The Word Will Not Be Stopped

Sermon for Christmas Day based on John 1:1-14 (Psalm 2)

Dear believers who have the right to be children of God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Word made flesh would not be stopped. Our Psalm asks, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed” (Ps. 2).

What useless and vain plotting and scheming. Nothing could stop God’s plan of salvation. The Word became flesh.

King Herod in all his power was a pathetic puppet of Satan in his vain attempts to kill the baby Jesus. God warned Joseph to flee to Egypt so that Herod’s attempts to murder Jesus were unsuccessful. In his fury, Herod murdered all the male children in Bethlehem who were two years old or younger, but Jesus he was not able to kill. God had a plan and a time, that was not it. Nothing would stop God’s plan of salvation.

The light came to shine in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it. He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him? That did not stop the Word made flesh. There was no room in the inn? That did not stop the Word made flesh. The great red dragon sought to devour the child of Mary (Rev. 12:1-6)? That did not stop the Word made flesh.

The Word made flesh came to be the life of men. He came to us in our hall of death, to breathe our poisoned air, to drink for us the dark despair that strangled our reluctant breath (LSB 834 st. 3). He saw our wretched state, as we lay fast bound in Satan’s chains, with death darkly brooding over us; sin tormenting us night and day. God’s Anointed had compassion on us, and brought us salvation; from sin and sorrow setting us free. He slayed bitter death for us that we may live with Him forever (LSB 556 st. 2, 4, 5).

The Word made flesh would not be stopped. His opponents and enemies did not stop Him. The temptations of the devil did not turn Him aside from His plan of salvation. Nothing stopped Christ’s plan of salvation from the manger to the rough wooden cross. No price was too high to pay, even His own life He gave for us sheep who love to wander. He would not be stopped.

The Word made flesh is not stopped today either. He rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. He is your light and your life, and He has given you the right to be children of God, by the will of God. And He will not be stopped.

His forgiveness to you will not be stopped. The nations can rage and the peoples plot against God’s children, but it is in vain. The kings of the earth can set themselves, and the rulers can take counsel together, against the Lord and against his children, but it is useless and in vain.

Our governments can pass whatever laws they like; they can ban every Christian belief, every Scriptural truth. They can take away the livelihoods of believers and imprison us for our faith and put us to death. But the Word made flesh will not be stopped.

He will not stop saving His people who cry to Him for help. The pathetic and powerless hands of earthly kings and authorities will not prevent God from saving us.

God laughs at any attempts of rebellion against His Word. “He who sits in heaven laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” God ridicules and mocks those who think they’re going to stand in the way of God’s salvation.

The Word they shall let remain. They may not receive it. They may not care for it. They may hate it. It matters not. The Word made flesh shall return to judge the nations and break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

God’s plan of salvation for you will not be stopped. God’s claim on you through the waters of Baptism cannot be undone. His adoption of you as His child cannot be overturned. They body and blood of Christ that you have received have placed you in communion with Christ and it will not be reversed.

This means your salvation is firm and secure, no matter if the nations rage and the peoples plot against you. No lies or slanders against you will prevent your salvation. Not war. Not hunger. Not old grudges or fresh wounds. Not bad news from doctors, teachers, or the stock market. Not new laws from a wicked government.

Not even death can prevent your salvation. Death has lost its sting, the grave its victory.

Your salvation cannot be undone because Christ’s birth for you cannot be undone. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This is a fact that endures forever. Your salvation cannot be undone because Christ’s death for you cannot be undone. His death for you has paid the price of your sins forever. Your salvation cannot be undone because Christ’s resurrection for you cannot be undone. As surely as He lives and reigns to all eternity, so you also will live with Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

Let the nations rage. Let the peoples plot in vain. Let us join our Lord in heaven who laughs and holds them in derision. The Word made flesh was not stopped and will not be stopped. He is our light and our life, and it will not be undone. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Word Stands Forever

Sermon for the Second Sunday in Advent based on Isaiah 40:1-11

Dear hearers of the eternal Word: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever.” God’s Word is eternal. It will endure forever. It is unchangeable. It will not wither or fade.

Fads, on the other hand, come and go. Trends are born and then they die. New ideas, new beliefs, new churches, new religions – they come and they go. Man’s word falters, waivers, and deceives, and then withers and fades.

We are used to everything being transitory and temporary. Our clothes wear out. Our kitchen appliances stop working. Our cars break down on us. Our own bodies, too, wear out, and in the end, will lose the battle with illness, disease, or some other cause of death. Everything see and touch withers and decays. Everyone dies.

Even the kingdoms of this world will all totter and fall. Any study of history will quickly show the rise and fall of countless kingdoms, empires, and civilizations. The cycle continually repeats itself: Hard times create strong men; strong men create good times; good times create weak men; weak men create hard times. Then the cycle repeats. We are certainly at a time of weak men, so we know hard times are coming, and the end of western civilization does not appear to be far off.

Everything does wither and decay, and most directly, this passage is speaking of us, people: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever.” It’s not really talking about grass and flowers. It says, “Surely the people are grass.” Our faithfulness is like the flower of the field. In other words, we people will wither, fade, and die. Our faithfulness to God stands out like a flower in the field one day, only to fade into oblivion the next. We are faithful one moment and unfaithful the next. We are fickle and feeble. We always have been. We always will be, so long as we are alive.

Thus, when we hear God’s proclamation of comfort and that all flesh will see His glory, we are inclined to think that it too won’t last very long.

Our experience with comfort is in fleeting glimpses here and there. We are busier than ever with the things of this world, thinking that they will bring comfort. In this preparatory season of Advent, we certainly are preparing for Christmas, but not in the way the voice in the wilderness calls us to prepare. We are busy shopping and decorating, buying and crying. We’re busy planning our meals, finding our deals, and preparing for visits and visitors. We want to have a nice comfortable Christmas, and will work for weeks in the hope of having a few brief moments of comfort. In the end, in the hustle and bustle, the unfair present exchanges, the missing batteries, the fighting children, the overcooked turkey, and the smashed lamp, the only comfort we may have is in a glass of spiced rum eggnog once all is said and done.

This is the reason God’s proclamation of comfort is tied with His Word enduring forever. Since God’s Word endures forever, the promise of comfort that He gives in His Word endures forever. The comfort that God promises isn’t a fleeting, momentary comfort, but an eternal comfort of peace and joy. The comfort is ours because our warfare with God is ended, and our iniquity pardoned.

The warfare was not started by God, but by us falling into sin. It was mankind who rebelled against our Creator and made Him our enemy. Instead of living in peace and quietness in His Kingdom, we decided to break His Laws. We rebelled by following our own sinful desires rather than following God’s good and perfect will for us.

Instead of destroying us as we deserved, the Lord God Almighty punished His Son in our place. Christ Jesus was punished as a rebel and a sinner even though He never did anything but serve His Father and us, His creation. Jesus received punishment for all our sins, and then God sends a word of comfort to us. Your warfare is ended. Your iniquity is pardoned. The price of your sins has been paid. You have the promise of comfort, instead of the affliction of hell your sins deserve.

This comfort is only possible through the forgiveness of sins. There is no comfort to be had in sin, even if the devil would have you believe otherwise. The only true comfort we can have is when the threat of hell does not hang over our heads; when the threats of the Law and the threats of punishment have been removed.

These threats have been removed because Jesus not only faced the threat of God’s Law for us, He fulfilled God’s Law for us. He didn’t only face the threat of punishment for us, but He took the actual punishment for us as well. Thus, God speaks tenderly to us of comfort.

This comfort is eternal. It will not wither or fade. Saint Peter writes that it is an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (I Peter 1:4).

This brings us back to the Word of God standing forever. Since God’s Word stands forever, God’s promises to you stand forever. They don’t wither or fade.

When God said to you through Baptism that you belong to Him, it stands forever. When God says to you that your sins are forgiven through Absolution, it stands forever. When God says that you receive the forgiveness of sins through the body and blood of Christ, it stands forever.

We can neglect and reject what God gives to us, but that is not God breaking His promises or invalidating His Word. It would simply be us refusing to believe it. God’s Word stands forever, whether we believe it or not.

God’s Word will stand forever, but this does not mean that every congregation will last forever. When God’s Word is taken for granted, neglected, is not preached or heard, or read or studied, it is not the end of God’s Word. It is merely the end of those congregations and the end of Christians in those places where God’s Word is taken for granted, neglected, is not preached or heard, or read or studied. Christians do not and cannot exist apart from the Word of God.

The people of Israel had God’s Word, but they rejected it and lost it, so now they have nothing. The apostles and many after them brought the Gospel to many nations and peoples throughout Europe, but they neglected it and now they have Islam. Rome also had God’s Word but rejected it, and now they have the pope. So you dare not think you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt for God’s Word will not let it remain. Therefore, take hold and hang on tightly, while you are able to grab and to hold. Neglecting to hear and read God’s Word has never turned out well for anyone (partially rephrased from Luther’s Letter to the Town-Councilmen, AE:45, 351-352).

Hearing and reading God’s Word, however, always brings blessing. Faith is created through the Word of God. Trust in God’s promises comes from the Word of God. Comfort comes the Word of God.

Only in God’s Word do you hear of the comfort that comes from having your sins forgiven. Only in God’s Word do you hear that your warfare with God is over, that your iniquity is pardoned. Only in God’s Word do you hear that because of God’s promises to you that stand forever, you will have comfort forever.

We will wither and fade, but God’s promises to us will stand forever. Because God’s promises to us will stand forever, after we have withered and faded, we will have eternal comfort in the joys of Paradise, and our comfort will endure forever. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Weeds in God’s Field

Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost based on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Dear sons of the kingdom: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

There are weeds growing in God’s field. God knows it. We know it. Right next to the good wheat that Jesus has planted, there are weeds planted by the devil. The wheat and weeds are growing side by side in the same field. God knows it. We know it.

Right beside a church that teaches the truth of God’s Word is a church that teaches the lies of the devil. Right beside a church that sows the good seed of God’s Word is a church that sows the weeds of the devil. They may both have started out looking the same, growing up together, even both being congregations of Lutheran Church-Canada. However, as the wheat comes up and bears grain, so the weeds also come up and are seen for what they are. Side by side, the wheat and the weeds grow together.

The Christian church always has to contend with false teaching and false teachers. Jesus says so. The devil is not going to stop sowing weeds among the wheat until Christ returns and the angels gather the weeds and bind them up to be burned. Christ certainly will not stop sowing the good seed of His Word until the harvest when the wheat is gathered into His barn.

The good seed of God’s Word produces only good wheat. The devil deliberately sows weeds where the good seed has been sown. We are witnesses of this. We see all the evil things that are done in Christ’s name. Churches are condoning all kinds of behaviour that Scripture says are sinful practices. Churches and pastors condone the favourite sins of the day including living together outside of marriage, homosexuality, and divorce. They support the lies of the devil like feminism, women’s ordination, and the confusion of what is male and what is female. All kinds of blasphemous practices are taking place in churches where following Scripture is replaced with following the desires and feelings of man.

When the bad seed was initially sown, it may not have been obvious. While Christ sows His seed openly in the day, the devil sows his seed secretly at night. At first you may not be able to tell any difference between the two. Once the seeds sprout and grow, then you see the difference. Then you can differentiate the wheat from the weeds. Then you can distinguish the sons of the kingdom from the sons of the evil one.

In this life, we cannot perfectly distinguish between the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one. Certainly, there are signs that you are one or the other, but oftentimes we cannot know. God knows. God can perfectly identify the wheat from the weeds. God does perfectly distinguish between the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one.

Even so, God does not weed His field. He doesn’t pull up the weeds to bind them up for the fiery furnace. He doesn’t round up the sons of the evil one and cast them all into hell. Oh, He will do it, but not yet.

The servants of the master expected the master to want them to gather and remove the weeds immediately, but the master said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.” God does not want to uproot sons of the kingdom by rooting out the sons of the evil one around them. Out of His love and concern for the sons of the kingdom, He does not uproot the sons of the evil one at this time.

God is patient and long suffering. He endures the weeds in His field for the sake of the wheat. He endures the weeds also for the sake of those weeds. God desires the sons of the evil one to become sons of the kingdom

After all, we all had our start as weeds. After Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, they were weeds. Weeds cannot produce wheat, only more weeds, thus all mankind gets their start as weeds.

It is not until being watered with the waters of Holy Baptism that God turns weeds into wheat. He makes sons of the kingdom out of sons of the evil one. In Baptism, He adopts us as His sons because He forgives us all of our sins. He covers the sinful nature of who we are with His perfection. He pours out His love and mercy on us, giving us what we do not deserve. We deserve to be bound and burned in hell for eternity. But our dear Lord took the punishment of our sins in our place so that instead we will be gathered into His barn, which is His eternal heavenly banquet.

Even though we must remain, grow, and produce fruit in a world where we are surrounded by weeds, we are safe. God waters us through Baptism to claim us as His own, separating us from the multitude of unbelievers. He has separated the wheat from the weeds already now by His claim on the wheat, even though we still grow surrounded by weeds. God nourishes us with the meal of His Son’s body and blood so that we would remain in Him, grow in Him, and produce good fruit.

God gives us these good, wonderful gifts because He knows our sinful tendencies. He knows the temptations of the world around us. He knows the evil one is always lurking to deceive and tempt us. That’s why God continues to forgive us our sin. He doesn’t count how many times He forgives us. He keeps forgiving us. He doesn’t remember our sins, but removes them from us. He casts our sins into the depths of the sea. He forgives our sins now, so that we will be ready for the harvest to come.

There will be a harvest. Judgment Day will come. As we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. As Scripture teaches, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (II Cor. 5:10) The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace, that place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, while the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

Therefore stay awake! We do not know when Christ will return. Do not get caught up in the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches. Do not get choked by the weeds that surround you so that you fall into their manner of thinking and living. Do not harden your heart so that the devil snatches away the Word that has been sown in your heart.

On the Day when Christ returns, it won’t matter if you have four million dollars in your bank account or if you are overdrawn; it won’t matter if you are rested from time at the lake or exhausted from being overworked. The only thing that will matter is whether or not you have faith.

The thing about faith is that it doesn’t come from you; it comes from God. You cannot sustain your faith; God sustains your faith. You cannot strengthen your faith; God strengthens your faith.

Faith comes from hearing God’s Word, so listen to God’s Word. Faith is strengthened by hearing God’s Word, so do not find excuses not to hear. Faith is nourished and nurtured by receiving the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for you for, so eat and drink for the forgiveness of all your sins.

Don’t let the weeds growing around you convince you that God will not ever weed His field. The harvest will come. God knows there are weeds in His field and you know this.

God also knows those who are His. God knows you, the wheat, because He planted you. You are sons of His kingdom. Your names are written in His Book of Life because your Saviour has paid the debt you owe.

The weeds are no threat to you. Not even the evil one can threaten you. God has given you faith, thus He has turned you from weed to wheat. He has made sons of the kingdom from sons of the evil one.

You are wheat growing in God’s field. God knows it. You know it. Though you are surrounded by weeds that will not immediately be pulled, you are safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers. Because your sins are forgiven, on Judgment Day you will be gathered by the angels into the barn of our Saviour, where you will shine like the sun in the kingdom of your Father. God knows it. You know it. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Word

Sermon for Sixth Sunday after Pentecost based on Matthew 13 1-9, 18-23 (Is. 55:10-13)

Dear hearers of the Word: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

God says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

In other words, God’s Word does what it says it will do. God’s Word has power. God’s Word has power to condemn; God’s Word has power to save. God’s Word is the seed which bears fruit and yields a hundredfold, sixtyfold, and thirtyfold.

Without the seed, you can have no fruit; you can have no growth. It doesn’t matter what kind of soil you have. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like – whether you get enough sunshine or enough rain. Without the seed, you have nothing more than dirt.

Just so, without God’s Word, you cannot have faith, you cannot have good works, you cannot have salvation or eternal life. It doesn’t matter what you face in life, what decisions you make or don’t make, what you do or don’t do. Without God’s Word you cannot have faith, you cannot be strengthened in the faith, and you cannot have eternal life.

God’s Word has power. The Holy Spirit has bound Himself to work through the Word. When God’s Word is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit has promised to be there calling sinners to repentance and faith. His Word does not return to Him empty, but will accomplish what God purposes, and will succeed in the thing for which God sent it.

Wherever the Word of God does not result in faith, the fault does not lie with God. It’s the exact same seed being scattered everywhere. God doesn’t short-change anyone. The fact that God’s Word is rejected by so many does not point to a weakness or short-coming in the Word of God. It points to the hardness of hearts that refuse to understand and believe the Word of God. It points to the weakness of trying to find root in oneself and thus when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, such a man immediately falls away. It points to the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choking the Word so that it proves unfruitful. This is not God’s doing, nor is it God’s fault.

God’s Word has the power to save, but people don’t like what God’s Word says, so they avoid hearing it. God’s Word has the power to bring sinners from darkness to light, but sinners prefer the darkness to the light because their deeds are evil. God’s Word has the power to bring the dead to life, but the dead prefer the death of their sins to everlasting life.

Because of the great power of God’s Word to save and God’s desire to save us, He gave us the Third Commandment. The Third Commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”

This Commandment is openly despised by many people who claim to be Christians. They don’t go to church because they don’t think they need to hear God’s Word. They do not realize that the devil is real and is out to deceive them and lead them astray from God’s Word. They do not realize the world is not a neutral place, but does everything it can to get their attention away from the Word of God. They do not realize that they are their own worst enemy and that their sinful flesh does not want to hear God’s Word because it exposes their sin to be sin, breaking their contrived conviction that they aren’t so bad and their sin isn’t so serious.

If someone truly believes that he is sinful, why would he not take every opportunity to receive the forgiveness of sins? If someone truly believes that he is sinful, why would he not take every opportunity to be strengthened against the devil, the world, and his own sinful flesh? If someone truly believes that he is sinful, why would he not take every opportunity to hear God’s Word which alone has the power to save from sin?

The more one is away from the Word of God, the more he is influenced by the devil, the world, and his own sinful thoughts, ideas, and feelings. He will not realize it. He will just follow what he thinks is good and feels right, and without the direction of God’s Word, it will be further and further away from what God says is good and right.

That’s why you are here. To hear God’s Word. To receive His forgiveness. You have not done what you should have done. Your sinful flesh cries out, “Yes, I have,” but God’s Word says, “No, you haven’t.” You have done what you should not have done. The devil and the world cry out, “No you haven’t,” but God’s Word says, “Yes, you have.”

The reason why God sends His Word to you to tell you this is not so that you would despair and lose hope and be condemned to hell. Rather, God sends His Word to you to call you to repentance and faith. God sends His powerful Word to you to bring you from darkness to light; from death to life.

God’s Word does this because it tells you of Jesus, whose blood covers your sin. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, so He takes away your sin. Jesus’ death covers your sin of despising preaching and His Word, and not holding it sacred and gladly hearing and learning it. Jesus’ death covers your sins of preferring the ways of the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh to the ways of God revealed in Holy Scripture. Jesus’ death removes from you your sins of trying to find root in yourself in stead of God’s Word, and from being deceived by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.

God has not abandoned you because of your sin. He still sends His powerful Word to you to forgive you all yours sins and take them away from you as far as the east is from the west. He still gives you the body and blood of Jesus which give you eternal life.

When you struggle with your sins and do what is wrong, God does not turn into your enemy. He ever remains your loving Father calling you back to Him for forgiveness given freely. He gives forgiveness to you freely because Jesus has already paid the price of your sins. There’s nothing left for you to pay.

When God’s Word convicts us of sin, the reaction of the sinful flesh is to flee from preaching and the Word of God. Do not listen to your sinful flesh. Listen to God’s Word which tells you that His Word will do what it says it will do. God’s Word will not return to Him empty but will accomplish your salvation as God has purposed it.

God has claimed you in the waters of Holy Baptism. No one, not even the devil, can snatch the gifts of your Baptism from you. Christ our Lord gives you His very body and blood to eat and drink to spiritually nourish you and keep you in the faith. Your sins cannot prevent God’s Word from accomplishing God’s purpose. God’s purpose is for your salvation, and His Word will succeed in saving you. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

My Sheep Hear My Voice

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter based on John 10:1-10 (I Peter 2:19-25)

Dear sheep of the Good Shepherd: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says that His sheep hear His voice. He says His sheep follow Him, because they know His voice. He says His sheep will flee from following a stranger because they don’t know the voice of a stranger, but they do know the voice of their Good Shepherd, so they follow Him.

Is that what you do? Do you hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him? Can you tell the difference between His voice and the voice of the thief and robber who does not come in through the door but climbs in by another way? Do you flee the voice of a stranger because you know that it is not the voice of the Good Shepherd?

The voice of the Good Shepherd is heard every Divine Service and every Bible class. His voice is heard in the Bibles you have in your homes. Yet, Divine Service attendance is sporadic and trending downward. Bible class attendance is dwindling. /dwindled to the point that we stopped having Bible class.

But you listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. You read Scripture every morning and every night. Your Bible is not one of those gathering more dust on the shelf than special occasion china.

Do you know the voice of the Good Shepherd? If you hear some television or radio evangelist, or some preacher at a so-called community “ecumenical service,” can you tell if you are hearing the Good Shepherd’s voice or the voice of a stranger? If you hear the preacher in this pulpit, can you tell if you are hearing the Good Shepherd’s voice or the voice of a stranger? Don’t tell me you don’t care, because Jesus says that if you’re not listening to His voice, you’re listening to the voice of a thief and a robber who comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

If one pastor insists on practising closed communion and another will commune anyone, which one is doing what the Good Shepherd has commanded? Do you know, or do you not recognize the Good Shepherd’s voice? Jesus says His sheep know His voice.

If one pastor says it is a sin to live together outside of marriage and another says it is perfectly fine, which one is speaking with the voice of the Good Shepherd? Do you know, or do you not recognize the Good Shepherd’s voice? Jesus says His sheep know His voice.

If one pastor says it is a sin to have a woman teach or exercise authority in the church, and another says it is perfectly fine, which one is speaking with the voice of the Good Shepherd? Do you know, or do you not recognize the Good Shepherd’s voice? Jesus says His sheep know His voice.

These things are not a matter of personal interpretation or opinion. Scripture tells us, “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Man doesn’t decide how to interpret Scripture. Man didn’t decide what to write and man doesn’t decide how to interpret. The Holy Spirit wrote and the Holy Spirit has told us how to interpret.

Second Timothy tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Scripture cannot be profitable if we can all decide for ourselves what to make of it. If I can interpret it one way and you can interpret it another way, then the Bible is completely useless and you might as well take it off your shelf, not to dust it and read it, but to chuck it in the garbage. If God gave us the Bible so that we can all decide for ourselves what to follow and what not to follow, it is the most useless book in the world and we might as well burn every copy and find something better to do on Sunday morning instead of Divine Service and Monday evening instead of Bible class.

But the problem is not with the Bible; the problem is with us when we want to twist what the Bible says to make it fit our fancy. The problem is not with the Bible; the problem is with us when we think we can interpret the clear words of Scripture in a way that lets us do whatever we want. The problem is not with the Bible; the problem is with us when we don’t know what the Bible says and thus cannot differentiate the voice of the Good Shepherd from the voice of a stranger who is a thief and a robber who comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

We take pains and efforts to protect ourselves from thieves and robbers who would come to steal our earthly goods, but do we do anything to protect ourselves from the thieves and robbers who would come to steal our eternal salvation?

Our sinful nature is immediately ready to start making excuses. Life is busy. It’s not my fault that the pastor I’m listening to says something different from the Good Shepherd. I have Jesus in my heart and that’s all that matters. But excuses get us nowhere.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says that His sheep hear His voice. His voice is heard in the Divine Service, in Bible class, and in the Bibles you have in your homes. Jesus says His sheep follow Him, because they know His voice – they know what He says in His Word. Jesus says His sheep will flee from following a stranger because they don’t know the voice of a stranger, but they do know the voice of their Good Shepherd, so they follow Him.

The sheep of the Good Shepherd follow Him where He leads them. The Good Shepherd leads His sheep to the font, to Absolution, and to the altar.

The Good Shepherd leads us to the font, to Absolution, and to the altar because He knows that we are sheep who like to wander. He knows that we haven’t always listened to His voice or followed where He has led. That’s why He comes to search for us from all the places where we’ve wandered. He calls us through His Word to return to Him, the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. He knows that we haven’t always listened to His voice or followed where He has led. That’s why He leads us to the waters of Baptism, the blessing of Absolution, and to the food of His holy Supper. The Good Shepherd says His sheep follow Him to where He leads, because He leads us to where He gives us forgiveness. If we haven’t gone to the font and don’t go to the altar, we aren’t following the Good Shepherd.

Excuses aren’t the answer, but repentance is. The Good Shepherd is calling for us to follow where He leads because He leads us to where He gives us forgiveness. We cannot get forgiveness from anywhere else. We cannot get forgiveness from anyone else. The Good Shepherd gives us forgiveness.

The Good Shepherd laid down His life for us sheep so that we may have life and have it abundantly. Jesus took the punishment of all of our failures to hear Him and follow Him. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth (I Peter 2:22), but He died for our sins; He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). He Himself bore your sins in His body on the tree… By His wounds you have been healed (I Peter 2:24).

Jesus’ suffering and death are the reason we can be His sheep. His suffering and death are the reason He leads us to the means of grace where we receive forgiveness.

The sheep of the Good Shepherd follow Him to the font, to Absolution, and to His holy Supper so that they will follow Him to eternal life. In these means of grace the Good Shepherd gives eternal life, because wherever there is the forgiveness of sins, there is eternal life; there is life and salvation. The Good Shepherd leads us to where He gives us forgiveness, so He leads us to eternal life. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

The Marks of the Church: The Possession of the Holy Word of God

Sermon for Midweek Lenten Service

Dear possessors of the holy Word of God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The most important mark of the Christian church is that it possesses the holy Word of God. Without God’s Word, there is no Christian church. What would be taught and preached in the church if we didn’t have God’s Word? We have nothing without it: nothing to say, nothing to hear, nothing to believe. God’s holy people cannot be without God’s Word and God’s Word cannot be without God’s people.

Jesus’ parable of the sower tells us that His Word will produce thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and hundredfold (Matt. 13:23). The Holy Spirit tells us through the prophet Isaiah that God’s Word will not return to Him empty or void, but will accomplish God’s purpose and succeed in the thing for which He sent it (Is. 55:11). So where God’s Word is, there the Holy Spirit is working through the Word to create faith; to make people holy.

We also know from Jesus’ parable of the sower that even though God’s Word will produce faith, it will also be rejected. Three quarters of the places where the Word was sown produced nothing. The devil comes and snatches it away. Tribulation and persecution cause some to fall away. The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful.

Fault is not to be found with the Word, however. We know that the Word works. The Word produces faith. The Word produces thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and hundredfold. Where God’s Word is, there His holy people are, even if intermingled among them are those who do not believe. Even if God’s holy people are small in number, where His Word is preached, heard, and believed, there God’s holy people are; there is the Christian church.

What happens if we have God’s Word but we neglect it? What if God has given His Word to us but we take it for granted, it ceases to be preached and heard, and it is not read or studied?

Luther gives a warning concerning this to his countrymen: “Beloved Germans, buy while the market is close at hand! Gather while the sun is shining and while there is good weather! Make use of God’s grace and Word while it is here! For you should know this: God’s Word and grace is a passing downpour, which does not return to where it has already been. It has been with the Jews; but what’s lost is lost, and they now have nothing. Paul brought it to Greece; what’s lost is lost, and they now have the Turks. Rome and Latin-speaking regions have also had it; what’s lost is lost, and they now have the pope. And you Germans dare not think that you will have it forever, for the ingratitude and disdain will not let it remain. Therefore take hold and hang on tightly, while you are able to grab and to hold. Lazy hands are bound to have a hard year” (Letter to the Town-Councilmen, AE:45, 351-352).

Written roughly five hundred years ago, Luther warned and predicted what in fact has happened in Germany. Their ingratitude and contempt for the Word of God has produced a society that is secular and godless. The state church in Germany, although Lutheran in name, has rejected the Word of God and they follow the world, their sinful flesh, and the devil. Like Greece, they also now have the Turk, as Muslims have overrun Germany and increased by 22% over the past couple years with mosques popping up left right and centre.

This warning is also for us here in Canada. We have received the downpour of God’s Word and grace. Will ingratitude and contempt for God’s Word let it remain? The membership in our own church body is dropping significantly every year. We see among us in this congregation the membership dropping as people stop attending, and as we have many funerals every year and almost no Baptisms. Our country is also starting to get overrun with Muslims and their mosques as they come here and have children while we Canadians prefer money, careers, and pets to children, and either have them contracepted or murdered.

Is this a call to take hold of God’s Word and hang on tightly, while we are able to grab and to hold? Yes, it is. Is this a call to repent over our ingratitude and contempt for the Word of God? Yes, it is. Is this a call to panic, fear, and despair? No, it is absolutely not!

We have God’s holy Word, and where His Word is, there His people are. Small in number? Maybe so. Increasing in age? Maybe so. Decreasing in number? Maybe so. But God’s Word cannot be without His people. Where His Word is preached, heard, and believed, there God’s holy people are; there is the Christian church.

God’s Word is so powerful, that even in heterodox church bodies where they do not teach God’s Word in its truth and purity, God can and does still have holy people. Even under the pope, who denies the Gospel and raises himself above the Word of God, even there, wherever God’s Word is believed, God works through His Word and saves people in spite of the pope’s best efforts to lead them to hell.

The Word, the Word, the Word is what has the power to save. The Word has the power to save because in the Word and only in the Word do we know of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus. Only in the Word do we hear the Gospel that our sins are remitted for the sake of Christ’s death for us. The Gospel is God’s power to save (Rom. 1:16) and we know the Gospel only from God’s Word.

The Christian church does not exist apart from the Word of God. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). Those who do not hear cannot believe (Rom. 10:14).

Yet, in those who hear and believe, God’s Word produces thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and hundredfold. The Word of God is so powerful that it has wrenched you away from hell and its prince, the devil. The Word of God has produced faith in your heart so that you know all of your sins are forgiven. The Word of God is so powerful that on the Last Day it will raise you to eternal life as surely as it raised our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ from the dead.

The most important mark of the Christian church is that it possesses the holy Word of God. Without God’s Word, there is no Christian church. God’s holy people cannot be without God’s Word and God’s holy Word cannot be without God’s people, so where God’s Word is, there His people are. Where God’s Word is, there is the Christian church. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

*Our midweek Lenten series is based on Martin Luther’s On the Councils and the Church, as found in the primer A Christian Holy People, which is available from Lutheran Press both affordably in print and free electronically (lutheranpress.com).

Listen Up

Sermon for the Transfiguration of Our Lord based on Matthew 17:1-9

Dear people who listen to Jesus: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

When celebrities speak, people listen. When famous actors, singers, or athletes give their opinions, people want to hear what they have to say. Never mind the fact that most of the time these celebrities have no expertise in the matter at hand. Most of the time celebrities have no more knowledge about the subject than the average person. Yet people want to hear what celebrities have to say; what their opinion is on global warming, immigration, the Middle East, or the election. People watch them on TV, read about them in magazines, and follow them on social media so that they can hear their opinions.

However, when it comes to hearing what God has to say, people don’t care. They don’t want to hear it. God knows everything, but people don’t want to hear His expertise. The creator of the universe has given us His Word so that we would know His will, but people don’t want to hear what God says.

In fact, even more than that, they project onto God what they think God should say and what He should be like. They say things like, “I don’t believe God would condemn my actions.” “I don’t feel God would tell anyone not to come for communion.” “I think that God would say this or that is okay.”

However, what we believe, what we feel, and what we think is wrong if it does not line up with what God says. Our feelings can be all over the place. Our thoughts can be all messed up. What we believe is wrong if it is not what God says.

What is it that God the Father says in our Gospel reading as Jesus was transfigured? God the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”

How many times have you heard someone say that God told them to do something, or that they think God would want them to do something? Such people search for a voice in their heart or in their head that they think must be God’s voice. But God’s voice is not in your head or in your heart. His voice is in His Word, and only in His Word. God points to Jesus and says, “Listen to Him!” Don’t listen to your thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. Listen to Jesus.

Why listen to Jesus? Well, what happened when the three disciples on the mountaintop heard God the Father’s voice? The disciples fell on their faces and were terrified. What happened when God the Father spoke from Mount Sinai to the Israelites? The Israelites were terrified and begged Moses saying, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us lest we die.” (Ex. 20:19)

Moses makes a point in our Old Testament lesson about saying that when the elders of the people of Israel were in the presence of God eating and drinking, God did not lay His hand on them. The fury of His wrath did not consume them because God had made a covenant with them and sprinkled the people with sacrificial blood. This sacrificial blood attested to the people that their lives were protected by virtue of the vicarious atonement of their sins. In other words, someone else’s blood covered their sin so that their blood would not be shed. Someone else was struck dead so that God would not strike them dead.

These Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the one all-atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. They foreshadowed the New Testament in Jesus’ body and blood which gives the forgiveness of sins.

Listen to Him. We listen to Jesus, because He is the Mediator between God and men. He stands between us and death; between us and hell; between us and the wrath of God over our sin. Jesus stands between us and the punishment we deserve because of our sin. He stands there because He paid the punishment our sins deserve. Jesus was struck dead so that God will not strike us dead for eternity in hell.

That is the reason why on the Mount of Transfiguration, God the Father says He is well pleased with Jesus. God the Father is well pleased that God the Son has reconciled us back to Him, because God does not want us to die eternally.

That God is well pleased with Jesus is of great comfort to us. It is of great comfort to us, because we are baptized into Christ Jesus. Our Baptism has put us in Christ. Since we are in Jesus, and God is well pleased with Jesus, that means God is well pleased with us. [This morning, since West was baptized into Jesus, and God is well pleased with Jesus, that means God is well pleased with West.]

How can water do such great things? Here’s a neat connection to the Transfiguration. Jesus looked like a regular man as He walked around teaching and preaching. During the Transfiguration, the disciples saw a glimpse of His eternal glory as the eternal God who has no beginning and no end, who created all things, and is over all things. The disciples fell on their faces terrified. If Jesus would have walked around in His glory as He taught and preached, everyone would have simply been terrified and fallen on their faces. Jesus veiled Himself in human flesh that hid His glory so that He could walk among His people and speak to them without them being terrified. Jesus hid His glory so that He would be crucified for our sins, which could not have happened if He walked around in His glory.

Similarly, Baptism looks just like regular water. If we could actually see sin being washed away, the Holy Spirit descending, and Jesus present in His glory during Baptism, we would fall on our faces in terror. God hides the glory of what He does in Baptism so that we do not have to fear Baptism, so that we do not fall on our faces in terror.

Baptism does such great things because it is not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water. Baptism puts us into Jesus, so that God is well pleased with us. Baptism puts us into Jesus so that we would listen to Him; so that we would listen to His Word rather than our own thoughts or feelings; so that we would listen to Him rather than the opinions of the world, or the opinions of whatever celebrity happens to be tweeting this morning.

Listen to Jesus, because He knows everything. He has created you and you are baptized into Him. He is the Mediator between you and God. He stands between you and death; between you and hell; between you and the wrath of God over your sin. Jesus stands between you and the punishment you deserve because of your sin. He stands there because He paid the punishment your sins deserve. Jesus was struck dead so that you will receive eternal life, because God is well pleased with you. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Sola Scriptura

Midweek Advent Sermon – Sola Scriptura (Is. 55:6-11; II Tim. 3:10-17; John 6:60-69)

Dear people who know the Truth from Scripture alone: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

How do you know what is right and what is wrong? Everyone has some basis for answering this question. Some will say, “I feel that this is right and that is wrong,” or “I think this is right and that is wrong.” Some say, “I want to do this; therefore, it is right,” or “I follow my heart on these things.”

That is of course why we have so many differing opinions on what is right and what is wrong. If everyone has a right to their own opinion and everyone has a different opinion, well then, I guess everyone can do whatever they think is right in their own eyes.

If we are following our feelings, then of course we want that which makes us feel good. We pursue pleasure because it makes us feel good. I’m not just talking about alcohol, drugs, sex, and food. I’m talking about following our feelings in life, in decisions we make, and even in what we expect from God. We want to feel good, so we want to hear cheery, uplifting music in church. We want a feel-good emotional message that uplifts us and motivates us. We don’t want any of that “I’m a poor, miserable sinner” stuff, or any depressing downers like talk about hell or sin or punishment.

The problem with following our feelings is that our feelings change. Feelings wear off. What makes us feel good one day isn’t quite as effective the next day. Also, feelings are unreliable. I recently heard of a man saying that he knew that God existed because he didn’t die in a near-drowning mishap when he was young. He based his knowledge of God on this feeling that he had when he was younger. What does that tell grieving fathers and mothers if they had a child who did drown when they were young, or died in any other way? According to his argument, it tells them that God does not exist. We plain and simple cannot follow our feelings or trust them to know the truth.

Following our thinking is no better. We may think this is right and that is wrong; this is fair and that is unfair. However, as we heard in our Old Testament reading, “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.” (Is. 55:8-9) Our sinful minds cannot comprehend God’s thoughts, and we cannot find truth following our reason.

The only place to find the Truth is Scripture. Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone. We must add the word “alone,” because whatever we add to Scripture takes us away from the Truth.

If we say that we follow Scripture and reason, then we are saying that we believe what God says in His Word only if it makes sense to us. Jesus walked on water? That doesn’t make sense, so obviously, He knew where the rocks were in the water. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? That doesn’t make sense, so obviously, the people only thought Lazarus was dead. Then really, we are only following our reason, and discarding God’s Word.

If we say that we follow Scripture and our feelings, then we are only following our feelings and discarding God’s Word. It would mean that anytime we feel like God’s prohibitions are unfair, we say that they don’t apply to us. Anytime we feel like doing something God forbids, we come up with excuses for why we’re going to do it anyway.

Second Timothy tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (3:16) All Scripture. We don’t pick and choose what we like. We don’t decide what makes sense and discard what our sinful minds think doesn’t make sense. We can’t decide what we feel is right and wrong. God decides what is right and wrong. He created us and the whole universe, so He makes the rules.

The most important reason why we rely on Scripture alone is because only Scripture tells us the Gospel. Only Scripture tells us that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. Grace is God’s free gift of forgiveness which we receive through faith, which is trust in God’s promises to us. How do we know this? Scripture alone tells us.

From looking at the world, we can conclude that there is a God who is the creator. From our conscience, we can know that we have done things that are wrong, even if we can’t know perfectly what is right and wrong. From history books, we can find out that Jesus died and that many people claimed that He rose from the dead.

However, only Scripture gives us the solution for what ails us. Only Scripture is God’s Word which He has given to us to tell us of His love for us. Only Scripture tells us the reason that Jesus died – to save us from our sins. Only Scripture tells us what Jesus’ resurrection means – the He conquered sin, death, and the grave for us, and now we have the promise of the resurrection of our bodies.

The Bible is not just any other book. The Bible is God’s Word, and God’s Word has power. God’s Word created the heavens and the earth. At His speaking, it was done. God’s strong Word bespeaks you righteous. He pronounces you absolved, and it is done. God’s powerful Word has claimed you as His own in the waters of Baptism, and God’s powerful Word will raise you from the dead when Christ returns. God’s powerful Word gives us the body and blood of Jesus with the bread and wine and will bring us to the eternal feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which has no end.

There is a place for feelings and thinking. After all, God created both our emotions and our minds. However, God didn’t give us emotions and minds to decide what is right and what is wrong. He gave us His Word for that reason. Scripture is how we know what is right and what is wrong. Scripture is how we know that despite the wrong we have done, Jesus has made things right. That is why we follow Scripture alone. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Hosanna to the Son of David

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent based on Matthew 21:1-11

Dear crowd shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David”: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Son of David rode into the city of David. He was received with much fanfare and celebration. They shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Jesus entered Jerusalem humbly, riding on a donkey rather than a majestic horse. He came in great power and might because He is God in the flesh, the creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them. However, His power and might were veiled. They could not be seen. The King of kings and Lord of lords humbled Himself and did not come in great demonstrations of power and might. The glimpses that He did show of His power and might were to heal, help, cleanse, and raise the dead; not signs of force or intimidation.

Some kings rule through tyranny and force. History is full of military dictatorships, despots, and tyrants. History is full of rulers who crushed their opposition through sheer force and violence, who murdered those who disagreed with them, and controlled their subjects through violence and threats of violence. We can think of examples such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler in Germany, and Mao Zedong in China. Their reigns were filled with conflict, murder, genocide, and war crimes.

Even in the modern-day western world, many politicians depict Machiavellianism, which is an unscrupulous approach to politics characterized by immoral behaviour, dishonesty, and even the killing of innocent people if it advances their political aspirations and goals. It was Machiavelli himself who said that if as a leader you cannot have both, it is better to be feared than loved.

What a far cry from Jesus’ humble entry into Jerusalem. Jesus came with more power and might than any world leader ever, but He did not come to lead His people by coercion and tyranny. He did not come to force people into subjection through oppression.

Jesus didn’t come on a war horse with an army of soldiers in a sign of force. He didn’t strong-arm people to sing His praises. He didn’t demand that they spread their cloaks on the road in front of Him or cut palm branches and lay them before Him.

Rather, God’s people were stirred to excitement and praise because they had waited for thousands of years for God to send the promised Saviour, and the crowds believed that that time had come. They shouted “Hosanna!” which means “save us now!” Thus, they believed their Saviour had come. They called Him “the Son of David” which confessed that they believed that He is the eternal King of the line of David promised by God through the Old Testament prophets (see esp. God’s promise to David in 2 Sam. 7:12-13).

The crowds may not have understood what it all meant, but Jesus understood. The crowds may not have known how Jesus would use His power and might, but Jesus knew.

Jesus did not use His power and might to coerce people to follow Him. He used His power and might to defeat the enemies of all mankind.

Jesus did not do this in the way that might have been expected. He could have attacked the devil and his demon hordes with the host of heaven and cast them into eternal chains of darkness. He could have destroyed Satan and his evil angels and rid the earth of them without even becoming man.

This, however, would have left mankind to pay for our sin. We would still have had to suffer eternally in hell for our sin if Jesus would have killed our enemy instead of allowing Himself to be killed. If Jesus had come in great power and might and defeated the devil without defeating sin and death for us, we would still be subject to sin and death.

That is why Jesus became man. That is why Jesus entered Jerusalem to suffer and die. By His suffering and death, He not only defeated the devil for Himself, but He defeated the devil for us. He defeated sin and death for us. Because Jesus paid the price of our sins, now we do not have to make the payment. Because Jesus died for us, we will not die eternally. Because Jesus defeated the devil for us, now the devil has no more power over us.

Sure, the devil will rave and storm and try to devour us and accuse us of our sin. Yes, we are still sinful and commit sin. And yes, we will die from this life.

But we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:5). That means, “Satan, drop your ugly accusation: I am baptized into Christ!” That means, “Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!” That means, “Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!” (LSB 594)

The devil has no power over us. He is a tyrant who tries to coerce us to follow him, but he cannot snatch us out of God’s hand (John 10:27-29). He tries to tempt us and accuse us, but he cannot entice us away from Christ, and God will not listen to his empty accusations because Jesus’ death has taken our sin away from us.

Sin has no power over us. Baptized into Christ, we don’t have to follow our sinful desires. Sin does not rule over us (Rom. 6:17-18). Because Jesus died for our sin, He took the punishment of our sin away from us. Our sin is removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12) because Jesus suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, bringing us to God (I Peter 3:18).

Death has no power over us. It may look like it has power over us since we will die from this life, but we are baptized into Christ’s resurrection, so we will rise from the dead as surely as He rose from the dead (Rom. 6:8). Death is now nothing to fear. Death for us is now nothing more than the doorway to eternal life.

Jesus will return as He has promised, and then He will come in power and might that is visible (Matt. 24:30). He will come in great glory that will be seen by all, even those who rejected Him, and all will bow down (Rom. 14:11).

Until that time, Jesus still comes to us humbly, in His Word and Sacraments. Jesus does not come to us as a tyrant and coerce us to believe or force us to go to church. Jesus comes to us in His Word which from the outside just looks like a book, but Jesus says His words are life (Jn. 6:63). Jesus comes to us in Baptism which from the outside just looks like water, but which Scripture teaches gives the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39). Jesus comes to us in the Sacrament of the Altar which from the outside just looks like bread and wine, but which Jesus tells us are His true body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins (Matt. 26:26-28; I Cor. 11:23-24).

Through these humble means Jesus gives us faith and keeps us in the faith. Thus, it is also appropriate that as part of the communion liturgy we join the Palm Sunday crowd and sing, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

We recognize that the Saviour promised long ago comes to us in humble form. We sing “Hosanna!” which means “save us now!” because we believe our Saviour comes to us in His body and blood to save us from our sins. We sing that He comes in the name of the Lord because we confess that He is the eternal King of the line of David promised by God through the Old Testament prophets.

We receive our Lord with fanfare and celebration who comes humbly to us. Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Cure for Itching Ears

Sermon for the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost based on II Timothy 3:14-4:5

Dear people with ears to hear: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Holy Spirit prophesied through the Apostle Paul saying, “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.”

That time has come. People do not endure sound teaching. Every excuse is made to ignore what the Bible says. They say that society is so different now, what the Bible says doesn’t apply any more today. They say that you can pick and choose what you want to believe from the Bible. They say that God forgives my sin so I can do whatever I want to do.

If they have a pastor who follows Scripture and says it does still apply today, they leave the church. If they have a pastor who says you cannot pick and choose what you like and dislike in the Bible, they go find a new pastor. If they have a pastor who says they cannot do whatever their sinful flesh wants to do, they go find someone who tells them what they want to hear.

This is what the Holy Spirit is talking about in saying “having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.”

Whatever passion they pursue, they can find someone to say what their itching ears want to hear. Is their passion to pursue after wealth? Then they find a preacher who says God wants them to be rich and he’s going to give them lots of money. Is their passion to pursue sex outside of marriage? Then they find a preacher who tells them marriage was not instituted by God in Paradise but is rather a social construct that they can ignore as they like. Is their passion to pursue feminist desires of women teaching and exercising authority over men? Then they find a preacher who tells them that patriarchy is oppressive to women and God’s designed order of creation means nothing today.

The Bible meanwhile says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Scripture cannot be profitable for teaching if it doesn’t apply any more today. Scripture cannot be profitable for reproof and correction if we’re supposed to follow society instead of God’s Word. Scripture cannot be profitable for training in righteousness if we can choose for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.

Contrary to what some might say, the Word of the Lord endures forever. Isaiah writes that the grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord endures forever (Is. 40:8). Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matt 24:35) Jesus also says, “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matt. 5:18)

The Word of the Lord endures forever. It doesn’t change with the seasons or with the earthly kingdoms that rise and fall. It will not bend to the whims of society or the passions of man. God’s Word doesn’t change according to the passions and desires of man.

What God says is what goes, regardless of what anyone thinks of it. What does Scripture say of those who oppose God and His Word? What does Scripture say concerning those who think they can throw away God’s Word as if it is shackles from which they must free themselves? Scripture says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then He will speak to them in His wrath, and terrify them with His fury.” (Ps. 2:4-5)

It doesn’t matter how great the nations and the numbers of those who reject God’s Word. It doesn’t matter if all the nations of the earth rage and plot against God. It doesn’t matter if the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together to overthrow God’s Word. It will come to nothing it will not come to pass. They will be broken with a rod of iron and dashed into pieces like a potter’s vessel (Ps. 2:9). God’s Word will not be overthrown. God’s Word will endure forever.

The fact that God promises that His Word endures forever is actually of great comfort to you. It means that despite the changes in society, God’s promises to you stand fast. It means that despite others chasing what their itching ears want to hear, you hear the Word of God that gives you life.

Because the Word of the Lord endures forever, Christ’s death in your place still stands and will stand forever. Because the Word of the Lord endures forever, your Baptism does not wear out or lose its power, but it also stands forever. Because the Word of the Lord endures forever, He still gives us the true body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins because His institution of the Lord’s Supper still stands.

Only the Word of the Lord is able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Without God’s Word, you would not know of Jesus death for you. Whatever you can learn about God from creation, from your conscience, or through your thinking, the only place you can learn of God’s love for you in Christ Jesus our Lord is the Bible. There is no other place.

That is the primary reason why we treasure God’s precious Word. It is our only hope of salvation. It is the only way we know that the price of our sins has been paid and that we stand as forgiven saints because we are covered by the blood of the Lamb. It is the only way we know that we are adopted children of God through Baptism. It is the only way we know that we are joined in communion with Christ and all the saints of all time and all places as we celebrate the most holy of Suppers.

Sometimes God’s Word might feel like a knock upside the head when it cuts us deep by condemning our sinful passions. It may feel more like shackles than freedom. But God condemns our sins so that we would turn away from them and receive forgiveness. God condemns our sins so that He might rescue us from death and bring us to life. God condemns our sins which are the actual chains and shackles that try to hold us imprisoned.

The world can and does rebel against God. The people can follow their itching ears. But may God keep us in the faith so that we would not rebel against Him. May God strengthen our faith in His Word which endures forever. May God grant us faith to cling to the cross of Christ for mercy, that mercy which is promised us in His Word, which endures forever.

The Word of the Lord endures forever. That means that God’s promises to you endure forever. No matter what the world’s itching ears are listening to today, our ears hear that our sins are forgiven. No matter what the latest trending false teacher is saying, our eternal Saviour gives us His eternal promise of eternal life. No matter the clutter of things to listen to, our ears hear the eternal truth of God’s eternal Word. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.