Undeserved Rewards

Sermon for Septuagesima based on Matthew 20:1-16

Dear labourers in the vineyard: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

God has promised great blessings to those who keep His commandments. For instance, Psalm 19 says that there is great reward in keeping God’s rules (v. 11). Proverbs 29 says, “Blessed is he who keeps the law.” (v. 18) Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” (v. 1) Proverbs 3 tells us to write God’s commandments on our hearts so that we will find favour and good success in the sight of God and man (v.3-4). The Fourth Commandment has a special promise connected to it: Honouring your father and your mother is rewarded by God with long life (cf. Ex. 20:12). Malachi 3 says giving a tithe to God will result in God opening the windows of heaven for you and pouring down on you a blessing until there is no more need (v. 10).

Do not let the blessings God gives you confuse you into thinking that you thereby earn favour with God through following His commandments. This can never be, but this is the error into which the first labourers of the vineyard fell, and the error into which we fall when we think that God owes us something.

The workers who worked all day grumbled because they thought they were entitled to more than they received. They thought they deserved to be rewarded. If the workers who worked for only an hour were given a day’s wage, surely they thought they deserved more than a days wage, having borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.

When it comes to business, this is certainly true. You cannot run a business paying workers who work for only one hour of the day the same as the workers who work twelve hours of the day. No one would be willing to work for you more than an hour in a day.

The whole point of Jesus’ parable is that the kingdom of heaven is not like a business; it is not like life on earth. You cannot work your way into it. You cannot deserve it. Entry into the kingdom of heaven is by grace, and only by grace. The workers in the vineyard were rewarded for work they did not perform. So also you will be rewarded for work you have not performed.

The simple truth is that God owes you absolutely nothing. He doesn’t owe you health or wealth. He doesn’t owe you clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, or anything that you have. Most especially, God does not owe you entry into the kingdom of heaven.

This is contrary to popular opinion which holds that everyone should go to heaven. Everyone is entitled to grace. Sins don’t matter. Everyone getting into heaven is right and just. We all deserve heaven.

This is of course nonsense. No one deserves heaven. We all deserve the torments of hell. What we deserve is far worse than a miserable, pathetic life on earth filled with suffering and affliction, poverty and sorrow, illness and a slow, painful death. Because of our sins, we all deserve nothing but punishment.

If you realize that you only deserve punishment, then you realize what Jesus is teaching in this parable. God doesn’t think like you. He doesn’t reward workers how you reward workers. If God rewarded us as we deserve and paid us for what we have done, we would all end up in hell for eternity.

God out of His great love for you, without owing you anything, gives you what you do not deserve. He welcomes you into His kingdom because of work not done by you, but by Jesus. Jesus did the work that you could not do. He did what the Law demands of you but you could not fulfill. He suffered a brutal and bloody death to pay for your sins.

This is the heart of the Gospel: God rewards those who do not deserve it. He loves poor miserable sinners and gives them eternal life. He is so generous that He gives eternal life to those who deserve eternal death.

Do not begrudge His generosity. Is He not allowed to do what He wants with what belongs to Him? If God gives unbelievers their daily bread why should this bother you? If you see the wicked prosper, do not be envious of them (cf. Ps. 11, 73). God makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). This is God’s generosity, that even unbelievers benefit from His grace. When an openly public sinner turns from the vileness and wickedness of his ways, do not begrudge God’s generosity in showing him mercy.

Do not ask God to give you what you deserve. Even if you have to bear the burden of the day and the scorching heat, God owes you nothing. Yet, by His grace, He gives you everything. He gives you everything you need for this body and life, and He gives you entry into the kingdom of heaven.

Grace is undeserved and unearned. Grace is a gift. God has given you His only Son and brought you into His kingdom through water and the Word as a free, undeserved gift. You are thus not just a servant or labourer, but an adopted child of God and an heir of the kingdom. He grants you a place at His table where He gives you Jesus’ body and blood and He blesses you so that your cup overflows.

Entry into the kingdom of heaven is not owed to you, but is given to you by grace. You are rewarded with work that Jesus has done for you. Praise and thanksgiving be to God for His generosity. Amen.

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

Transfiguration Glory

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

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

Peter, James, and John saw a glimpse of the glory of Christ. They fell down on their faces and were terrified. When they saw Jesus’ glory that was no longer veiled under a cloak of humility, He revealed that He is God under the veil of human flesh. He deliberately hid His glory except for this moment with His three disciples. These three disciples were witnesses of the glory of Jesus, along with Moses and Elijah.

Jesus’ glory witnessed by Peter, James, and John is an indication to us that Jesus does not intend to keep His glory just for Himself, but He will share it with us. His transfiguration is a foretaste of eternal glory, joy, and blessedness where we will also be.

However, Scripture tells us, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (I Cor. 15:50) As we are, we cannot be with Jesus in His glory. As sinful flesh and blood, even a glimpse of Jesus’ glory would knock us down on our faces in terror.

Our perishable bodies must put on the imperishable; our mortal bodies must put on immortality (I Cor. 15:53). Then, and only then, we can see Jesus face to face.

Until then, Jesus veils His glory from us, even though He is with us. He has promised us, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20) He has promised us, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matt. 18:20) He has promised to be with us in the bread and wine of Holy Communion, where He gives us His true body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of all our sins (Matt. 26:26-28).

Jesus is here, even though He is veiled from our sight. Since Jesus is here, it is impossible to be too pious, reverent, or respectful. God is here, even though we cannot see His glory. We cannot have a church building beautiful enough, or singing, artwork, or crucifixes that are majestic enough for what takes place here. This is the closest that we get to heaven on earth. Jesus comes in His body and blood to us and for us.

Our response to God’s presence among us is to bow our heads and to kneel as we are able. If we would see the glory of God, we would fall on our faces like the three disciples on the mount of transfiguration. Above all, our response to Jesus being among us is listening to Him. After all, that’s what God the Father said from the cloud, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”

Indeed, you can have the most beautiful cathedral with the most beautiful paintings and statues. You can have the most beautiful choirs and orchestras playing the most beautiful music. You can have golden vessels, jewel encrusted vestments, and the most expensive of paraments. But if you don’t listen to Jesus, you have nothing except eternal damnation. Even if you saw Jesus in His glory, but you don’t listen to Him, you have nothing but eternal damnation.

This is what Peter writes about his witnessing of the transfiguration in our Epistle lesson. He writes, “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain.”

Peter, James, and John were eyewitnesses of the glory of Jesus. They heard God the Father speak from heaven. Yet, what does Peter say? He says, “We have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” We have something more sure than experience. We have something more sure that feelings. We have something more sure than anything. We have the Word of Jesus. God the Father says, “Listen to Him.”

Listen to Him of whom Moses and Elijah spoke, and all the prophets before and after them. Listen to Him to whom all Scripture points. Listen to Him to whom God the Father points. Listen to Jesus, because only He has the words of eternal life.

Anyone can tell you to live a better life. Anyone can tell you to be more helpful to your neighbour, more loving to your family, and more supportive of those in need. Anyone can tell you to stop being selfish and self-centred. Only Jesus can say to you, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

Jesus gives you rest from the demands of the Law. He gives you rest from the accusations and curses of the Law. He gives you rest from your failures and sins because He gives you forgiveness.

Only Jesus has the words of eternal life and only Jesus gives eternal life. Only Jesus gives eternal life because only Jesus has earned eternal life for you. No one else has paid the price of your sins. No one else has fulfilled the Law of God on your behalf. No one else can give you eternal rest.

Jesus’ death for you was Jesus purchasing your eternal rest. He took all your sins so that you can enter His eternal glory, in which you will see Him face to face. Jesus will not keep His glory just for Himself, but He will share it with you. Not just a brief glimpse of glory, but eternal rest, joy, and blessedness in His glory.

To bring you safely to that place where you will see Him in all His glory, He comes to you with His glory veiled to give you forgiveness. He gives you His true body and blood, in which His glory is veiled so that you can eat and drink without falling on your face in fear. Indeed, He gives you His body and blood so that you would have no fear, but instead have joy in the forgiveness of your sins and the promise of eternal glory.

Receive His body and blood in firm faith for your eternal blessing, and as God the Father says concerning His Son, “Listen to Him.” Amen.

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

Jesus Calms Your Storms

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany based on Matthew 8:23-27

Dear disciples in the boat with Jesus: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

On a nice, calm day, the disciples followed Jesus into the boat. If you would have asked them at that point if they trusted Jesus, they would have responded strongly in the affirmative. Of course they trusted Jesus. They had just witnessed Jesus healing the leper, the centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, and many others. They were of good cheer and content, thinking that because Jesus was with them, they would have no trouble. They had no fear, apprehension, or uneasiness. Jesus, weary from preaching and teaching, laid down to sleep.

Then, the storm hit. A great storm with waves swamping the boat. The disciples were overcome with fear and fright. They were in a panic as the amount of water in the boat increased and increased, even as the howling winds and great waves tossed it back and forth, completely out of their control. Jesus remained sleeping, seemingly unaware of what was happening.

Jesus remained sleeping to bring the weak faith of the disciples to light. Faith is revealed to be true or false precisely through crosses and trials.

Saint Peter had boasted that he was ready even to die with Jesus, but when tribulation came, Peter fell away and denied Jesus three times. We, too, know how to talk big about the Gospel, cross, and patience, but when the cross is upon us, and we get hit by the storms of life, then it becomes clear how weak our faith is.

“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Jesus asks.

The winds and the sea obey Jesus. This of course means they obey Him not only when He rebukes the winds and the sea and tells them to be calm, but also when He tells them to rise up and storm. Jesus is the one who commanded the storm to start and to toss the boat and swamp it with water. The storm struck because of Jesus. So also our storms strike because of Jesus.

One way to end the storm is to throw Jesus out of the boat. That’s what the sailors did to Jonah. The Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land sent a great storm because Jonah was fleeing from the presence of the Lord. To quiet the storm, the sailors hurled Jonah, the one who was responsible for the storm, into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.

Throwing Jesus out of the boat to calm the storm is the easy way out of affliction. Scripture tells us, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (II Tim. 3:12) So, walk away from Jesus and your afflictions will end. The devil will stop harassing you at every corner. He will stop lying in wait for your thoughts, heart, soul, spirit, and conscience. The world will stop hating you, slandering you, and speaking evil of you. You will no longer have the constant battle with the desires, passions, lusts, anger and pride of your sinful flesh.

This is what many churches have done. They were beaten down by the social justice warriors of the world, so they caved to their every demand. Regardless of what Christ our Lord says on the matters, they wanted to avoid affliction, so they have fully embraced abortion, homosexuality, women pastors, and every other godless doctrine from Satan.

See, the world tolerates all the teaching and preaching of the heathen, the Muslims, and false Christians, but it cannot stand Christ’s teaching and preaching. As long as you preach what the itching ears of the world want to hear, everything will go smoothly for you. But when you begin to follow Christ, every calamity strikes. Then you invite against yourself the devil, the world, and all ungodly men. Then, because of Jesus, you face great storms and fierce winds, and suffer affliction.

But if you throw Christ out of the boat – out of your life – you throw out with Him all grace, salvation, and blessedness. You throw out eternal life.

Instead of throwing Jesus out of the boat, go in your anguish and distress to Him like the disciples did and say, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” Be patient and commit your cares to God until He is roused from sleep by your calling and crying.

The truth is that God never sleeps. Sometimes it seems to us as if God is sleeping. Psalm 44 says, “Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Rise up; come to our help!” (vv. 23,26) Psalm 35 prays, “Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord.” (v. 23)

As a man, Christ did sleep according to His human nature. According to His divine nature, He did not sleep, but was awake. As Psalm 121 says, “Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (v. 4) Even sleeping, Jesus was not only aware of the storm, but commanding the storm. Even sleeping according to His human nature, Christ was awake according to His divine nature and keeping watch over His disciples in the boat.

Upon being roused by the disciples, Jesus did rebuke them for their little faith, but He calmed the storm. The storm and the calming of the storm were to strengthen the disciples’ faith; that they would trust that Christ alone is Lord of heaven and earth, who made the sea and the dry land; that they would trust that, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Ps. 34:19) Jesus desired them to know that they can find comfort and help in all dangers, be they physical or spiritual, by water or land, as long as they are with Him in the boat, that is, incorporated into Him by faith.

Even though He sometimes takes a long time, and it seems to us that He has fallen asleep, forgotten us, and will not hear us, we should not therefore despair, but cry out with the disciples, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” Then we will quickly find verification of David’s words, “Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” and “When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him.” (Ps. 91:15)

What we should always remember is that our death is our victory. Then we will be in no more trouble. We will face no more storms or afflictions. Because of Jesus’ death for our sin, our sin has been paid for, and our death is precious in God’s sight. Through the storms of this life, Jesus also teaches us to pray for death – that sweet release from the evils of this life. Jesus’ death has opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. The kingdom of heaven is thus open to you.

No troubles or afflictions can keep you out of heaven. Sin, death, and the devil cannot keep you out of heaven. Christ Jesus fulfilled God’s Law for you in thought, word, and deed, and He suffered and died for you, taking the full punishment of your sins on Himself. He has defeated all that would bar the gates of heaven to you, and He has promised to be with you until the end, through everything you must face.

With Jesus in the boat with us, the world must rage against us as it rages against Him. Let the world rage and storm. The winds and sea, and all things must obey Jesus. Trial and trouble will last no longer than Jesus wills. He is Lord over all, and He can change it all in a moment. To Him be worship, glory, and honour forever! Amen.

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

[This sermon borrows from Johann Spangenberg’s questions and answers on the Gospel reading.]

The End of Suffering

Sermon for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany based on Matthew 8:1-13

Dear suffering and afflicted saints: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” With this short, simple phrase, the leper prayed to Jesus. “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

By calling Jesus “Lord” the leper confesses that he believes that Jesus is Lord and ruler over all creation; that He is the Lord of heaven and earth, the Lord of sickness and health, the Lord of life and death.

By saying, “if you will” the leper is submitting his will to Jesus’ will. He is praying for cleansing from his leprosy only if God so wills it.

By saying, “you can make me clean” the leper confesses that Jesus has the power and the authority to heal him. He confesses that he is unclean and only Jesus can make him clean.

In other words, he is saying to Jesus, “You are God. Because I have leprosy, you obviously willed me to be a leper and I deserve my illness. You have given me this illness because of my sin or to reveal your glory. I deserve nothing but temporal and eternal punishment and I would rather have this illness and your favour than to be healthy and have your wrath. I know you can heal me, but thy will be done.”

This is a prayer of faith. True faith trusts in God even when He does not heal you. True faith trusts that God knows better than you about what is good for you.

Jesus responded to the leper with the words, “I will; be clean.” Jesus willed him to be clean, so he was cleansed by the word of Jesus.

Can Jesus still heal today? He healed many during His earthly ministry from various illnesses and diseases. He even raised the dead. Can He still do it today?

Scripture tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8) so we know that He certainly can still heal.

Jesus said that He willed the leper to be clean. Does He will any less for you? Does He love you any less? Assuredly not! Jesus wills you to be clean of all illnesses and diseases, and He promises you that you will be cleansed. But He has not told you when. He has given you no firm date or time. He can heal you now. He may heal you now. He will most certainly heal you in the life to come. In heaven, you will have no ailments of body or mind.

He will bring you into heaven and give you a new body and mind not because you deserve it. You don’t. You deserve only temporal and eternal punishment. Jesus will bring you into heaven because He died for all of your sins. Jesus will raise your body from the grave because He has cleansed you of the dirt of your sins in your Baptism. Jesus will bring you into heaven because He continually absolves you of your sin and gives you His body and blood to keep you cleansed.

As the Roman centurion realized, Jesus has the authority to do this. As the Roman centurion had authority to send his soldiers to come and go according to his orders, he knew that Jesus has all authority in earth and heaven (cf. Matt. 28:18). This means that if Jesus commands a leper to be clean, he will be clean. If Jesus commands the centurion’s servant who was lying paralyzed and suffering terribly to be healed, he would be healed. If Jesus commands His minister to forgive you your sin in His name, it is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with you Himself (SC V.6).

He does cleanse you of your sins so you will be eternally in heaven with Him, and He will ultimately cleanse you of all illnesses and diseases and save you from every trial and tribulation.

When you pray, be careful that you don’t desire to be released from your trial against the will of God. Say joyfully, or at least firmly, “Not my will, by thy will be done.”

In fact, Scripture says we should rejoice in our suffering because God works through our suffering to strengthen us, to form us, and to increase our faith (Rom. 5:3-5). We should thank God for suffering because suffering teaches us to pray and pay attention to God’s Word. If we only knew the great good for us that is hidden under our trials, we would gladly give up all our days of joy for them.

Do not for one moment think that you are the only one under great trial. In First Peter 4, you learn that such trials are common to Christians, and in the next chapter that sufferings come upon all your fellow Christians who are in the world (I Pt. 4:12, 5:8-9). When a person begins to imagine that he alone is suffering, or that his sufferings are greater than those of others, it is a sign of a vanity and of being self-absorbed.

Finally, do not resist God when He drives you to His Word in suffering. Do not avoid His Word and thus sink and entangle yourself in your own thoughts or feelings, throwing yourself into the enemy’s camp that is besieging your soul. Cling to the words of Scripture. Ponder them in your heart. Repeat them again and again and direct the thoughts and emotions of your heart to them. Sing them in hymns of comfort and praise.

And pray. Pray saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean. If you will, you can heal me. If you will, you can remove my trial and my affliction. But not my will, but thy will be done. If you know that this affliction is for my good, grant me to accept it, to rejoice in it, and to thank you for it. For I know that you desire only my eternal good – that is why you gave your life for me; that is why you suffered and died for me; that is why you have granted me to be baptized, and to hear your Word and absolution, and receive your body and blood in my suffering and affliction. And according to your promise to me grant me the resurrection of my body and life eternal according to your good and gracious will. Amen.”

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

[Portions of this sermon are adapted from “Brief Counsel for the Suffering and Afflicted” by W. Loehe.]

Wine of Gladness

Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany based on John 2:1-11

Dear invited guests of the great wedding feast: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Water is good. Wine is better. God loves to give the best gifts to His children, so Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana to provide for the on-going festivities.

The reality is that God turns water into wine all the time. He causes rain to fall so that vines will grow and grapes will ripen. He’s been doing it for thousands of years and He’s still doing it today.

What stands out in His turning of water into wine at the wedding in Cana is how quickly He did it and that it was different from His usual method. He turned the water into wine without soil, without vines, without sunshine, and He did it instantly, without it needing to age in oak barrels, and it still tasting really good. It was a miracle. The first of Jesus’ signs that manifested His glory.

The first sign of Jesus’ glory is related to the last sign of His glory – the glory in which we will spend eternity. With Jesus’ miracle at the wedding in Cana, the wine did not run out, and you can rest assured that the wine will not run out at the great wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which has no end.

There are those who say that it is doubtful that Jesus actually performed this miracle. They say it is a miracle of luxury and indulgence. Why would Jesus provide wine for a feast where the guests had already drunk freely? They find it improbable that Jesus would even show up at such an event.

Others want to obsess over some symbolism in the turning of water into wine. The six water jugs symbolize the Law of Moses that cannot take away sin, while the wine symbolizes Jesus’ blood which does take away sin. Water symbolizes Baptism, the wine symbolizes the Lord’s Supper, and that it all took place on the third day symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection. Okay, maybe there is something to these things, and that’s all well and good.

What is front and centre, however, is that Jesus honoured marriage my attending the wedding in Cana and gracing it with the beautiful miracle of turning water into wine, manifesting His glory. Of course Jesus is going to honour marriage since He is the one who came up with marriage and instituted it for man and woman.

In the beginning, in Paradise, God created them male and female and blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen. 1:27-28) Even after the fall into sin, God blesses marriage. He says that it is He who joins husband and wife together with a portion of His Spirit and that He seeks godly offspring (Mal. 2:15). What better place for Jesus to reveal Himself as God, than where His great gift and institution of marriage is taking place? What better way to do it than provide wine for the celebration?

After all the planning and work of preparing for the wedding celebrations, what an embarrassment to run out of wine. It would have been unthinkable for a Jewish wedding to be celebrated without wine. Despite the important part of the wedding already having taken place and husband and wife already being one flesh, the only thing that everyone would remember about the wedding for years to come is that they ran out of wine.

To avert the disaster, Jesus had the servants fill six stone jars with water, together holding 120 or 180 gallons of water. That’s a lot of water. The servants then witnessed the miracle, as the water was now wine. That’s a lot of wine. Not just any wine, but wine so good that it made the master of the feast take notice and speak to the bridegroom about it. It was excellent wine, the very best.

The Psalmist writes that God gives wine to gladden the heart of man (Ps. 104:15). Indeed, as for the couple in Cana, He turns the water of sadness into wine of gladness.

We also have many warnings, however, about drunkenness. Ephesians 5 tells us, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery.” (5:18) Drunkenness is sin and excessive consumption weakens the will to oppose other sin. Proverbs 21 says, “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich” (v. 17) Those who live for the pursuit of luxury and pleasure are reckless in their spending and many ruin themselves.

Wine was given to gladden us, not for intoxication (Chrysostom). Ecclesiastes 2 says, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.” (v. 24) This is not suggesting hedonism, but that you labour and work and then enjoy the benefits of that work which come from the hand of God.

There is also wine in which you enjoy the benefits of the work that Jesus has done. This is of course the wine in the Lord’s Supper. Another week has gone by, more sins have been committed. Marriages have been under strain as husbands have been selfish and looked after themselves, neglecting their wives, taking instead of giving, disrespecting instead of honouring. Marriages have been under strain as wives have not submitted to their husbands, but instead criticized them, bossed them, and nagged them.

It is a great and necessary thing to apologize to your spouse and be reconciled and then even to share some wine. It is an even greater and more necessary thing to be reconciled and receive the blood of Christ with the wine in the Sacrament of the Altar – two sinners, together receiving the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of all your sins.

If God has taken your spouse to Paradise already, you are not left out in this regard. In the Divine Service we are assembled before God in heaven, and we sing with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven as we sing “Glory to God in the highest” and “Holy, holy, holy,” two songs of the angels (cf. Heb. 12:22-24; Lk. 2:14; Is. 6:3). As you eat the body and drink the blood of Christ, you are in communion with Christ and with all the saints who are in communion with Him, whether here on earth or in heaven with Him.

Because Jesus lived and died for you, He prepares a place in His eternal wedding banquet also for you. Because you are baptized and are thus covered in the robe of Christ’s righteousness, you are dressed in the necessary wedding garment to enter the feast. There you will drink wine better than anything you can imagine. It will not run out and you will enjoy eternity in the glory of God. Amen.

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

The Baptism of Our Lord

Sermon for the Baptism of our Lord based on Matthew 3:13-17

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

If Baptism is our work, then we must question its validity and its effectiveness. If Baptism is our work, we must each ask ourselves: was I sincere enough when I was baptized? Did I understand Baptism completely and correctly? Did I know everything I needed to know in order for the Baptism to be of any use to me? If Baptism is our work, we must ask these questions and many more. If Baptism is something we do, we must continually question whether or not we did it correctly; if we did it well enough; if we did it earnestly, genuinely, and wholeheartedly.

That is why churches who believe that Baptism is our work, don’t baptize babies. If Baptism is just our confession of faith, you have to wait until you are able to confess the faith to be baptized. If Baptism is our work, you have to be able to do the work in order to be baptized, and you will never have certainty about your Baptism.

Thank God Baptism is not our work, but His work. This removes all questions and all doubt about its validity and its effectiveness; its genuineness and its sincerity. Why? Because it’s then not a question of our sincerity and genuineness, but God’s.

Do you think God is sincere or lying when He says, “Baptism now saves you”? (I Pt. 3:21) Do you think God is being genuine or joking when He tells us to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins? (Acts 2:38) Do you think God is being insincere when He tells you that your Baptism is into Christ’s death and resurrection and that in Baptism you put on Christ? (Rom. 6:3,5; Gal. 3:27) When it is a question of our sincerity and genuineness, we can never be certain. Because Baptism is a question of God’s sincerity and genuineness, we can be completely certain.

In Christ’s institution of Baptism, we also see the revelation of the Trinity very clearly. Jesus says, “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.” (Matt. 28:19) Baptism identifies God, and it identifies you as belonging to Him.

We see the three persons of God also in the Baptism of our Lord. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove, and God the Father spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

No less happened to you in your Baptism. Saint Paul writes that Baptism is a washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Thus you know the Holy Spirit descended also on you in your Baptism. Saint Paul follows this up with saying that through Baptism we become heirs with the hope of eternal life, (3:7) indicating our adoption as God’s beloved sons, with whom He is well pleased.

Baptism is God’s work. Baptism is God’s gift. You receive this gift of God through faith, while also obligating yourself to live a certain kind of life as a child of God. That is why, in the same passage from Romans chapter six that talks about our Baptism being into Christ’s death and resurrection, we hear, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” We are not to continue in sin. We are not to walk in the ways of the Old Man, but in newness of life; in the way of the New Man created in us by Baptism.

This is why the Christian life is a continual return to our Baptism. When we fall into temptation and we sin, we repent and turn away from the sin. We return to God’s promises to us in Baptism.

That’s the fourth part of Baptism in the Small Catechism: What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die along with all sins and evil desires, and that a New Man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

When you fail to walk as a child of God, do not harden your heart and remain in your sin. Do not make excuses for your sin. Do not deny your Baptism by refusing to repent and refusing to live like a child of God.

Until we die, we will have our old sinful nature. We will be tempted to sin. When we fall into temptation, our Baptism calls us to repentance. It is not a one time repentance, but a continual, daily repentance. Baptism defines our relationship with God. It strengthens us to flee temptation, and when we fall into temptation, it provides us with forgiveness and the strength to avoid it in the future.

 

Flee to your Baptism for refuge from guilt, sin, and the devil. Flee to your Baptism in the midst of doubt, suffering, and temptation. Do not forget how great of a gift your Baptism is.

Treasure your Baptism. When facing disease or death, know that you are baptized into Christ and have been given the medicine of eternal life. When you are burdened by the horrible guilt of your past sins; when your pet sins have again reared their ugly head; when you see the effects of sin in your life, then look to your Baptism. Your Baptism is the certainty that your sins were put on Jesus and that He carried them to the cross and died for them. Your Baptism is your certainty that Jesus has covered you with His righteousness and declares you forgiven. Your Baptism is your certainty that you have been declared God’s beloved son and pleasing to Him.

Baptism is God’s work. Therefore it is valid and effective. Even for those who have denied their Baptism by refusing to live like God’s children, their Baptism remains valid and effective, continually calling them to repentance, calling them back to God.

Daily contrition and repentance is the Christian life. Baptism is God’s free gift to you that keeps you in the Christian life and will bring you to eternal life. This is God’s genuine, sincere promise to you. Amen.

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

The Epiphany

Sermon for the Epiphany of Our Lord based on Matthew 2:1-12

Dear people to whom the Saviour’s birth has been revealed: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

That God became man was first revealed to shepherds in Israel and magi in the East. In other words, the Saviour’s birth was announced first to the lowly rejects of Jewish society and to heathen astrologers. Shepherds were outcasts and looked down upon. The magi were pagans who practiced divination, fortune telling, interpreting omens, studying dreams, astrology, and magic (cf. Dan. 2:2, 4:7). These are practices that God says are an abomination to Him (Dt. 18:10-11). Similar equivalents today would be the delinquents on our membership list and palm-reading psychics.

God chose to reveal the Saviour’s birth through angels and a star not to life-long faithful worshippers or to pious pastors, but to those who cared nothing for Him and to those who sought answers from the devil and his demons. God thus confounds those who think they are wise and those who think they are righteous.

Jesus was born for sinners, not for those who are righteous in their own sight. Jesus came for the thieves, adulterers, gossips, heretics, and horoscope readers. He came not to harden them in their sin, but to turn them from their sin and to give them forgiveness. The Gospel is to console the humble and despised, and to them Christ is revealed, as He was revealed to the shepherds and magi.

The magi are sometimes called wise men, but it was not their wisdom that led them to Jesus. They had been looking for answers in all the wrong places. There are no answers to be found in magic. Black arts are the devil’s work and he is the father of lies. No truth is to be found in such witchcraft and sorcery. There are no answers in the stars. There is no truth to be found in the skies.

When it is said that one who is born in this or that sign must become a gambler or an addict, and whoever is born under this or that star will become rich or wise, it is sheer madness. What fool looks to answers from the stars, and makes life decisions based on where the stars are in the sky on a particular day? Who seeks answers from the stars for love, money, success, and health? Only one who is blinded by lies and cannot see the truth. Such a one is in the very grasp of the devil himself because he does not seek good from God, but from fables and lies. Such are not wise men, but mad, frantic, and senseless men.

Yet, somehow, God’s Word had reached these magi in Persia, Babylon, Arabia, or from wherever they were. The Jews had been in exile in Babylon, and it is quite likely that those in the east learned God’s Word from those exiles, such as the prophet Daniel. Surely they had heard Balaam’s oracle of a star coming out of Jacob, and a scepter rising out of Israel (Nu. 24:17). They traveled far to find this king of the Jews, certainly because they understood that He was their king too. They bowed down and worshiped Him because they knew He was not just another child, not even just another king, but the King of kings.

The birth of this King was received in a much different way in Jerusalem. When Herod the king heard from the magi that they were seeking the newborn king of the Jews, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Why was all of Jerusalem troubled? Should they not have been excited and overjoyed that the long-promised Saviour for whom they were waiting was finally come? But as Saint John writes, He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him (John 1:11). He was not sought or acknowledged by His own people, but He was sought out by foreigners from far away with precious gifts in hand. The chief priests and scribes with Scriptures in hand did not acknowledge or worship the Saviour, but foreign sorcerers did.

Herod, of course, feared the loss of his kingdom. He was a foreigner himself and did not have the goodwill of the people. He also knew that the Jews were waiting for the Christ to deliver them from under Roman rule as Moses had delivered them from under Egyptian rule. If a new king had been born, Herod feared a rival for the throne and an insurrection from the Jews who did not want Herod as their king.

The people of Jerusalem were troubled because they knew what Herod was like. They feared bloodshed from this tyrant. They had also earlier revolted against the Romans which resulted in destruction, exile, enslavement, and death. They were troubled with how Herod would react to the news of the birth of a king of the Jews. Their fear was confirmed, when Herod, in trying to kill the infant Jesus, ordered all boys two years old and younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding region to be murdered.

Herod consulted Scripture in order to use it against God. He found out from Scripture that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, and thus it was the little boys of Bethlehem he put to death. He did not submit himself to God’s Word as the magi did.

Christ came for sinners like the magi. We can be offended at the fact that Christ’s birth was revealed to such sinners, or we can humble ourselves and submit to God’s Word, realizing that we also are such sinners. That is to say, Christ came for sinners like us.

We do not rejoice in our sin. We mourn and regret our sin and the harm we’ve done to ourselves and one another. We do rejoice that Christ came to save us from our sin. We are the sinners Christ came to save.

God’s Word has revealed to us who this infant was that Herod tried in vain to kill. He did come for the purpose of dying, but it would be His way and at His appointed time. It would be only when He had fulfilled what He came to do before dying. It would be after He had fulfilled the Law of God for us; after He had taught and healed many; after He had finished the works of God the Father. And no one could take His life away from Him. He laid it down of His own accord (John 10:18). Out of His great love for us, He laid down His life for sinful rebels like us, so that we have the promise of eternal life.

To keep us in the faith until we die, Christ instituted the sacred meal of the Sacrament of the Altar. He invites to His altar those who have sought answers in the wrong places; those who are weary in their fight with sin; those who struggle; those who are weak and heavy laden. Christ promises you rest because with His body and blood, He gives you forgiveness. He gives you rest from your sins because He died for your sins and takes them from you.

Group yourself with the magi, with delinquent members, and with palm-reading psychics as sinners whom Christ died to save. Repent and rejoice that God has revealed His promised Christ to you. Amen.

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

The Light in the Darkness

Sermon for the First Sunday after Christmas based on Luke 2:22-40

Dear believers with hope: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Simeon lived in dark days. The land of Israel was occupied by Roman armies. The ruler at the time, Herod the Great, was a tyrant. He is the same Herod that ordered the Massacre of the Innocents in Bethlehem. The church had become corrupted by greed and power-hungry leaders. Teaching had wandered from Scripture as the Pharisees threw away the Ten Commandments and made up their own laws for people to follow. God had not sent a prophet for four hundred years, and from all appearances, God had abandoned His people because they had turned away from Him.

Appearances can be deceiving, because God had not abandoned His people. There was a period of silence, but then an angel had appeared to Zechariah in the temple, and Zechariah had prophesied in the temple about his son John, and about the visitation of God to redeem His people. Angels appeared to shepherds, announcing the birth of the Saviour, and Simeon had been told that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

In the midst of darkness, there was light. There was hope. God is faithful to His people even when they are faithless. Christ is born! Let heaven and earth rejoice!

Simeon rejoiced. The world and the church were in a terrible state, but Simeon rejoiced because the Saviour was born. Simeon prophesied of the fall of many, the opposition to the Christ, and a sword piercing the soul of Mary, yet he rejoiced because Jesus was born to save us from falling, save us from opposition, and save us from sorrow and sin.

Appearances can be deceiving, because all Simeon saw was an infant in His poor mother’s arms. But he believed God’s promise that this infant is the Saviour of the world. He believed and says that he is now ready to die in peace.

Anna also lived in those dark days. In addition to the sadness of the state of the world and the church, she had sadness in her own life, too. She was only married to her husband for seven years when he died. At eighty-four, she had lived many years as a widow. She too gives thanks to God upon seeing the infant Jesus at the temple. In her excitement, she tells others at the temple who this baby is, this long-awaited Saviour. She does not say it, but she too was ready to die in peace, as Simeon’s song says.

There is a reason we sing Simeon’s words right after receiving the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. We too can depart in peace since God has fulfilled His Word. Our eyes see the salvation of God that He has prepared before the face of all people.

Appearances here too can be deceiving, as all we see is bread and wine. But believing God’s Word and His promise that with the bread and wine we receive the true body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, we too can be ready to die in peace.

We live in dark days. The world and the church are in a terrible state.

In the midst of darkness, however, there is light. There is hope. God is faithful to His people even when they are faithless. Christ was born to die and save us from our sin. He gives us forgiveness with His body and blood so we are ready to die; we are ready to leave this vale of tears to the eternal joys of Paradise because Christ has opened the kingdom of heaven for us.

Simeon’s prophecy is part joyful, part sorrowful. There is joy because God has fulfilled His promise to send a Saviour as foretold by the prophets for thousands of years. Christ did not come just for the people of Israel, but He is a light for revelation to the Gentiles. He came for the whole world, to save us all. Christ came to reconcile man with God, and also to reconcile man with man. All war and division will cease.

There is also sorrow. Simeon says to Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Here is revealed that what is good for us is terrible for this infant. He will be opposed and spoken against. He will cause division. He will suffer and die, which will also bring suffering to His mother and His followers.

But the sorrow and horror of Christ’s suffering and death is also His glorification. In His self-sacrifice He shows us the love of God for us, fallen mankind. Jesus’ death is how we know God’s love for us. We don’t have to wonder if God has abandoned us because of our sin. We don’t have to fear even in dark times. The world and the church may be in dark times, but God is faithful to His people even when they are faithless. He does not abandon us because of our sin. Instead, He forgives our sin.

He forgives our sin, so we are ready to depart in peace. Then, we are bold and eager for the end, as Simeon was. Christ’s sorrow has brought us joy, both now and in eternity, so we pray with Simeon, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace.” Amen.

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

The Word is Life

Sermon for Christmas Day based on John 1:1-14

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

Our Gospel lesson for Christmas Day is the most important of the Christmas accounts for knowing who Jesus is. It most clearly teaches that Jesus is not just man, but that He is divine; that He is God.

First, we see this because He is the Word. John points us back to the beginning as recorded by Moses in Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” John writes, “In the beginning was the Word.”

For each day of creation, God created with His Word. The first day, God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. This John corroborates by writing, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”

If everything that was created by God was created through Christ, who is the Word, then that means that Christ is not created. Christ must precede everything that was created. Christ therefore is eternal without beginning.

Nothing exists apart from God and what God has created. If Christ is not created, He is therefore God.

Then John tells us, “And the Word was with God.” This was in the beginning, before creation. There was nothing outside of God, so of course the Word was with God. Again, this is the same that Moses writes. When he writes, “God said, ‘Let there be light’” it shows that whenever God speaks, the Word must be with Him. The Word was with God, a separate person, but also God. Therefore John continues, in order to be as explicit and clear as possible, “And the Word was God.” There is no doubt therefore that Jesus is very God of very God as we confess in the Nicene Creed.

Second, our Christmas Gospel tells us concerning the Word, “In Him was life.” Of course, you cannot create life unless you are the source of life. Apart from the Word, nothing is alive. All things that are alive are alive through the Word.

This is also true of eternal life. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) There is no resurrection without the Word. There is no eternal life without the Word. Only the Word made flesh can give eternal life because only He died to earn you eternal life, and only He conquered death by rising from the dead Himself. Only the Word made flesh can give eternal life because He is the source, the cause, the fountain of life.

Next, our Christmas Gospel tells us concerning the Word, “The life was the light of men.” If the Word is the light of men, without Him, we are in darkness. This is why the prophet Isaiah writes concerning the birth of Christ, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” (Is. 9:2)

Without Christ, man is in complete spiritual darkness. He may imagine that he is pleasing God in his life. He may think that his ways are right. He may think that he clings to what is life, but because he is in darkness, he really clings to death.

All who trust in Christ for salvation, however, are in the light and have life. Even though our body will die, our soul will live forever and never die. This is what Jesus promises when He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26) “Though he die, yet shall he live” sounds like a contradiction if you don’t know what He means. It is no contradiction. Whoever believes in Christ has eternal life even when his body dies. The body is buried and awaits the day of resurrection, but the soul returns to its maker in Paradise, and is alive.

Christ died as a man and His body was buried. Yet His spirit lived on because He is Life. Life could not and cannot die. Consequently, death was overcome and was swallowed up by life, so much so that His body soon again became alive.

This same Life is the light of men. He who recognizes and believes in such a life in Christ, indeed passes through death, yet never dies. Christ, who is our Life protects him, so that death cannot harm him. Although the body must die and decay, the soul will not feel this death because believers are in the light of Christ, who is Life. On the day of resurrection his body will be raised imperishable and reunited with the soul.

He who does not believe this, remains in darkness and death. Such a soul will taste and feel death, and will die eternally. On the day of resurrection, his body will be raised from the grave and both body and soul will suffer eternally for rejecting Christ who is the Life.

Christ is your life. The soul of all who believe will never taste death because Jesus tasted death for you. The eternal Word who created you, came to earth to save you. God became man to deliver man. He is your light. He is your life.

The darkness of this world cannot overcome the light of Christ. Death cannot overcome Christ, who is the Life. The Word who created you will protect your soul from death and raise your body on the Last Day. He is God, so you know that He keeps His promises and can do what He says He will do. He is eternal, and in Him, you too will live forever.

May these blessed and comforting words of the Gospel strengthen you at this Christmas time. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Him, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never die. Amen.

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

Celebrating Christmas

Sermon for Christmas Eve based on Luke 2:1-20

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

The devil wants us to celebrate Christmas. He wants us to get together with family and eat and drink and be merry. He wants us to put on pageants and shows, to give and receive presents, to put up all kinds of decorations, and even sing some of the popular Christmas carols.

The busier we are with celebrating Christmas in these ways, the more we will miss Christmas entirely. Christmas is not about family. Christmas is not about presents. Christmas is not about eating and drinking. Christmas is about God taking on human flesh to live and die for us because of our sin. More often than not, it seems like Christ is the least important part of Christmas. That is exactly the kind of celebrating the devil wants.

The devil wants you to celebrate Christmas so long as you are distracted from knowing who Christ is, why He came, or what fruit He produces in us.

The reason why Christ has become a less and less important part of Christmas, is that He has become a less and less important part of life in general. Christ is treated as a sort of side dish to the great feast of our lives, or He is treated like the turkey in a Christmas meal: you kind of think He should be part of the meal, but only if smothered in lots of gravy, dressing, cranberry sauce, and followed by a sip of white wine to wash it down.

Christ loses importance to those who forget the ancient curse of sin that has doomed to death the whole universe. We can see this curse all around us in sickness, death, lies, slander, gossip, discontentment, violence, natural disasters, and so on. Everything that is wrong in the world is because of us and our sin, yet in our stupidity, we are more likely to point the finger at God for everything that is wrong.

The coming of God in the flesh at Christmas was to fix everything that is wrong. Christ came to take the ancient curse of sin onto Himself. He took the sin of everyone from Adam to you and your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Christ did this through His suffering and death. It is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” Thus, Christ, by His crucifixion on the cross redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13, cf. Deut. 23:23). He redeemed us from sin, which means that He freed us from the slavery of sin and the curse of eternal death that is the due punishment of sin.

Christ came to save us from hell and to bring us into the new heavens and the new earth which are perfect and without sin or blemish. He came to save us from this world of suffering and death to Paradise, where there is neither.

To show how unimportant are all the celebrations and feasting and all the other stuff we tend to hold dear, Christ shows us that He cares nothing for it. He came in poverty and humility so that we would understand what is truly important.

Christ chose to be born to a young woman in a working class family. He chose to be born at a time when the governing authorities were forcing everyone to go to their hometowns to be registered for taxing purposes, and Mary and Joseph were forced to leave their home for a long journey right when Mary was about to give birth. Christ shows how He cares nothing for the luxuries of this world, as He was born in a lowly manger because there was no room anywhere else for them. Mary did not even have the customary preparations and help other women would have at such a time.

This is the first picture with which Christ puts the world to shame. Christ makes way for others. Others fill the houses and apartments, the inns and hotels. They feast in them. They eat, drink, and are merry. Many a wicked man sat as head of table being honoured as lord, while the the creator of the universe, the God of heaven and earth lies in an animal feeding trough.

He whom the sea and wind obey

Doth come to serve the sinner in great meekness.

Thou, God’s own Son, With us art one,

Dost join us and our children in our weakness. (LSB 372 st. 2)

Christ does this to show you what is important. We have heard who Christ is and why He came, this is where we get to the fruit that He produces in us. Christ is God in the flesh, who came to save us from our sin and show us how unimportant are all the things that the world holds dear. The fruit that this bears in us is that we cling to Christ in faith instead of clinging to what the world holds dear.

This does not mean that we don’t have feasts or that we don’t get together with family. It doesn’t mean that we refuse to put up decorations or don’t give presents. It means that we cling to Christ and what He has done as of the greatest importance; that we would be willing to give up and lose all these other things rather than lose Christ.

Who Christ is and why He came also produce the fruit in us that we seek more and more to follow His example of making way for others. Of giving to others. Of not seeking our own good, but the good of others. When Christ changes our hearts so that we don’t cling to the things of this world, He gives us generous hearts to help those who are in need with the things of this world.

This is not what the devil wants you to hear at Christmas, and it’s not what he wants you to do. But not even he can change who Christ is or undo what Christ has done, and not even he can take your heart away from Christ no matter what worldly things he tempts you with.

The world may hold Her wealth and gold;

But thou, my heart, keep Christ as thy true treasure.

To Him hold fast Until at last

A crown be thine and honour in full measure. (LSB 372 st. 6) Amen.

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