake as well.  Our choices about whether to follow sin’s temptation or whether to resist them will help determine the quality of life that we experience in our marriage and family.

            Joseph’s brothers had sold Joseph into slavery.  But God had cared for Joseph – even when he suffered for doing the right thing.  In the end, God had used Joseph to reveal to Pharaoh that seven terrible years of famine would follow seven years of plenty. Pharaoh had placed Joseph as second in charge of Egypt, storing up food during the seven good years.  When the famine arrived, it affected the whole region.  Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food, and it was in that interaction that they learned Joseph was not only alive, but had power over their lives.  Joseph had moved Jacob and the family to Egypt where he could provide for them.

            Now Jacob had died, and the brothers feared what Joseph would do to them. They didn’t come personally. Instead they sent a message to Joseph saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”

            The brothers confessed their sin and asked for forgiveness.

When they actually came into his presence they fell down before Joseph and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”  But Joseph replied, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.”

            Joseph forgave his brothers. And in his action we see how we are to live as Christians because of our Lord Jesus.  St. Paul told the Ephesians, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross for you.  He carried out the Father’s saving will to order to win the forgiveness of your sins.  He received the judgment you deserved so that by faith and baptism you can stand before God as one who is justified – innocent and holy in God’s eyes.

            The wages of sin is still death, and so the on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead in order to defeat death.  By his death on the cross Jesus has won forgiveness for you. By his resurrection he has given you the assurance of eternal life – a life that will share in the resurrection life of Jesus when he returns in glory on the Last Day.

            God has forgiven you in Christ.  He has done this so that now through the work of his Spirit you can forgive others.  He has done this so that you can forgive your spouse; so that you can forgive your son or daughter, your father or mother, your brother or sister. It is this forgiveness which God has given us in Christ that has the power to stop the cycle of sin. Sin against one another does not need to beget more sin against each other.  Instead, because of Jesus Christ we forgive one another. We live together in God’s forgiveness and love that we have received in Christ.

            The death and resurrection of Jesus is the source of the forgiveness we share with one another. And it is also the reason that we can trust God in the midst of all circumstances.  In our text Joesph says to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

            In this statement, Joseph expresses the truth that God had been in control the whole time. Joseph had been sold into slavery.  He had been sent to prison when he resisted the sexual advances of Potiphar’s wife, and then was falsely accused of seeking to assault her.  He was forgotten by Pharaoh’s cup bearer after he correctly interpreted his dream. Injustice and disappointment had been followed by injustice and disappointment. Yet now Jospeh could see what God had been doing all along. He understood that God had been working in ways that at the time were mysterious and impossible to understand.

            Now what Joseph says is true. God works for good, and he often does this in ways we don’t understand. Certainly, God’s revelation about Joseph’s life is meant teach us this. But at the same time isn’t it easy to make this statement when you are second in charge of Egypt and you see how everything has turned out great?  What are we to think when the diagnosis is cancer?  How are we to view things when we or a loved one are struggling with mental illness?  What is one to say when the plans we had for life are not turning out as we hoped?

            St. Paul told the Romans, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  This is true. But many times it is a matter of faith because the “all things” don’t look so great. What is it that enables us to trust that God is indeed … somehow … still working good when everything we see looks bad?  It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            The resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate victory.  It is the game changer that causes us to see everything differently. Remember, there did not appear to be anything good about Good Friday.  Jesus hung dead on a cross. He had been humiliated as the powerless one. The Messiah? The Son of God?  You could throw all of that stuff out the window.  He was just another messianic pretender whose claims had turned out to be lies.  That’s all there was to see at three o’clock in the afternoon. On Saturday, he was just another corpse buried in a tomb.

            But on the third day, on Easter, God raised Jesus from the dead.  He demonstrated that in fact, Jesus’ death on the cross had been God’s most powerful action to save us. In fact, Jesus had shown himself to be the Messiah and Son of God by passing through the humiliation, weakness and death of the cross.  In Jesus’ resurrection we learn that sin has been forgiven and death has now been defeated.

            This knowledge becomes the lens through which we see all of our life.  The resurrection of Jesus is the reason that we can trust that God is indeed at work for good. We may have no clue how, but we have seen him work our greatest good in the cross of Christ.  We know this because Jesus rose from the dead, and so the resurrection of Jesus is our source of confidence and trust in the midst of all circumstances.

            Jesus is Lord.  He died on the cross for us.  He rose from the dead.  Because this is so, we seek to battle against sin, and instead by Christ’s Spirit to share love and support for those in our family and all around us.  When people sin against us, we forgive, because this is what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. And in the midst of any and all circumstances we trust that God loves us and is at work for our good, because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.  














Friday, June 25, 2021

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession


Today is the anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession.  In late 1517 when Martin Luther initiated the events that would result in the Reformation, he had no idea regarding what was about to take place.  Luther’s Ninety-five Theses were a call for academic discussion – not for thoroughgoing reformation of the Church.  However the discussions and debates that ensued prompted Luther to further study.  This process continued to reveal the extent to which the Church’s faulty practice was based upon theology which was not true to God’s Word.

Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X in 1520.  He was then summoned to appear before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521.  There Luther refused to recant and in the Edict of Worms Luther was declared to be “a manifest heretic.”  The edict declared that no one was to give assistance to Luther, but instead they were to take him prisoner and deliver him to the emperor.  The reading and distribution of Luther’s writings was forbidden.  It was Charles’ intention to deliver Luther over to Pope Leo X for the purpose of burning Luther at the stake. 

In 1526 at the Diet of Speyer, an ambiguous edit was passed in which the German princes promised to carry out the Edict of Worms according to their own consciences.  This provided the setting in which Elector John continued his support of the Reformation in Saxony.  However, at the Diet of Speyer in 1529 Charles V corrected the ambiguity of the1526 edict and forbade expansion of the Reformation.  This led the German princes to issue a formal appeal or “protest” (it is from this event that the term “Protestant” arose).  

However, Charles V found himself limited in his ability to act against princes and areas that supported the Reformation.  In 1529 the Turkish army had laid siege to Vienna before being turned back.  Charles faced this threat from the east, and he also was engaged in a struggle with France.  He needed the German part of his empire to be united in order to assist him.  He also had a genuine concern about the condition of the Church in the areas that he ruled.          

Charles V called for the Lutheran princes and cities to explain their religious reforms at an imperial diet that was to meet in the southern German city of Augsburg in 1530.  Luther was not able to travel to the diet because of edict passed against him in 1521and the Lutherans were led by his colleague, Phillip Melanchthon.  When the Lutherans arrived they found that a Roman Catholic opponent, John Eck, had produced a work entitled Four Hundred Four Propositions.  This work contained quotes from Luther and Melanchthon and mixed them in with heretical statements in the attempt to give the impression that the Lutherans supported most heresies known to the Church.

In the face of this, Melanchthon and the Lutherans realized that they would need to do more than just explain their reforms.  They needed to demonstrate that the theology they taught was true to the catholic (universal) tradition of the Church.  They need to state the biblical truth while condemning the false teachings that the Roman Catholics also rejected. 

Melanchthon was able to draw upon some previous doctrinal articles that the Lutherans had written.  He produced the Augsburg Confession which has twenty one articles on doctrinal topics and seven articles on reform efforts.  Latin and German editions of the confession were prepared.  The Latin text was presented to Charles V and the German edition was read aloud to the diet on June 25, 1530.            

At Augsburg, the Lutherans confessed the truth of the Gospel in the face of a very real threat to their possessions and lives.  We continue to share in this confession as the Augsburg Confession is the foundational statement of what the Lutheran Church believes and teaches.  In the Augsburg Confession we confess the biblical and catholic (universal) faith before the world.

Collect of the Day:

Lord God, heavenly Father, You preserved the teaching of the apostolic Church through the confession of the true faith at Augsburg.  Continue to cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may walk in the light of Your truth and finally attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one  God, now and forever.



Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Trinity - Micah 7:18-20


        Trinity 3

                                                                                    Micah 7:18-20



            Imagine that you went to a buffet that served only the very best food.  This would not be a matter of what you find in many settings like that - lots of food that is just “ok” or above average.  Instead, every dish is of the quality that you would find in the very best setting where it is served.

            At this buffet you find New York strip steak, crab legs, lobster, prime rib, filet mignon, Texas barbecue, Memphis barbecue and our own area’s 17th Street barbecue in all their varities of pork, beef and sausage.  Every one of them looks absolutely delicious.  However, here is the catch: at this buffet you are only allowed to choose and eat one of them. That’s all.  You can only choose one.

            That is how I felt on Tuesday morning when I looked at the assigned Scripture readings for today, the Third Sunday after Trinity.  They are indeed a veritable “Gospel buffet.”  Now all texts are God’s Word, but all texts are not the same.  There are texts where the Gospel rings through so clearly that they just beg to be proclaimed. And today, we have three of them.

            In the Gospel lesson we have the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin – parables that describe God’s intense love and desire to save us and his joy when people repent of their sin and believe the Gospel.  In the epistle lesson the apostle Paul describes himself – the former persecutor of the faith -  as the greatest example of the fact that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.  And then in the Old Testament lesson the prophet Micah emphasizes the compassion and steadfast love of God – a God who forgives and removes our sins.

            How do you choose just one of them in this amazing “Gospel buffet”?  I really couldn’t decide. So I let past history choose for me.  I looked to see how much time has passed since I had last preached on that text.  It turned out that the Old Testament lesson from Micah was the winner since it had been the longest. So that is the Scripture for our consideration this morning.

            The prophet Micah wrote in the eighth century B.C. He was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah.  Micah worked at a time after the nation had split into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. He is unique among the prophets in that he spoke to both the north and the south.

            Micah’s book directs a strong word of Law to the two nations.  The very first verses of his prophecy describe God coming dramatically in judgment. He writes: “Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place. All this is for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel.”

            Micah condemns the sins of Israel and Judah.  But while his words address the people of the eighth century, they speak directly to us as well.  As always, the fundamental problem was idolatry.  Micah says, “All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, all her wages shall be burned with fire, and all her idols I will lay waste.”

To be sure we don’t have carved images, but false gods are not hard to find.  Let me choose just one: sports.  This past week, did you spend more time watching sports, attending sports, reading about sports and thinking about sports than you did in attending the Divine Service, reading Scripture and praying?

            Micah condemned those who coveted and devised ways to take from others. He wrote: “Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.”  We too covet what our neighbor has – their bigger house, better car, more frequent vacations, their success in school, work or sports.

            The people didn’t want to hear the truth.  Micah reported that they said, “‘Do not preach’--thus they preach—‘one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.’”  The leaders, priest and prophets were sinning, and yet they convinced themselves that everything was ok.  Micah says, “Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the LORD and say, ‘Is not the LORD in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.’”

            This is a great danger that faces us.  As the world turns further and further away from God’s will and ordering for life, will we continue to listen to the truth of God’s Word? Or will be we carried away with the world’s sin?  Will we ignore what God says but convince ourselves that everything is ok, because after all, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us?”

            Micah announced that judgment was coming.  It arrived against the northern kingdom during his lifetime when the Assyrians conquered them in 721 B.C. and took the people into exile.  Michah also prophesied that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed when he wrote, “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.”  This didn’t’ happen until the sixth century B.C. at the hands of the Babylonians.  But at that time the book of Jeremiah referred to Micah’s words.

            Our text is the very end of Micah’s prophecy.  Just before this he has said, “But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”  Micah declares that he looks to Yahweh, and waits for him, the God of his salvation. We learn in our text that this hope is grounded in the very character of God himself.

            Micah says: “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.” The prophet tells us that the amazing character of God of is one in which he pardons iniquity and passes over transgression. God does not retain his anger forever.  Why is this so? It is because he delights in steadfast love.

            Micah’s words echo what Yahweh revealed to Moses when he said, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” This statement becomes a kind of “creed” in the Old Testament. Yahweh is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

            The prophet goes on to say in our text, “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.”

            God forgives, but God is also just. How could both be maintained at the same time? In our text, Micah mentions Yahweh’s steadfast love to Abraham.  God had promised to make Abraham into a great nation and to give his offspring the promised land.  He had also promised, “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” He had promised that the Savior would descend from Abraham.  In the unfolding of his revelation, Yahweh had made known that the Christ descended from David would bring his salvation.

            It is in Micah chapter five that the prophet writes, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”  As we celebrate at Christmas, Jesus the Christ was born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of God’s Word.  His coming forth was indeed from of old, from ancient days for as the Son of God he was begotten of the Father from all eternity. Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary he entered into our world because God is merciful and God is just.

            In God’s grace and mercy, the Father sent Jesus to die on the cross in order to win forgiveness for us.  In God’s justice, the Father sent Jesus to die on the cross where he received the judgment against the sins of every person.  Jesus the Christ was condemned by God – he was damned by God and cut off from him as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

            By receiving God’s judgment in our place Jesus has won forgiveness for us.  But God’s saving work in Christ could not end in death.  On the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead.   He vindicated Jesus as the Christ and began in him the resurrection of the Last Day.  He began the resurrection that we will receive when the ascended and exalted Lord returns in glory.

            Micah is right: “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression?”  In his grace and mercy God loved us so much that he gave his Son as the sacrifice to win forgiveness.  God pardons and passes over our transgression because he has condemned them in his own Son.

            God gives us forgiveness, and he does so in ways that leave no uncertainty.  Micah says in our text, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”  God has used water to remove your sins in baptism, for the baptismal font has become the place where your sins were cast into the depths of Christ’s saving death for you.  Paul told the Romans, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

            Because of your baptism into Christ, you know that your iniquity is pardoned and your transgression is passed over. This action by God – so objective that the Church actually gives you a baptismal certificate confirming that is has been done – is there for you to grasp in faith every day. What was done once in the water of the font continues to provide every day the assurance that your sin is forgiven.

            The Spirit gave you new life through baptism.  The same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead continues to enable you to walk in newness of life. And the Micah’s prophecy provides a classic statement of what this looks like when he writes: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  This is the language of the God’s covenant with Israel, which in the new covenant means that we fear, love and trust in God above all things; that we love and care for our neighbor; that we show forgiveness and mercy just as God has given us in Jesus Christ.

            In Christ God has demonstrated that he is the One who pardons iniquity and passes over transgression.  He has had compassion on us and tread our iniquities underfoot. He has cast our iniquities into the depths of the sea – he has removed them from us forever by the water of our baptism and his Word. We give thanks to God for this, and we respond to his steadfast love as we love our neighbor in word and deed.   













Sunday, June 13, 2021

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Trinity - Lk 14:15-24

                                                                            Trinity 2

                                                                       Lk 14:15-24



          This past weekend I was at my brother’s house in Indiana to celebrate my nephew’s high school graduation.  Like the families of many high school graduates, my brother and his wife put on an open house to celebrate the event.  And like other families who have such an event, they put effort into getting things ready.

          They had sent out invitations. They had spruced up the landscaping and repainted the railing of the porch so that the exterior of the house looked great.  They put up graduation decorations. They smoked a pig and prepared all kinds of food.  They had plenty of beverages in coolers – and note I use the plural  – since there was a cooler with soda and water, and another cooler with beer.  This is a Lutheran family, after all.  They had set up a tent outside with tables and chairs. They had done everything needed in order to make it a wonderful event.

          It was a great day attended by many people who stopped by to wish my nephew congratulations and best wishes as he prepares to attend college in the fall.  However, what would it have been like if instead, nobody had showed up?  Certainly, it’s not possible for everyone who is invited to attend.  Scheduling conflicts can always get in the way. But how would they have felt if absolutely no one came to the celebration?  Or worse yet, what if all the people who had said they would be there, decided to stay away?

          That is the scenario that Jesus describes in the parable found in our Gospel lesson this morning.  In the parable, our Lord teaches us how we should view ourselves.  He teaches us about the gracious love that we have received in him. And he warns us that we cannot take this for granted.

          Our text this morning takes place in a setting of tension and conflict. The first verse of this chapters says, “One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully.”  Now by the time we reach this point in Luke’s Gospel, we know that the Pharisees have been attacking Jesus.  These conflicts have involved meals. They have also involved matters about the Sabbath. So when Jesus goes to the house of a ruler of the Pharisees for a meal on the Sabbath, you know that there are going to be problems.

          First Jesus silences the Pharisees by raising the question about whether it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath, and then he heals a man who is there.  Next our Lord notices how everyone is trying to get the best positions at the table – those that afford the most honor.  But as the One who has brought the reign of God, Jesus teaches a very different way – a way of humility.  He tells those at the meal to take the lowest spot, so that then the host may ask them to move up. He explains this by saying, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

          Finally, after talking about humility to the guests, he then does so towards the host.  He tells him not to invite family or rich neighbors who can be expected to reciprocate with invitations.  Instead, Jesus says, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  Our Lord teaches humility to the host. He teaches the gracious mercy of the kingdom of God, and promises that it is God who will take care of things on the Last Day.

          At the beginning of our text, this reference to the resurrection of the Last Day prompts one of those attending the meal to say, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  Now it is obvious that this individual believes that he will be in that number. He assumes that he will take part in the feast of salvation.

          This assumption is the very thing Jesus takes up in the parable. He says, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’” 

However, each of the those who had been invited began to make excuses. One said that he had bought a field and needed to go and look at it. Another said that he had bought five yoke of oxen, and needed to go examine them.  Yet another said that he had married a wife, and so he could not come.

In order to understand what is really happening here, we need to recognize two factors from the first century Palestinian setting.  First, the announcement by the servant is actually the second invitation.  All of those whom he goes to see have already been invited to the banquet, and they have already accepted the invitation. They have said they will be there. They know the day when the banquet is to take place and the general timing. The announcement by the servant is the signal that now indeed, all is ready and it is time for the banquet to start.

Second, all of these excuses are obviously bogus – they are lies.  No one bought land or animals without examining them carefully beforehand.  A wedding was a major event that would never be scheduled at the same time as a great banquet for which the invitation had been accepted. Instead, each of these individuals was choosing to reject the host.

We learn that when the master of the house heard this, he was angry.  He says at the very end of our text, “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” With these words, Jesus is describing the Pharisees who are there at the meal with him.  They are rejecting Jesus because he is not the Messiah they expect or want. Yet because Jesus - the incarnate Son of God - is the presence of God’s reign, they are rejecting the salvation he brings.

Rebuffed by those who had been invited, the master did something unusual – unusual at least if you are doing things in the expected ways of the world. He told the servant, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.”  The master told the servant to bring in people you would not normally invite to a feast – the very people Jesus had just told the host that he should invite.

Yet even when this had been done, the servant reported that there was still room at the banquet. So the master said to the servant, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” The master sent the servant outside the city into the hinterland to bring in more people so that the banquet would be full.

Those who end up attending the banquet are the unworthy and the unwanted. They are the poor and crippled and blind and lame.  They are the ones who rank even lower than that – the rural people who don’t even live in the city. This is a description of you. There is no reason that God should want you at the great banquet – the feast of salvation.  You are unworthy.  You are sinners who reject God’s will in every possible way.  You place God second all the time because there are things you love more.  You place yourself first and your neighbor second, because you are not about to put your neighbor’s needs before your own.

 You are the spiritually poor and crippled and blind and lame.  And actually, in the setting of the parable you don’t even rate there, for those in the city are the Jews. Almost all of you are Gentiles – you are the ones at the highways and the hedges. You are the ones outside the city – the ones who were never part of God’s people in the first place.

But our Lord’s parable teaches us about the gracious love of God that we have received in Jesus Christ.  We were not worthy of being invited to the feast of salvation. Yet in his love, God sent his Son to win salvation because we are not worthy. He sent his Son because we are sinners.

          The placement of our text in Luke’s Gospel reveals this truth. At the end of chapter nine we read, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  Our text occurs during Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem.  Just before he began his journey, in that same chapter our Lord said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

          Jesus Christ journeys to Jerusalem because you are a sinner – because you are not worthy.  Though without sin, he goes to be numbered with the transgressors.  He goes to offer himself on the cross as the sacrifice for your sin.  Our Lord died in the humiliation of the cross in order to give us forgiveness.

          Just before the parable, Jesus has said in this chapter, For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  Our Lord humbled himself to the point of death – even death on a cross – for us.  But then, God exalted him.  First, the Father raised Jesus from the dead on the third day.  Through Christ he defeated death. And then God exalted Jesus as he ascended forty days after Easter and was seated at the right hand of God. It is as the exalted Lord and Christ that Jesus poured forth the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

          Because of our Lord’s death and resurrection, we now have a place in the feast of salvation.  But the parable this morning also gives us a warning.  It was prompted by someone at the table who said: “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  He assumed he was included. Yet the first portion of the parable is all about how those who were invited excluded themselves by rejecting the invitation.

          Jesus Christ has called you to faith through baptism the work of his Spirit.  But the life of faith is not the same thing as simply having your name on a church roster. It is something that requires us to continue to confess our sin.  It is a life in which we must continue to receive our Lord’s gifts of the Means of Grace. Only in this way can we be sustained as the forgiven people of God who are ready to confess Christ to the world in word and deed.

          Immediately after our text we read, “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’”  Our Lord says that we must count the cost, for if we are faithful to him and his Word, there will be a cost. 

          It’s the month of June, so unless you are color blind, you are seeing the celebration of sin all around us in rainbow colors.  Why does our whole culture embrace this movement, when only perhaps a little more than two percent of the population is homosexual?  In part it is because most people wish to support the idea that people can use sex however they want.  They don’t want deny to others that which they cherish in their own lives.

          In this world, to confess and live God’s will for sexuality and marriage will come at a cost.  Most likely it will be an escalating one as ever increasing social and institutional pressures are brought to bear.  But in Christ, God has called you out of the world to be his people – people who live according to his holy will and who speak this truth.

          To do this we need nourishment and strength. And so this morning, I am the servant who is sent to say: “Come, for everything is now ready.”  I invite you to the banquet – the Sacrament of the Altar where Jesus gives us his true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.  Here he gives you food for the new man so that you can live as his people in this world. We live in the faith as we look for his return and the feast of salvation that has no end.