God’s Word is Eternal

Sermon for the Second Sunday in Advent based on Luke 21:25-36

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

Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” This heaven and earth are not eternal. They will not last. But God’s Word is eternal. It will last.

Therefore, you have a choice of clinging to that which will pass away, or to that which will not pass away. You can cling to the mammon and treasures and pleasures of this life which will all be burned with fire, or you can cling to the Word of God which leads to eternal life. Clinging to that which will be destroyed by eternal fire means that you will be destroyed by eternal fire. Clinging to that which does not pass away means that you will be saved eternally.

God’s Word is eternal. It has been proclaimed on the earth since the beginning. Adam was a preacher. So were Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The preaching of the Word has been since the beginning, and has always been the same: the preaching of repentance and the promise of the forgiveness of sins as a free gift. It has always been about turning away from idols, turning away from that which will pass away and holding fast to that which is eternal, to that which will not pass away.

The first writing down of God’s Word that we have recorded in Scripture, is God Himself writing the Ten Commandments on stone tablets. Over the next thousand years, the rest of the Scriptures were written which we call the Old Testament. Our epistle lesson tells us, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” The Bible was given to us so that we would learn from it, and that we would have endurance, encouragement, and hope.

After a period of silence which lasted four hundred years, God the Father sent His Son into the world. The Word became flesh. God again spoke, and the New Testament was written.

The Old and New Testaments are God’s Word. Everything that is written down in them was inspired by God, so they are free from error. Second Peter 2 says, “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.” (1:20-21) Everything that is written by men is subject to error. Because God is responsible for the words written in the Bible, it does not have errors. It cannot have errors, because God does not have errors or make errors. The Bible is perfect and reliable.

The Bible is therefore the only authority by which the church, its teaching, and its teachers are to be judged. The church does not decide any point of doctrine. The church is to submit to the doctrine revealed by the Holy Spirit in the Bible. That’s why you cannot have votes on matters of doctrine. A church committee or council or convention or voter’s assembly cannot make decisions on matters of doctrine. A pastor cannot make decisions on matters of doctrine. The entire church must submit to God’s Word as the sole authority on all things spiritual.

That’s why Saint Paul writes to Timothy, “From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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.” (II Tim. 3:15-17)

Scripture is God-breathed. This means that God is the source of Scripture. It is for teaching. This means it teaches us God’s doctrine. It is for reproof and correction. This means it calls us to repentance over our sin. It is for training in righteousness and equipping us for good works. This means that it teaches us that we are declared righteous by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, so that we would live a God-pleasing life.

What is it that Saint Paul writes is the main purpose of the Bible? To make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. This is what Saint John also writes, “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)

The main purpose of the Bible is not to be a book of rules and commands for us to follow. In fact, the first purpose of the Bible is to show us that we cannot follow the rules and commands God has given us. The second, and main purpose of the Bible is to tell us how Jesus died for our sins so that we have the promise of the forgiveness of sins. These are the two major divisions of the teaching in the Bible – Law and Gospel.

Law and Gospel will never pass away. They are eternal.

The Law of God is eternal because it is the will of God for us which is holy, and righteous, and good (Rom. 7:12). In eternity it will no longer accuse us because we will fulfil the Law perfectly in heaven. We will no longer sin. We will live according to the Law of God in thought, word, and deed.

The Gospel is eternal because it is an enduring message of deliverance from evil (cf. Rev. 14:6). We will no longer need the Gospel because we will no longer need the forgiveness of sins, but its effect is eternal. Because of Jesus’ death for us, we will spend eternity in heaven with Him and see Him face to face.

This is why even though heaven and earth will pass away, God’s Word will not pass away. His will for us remains forever and His promises to us remain forever.

This eternal Word of God makes you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. This eternal Word of God gives you faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and thus gives you life in His name.

Don’t cling to the things of this life that will pass away. Whether God gives these earthly things or takes them away, say with Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (cf. Job 1:21)

Cling to God’s Word which is eternal. God’s Word will bring you to eternal life because it tells you about Jesus, the Word made flesh. He joined our human race in order to take upon Himself the sin the kept us away from God. He removed it from us by bearing its penalty in Himself. Christ crucified is the chief and main topic of the Bible as well as of the preached Word of God. He who created all things in the beginning and joined His creation in the fullness of time sends us His Holy Spirit, who daily and richly forgives us all our sins. This is how He keeps us united to Him in faith until the very end. This world will pass away, but the words of Jesus and those who cling to them in faith will endure forever. Amen.

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

God’s Visitation of Old

Sermon for Advent Midweek Service – God’s Visitation of Old (based on Genesis 50:15-26, I Peter 2:1-12, Luke 19:29-48)

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

Times of God’s visitation are recorded in the pages of sacred Scripture. For the faithful, this visitation is a Gospel event. For unbelievers, it is Law.

Joseph prophesied to his brothers that God would surely visit them in the land of Egypt and bring them out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God did indeed visit His people and He saved them. God’s visit meant that the Hebrews were freed from slavery and brought into a rich land flowing with milk and honey.

God’s visit for the unbelieving Egyptians, however, meant that their water was turned into blood. God’s visit meant that they had plagues of frogs, gnats, flies, and locusts. Their livestock was struck dead, and the people were struck with plague. Hail killed man and beast and struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field. Darkness enveloped their land and God struck down all the firstborn in all the land of Egypt. Finally, God drowned Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen in the Red Sea.

God’s visitation had dramatically different results for the Egyptians compared to the Israelites. For the Israelites, God’s visitation meant blessing, salvation, and life. For the Egyptians, God’s visitation meant curse, suffering, and death.

In today’s Gospel lesson, we heard that Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He said, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

God was graciously visiting His people in the person of His Son. Jesus was there in compassion to seek and save the lost. He wept because the people of the city that He came to visit would kill Him before the end of the week and would be punished by God for not believing in Him. As He was led away to the cross, Jesus said to the daughters of Jerusalem, “Do not weep for me; but weep for yourselves and your children.” (Luke 23:28)

The name “Jerusalem” means “city of peace,” but the people of Jerusalem did not recognize the Prince of Peace when He came. Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem is the visitation of God that offered peace. Their rejection of Him would mean their destruction, just as Jesus lamented.

Indeed, Jesus’ prophecy came true in the year 70 A.D. Jerusalem was besieged by four legions of the Roman army and conquered. The Temple was burned and destroyed. The historian Josephus records that the city was filled with slaughter. Even the peaceful citizens, the weak, and the unarmed were butchered wherever they were caught. A section of the wall surrounding Jerusalem was saved to show how well fortified the city was that the Romans had laid to waste. The rest of the wall was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those who dug up its foundations that you could not tell the city had ever been inhabited.

Josephus writes that 1.1 million people were killed during the siege, mostly Jews. The siege happened during Passover, when Jews had gathered from far and wide in Jerusalem to celebrate. Those who were not killed were sent to be gladiators in the arena. Others, including those under seventeen years old were sold into slavery.

Another writer reports that Titus, the commander of the army and future Emperor, refused to accept a wreath of victory, saying that the victory did not come through his own efforts but that he had merely served as an instrument of divine wrath.

Jesus wept because He knew this future. He knew that because they rejected His gracious visitation, they would have a visitation of wrath and punishment.

Matthew records Jesus saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”

Jesus loved the people of Jerusalem, but they did not love Him. They rejected Him. They mocked Him. They beat Him. They crucified Him. They did not know the things that make for peace.

Yet, in their crucifixion of Jesus, peace was made. They did not know it, but peace was made between God and man. The punishment of the sins of mankind was put on Jesus. Because of Jesus’ death for us, not only do we escape punishment, but we are put into a positive relationship with God. We are at peace with Him. We are His dear children and He is our dear Father. The things that made for peace were Jesus’ suffering and death.

God will visit us. His visit will be curse, suffering, and death for unbelievers. His visit will be blessing, salvation, and life for us. Not because we deserve blessing, salvation, and life, but because Jesus earned it for us.

When will God visit us and give us every blessing? When will God visit us and right every wrong and end our suffering? When will God punish the wicked and save His children? We do not know. So, we wait for Him. We wait for Him in joyful anticipation because He will graciously visit us.

God’s visitation in the person of His Son shows His disposition towards us. We know that He loves us to the point of sending His Son to suffer and die for us. Thus we know that when He visits us, He will visit with grace and mercy. He will visit us with a loving and forgiving heart. In repentant faith, we are ready for His visitation, whenever it will be. Amen.

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

 

Your King Comes to You

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent based on Matthew 21:1-9

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

If you live by what you see and feel, you will be sorely disappointed in Jesus. He rides in poverty, humbly on a borrowed donkey into Jerusalem. How is such an advent befitting a king?

But faith does not judge by what it sees or feels, rather by what it hears. It depends on the Word alone, and not on vision or sight. For this reason, Christ was received only by those who believed the words of the prophets who foretold His coming. Christ was rejected by those who had their own ideas about what the Saviour should say and do. He was rejected by those who did not believe what the prophets spoke about Him.

If you live by what you see and feel, you will be sorely disappointed in Jesus. He comes in mere water with the Word. He comes in humble bread and wine. But faith does not judge by what it sees or feels, rather by what it hears. Faith hears the words, “Baptism… now saves you” (I Peter 3:21) and “This is my body… this is my blood… for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:26,28)

Faith does not judge by what it sees or feels, rather by what it hears. Your king entered Jerusalem to suffer and die. This is not an advent befitting a king. He gave His life for you, so that you will live eternally.

You receive your Saviour, because you believe the words of the prophets who foretold His coming. The prophet Zechariah prophesied, “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey.” (Zec. 9:9) Your king. He who was promised to you, whose own you are. It is your king – He whom you have yearned from the beginning, whom the prophets desired to see, who will deliver you from all that has burdened, troubled, and held you captive.

This is a comforting word to a believing heart. An unbelieving heart trusts only what it sees and feels. An unbelieving heart sees only a poor man riding on a humble donkey to die a gruesome death. Thus, an unbelieving heart is left in uncertainty, without a clear conscience, and in fear of death and hell.

Where the heart receives the King with firm faith, it is secure and has no fear of death, hell, or any other evil. The conscience is clear and the certainty of eternal life is known. Your king rode in to Jerusalem to die for you, thus securing your victory over sin, death, and the devil. Your king is the Lord of life and death, of sin and grace, of heaven and hell, and all things are in His hand.

Such great things are contained in these seemingly unimportant words, “Behold, your king.” Such boundless gifts are brought by this poor and despised king. Reason and emotion cannot understand or comprehend, but faith alone does. Therefore, He is called your king; yours, who are vexed and harassed by sin, Satan, death and hell, the flesh and the world. He is your King and He will bring you into His eternal kingdom.

“Behold, your king is coming to you.” He comes to you. This is great news, because you cannot go to Him, neither can you bring Him to yourself. He is too high and too far from you. With all your effort, work, and labour, you cannot come to Him. You cannot receive Him by any merit or worthiness of your own. You have only demerit and unworthiness on your side. He comes to you with grace and mercy on His side.

By this is condemned the teaching of free will in spiritual matters. As if we should by the power of free will first seek God, come to Him, run after Him, and acquire His grace. Beware, beware of this poison! It is nothing but the doctrine of devils, by which all the world is betrayed.

Before you can cry to God and seek Him, God must come to you and must have found you. As Saint Paul writes, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:14-15) God must first seek you before you can seek Him, before you can call upon Him in prayer, before you can cling to Him in faith. Thus, your king seeks you. He comes to you.

Your king comes to you in the Gospel. Hence, it can be recognized that not greater wrath of God exists than where God does not send the Gospel – there is only error, sin, and darkness. On the other hand, there is no greater grace than where He sends the Gospel, even if not all, or perhaps only few, receive it.

This is what is meant by “your king comes.” You do not seek Him; He seeks you. You do not find Him; He finds you. For the preachers come from Him, not from you. Their sermons come from Him, not from you. Your faith comes from Him, not from you. Everything that faith works in you comes from Him, not from you. Where He does not come, you remain outside. Where there is no Gospel, there is no God, but only sin and damnation.

Where the Gospel is preached, there your King comes to you. Where holy communion is distributed, there your King comes to you. He comes to you humbly, but with overflowing grace and mercy.

Christ did not ride into Jerusalem just for the apostles, but for you. He is your Saviour from sin and death. He is your Saviour from Satan and his Satanic crew. He is your King and you too will reign with Him.

Believe your Saviour’s Word and promises to you. As you see the dark times that have overtaken us, trust your Saviour’s Word. As you face illnesses and tribulations, trust your Saviour’s promises. As you face death, believe that your King has come and died for you, that He comes to you in His Word and Sacrament, and that He will come again with glory to take you to Himself.

Faith does not judge by what it sees or feels, rather by what it hears. So, hear and listen to the Word of your king, and receive Him as He comes to you in bread and wine with overflowing grace and mercy. Amen.

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

[This sermon borrows content from a sermon by Martin Luther on the same text.]

Stay Awake

Sermon for the Last Sunday of the Church Year based on Mark 13:24-37

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

Stay awake. Jesus tells us to stay awake because it is possible to fall asleep. It is possible for us to fall asleep instead of keeping watch and being ready for Christ’s return. That is to say, it is possible for us to fall away from the faith.

So, stay awake. Stay awake from the false sense of security in which no thought is given at all about Christ’s return on the Last Day. Stay awake from the expectation that things will just keep on going as they have been since the foundation of the world. Stay awake from the lull of worldly comfort. Stay awake from giving highest priority to the cares of this world. Stay awake from the deceitfulness of riches.

Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. You do not know when Jesus will return. Yes, Jesus gives you signs so that you can recognize when the time is coming close, but no one knows when it will be. We have had wars and rumours of wars, earthquakes and famines since Jesus ascended into heaven (cf. Mk. 13:8). We’ve had signs of the end times for two thousand years. Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost that they were in the last days already then (Acts 2:17). Saint John writes, “Children, it is the last hour” (I Jn 2:18).

Live every day as though it might be your last, because it just might be your last. One day it will be your last.

Our Introit from Psalm 39 prays, “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you.” This is praying to God that He would lead us to realize that our life on earth is extremely short, so that we would think more about where we will spend eternity. Lead us to not spend all our time and energy stocking up treasure on earth and thus give up treasure in heaven. Lead us to not live lives in the pursuit of pleasure on earth and thus give up the pleasure of heaven.

Recall the parable of the sower. The Word of God that is heard by hard hearts is snatched away by the devil. The Word of God that is sown in some hearts endures for a while, but then, when tribulation and persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately they fall away. The Word of God that is sown in others proves unfruitful when the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the Word (cf. Mk. 4:1-20). There is great danger that we fall away if we allow hardships or worldly desires to turn us away from God.

Falling away doesn’t just happen overnight. You don’t go to sleep one night filled with faith and trust in God and wake up the next morning hating Him. It happens over time as a Christian does not prioritize the feeding and nurture of his faith. Little by little, he allows the world to influence him. He doesn’t even realize the things that he’s starting to believe are against God’s Word because he isn’t listening to God’s Word. He’s done listening to it because he thinks he knows it all and doesn’t need it any more. Maybe later, like on his deathbed, he thinks.

Do not think that you have lots of time to prepare for Jesus’ return, so you’ll prepare later; that you have lots of time to repent, you’ll repent later. We don’t know when Jesus will return. When He has returned, it will be too late to prepare or repent. The watchman cannot expect to be awake when his master returns if he figures he has some time to sleep, even just for a little bit, and then wake up before his master returns. His master will return at a time that he does not expect.

The Son of Man will return in clouds with great power and glory. Those who receive Jesus now when He comes humbly, are ready to receive Him when He comes in glory. Those who don’t, are not.

The day that Christ returns will be a day of great terror for some and a day of great joy for others. For some it will be scarier and more terrifying than anything they could have imagined. The hearts of unbelievers will melt with fear because they will see all their idols destroyed by fire. Everything they held dear and in which they hoped will be destroyed. Everything for which they worked, everything they valued, everything they believed in will be revealed to be foolishness, lies, and rubbish, while the almighty God they rejected will justly punish them for the truth they rejected; for the grace and mercy they rejected.

Stay awake and prepared for the return of Christ. You may well say, “I’m trying!” I’m trying to prioritize the right things in my life. I’m trying to think more about eternity. I’m trying to hear God’s Word more and even read it more. I come here to hear the pastor absolve my sin and to receive the body and blood of Jesus… but it doesn’t seem to do anything.

My sin that God has apparently thrown into the depths of the sea still remains in my heart. I come to church week after week; I hear the Gospel week after week; I receive communion week after week, but I cannot get rid of my sins.

I still make bad decisions. I still get caught up in the cares of this life. I still doubt. I still cannot be perfectly content. I despair. I still want things that God says I cannot have. I still get angry. I still lust. I still covet. I still say things I shouldn’t say. I’m still selfish.

The truth is, you are still sinful. That does not mean that the Holy Spirit is not doing anything in you. That does not mean that your hearing and reading of the Gospel has been in vain or that Jesus’ body and blood have done nothing for you.

This cannot be the case because you believe. You believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sin. The only reason that you believe is because the Holy Spirit gave you faith when you were baptized, and He has fed and nourished that faith through the Word and the Sacrament of the Altar even to this day. You are awake.

The Holy Spirit has given you faith. He has also kept you in the faith. Even though sin still clings to you, the Holy Spirit has continually forgiven you your sin. The Holy Spirit helps you in your struggle with sin, even though the struggle does not go away in this life.

Your struggle with sin will go away when Christ returns. Then you will be completely delivered from all sin. Not just delivered from sins of word and deed, but even of all sinful desires. Our very sinful nature, which is the reason that we sin, will be destroyed.

Thank God that this life is short! And thank God that He sends His Word and Sacrament to us to keep us awake until the coming of Christ. Christ will return and send out the angels to gather His elect from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. He doesn’t gather you because you’ve lived a good life, but because He died for your sins and you belong to Him, purchased by His blood. He gathers you because you are His elect and He will keep you in the true faith to life everlasting. Jesus will keep you awake. Amen.

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

The End of the World

Sermon for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 13:1-13

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

If we look at this world, we can tell that it cannot endure; it cannot survive. Fires burn people out of house and home, killing many trying to escape. Hurricanes wipe out coastal cities and flood cities far inland. Earthquakes cause destruction, death, and panic. Bombs fall from the sky in response to rocket fire. Deranged, fatherless mass murders shoot up schools, concerts, and other places where people gather. Politically divided countries are filled with hatred, threats, and violence. Tensions are high, tempers flare, violent crime spreads even as victims lose their rights.

We know this world cannot go on. Not only can we tell that these volatile signs indicate that we are destroying each other and the world, but Jesus also tells us that they are signs of the end times; signs of the close of the age.

Another sign of the end times, Jesus says, is “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” God’s Word offends the world because Jesus claims to be the only way to the Father (John 14:6). God’s Word offends because it condemns the sins that the world loves to commit. Thus, anyone who believes and follows God’s Word will be hated. Jesus told us this would happen as we near the end of the world, and this is indeed happening now.

God is patient with those who hate Him and revile Him. He desires their salvation. He desires them to turn from their wickedness and live. That is why He has not yet destroyed them along with this world.

One day, His patience will end, and the wicked and the proud will suffer terribly and know great terror. They will be set ablaze by the fires of hell. Their punishment will have no end just as their wickedness knew no bounds. They will suffer the righteous and just consequence of their sins. They will receive the just punishment for their crimes.

If we were judged by our lives, by our works, and by our deeds, we would face the exact same punishment. We have lived selfish lives. We have lived for ourselves, as if we alone mattered. We have not loved God with our whole heart or our neighbours as ourselves. Repent.

God out of His great love and mercy will not judge us by our lives, by what we have done and left undone. God judges us by His Son’s life; by what His Son has done for us. The good that Jesus has done is credited to us even as our sins were charged to Him and He suffered and died for them.

Thus, God does not want us to be terrified of the Last Day or the return of Christ. He does not want us to be in fear or panic as we see signs of the end times in the world around us. Rather, He wants us to lift up our heads in glad anticipation. Our redemption is drawing near.

That terrible and great day of Christ’s return will be a day of joy for us. It will be the ushering in of a new heaven and a new earth where we will live with God in perfect peace and harmony forever.

Wars between nations will be over. The rage within nations will cease. The hurtful fighting within families will be no more. The battle with sin within ourselves that’s always tearing us apart will be gone.

Sin will lose its appeal. Temptations will have no power. We will be content and happy and filled with joy that never fades.

Now, you suffer. Your brother may not have delivered you over to death and your children may not have risen against you. You may not feel hated by the world, but you do suffer hardships, most of them secret and internal. You endure in prayer and faith, by hearing the Word of God and receiving the body and blood of Jesus. You wait with all the saints for the reappearing of our Saviour. You wait for the fulfilment of all of God’s promises to you. You wait for Judgment Day without fear, because you have God’s promise, that He will remember your sins and your lawless deeds no more.” (Heb. 10:17)

God’s Word does tell us that God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ec. 12:14). It also tells us we will have to give an account of ourselves to God (Rom. 14:12), even for every careless word we speak (Mt. 12:36). The Bible tells us these things so that we would fear God and keep His Commandments. That is the whole duty of man (Ec. 14:13). Fear God and keep His Commandments. The Bible tells us these things so that our conscience would be awakened and we would repent, so that we will not be found secure in sin, impenitent, and apathetic when Christ returns, and then be judged by our deeds with the unbelievers.

Repentant, faithful believers don’t have to wait until Judgment Day to hear their verdict. You hear it every Sunday when you hear the words of Absolution. You are absolved by God Himself. You are forgiven. Your sins are blotted out. Since God promises you that He will remember your sins and your lawless deeds no more, you can rest assured God isn’t going to bring them up on Judgment Day.

Jesus has taken the punishment of your sins and was judged in your place. The only verdict left for you is innocent. God grants you the opportunity to hear this every Sunday so that you will be ready to face Judgment Day. God grants you to receive the body and blood of Jesus so that you will be forgiven and strengthened in faith until you die or Jesus returns.

This world will not endure. However, it won’t be destroyed by our warring or pollution or climate change. God will destroy it with fire on Judgment Day.

Because of God’s love and mercy, you will not be judged by your lives, by your evil works, or by your sins. You are already judged to be forgiven saints of God with His promise that He will remember your sins and your lawless deeds no more. God will thus usher you into a perfect new world that will endure. It will endure forever. Amen.

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

Widows and the Church

Sermon for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost based on 1 Kings 17:8-16, Hebrews 9:24-28, and Mark 12:38-44

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

We heard of the faith of two widows in our Scripture lessons this morning – the widow of Zarephath who gave all the food she had to Elijah, trusting that God would take care of her, and the widow at the Temple who put all the money she had into the offering, trusting that God would take care of her. They both demonstrated by what they did, that they had faith that even though their circumstances seemed dire and hopeless, God would not forget about them or forsake them.

This was a faith that God shaped in them through suffering. That’s the thing about widows with faith. They have a wisdom of experience, and I’m not talking only of old age, but of fighting the good fight of faith. They are veterans of the war with sin and death. They have accompanied their spouses through the process of dying; and that last enemy, that has somewhat kept its distance from the rest of us, they have seen face to face. They know death. They know what is at stake. They know what in the world is truly important, and for them in their wisdom, they supported the preaching of God’s Word.

The widow of Zarephath supported the prophet of God, Elijah, in a time of drought and famine. She had intended to make a last meal for herself and her son before they would starve to death. Instead she made a little cake with her last flour and oil for the prophet of God, and God took care of her.

The widow at the Temple supported the work of the Temple and the worship that took place there. What happened to her is not told to us, but we can know for sure that God took care of her.

In her case, it was not a time of drought or famine. She was not supporting a prophet in need. She was giving offerings at the Temple – offerings which the greedy scribes, Pharisees, and chief priests used for their long robes and their lavish feasts. Indeed, Jesus accused them of devouring widows’ houses.

They made long shows of prayer and piety, but it was all a hypocritical ruse and a scam to get more money from poor widows. We are told they were lovers of money and they ridiculed Jesus for telling them that they cannot serve two masters; that one cannot serve both God and money (Lk. 16:13-14). They were so greedy for gain that they preyed on the poor widows, taking the little the widows had to add to their own wealth and riches.

What a stark contrast to the poor widow who trusted in God and gave everything to God. She gave herself to God. She entrusted her life to Him. She was thinking about eternity, not her earthly needs, knowing God would take care of both.

These two believing widows knew their Saviour from death, and they knew that it was of the highest importance that the message of salvation and the promise of forgiveness be preached by Elijah and flow from the Temple before death sticks his face into the lives of others.

Widows have a faith that has been tried and tested and strengthened by the Lord through tribulations that we have yet to experience. They trust God to get them through their current trials and tribulations, just as He has gotten them through all their previous trials and tribulations.

Where would we be without widows? Widows make up a large percentage of the hearers in the pews on Sunday morning [in many congregations, certainly at Zion]. Widows support this congregation with sacrificial offerings and with their time in preparing meals for events and sandwiches for funerals. Widows have told me that they pray for me and for my pastoral care for you. Widows volunteer at the nursing home and gather the residents for Divine Service in the chapel. They volunteer at the thrift shop and in the community in many ways I don’t even know.

Now, I don’t want to downplay the many contributions of those who are not widows. That is not the point. Rather, I want to highlight what a blessing faithful widows are to the church; what a blessing they are to me. They have seen our heavenly Father get them through at least one battle with death, and as they await their reunion with their husbands in heaven, they serve their neighbour and serve the church as the two widows did in our lessons.

God blesses the church through widows, and He blesses widows, and all of us, through the church. Church is where our sins are forgiven – our sins of not trusting in God when our situation seems dire and hopeless; our sins of clinging to mammon; our sins of being angry with God when we have faced trial, tribulation, and loss. All our sins are forgiven.

Our sins are forgiven because Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26). Your sin has been put away because Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross for you. It was a once for all sacrifice. No more sacrifice is needed. Your sins have been paid for in full.

Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him (Heb. 9:28). We eagerly wait for Jesus to return. Jesus dealt with our sin the first time He came, so now when He returns there is no more sin to deal with. Our sin has been put away, so Jesus returns to take us to Himself, so that we will be with Him in heaven. There, believing widows will be reunited with their believing husbands. Believing widowers will be reunited with their believing wives. We will be reunited with all our loved ones who have died in the faith.

For that day we pray. For that day we wait. We wait with widows. We wait with widowers. We eagerly wait with the whole Church on earth for that day when Christ returns. Then death will be no more, only life, and we will live forever with our Saviour who has saved us from sin, death, and the grave. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly. Amen.

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

[A note to readers: We will being following the One-Year Lectionary in Advent. Also, as always, I am indebted to the many preachers with which God has blessed our church. I regularly steal ideas from the sermons of others that I find insightful or helpful. For this sermon, I stole entire paragraphs from a sermon by Pastor Kurt Lantz related to widows.]

Heaven is for You

Sermon for All Saints’ Day based on Revelation 7:9-17

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

Jesus’ death and resurrection have opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Thus, all believers have the promise that they will be included in that great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb in heaven. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the reason we will be there.

The great tribulation will be over. No more hunger or thirst. No more tears. No more war or bloodshed. No terrorism. No riots or murders. No heresy or prejudice. No sadness, pain, illness, loneliness, or death. No more sin.

Heaven is perfection, with nothing bad, only everything good.

We will again see our loved ones who died in the faith.

Even more, God will be there. We will be before His throne, sheltered by His presence. We will be with God forever.

This doesn’t mean much to most people. They spend their lives running away from God. They flee His presence. They avoid the place where He has promised to be here on earth. They deny Him by their words and their deeds, and want to silence anyone who would dare so much as mention Jesus’ name.

Those who flee God’s presence seek to build their own heaven here on earth – perhaps with thoughts of some kind of communist utopia. Steal from one group and give it to another. Force other people to “share.” They use lies and prejudice, rioting and terrorism, war and bloodshed, to quiet those who oppose them to bring this “heaven” about. But it never comes. There is no other heaven than the one created by God. There is no utopia that worldly governments can create.

Those who have sought to build their own heaven have always and will always fail. The only thing that has ever come out of such attempts is more suffering, hunger, thirst, and death than you already had. There is only God’s eternal heaven which is good and perfect with nothing bad. Fleeing God’s heaven to make your own just doesn’t work.

Fleeing God’s presence here on earth results in not being in God’s presence in heaven. Avoiding the presence of God, where He has promised to be and give forgiveness here on earth, is rejecting God and His heaven for eternity. Rejecting Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper – the places where God is present with forgiveness – is rejecting the eternal presence of God in heaven.

Being in the presence of God in heaven will be everything to us. We cannot quite understand that now because we love God so little. We have so many things that we allow to compete with our love for God. We cannot image how we would ever be content just by the presence of God, but we will be.

In heaven, we will love God perfectly and completely. We will love Him so much that we will desire nothing else. He will be our everything. He will be our joy, our glory, our comfort, our contentment.

We cannot really grasp this now. That’s why it might sound odd to us that part of the description of heaven includes us serving God day and night in His temple. Day and night? Twenty-four hours of service a day? That doesn’t sound so great to me!

That’s because we don’t love God like we will love Him when we are in heaven. In heaven we will love Him so much that we will love serving Him, even though we failed to serve Him faithfully on earth. We will love to serve Him, worship Him, and sing His praises. There will be nothing that we would rather do. God’s desire will be our desire. God will be our life, our strength, our wisdom, our happiness. What more is there? It is far better than anything human words can express or human thoughts can understand while we remain here below. As Scripture speaks of it, it is “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Cor. 2:9, citing Is. 64:4).

We will love God then as we are commanded to love Him now but cannot. We will love Him as He loves us. Only then can we fully comprehend the words of the hymn, “Lord, Thee I love with all my heart… Yea, heaven itself were void and bare if Thou, Lord, wert not near me” (LSB 708 st. 1). The presence of God will be everything to us and we will lack nothing.

Jesus’ death and resurrection have opened the kingdom of heaven to you. He has promised you that He will bring you out of the great tribulation and bring you to Himself in heaven. He will take you from this vale of tears and wipe away your tears.

Jesus will bring you into heaven because you are clothed in robes made white by the blood of the Lamb. You will get into heaven because your sins have been washed clean by Jesus’ blood. His suffering and death were for you. He has taken the punishment for your lack of love.

No amount of your own washing will wash your sins away. Water by itself cannot wash sins away, but only water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. No blood can wash away your sin, but only Jesus’ blood, given and shed for you washes your sin away – that blood which flowed for your sins.

Through Baptism and His holy Supper, Jesus washes you and makes you clean. He makes your robes white, with all your sin forgiven, so you are ready to enter heaven whenever He takes you home.

The kingdom of heaven is open to you, and Jesus will bring you through the great tribulation to the eternal joys of heaven. Your tears will be wiped away. You will be before the throne of God, sheltered by His presence, and you will love God as He loves you. God will be your everything and you will lack nothing. You will desire what God desires, and never again will you have any tribulation. Amen.

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

[A note to readers: We will be following the One-Year Lectionary beginning in Advent.]

The Truth Sets You Free

Sermon for Reformation Day based on John 8:31-36

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

Truth, even in the church, seems to be in short supply. There are thousands of different denominations in the world, all of which teach what they say is truth. There are dozens of churches with the name Lutheran, which teach conflicting doctrine, but all claim they are teaching the truth. Within our own confession, Lutheran Church-Canada, we have conflicting doctrines being taught in various places, and everyone claims to be teaching the truth.

It is easy to become indifferent about doctrine. It is easy to stop caring about what is true and what is not. It’s easy to give up and say, “Hey, there’s only one God, we’re all worshiping Him, so don’t worry about the details.” It’s easy to throw the hands up and say, “At least my children are going to some church.” It is easy to be frustrated and say, “If pastors who are supposed to know this stuff can’t agree, what point is there for me to even concern myself with it?”

Jesus answers this question by saying, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Concern yourself with and care about the truth, because the truth will set you free.

Free from what? Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” You are a slave to as many masters as you have vices. You cannot set yourself free from sin. You cannot set yourself free from sin because sin is stronger than you are. You cannot simply choose the good and avoid the evil. You do not have free will. It sounds good, but it’s not true. Your flesh is corrupted by sin and has every sinful inclination. How do you know this? Because that’s what God’s Word teaches. We heard in our epistle lesson that God’s Law finds all of us guilty so that every mouth is stopped, and we are all held accountable to God.

Only the truth will set you free. What truth is that? The truth that if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Only if the Son sets you free from sin, will you be free. Only if the Son sets you free from death and from the power of the devil, will you be free.

The Son has set you free from sin. He fulfilled your obligations under the Law that you are unable to do, and He did them. He fulfilled the Law for you in thought, word, and deed. He took your sin onto Himself and took your guilt, your shame, your punishment. He has thus set you free from sin.

The Son has set you free from death. He suffered and died for you, so that you will not die eternally, but will live eternally. His cross meant suffering and death for Him, but eternal life for you. He has thus set you free from death.

The Son has set you free from the power of the devil. When He ascended into heaven, He threw Satan down so that he cannot stand before God’s throne to accuse you of your sin day and night (Rev. 12:7-12). His mouth has been stopped. Hebrews two tells us that through His death, the Son has destroyed the one who has power over death, that is the devil, and delivered all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (2:14-15). Thus, you are not a slave, but a son. The slave does not remain in the house forever, the son remains forever. Thus, you will remain forever with God as a son, and the Son, Jesus Christ, has set you free from the power of the devil.

This is the truth that sets you free. This is the truth that incited the Reformation; the truth which Luther taught and for which he was willing to die by the hand of the pope.

But we don’t believe this because Luther taught this. We don’t believe it because we were raised in the Lutheran church or because we went through adult confirmation. We believe it because God teaches this. We believe it because it is what God’s Word says. Thus, it is not an opinion or a feeling. It’s not wishing or thinking.  We can say we know the truth.

This flies in the face of what the world says about truth, that there is no way to know what is true and that we can all hold our own so-called “truths” even when they contradict each other. But there are no maybes. There is no uncertainty. That’s what Jesus said. “If you abide in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth.”

It doesn’t matter how many denominations teach how many different doctrines. It doesn’t matter what the world says or what we ourselves think or feel. We are called to abide in God’s Word so that we will know the truth. What God’s Word says is what matters.

Our life as Christians is abiding in God’s Word. It’s not about patting ourselves on the back since we don’t follow the pope. It’s not about seeing how we are better than other denominations or other Lutherans. It’s not even about looking at other congregations in our denomination and seeing where they are wrong, or at other people in our pews. Our life as Christians is about abiding in God’s Word and asking where have I wandered from the truth? Where have I followed the world in my thinking? Where have my feelings and emotions been hurt by God’s Word, so that I have hardened myself to hear it? Where have I lifted up my reason to deny what God says in His Word?

See, we need reformation. We need correction. We need repentance.

You have not been abiding in God’s Word as you should have, so you have wandered. You have lived as if God’s Word did not matter and as if you mattered most. Your Lord’s name you have not honoured as you should; your worship and prayers have faltered. You have not let God’s love have its way with you, so your love for others has failed. There are those you have hurt, and those whom you have failed to help. Your thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin (LSB Individual Confession and Absolution).

This is why Jesus, the Son of God, took on your flesh. He didn’t come to earth thinking that He was coming to people that needed a just little bit of help to do better. He came, knowing the greatness of your sin to rescue you from it. He came to save you from the slavery of sin that He knew had you in its grasp. He came with forgiveness and healing because He loves you, His creation. He shed His blood for you to save you from your sin. He came to set you free from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

He came to make you a son of the Father, adopted through Baptism. He keeps you a son of the Father through His Word in which He admonishes you to abide. He strengthens you as a son through His very body and blood through which He forgives you all your sin and nourishes you to your promised inheritance of everlasting life.

Abide in Jesus’ Word. Abide. Dwell in it. Live in it. Meditate on it day and night. If you abide in Jesus’ Word, you are truly His disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Amen.

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

[A note to readers: We will se using the One-Year Lectionary starting in Advent]

Then Who Can Be Saved?

Sermon for the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 10:23-31

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

Wealth is a blessing from God. It is God who gives riches to those whom He will, and He commands that the rich do good, be rich in good works, and be generous and ready to share (I Tim. 6:18).

Wealth is a blessing from God, but He doesn’t give it to all of us, because “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

The truth is that if God gave great riches to most of us, we would not be rich in good works; we would not be generous; we would not be willing to share. We would live in luxury and self-indulgence. We would seek enjoyment and fulfilment in our wealth and in time possibly even turn away from God.

Of course, we will all say, “No, not me! I would be very generous and very willing to share if I was rich!”

Jesus says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” (Lk. 16:10) Jesus is saying that if you have not been rich in good works, generous, and willing to share if you have very little, you will not be rich in good works, generous, or willing to share if you have much. Instead you will have the temptations that the wealthy face in this world, and it will be harder for you to get into heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.

Hebrews 13 tells us, “Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (v. 5) First Timothy 6 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (vv. 6-10)

Wealth is a blessing from God, but God wants to protect us from the temptations that money brings. Wealth is a blessing from God, but most of us would not be able to handle the wealth responsibly or with generous hearts. Wealth is a blessing from God, but many of us would wander from the faith and pierce ourselves with many pangs if God would give us greater wealth than He has given us.

“Then who can be saved?” asked the disciples. If Jesus says this of those to whom God gives great earthly blessings, what about those with less blessings? How can anyone be saved? Jesus replied, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

With man, it is impossible to be saved whether rich or poor. With God, salvation is possible for both. For all mankind, salvation is as impossible as for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. For God, salvation is not just possible, but it is accomplished, it has been fulfilled.

God didn’t just snap His fingers and save us, because the price of our sins had to be paid. The price of our sins was put on Jesus, who paid for our sins in our place; the righteous dying for the unrighteous.

Jesus had to face all the temptations we face, but He never sinned. The devil even tempted Jesus by offering Him all the kingdoms of the world and their riches and glory (Matt. 4:8-9). This really was a temptation for Jesus to skip over suffering and dying, and jump immediately into glory. Why go through suffering and death for the people of these kingdoms of the world, why not just take the kingdoms and their riches now? Skip the anguish of the soul to the point of death. Skip the beads of sweat dropping to the ground like drops of blood. Skip the torture, mockery, and death. Just take the kingdom and their riches and glory now.

For your sake, Jesus did not fall into this, or any other temptation. Skipping suffering and death would have meant skipping your salvation. For your sake, Jesus chose the anguish of the soul to the point of death. For your sake, Jesus chose the beads of sweat dropping to the ground like drops of blood. For your sake, Jesus chose the torture, mockery, and death.

Jesus chose these so that you would be His own; so that you would live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Jesus chose suffering and death so that your end will not be eternal suffering and death.

Your end will be eternal life in the riches of Paradise. No riches of this life hold a candle to the true riches of the new heavens and the new earth. Second Peter tells us that the heavens and the earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly (II Pt. 3:7,10-12). So, don’t cling to mammon that is destined for fire. Cling to the true riches of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Cling to Christ, who is your Saviour. The more you cling to Christ, the less you will care about the wealth of this world.

Use the wealth that God has given you, whether very great or very little, and be faithful with it. Put your unrighteous mammon to use for eternal good (cf. Lk. 16:9). Support the preaching of the Gospel both at home and abroad, so that this worldly wealth which is destined for fire might result in souls being saved eternally.

Wealth is a blessing from God, but He may protect you from the temptations of riches. If you have been blessed with wealth, pray that God strengthens you to be faithful with its use.

In death the rich and the poor have the same end, but those who cling to Christ and the forgiveness of sins He freely gives have the riches of Paradise awaiting them. In Paradise there are great riches. Even the streets are made of pure gold (Rev. 21:21). Amen.

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

[A note to readers: beginning in Advent, we will be using the One Year Lectionary.]

The Gospel is not for the Hard-Hearted

Sermon for the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 10:17-22

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

The Gospel is not for the hard-hearted. The Law is for the hard-hearted.

When the rich man with a hard heart ran up to Jesus, Jesus didn’t give him the Gospel. He gave the rich man Law.

How do we know the rich man had a hard heart? Because he tells us. He tells Jesus that he has kept all the Commandments of the Second Table from his youth; all those that deal with loving our neighbour. Jesus lists for him Commandments Four through Ten, and the rich man says he’s kept them. He says he has loved his neighbour perfectly in thought, word, and deed. That’s what a hard heart says.

Jesus says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Luke 5:31) This rich man said he was not sick; that he had never broken a single one of God’s Commandments. He thought he was well. He said he needed no healing from Jesus. So, Jesus gave him no healing Gospel. Jesus gave him more Law: “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Jesus scratched at the scab of his illness. Oh, the illness was there alright. Jesus directs the rich man to the First Commandment. The rich man did not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. He feared the loss of his possessions. He loved his possessions. He trusted in his possessions. He did not fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Thus, he became sorrowful and disheartened. His face dropped and he grieved in pain. The words of Jesus hurt him to the core. He had great possessions and he did not want to give them up. He could not choose between following Jesus and his possessions. He could not choose between loving God above all things, and loving his possessions above all things.

The man had run up to Jesus with excitement, confidence, and eagerness but departed from Him distressed and gloomy with his head hung low. He walked away from Jesus.

Isn’t this the same reason people walk away from the church? The Law preached to them makes them distressed and gloomy. It’s painful to hear the Law piled up until it crushes their confidence in themselves. It’s such a downer for them to hear about their sinfulness and their many sins.

The problem with the rich man was not that he became disheartened at Jesus’ words, or that he became distressed and gloomy. The problem was that he left Jesus. It was too painful to hear about his sins, so he left the physician of souls who alone can cure.

It is important to point out that just before Jesus piled the Law on the rich man in order to crush him, it says that Jesus “looking at him, loved him.”

This is the loving diagnosis of a physician to a sick and dying man who refuses to see the reality of his illness. Jesus has the eternal cure for our illness of sin, but without God’s Law showing us our sin, we will reject our sinful condition; we will reject eternal healing; we will reject forgiveness.

We do not know who this rich man was or what happened to him after he left Jesus. There are speculations that it was Mark, the writer of the Gospel, or perhaps even Saint Paul, but these are unsubstantiated theories. The Holy Spirit has intentionally left us without this information.

The information that we are left with is that if we think that we have fulfilled God’s Commandments to love Him with our whole heart and our neighbour as ourselves, we need only more Law piled up until we become disheartened and despair in ourselves. If we are asking what must I do to inherit eternal life, we need only more Law piled up until we realize that we are hopeless and helpless and can do nothing to save ourselves.

Once Jesus has looked at us and loved us and piled up the Law on us, He does not leave us in our despair. Once the physician of our souls has diagnosed our problem and opened our eyes to recognize our need for His cure, He gives us the cure. That cure is the forgiveness of sins.

This cure is only available from Jesus. Only Jesus has paid the price of your sins. Only Jesus has earned forgiveness for you by His suffering and death on the cross. Only Jesus has looked at you and loved you to the point of giving Himself into death for you.

Everything has been done for you to inherit eternal life. Jesus has done it for you. Jesus kept the Law for you by fearing, loving, and trusting in God the Father above all things. Jesus kept the Law for you by loving His neighbour to the point of giving His life for all of us.

Jesus wants you to despair of saving yourself, but not to despair of Him saving you. He wants you to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, because He is your God and Saviour. Our souls are healed at His Word, so He causes us to love and trust Him. We love God because He first loved us (I Jn 4:19). Jesus showed His love for us by laying down His life for us, so we love Him and know that we can trust in Him for eternal life.

Jesus looks at you and loves you, so He has His Law preached to you, so that He might then bind up your wounds which the Law has exposed, and give you His free cure of forgiveness.

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but you who are sick rejoice in the forgiveness of sins Jesus gives to you. Jesus’ body and blood, given and shed for you give you the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Jesus does not leave you in despair, but leads you through despair to Himself. He leads you through the gloom and disheartenment of sin to the joys of everlasting life. His hand that sends you sadness will turn your tears to gladness, for after grief God gives relief, your heart with comfort filling and all your sorrow stilling (from LSB 760 st. 2,5).

The Gospel is not for the hard-hearted. The Gospel is for you who have been crushed by the Law. The Gospel is for you who desire the forgiveness of sins. The Gospel is the free forgiveness of sins Jesus earned for you and gives to you as a gift. If that does not lift you from despair and make you rejoice, nothing will. Amen.

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

[Note: Beginning in Advent, we will be following the One-Year Lectionary]