Sunday, July 23, 2017

Our Job Is to Wait

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 23, 2017

Matthew 13:24-30
Our Job Is to Wait

In the name of the Father
and of the 2 Son
and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen!

The parable of the wheat and the weeds teaches us that it is not our job to end unbelief. This teaching is contrasted by the dogma of Mohammed and his followers. Their god demands the end of unbelievers with the sword; our dear Lord, however, takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

In the parable when the servants ask the master if they should tear up the weeds, the master says no. No, do not try to get rid of sinners. The true God has not instituted a purifying cult that seeks to create paradise on earth. Instead, our Lord teaches us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” He wants none of the wicked to die; He wants His rule of grace and peace to come even to them.

The Lords prayer has been answered. We were weeds, but now we are the living proof of His kingdom. We are the wheat, the good plants that will be brought into Gods harvest. He has given us the opposite of what we deserve and from before we were born He knew us. He knew when we would start growing. He knew where we would live. He also knew all the weeds, all the unbelievers, that would grow up alongside you—childhood friends and siblings who no longer follow Jesus or carry their crosses to the glory of His name.

But the weeds aren’t just around us; they also grow inside us. Anger and doubt grow up alongside faith; greed and lust stain our lives. And so the good we want to do, we do not do; the evil we do not want to do, this we do. And we cry out to the Lord in frustration, “Why do You give us a taste of Your glory, but leave us here in our sinful flesh?”

And His answer to us is that it is not yet time. Because of His mercy, He will wait until all His chosen people have been brought to faith in Jesus. To those already in His kingdom, this waiting seems to go on forever. But to those not yet in His kingdom, they will be eternally grateful for the time.

Our job is not ending unbelief; our job is not fixing the problems of the earth. We show mercy to those harmed by evil, but we will never end evil. We know that Time itself is in Gods good hands and He will end war and greed and unbelief in His good time.

Instead, our job is to wait. We wait on our dear Lord who is gracious and works all things for the good of those who love Him and for the good of those who will love Him.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve,
and to give His life as a ransom for many.

Mark 10:45

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Christ Makes the Soil Good

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 16, 2017

Matthew 13:23
Christ Makes the Soil Good

In the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen!

Jesus taught His people with stories. This parable is a straight-forward story about farming, about seeds and how they grow. And the point of the story is that more Jesus is always better.

The seeds fall all over the ground. This is seed-sowing is like Jesus, whose saving death and resurrection have been heard all over the world. The seed is sown by the preaching of pastors and the prayers of fathers with their wives and children. But there are sadly many who hear Jesus, but nothing grows.

The following explanations point out, not cradle-to-grave heathen unbelievers, but instead those who at one point believed, but do so no longer.

So some seeds fall on the side of the road. Jesus said this represents those who hear Him, but don’t listen to Him. For example, what was last Sunday’s sermon about? You might think:

(1) I remember!
(2) Oh no, I can’t remember!
(3) Who cares? It’s just the same old thing every week.

This last reaction is what this roadside seed is about. They heard Jesus and they just don’t care.

Some seeds fall onto rocky shallow ground. These are those who hear Jesus, but only hear what they want to hear. This is usually the happy stuff. They load up on the John 10 and Psalm 23, the Good Shepherd Jesus; they love Christmas Eve and Easter Morning, animals, a cute baby, angels, the obviously glorious Christ. Noah’s Ark is fine as along as it’s the happy boat with smiling animals popping out.

But they never want much else. Good Friday and the crucified Christ—pass. The righteous judgment against the people of Noah’s day and the judgment that is coming also for the people of our time—skip. Jesus declares that He brings swords and division to our homes and churches—no thanks.

Other seeds fall among thorns. These are those who hear Jesus, but the world’s priorities end up running their lives. The world tells us how to spend our time, perhaps always working, perhaps always having fun. These people knew Jesus, they liked Him, but they just love the world more.

Finally there is the seed on good soil. Jesus explained:

And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
MATTHEW 13:23 NASB 1995

Why does the seed grow here? Because the soil is good. Unfortunately in much Christian art, drama, and music, even among things labeled “Lutheran”, the idea is that you make yourself ready for Jesus by being good soil.

Being good soil to make God like you is a theme of another story Jesus told. He told a story about a father who allowed his younger son to take his inheritance and leave home to chase wine and women. But in the end the father brought the younger son back into his home and family and threw a feast to celebrate his son’s return to life. But the older brother was furious with his father’s generosity.

Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.”
LUKE 15:29-30 NASB 1995

Like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal, this idea that we make ourselves good soil for God by following the rules (and of course, never God’s Commandments, but instead whatever rules you can keep and are comfortable with) actually put you back into the thorns.

Christ makes you good soil. He makes you good with Himself, His Word. To use His metaphor, He takes bad soil like us and makes us alive. This is the miracle of faith. He takes dead things and makes them alive by His Word and promise.

The soil that Christ Jesus has made good produces fruit. This fruit takes many shapes and sizes and may take time to appear. Most of the life of these good plants is in the necessary, but unseen roots underground. But fruit will appear. And indeed our greatest work is listening to Jesus.

So more Jesus is always better. More Jesus at home, listening to His Word is always better. More Jesus at church is always better, too, and not necessarily longer sermons, but certainly more opportunities to receive His body and blood on Sunday morning.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. Amen!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Sword of the Spirit Is Still a Sword

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
July 2, 2017

Matthew 10:34
The Sword of the Spirit Is Still a Sword

In the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen!

St. Paul finished up his letter to the Christians in the Greek city of Ephesus with a wonderful illustration of God armoring up His people against the world. Paul wrote:

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
EPHESIANS 6:16-17 NIV 1984

This battle talk here pumps us up for the fight against the Evil One, the Devil, and his allies, the unbelieving world and your own sinful flesh. But when the fight against sin comes to us, we must not forget what swords actually do.

In Exodus 32, the Levites used swords to kill 3,000 of their brothers and friends and neighbors (out of about 600,000) who had devoted themselves to the worship of their own pleasure. (The golden calf was just the flimsy excuse for their sinning. Perhaps that day you might have heard someone saying, “The gold calf told me to get drunk!”)

A sword is sharp. It cuts. It kills.
The Word of God is a sword. Its sharp. It cuts. It kills.

Jesus said:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”
MATTHEW 10:34-36 NIV 1984

So heres the thing: our culture, which feels more and more like a cult every day, encourages opinions and discussion of opinions on every last thing on the face of the earth, expect one thing. If you’re thinking that Im you can’t talk about God, you’re wrong. You can. You can say anything about God you want, except that God died and rose from the dead.

You bring that up at a holiday gathering, even among some Christians(!), and the party’s over. Anything but that. Anything but that. You can gossip, you can be vulgar, but just don’t bring up Jesus dying and the claim His life has on our lives.

A wise preacher once said that our society’s last taboo is conviction about God and His Word. Confess that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven and you are bound to be disliked . . . Protocol dictates that we look the other way as men race toward perdition, lest we should offend the damned.1

Hell is never offended. Hell doesn’t need to be acknowledged by modern pagans. Hell doesn’t care if anyone believes in it or not. It can wait. It quietly applauds our silence.

Why do we keep silent? By faith we say that Jesus is number one—this is very good!—but in what we do (and don’t do) we show that there are things that are just as important as Jesus dying and rising from the dead. Jesus mentions what one of those god-like things is: family.

Tell your children that you love them dearly, but that Jesus loves them even more you do. You know this because He died for them and baptized them. And tell them that you love them dearly, but that you love Jesus more than you love them. And God-willing, your children will say the same to you.

When this confession of Jesus—Jesus above all—is the watch word of your home, then true love for your parents, for your children, can flourish. Certainly there are loving heathen homes, but these relationships are always expected to deliver constant happiness, treating each other as their fellow gods.

Only by forsaking the sin of Adam, who hoped to be god, and taking up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is true love unsheathed. Telling the truth about Jesus’ victorious death means that we no longer need our parents to be our saviors, or our children to redeem us and give our lives meaning. Jesus is our Savior; with His blood He has bought us out of the clutches of Death and the Devil.

Let us pray.

Dear Lord, thank You for times of peace in our family life when Your Word is heard continually in our hearts and frequently in our homes. Strengthen us for days of unrest, when Your sword will separate the living from the dead. Let us lose our lives for Your sake, for in Your death we live forever.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, 
but to serve, 
and to give His life as a ransom for many. Amen!
Mark 10:45


1 Reformation Sermon by the Revd David Petersen, Matthew 10:34, October 27, 2002. Accessed cyberstones.org/sermon/reformation-2002 on June 28, 2017. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Our Declaration of Dependence

Presentation of the Augustana
June 25, 2017

Matthew 10:28
Our Declaration of Dependence

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Have you ever looked closely at the back of the two-dollar bill? You see all the founding fathers gathered around King George III handing over the Declaration of Independence in his royal throne room in London. It’s impressive to see them putting their lives into direct risk before a powerful king.

But, of course, that is not how is it happened. They did put their lives on the line, but in Philadelphia, far away from King George.

But something like I described did happen. The founding fathers of Lutherans, rulers and kings and princes, put their lives into immediate jeopardy by handing a confession of faith into the hands of a powerful king. This king, Emperor Charles V, had the legal right to put to death these men for what they were doing.

What were they doing? They had read and signed a statement of the true Christian faith. It declared that we humans are sinful from birth and that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is our only hope for salvation. They took Jesus at His word when He declared:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
MATTHEW 10:26-28 NIV 1984

These powerful men humbled themselves before God. They saw their sin and how death would after them, save for Jesus’ sake, for His death and rising from the dead. They declared their dependence on Christ and Him alone for their rescue.

Unlike Mr. Franklin, Mr. Jefferson, and even Mr. Washington, these men:

John, Duke of Saxony;
George, Margrave of Brandenburg;
Ernest, Duke of Lueneberg;
Philip, Landgrave of Hesse;
John Frederick, Duke of Saxony;
Francis, Duke of Lueneburg; and
Wolfgang, Prince of Anhalt; along with
the city councilmen of Nuremburg and Reutlingen

were glad to declare how helpless they were standing before the holy God. They knew they had nothing to offer Him, except for their pathetic attempts at self-salvation. So by faith they received life from Jesus’ death and placed their lives into His hands, come what may: persecution, insults, poverty, family strife, and death.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. Amen!

Mark 10:45

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Helpless Sheep Need the Compassion of God’s Shepherds

Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 18, 2017

Matthew 9:36
Helpless Sheep Need the Compassion of Gods Shepherds

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

You see a whole family—mom, dad, kids—begging for money at the entrance of a fast food restaurant in Davenport.

You hear about little children left on purpose overnight in a car in Texas.

You see your own grown children ignoring the Word of God on a daily basis and especially on Sunday.

These are all things are not right, even bad. And when you see or hear bad things, you have an emotional reaction. You get sad or mad. Or both.

Jesus saw bad things, too. He saw and heard about dead children. He saw poor people begging for money. And He saw grown children who ignored His words.

What was His reaction?

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
MATTHEW 9:36 NIV 1984

Just before this, He had seen a dead girl and a bleeding woman, two blind men, and a demon-possessed man who couldnt speak. And that just Tuesday!

In other words Jesus daily saw a great deal of misery and sadness, things that shouldnt be, and things that were downright evil. And just like us, His reaction was mercy and compassion. This isnt a big surprise, because He is the same God who said to Moses in the Book of Exodus:

I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”
EXODUS 33:19 NIV 1984

This is after He had led Moses and the people of Israel out of Egypt. After! But Moses still needed reassurance of Gods love for him. Instead of becoming sad or mad at Moses for his weak faith, the Lord strengthened Mosestrust by talking to him and repeating His promises of mercy and compassion.

This compassion is heard and seen throughout the words of the prophets. A good example is Gods compassion on Nineveh. He had sent Jonah there to call them to repentance and by the work of the Holy Spirit, they listened and repented and turned away from their violence and false religion.

And then we have Jesus at work. He had compassion and raised a dead girl to life, healed a bleeding woman, gave sight to two blind men, and drove out a demon so that a man could speak again. And but it doesnt stop: the bad things or Jesuscompassion.

He saw the crowds and more than just feeling sorry for them, He did something to save them. He sent them shepherds.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
MATTHEW 9:37-38 NIV 1984

He sees helpless and harassed people. Back then and now. Just like then, we see bad things around us: poverty, violence, neglect, false religion. And we realize something even worse: that we ourselves are bad and do bad things. So what can we do? Where can we turn for help?

By ourselves we are helpless, but Jesus sends preachers and tellers to tell of Gods compassion and mercy. So you are no good and deserve death and hell, but Jesus is good for you. By suffering and dying on the cross for all and then baptizing you, He makes a trade: He takes the blame for all bad things and He gives you the credit for all His goodness.

And news of this trade must be told. So He sends out tellers and preachers. In these New Testament times, He started with 12. Some doubted Him, all deserted Him, one betrayed Him. But by His compassion, many were faithful tellers of this grand trade made on the cross. Preachers like Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew, and many more have gone out among fellow sinners to tell of Gods compassion.

When you see bad things, youll react with emotion. Sometimes youll be able to react with merciful action. And when we meet a fellow bad person who has done bad things (which isnt some random scenario, but often happens at home or even at church!) tell them what youd want them to tell you in the situation was reversed: that Jesus gives us the opposite of what we deserve. Instead of harassing, He helps. He gives life instead of death.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. Amen!

Mark 10:45

Sunday, June 4, 2017

His Creeds Against Our Doubt

Trinity Sunday
June 11, 2017

Matthew 28:17
His Creeds Against Our Doubt

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Matthew 28:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I Am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Why do we have Creeds? The Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed? Why do we agree with these Creeds? Why do we make them our personal statement of what we believe? Why? “Because some doubted.” The text from Matthew that I just read to you said,

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted.

But some doubted. Creeds are meant to be universal truths drawn from Scripture to nail down the faith in a short and simple way. The Creeds of the church developed because some doubted and others failed to listen to Jesus.

Sixty years or so after Jesus’ ascension, a man named Cerinthus (SIR-RIN-THUS) who claimed to be a Christian, but he doubted the actions of the true God. This man taught that God the Father did not make the physical world. He taught that Jesus was not God. Cerinthus did not listen to Jesus command to observe all that Jesus had taught them.

In response to this false confession of faith, the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds teach the truth:
they teach that Jesus is the only Son of the Father,
they teach that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary,
they teach that He is God of God and Light of light, very God of very God, begotten not made,
and they teach that He is perfect God and perfect Man composed of a rational soul and human flesh.

What does this mean for you? It means that your forgiveness isn’t fake, it’s real forgiveness, it’s not an illusion, it’s not imitation forgiveness. It also means that Jesus Christ who is God and man, is who Scripture says He is, and that He died fully and completely for your sins. God didn’t skip out on the suffering of the cross or death upon the cross, it was not the man only who suffered and died, who took the cup of wrath down to the dregs. He suffered hell for you and then He died.

He did this dying for you; He died for every single last person, whether they are over 100 years old or still in their mothers womb. Jesus died for liars, cheats, thieves, those who curse His name and use it falsely, those who sleep around or dream of sleeping around, for those with covetous hearts, and those who refuse to hear His Word: He died for you and for me and for all our sins.

But you might wonder, “I’ve failed at making these confessions my confessions, I’ve not taught them well, I’ve not always honored what Scripture teaches about Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I’ve not had a faith that confessed these things consistently or with great conviction, I’ve been a doubter . . . is their hope for me?”

Yes! and I’ll tell you why.

When you read the Gospel of Matthew you’ll notice that when Matthew uses the word disciple he doesn’t use it to mean everyone who follows Jesus. When Saint Matthew uses disciple he is speaking of the specific men that Jesus handpicked to be the twelve, when the eleven went up on the mountain to hear the words spoken by the resurrected Christ it was the same handpicked group of men (minus Judas).

So when Matthew says that the disciples worshiped Jesus as God, it was out of the same eleven that you hear that “some doubted.” The Greek word translated some is an interesting one: it could mean that some of them doubted or it could mean the ones there doubted. Why is this important?

We just had Pentecost Sunday and the events of Matthew 28 happen before that day when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples. Now think of it: the resurrected Jesus,
Who could not be stopped by nails and spears and a crown of thorns,
Who could not be stopped by the chains of death,
Who could not be stopped by locked doors,
Who they had witnessed alive and glorious on a number of occasions together as a group,
Who had eaten with them in those days after His resurrection and done all that He said He would do,

this living Jesus stands before them yet again and there is still doubt. Yet Jesus doesn’t say, “Well, I will only send the Holy Spirit to those who muster up perfect faith; sorry guys, but not all of you will receive the promised Comforter.”

No! Jesus forgave their doubting and loved them just the same. Jesus forgave them; Jesus will forgive you. He didn’t withhold the Holy Spirit from any of them on the day of Pentecost and He doesn’t withhold the Holy Spirit from you in your baptism. Jesus will forgive you if you’ve failed in having perfect faith: ask and you shall receive.

And on the last day when the disciples, like we are risen with our bodies, remember that the deeds you give an account of will be washed clean in the blood of Christ Jesus. Sins forgiven and good works made righteous by the same blood of Christ Jesus. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will see these works and declare them good and you will enter into eternal life. So dear believers, believe and teach and confess that:


the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. Amen!

Christians Dream of Christ

Day of Pentecost
June 4, 2017

Joel 2:28-29
Christians Dream of Christ

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

I.

Daydreams are a part of human life. Someones talking to you and you start thinking about something else. Often this dreaming is triggered by something the talking person has just said, and off goes your mind (or maybe on goes your mind). You enter a state of meditation and it comes to an end when the preacher says, “Amen!” or your wife says, “Dear?”

You should listen carefully when others talk to you, but dreaming can be good if youre dreaming about something good.

So, do you dream about Jesus?

II.

Joel was a prophet of God who lived and preached hundreds of years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The Lord spoke through Joels pen and the Lord said:

28After this I will pour out my Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. 29I will even pour out my Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days.
JOEL 2:28-29 CSB

We need to explain a few words: prophesy and vision, dream, and pour out.

We usually think prophecies and visions will tell us the future, but its also about speaking to the present. Joel was a prophet—he spoke about Gods promises for the future, but he also spoke of the situation of his own time. And usually there are strong connections between the present and the future. For example, the Lord sent Joel to call the people of Israel back to God, so they would be ready for the Day of the Lord, when they would meet their Maker and Savior.

When dreams paired up with prophecies and visions, we are right to think about prophetic dreams of God’s people (and sometimes Gods enemies). These dreams were interpreted to reveal God’s promises. For example, God showed Joseph in Egypt that Pharaoh’s dream about fat and skinny cows meant that there would be seven years of good harvests and then seven years of no food.

But for us, dreams arent so much about predicting the distant future, but instead are much more a way to think about the present and the past. Night dreams draw on our past experiences, even if its just chewing on what happened that day. On the other hand, daydreams chew over things that are on our mind for the present and near future.

III.

So, whats on your mind? What do you dream about? What keeps you up at night?

Missing library books. Overdue bills. Angry children. New ideas. Tricky surgery. Usually bad stuff, right?

So put some good stuff on your mind. Put Jesus on your mind. Dream about Him. And we will because of that last verb: pouring out the Spirit.

The Lord God in our time pours out His Spirit on all His people, His Church. The Christian Standard Bibles translation of “humanity” gives the impression that the Holy Spirit is poured on unbelievers, but the original Hebrew says that the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh. Flesh means all living things. Since unbelievers are not alive, the Spirit comes only to Gods baptized and living people.

This pouring and coming of the Holy Spirit is the hearing of Gods Word. At the original Pentecost dramatic signs and wonders (wind and fire) accompanied the preaching of Jesus Christ. And they preached:

22Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. 23This man was handed over to you by Gods set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. 24But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.
ACTS 2:22-24 NIV 1984

The prophets on that day spoke of Jesus dying as our Savior; they did not talk about themselves. They did not call on their listeners to perform signs and wonders; they simply showed them Jesus and called on them to repent of their sin and trust Jesus.

IV.

This pouring is happening right now. Im not speaking to you in some strange ecstatic speech; there is no fire or wind. (Although think of how interesting it can be when listening to a sermon through a thunderstorm!) Im just talking Jesus to you. The Spirit through the Word pours out Jesus on you and all of Gods people. When Joel mentions sons, daughters, old men, young men, and slaves, he means that all of Gods people will prophesy and all of us will dream. We speak and dream of Jesus. In the past He was crucified for all our sins, in the present His Holy Spirit speaks Jesus to us, and in the future He will return to take us home.

So dream, day and night, of Jesus, who has saved you!


For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many, for you. Amen!