The Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest in Jesus

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost based on Matthew 11:25-30 (Romans 7:14-25)

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

The life of a Christian can be described as civil war. We have an ongoing and fierce battle waging within us. We can say along with Saint Paul, “I delight in the Law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”

As Christians, we want to do what pleases God. We want to keep His commandments. We want our desires to be the same as God’s desires. It thus pains us when our desires are not in line with God’s desires; when our sinful flesh desires those things that God does not desire for us. There is a war within us as the Holy Spirit gives us the desire to do what is right but our flesh wants only to indulge itself.

We want to fear, love, and trust in God above all things, but our flesh needs money in the bank account to feel secure. We want to go to church every Sunday and study God’s Word at home, but our sinful flesh would rather go to the lake and sit in front of the TV. We want to be forgiving and loving to our neighbour, but our flesh is angry and wants revenge on the neighbour who did harm to us. We want to be content with what we have, but our flesh covets things that God has not given to us and things that we don’t need and wouldn’t be good for us.

Our flesh cannot be tamed to want what God wants for us. As we heard, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” Our flesh has nothing good in it. Our flesh is not capable of a single good, God-pleasing desire. Everything our flesh wants is contrary to God’s will for us, and there’s nothing we can do to change or get rid of our sinful flesh. It is part of us until we die.

That’s why we also can say, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”

We can blame the devil for our sin. We can blame the temptations of the world as the reason we fall into sin. But the real problem is us. The real problem is our sinful flesh. Our sinful flesh wants to fall into the temptations of the world and the snares of the devil. That’s the real problem with us. Our flesh wants to sin. Add to that the fact that our sinful flesh is the king of excuses. We have an excuse for every selfish thing we do. Our flesh refuses to acknowledge any sin we commit as actually being sin because it is a natural desire of the flesh.

No wonder Paul exclaims, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

We cannot deliver ourselves. We cannot rid ourselves of the desires of the flesh. We cannot stop sinning. Even if we could, we cannot undo all the sin that we have already committed. We are left with nothing except a detestable body of death which will die and then burn in hell for eternity unless someone delivers us.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In the words of the great hymn:

But God had seen my wretched state

Before the world’s foundation,

And mindful of His mercies great,

He planned for my salvation.

He turned to me a father’s heart;

He did not choose the easy part

But gave His dearest treasure.

God said to His beloved Son:

“It’s time to have compassion.

Then go, bright jewel of My crown,

And bring to all salvation.

From sin and sorrow set them free;

Slay bitter death for them that they

May live with You forever.” (LSB 556 st. 4-5)

Out of His great love for us, God sent His only Son to slay bitter death for us by His own death in our place. God had compassion on us. He does not want us to die eternally, so He sent His Son to die for our sins. To rescue us from our own wretchedness, God’s Son suffered a wretched and horrific death for us.

Thus, God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord says to us, “Come to me, all who labour and our heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” You who labour under your heavy burden of sins, come to Jesus for rest. You who bemoan the wretchedness of your state, rest in Jesus. You who are fatigued and worn out by the battle with your sinful flesh, Jesus is your rest.

Jesus fulfilled for you what you cannot fulfil. He kept God’s Law perfectly for you, so you can rest from your attempts to save yourself by the Law.

Jesus continues, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Being yoked to the Law is heavy and hard; it is impossible because we cannot keep the Law because of our sinful flesh. Being yoked to Jesus is easy because He has kept the Law for us. Being yoked to Jesus is light because He lifts the heavy burden of our sins from us. When sin has been forgiven and the conscience has been freed from the burden of sin, then everything becomes easier and lighter.

Even following God’s Law and will for us becomes easier and lighter. Not because we can tame the sinful flesh, but because through daily contrition and repentance we drown the sinful flesh and kill it along with all sins and evil desires. Not because we can now fulfil the Law perfectly, but yoked with Christ who has fulfilled the Law for us, we receive the forgiveness of all our sins. Following God’s Law and will for us becomes easier and lighter not because of our own goodness, but because we have the Holy Spirit who gives us the desire to do what is good, right, and holy and strengthens us to do it.

We thus rest in Jesus. We rest in Jesus through Baptism where He yokes us to Himself and gives us the benefits of His death on the cross. We rest in Jesus through the Sacrament of the Altar as Christ gives us His own body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of faith.

The Lord’s Supper is such an important part of our life as Christians because through it the heavy burden of our sins is lifted from us and our conscience is freed from the weight of sin. Through the Lord’s Supper Jesus gives us rest from our labours and gives us peace; He gives us rest for our souls.

Jesus gives us rest, because He has already won the battle. He has already conquered sin, death, and the devil. His life and death accomplished everything for us, so we can rest in Him and the forgiveness He continually gives to us. We can rest in Jesus and the salvation He has accomplished for us.

Thanks be to God, we will be rescued from our bodies of death through Jesus Christ our Lord, who will raise us from the dead as surely as He Himself rose from the dead, and give eternal life to us and all believers in Christ. In this truth we can rest now, throughout our lives, and in the moment of our death. This is most certainly true. Amen.

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

Peace or Sword

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost based on Matthew 10:34-42

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

Isaiah prophesied that the Saviour shall be called Prince of Peace, and that there would be no end of peace in His kingdom (Is. 9:6,7). Zechariah prophesied that the Christ would guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79). At the birth of Jesus, the angels announced peace on earth to the shepherds (Luke 2:14).

Yet Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

This does not mean that the prophecies concerning Jesus are wrong. The Holy Spirit is never wrong. Jesus did come to bring us peace. He came to bring us peace with God. As Romans 5 tells us, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1) Christ came to reconcile us with the Father by dying for our sins and earning us forgiveness. That is why we have peace with God.

However, not everyone wants peace with God. Not everyone thinks that they need peace with God. There is thus no peace between those who have peace with God and those who do not have peace with God.

As Jesus says, He even divides families. He says, “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

Those who do not have peace with God have always despised and hated those who do have peace with God. In others words, unbelievers have always despised and hated believers throughout history, even within families.

Within the same family, Cain despised his brother Abel and murdered him out of jealousy because God accepted Abel’s offering but not his. Abraham’s son, Ishmael, born of the slave woman also persecuted his brother Isaac, the son of promise. Esau sought to kill his brother Jacob who had received the blessing from their father Isaac. The church has and always will be persecuted by those outside of the church, even within the same household.

This is even seen in Jesus’ earthly family. At a time when His family did not believe in Him, Jesus’ own family came to seize Him from a crowd saying, “He is out of His mind.” They wanted to stop Jesus from teaching the crowds because they thought He was delusional. They set themselves up to oppose Jesus and His work. Those of His own household sought to seize Him and take Him away.

There is bound to be strife and hostility between believers and unbelievers, even within families. One group believes that there is nothing beyond the peace they can achieve on this earth. The other group looks ahead to eternal peace after this earth is destroyed, and is willing to sacrifice peace on earth for eternal peace with God.

The church on earth has thus often been called the church militant. It is a pipe dream to hope for peace for the church on earth because Christ’s church is the kingdom of truth in the middle of the world, which is a kingdom of lies. There is no rest for the church on earth as there is constant affliction due to unbelief. The rejection of truth results in tension, strife, and the persecution of believers.

Those who believe that there is nothing beyond the peace they can achieve on this earth do not want to hear God’s Law which tells them they are sinful. God’s Law is not a pleasant thing to hear. Hearing that what you want to do is wrong and sinful in God’s eyes makes the world angry and fills them with hatred. Nor do unbelievers want to hear that Jesus died for their sins. They hate that anyone would even suggest that they have any sins for which Jesus would need to die. Jesus is thus a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence (I Peter 2:8).

The temptation for the church is to stop fighting. Just shrink back and keep quiet. Why should we trouble ourselves by speaking the truth and offending people? Why can’t we just keep quiet and keep our faith and confession to ourselves?

If we do, we cease to be the church of Christ. Once we stop fighting, we are already defeated. There is no rest for the church as there is constant affliction due to unbelief. There is no rest for the church because the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh will not stop fighting against what is true, holy, and righteous.

The Holy Spirit tells us through Saint Paul that it is even necessary that there are factions or divisions in the church. It is necessary that the church is divided and split so that those who are genuine may be recognized (I Cor. 11:19). This may be surprising, but divisions in the church reveal who is following the teaching of Christ and who is wandering off into the lies of the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh. Divisions in the church force people to examine what Scripture says and to pick a side. There is no fence sitting. As Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30).

This really is not a complicated thing. Either we follow what God says in the Bible or we follow the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. We either are enemies with unbelievers, even if they are of our own household, or we are enemies with God. Either we prioritize peace with God or we prioritize peace on earth.

The thing about peace on earth is that it will never happen. We can avoid some conflicts, but others are unavoidable. We can avoid confronting sin that we see in our family, but then it sits there and festers and soon takes over entirely and then it is too late for our family. We can shrink back and keep quiet about the evils going on in our society to avoid offending people, but those evils are going to take over our society, and those same people we wanted to avoid offending will come after us and seek our destruction and the destruction of the church that follows what God says in His Word. This will happen because unbelievers have always despised and hated the church since the time of Cain and Abel and they will not stop until the earth is burned up with fire on Judgement Day.

There is no hope for peace on earth. Our hope is in heaven. Our hope is in heaven, because despite those times that we have kept quiet when we should have spoken, we have the blood of Christ covering our sins. Despite those times we have sought peace on earth instead of peace with God, Christ Himself is our peace. Despite those times we have fallen into following the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, we have the forgiveness of sins because Jesus died for us. Thus we have peace with God.

We have peace with God because He will not charge us with the offences we have committed. Christ was charged with all our offences and paid the penalty that we deserve. Christ has released us from the Law which held us captive and we have peace with God. God is not angry or wrathful towards us because we are no longer His enemies but are at peace with Him through our Saviour.

Thus, yes, as prophesied in the Old Testament, our Saviour is the Prince of Peace. There will be no end of peace in His kingdom. Christ has guided our feet into the way of peace. No strife or conflict on earth can take away the eternal peace we have with God. Our sins and iniquities cannot take away our peace with God because Jesus has taken our sins away from us. Even on this earth which has no peace, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

 

Fear Not

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost based on Matthew 10:5a, 21-33

Dear children of God who have nothing to fear: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Fear is something with which we are all acquainted, at least to some degree. Whether it is fear of flying, fear of dogs, or fear of the dentist, we’ve all been afraid of something. There are also greater fears, like fear of disaster, fear of cancer, fear of death. We don’t generally fear such things until such a time that we must face them. We don’t fear disaster until that disaster appears to be looming around the corner. We’re not likely afraid of cancer until the doctor tells us we have it. We may not even be afraid of death until we are told we have only a few weeks to live. Nevertheless, we know fear.

Fear is part of our lives because we are sinful. If we were able to trust God with our whole heart, soul, and mind, we would never fear anything. But we are sinful so we cannot trust God with our whole heart, soul, and mind. We have fears about all kinds of things.

God knows this. That’s why when Gabriel announced to Mary that she will conceive and bear Jesus, he said, “Do not be afraid.” That’s why the angel announcing the birth to the shepherds started by saying, “Fear not.” That’s why when the disciples saw Jesus walking on water, He said to them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” God knows we fear all kinds of things, that is why He continually tells us, “Fear not.”

In our Gospel reading, Jesus told His disciples three times to have no fear. Jesus was sending them to preach His Word and He was telling them what to expect from the world. The world called Jesus Beelzebul, the prince of demons, so Jesus told the disciples not to expect any better treatment – but to have no fear. Jesus told them that they will be hated by all for His name’s sake, that they would be persecuted, that they will be maligned – but to have no fear. Jesus warned the disciples that their own family members would betray them and deliver them to death for preaching God’s Word – but He said have no fear of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.

The funny thing is for us, Jesus’ very words not to fear cause fear in us. If He tells us not to fear persecution, our response is, “I sure hope I don’t have to face persecution” because we are afraid. That’s us. We fear. So we need to hear again and again, over and over, “Do not be afraid. Have no fear even of those who can kill the body because they cannot kill the soul.”

“Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This sounds like a threat from Jesus, and in a way it is. Only God can punish a person, body and soul, by casting him into hell for eternity. Thus, we should fear God so that we seek to avoid those things that deserve His wrath and punishment. We should fear God and do what He wants instead of giving in to pressure from man. We should stand our ground and do what we know is right, regardless of how other men may respond to us or even threaten us. Man can do nothing to us compared to what God can do to us if we turn our backs to Him in order to avoid conflict with men.

However, we don’t need to fear God like He’s out to get us. We don’t need to fear God like He wants to punish us; like He wants to hurt us in some way. Rather, we fear God like children fear a perfect Father. We know that He loves us and wants only what is best for us. He may discipline us as a father disciplines his children, but it also is out of love for us and is for our good. We fear God in the sense that we want to do what pleases Him. We fear God in that we revere, respect, and trust Him. As the First Commandment says, we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction (1:7). The fear of the Lord is knowing who He is and what He has done for us. Fools do not know God and do not want to learn. Fearing the Lord is trusting in Him for salvation. Fools trust in themselves for salvation and do not know what God’s Word says and have no desire to learn.

Fearing God is thus trusting Him above all things. When we fear God, we have nothing to be afraid of. When we fear God, we do not even have to be afraid of His punishment.

The reason we don’t need to fear God’s punishment is because Jesus has already been punished for us. The punishment of our sins has already been paid by Jesus’ death for us. That’s why we are forgiven. That’s why we are God’s children through Baptism – because we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.

John writes in his first epistle, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment.” (I John 4:18) Fear has to do with punishment, but since our punishment was put on Jesus we don’t have be afraid. We don’t need to fear God’s punishment or anger because His perfect love casts out our fear. His love shown in sending His Son to die for our sins casts out fear because we have no punishment waiting for us on Judgement Day.

Whatever difficulties we must face in our lives, we know we have nothing to fear. Our feelings sometimes can still get the best of us and we may feel fear, but those are especially the times we need to hear God’s words of comfort and promise. Fear not. Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Even death is nothing more than the doorway to heaven. You are safe in your loving Father’s hands.

He who cares even for the sparrows, cares for you. Not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from the Father. You are of more value than many sparrows.

Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. An insignificant detail that changes continually and we ourselves don’t even care to know, but God knows. Not one of your hairs falls to the ground apart from the Father.

God shows such love and care for you so you know you have nothing to fear, no matter what you must face. God is with you. Your sins are forgiven. You have eternal life waiting for you. Fear not. Amen.

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

 

Saved from Wrath

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost based on Romans 5:6-15

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

God created us, and as our creator, He has the right to tell us what we are to do and what we are not to do. As Almighty God, He makes the rules. As the source of all wisdom, He knows what rules are best for us. We may not like the rules, but they are not for us to decide. The rules are for God to decide, and He has decided, and He has given us His commandments to follow.

Punishment is threatened for one who breaks God’s commandments. This may make it sound like God is cold and mean, but it’s not true. Our creator knows what is best for us and for society as a whole, that’s why He has given us rules to follow. Following God’s Laws results in good order, peace, and the welfare of all. God’s Laws protect us from each other so that we don’t hurt or harm each other. They protect the weak and vulnerable and threaten those who would prey on them. God’s Laws threaten punishment and wrath on those who disobey the Laws and cause strife, harm, disorder, and hurt to others.

The wrath of God on sinners is thus righteous and just. It is fair. It is sinners getting what they deserve. We’re okay with that. We want thieves and murderers punished. We want troublemakers and peace disturbers punished. Anyone that would seek to hurt or harm us in any way we definitely want punished.

What we are less okay with is being grouped in with the sinners who justly deserve God’s wrath and punishment. We prefer to think of ourselves as pretty good. Maybe not perfect, but really not so bad either.

We tend to think that what we have done hasn’t really caused much strife, harm, disorder, or hurt to others. Yet, it is our selfishness that has caused broken relationships and broken families. It is our anger that has escalated fights. It is our gossip that has hurt the reputations of others. It is our jealousy and greed that has us chasing the almighty dollar to the harm of our families and to the detriment of our spiritual well-being.

We do deserve the just and righteous wrath and punishment of God. We cannot undo what we have done. Promises to try to do better don’t help our situation. We are too sinful and weak to save ourselves.

The good news is that while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. If it was up to us to be strong and stop sinning, that would never happen. We’re too weak. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we are weak and struggle to do what is right. We struggle to put others first. We struggle to speak well of others. We struggle with anger, lust, jealousy, greed, and most every other sin under the sun. But in our weakness and inability to save ourselves, Christ died for us. Christ took the punishment of our sins onto Himself. Christ took the wrath of God onto Himself in our place.

This shows God’s love for us. We see that God is not cold or mean towards us. He loves us. He created us, gave us commandments to follow which are for our good, and because we have failed to follow His commandments, He sent His Son to save us by fulfilling the Law for us and dying in our place. God loves us so much that even though we have destroyed His creation with our sin, He still sent His Son to save us.

One would scarcely die even for a righteous or good person, but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, while we were God’s enemies, while we were dead in our trespasses and sins and had done nothing to deserve forgiveness, Christ died for us.

“There is no one who will save us except the One who loved us so much that while we were yet sinners, He died for us. Do you see what ground this gives us for hope? For before this there were two difficulties in the way of our being saved. First, we were sinners, and second, our salvation required the Lord’s death, something which was quite incredible before it happened and which required enormous love for it to happen at all. But now that it has happened, the rest becomes that much easier.” (from John Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans)

If this is what God has done for us while we were His enemies, much more He can be depended on for salvation now that we are reconciled! Much more is our eternal salvation certain now that we have been forgiven and declared righteous on account of Christ. Much more is our eternal home in the new heavens and the new earth certain now that Christ has risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity.

If God saved us while we were His enemies, we can expect and hope for all good things from Him now that we are reconciled. He has even given us the Holy Spirit, who helps us in our weakness and strengthens us to follow God’s commands with a willing heart. On this side of heaven we will never follow God’s commands perfectly, but we are given the desire to do what is right and pleases God, and strengthened in doing it, so that we might live lives of good order, peace, and welfare.

God created us. He is our creator. He showed His love for His fallen creation in saving us while we were His enemies, saving us from the punishment we justly deserved because of our failures to keep His commandments.

Christ died for us. He is our Saviour. He saved us from the righteous wrath of God we deserved. He has reconciled us with the Father and thus earned for us eternal life. Amen.

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

Holy Trinity

Sermon for the Festival of the Holy Trinity based on Matthew 28:16-20

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

There’s an animated movie called “Up” in which the dogs in the movie continually get distracted by the sight of a squirrel. Whatever mission they have going on, whatever discussion they are in the midst of, even if serious and intense, the second the dogs see a squirrel, everything else ceases, they turn and stare at the squirrel, and shout out “squirrel!” It is humorous how easily the focus of these dogs can turn away from what they are doing; how quickly they get distracted from what they are doing every time a squirrel is near.

How easily dogs get distracted in a movie may be funny, but how easily the church gets distracted is not so humorous. The church has a mission, given to her by her Lord, but all too often, the church acts like these dogs, losing focus of the task at hand very easily. The “squirrels” of this world so easily distract the church, whatever those squirrels may be.

First, what is the mission of the church supposed to be? Jesus tells us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Jesus has given His church on earth the mission of making disciples.

Jesus has also given the church the means to make disciples: baptizing and teaching. There are no other ways to make disciples of Jesus except for baptizing and teaching. Too often the church gets distracted from this truth. Too often the church starts to spend all of its energy doing other things to try to make disciples.

Instead of baptizing and teaching, some churches are tempted to entertain in order to make disciples. But entertainment doesn’t make disciples of Jesus; it makes disciples of entertainment, and the world entertains better than the church ever can. Instead of baptizing and teaching, some churches are tempted to start every imaginable program, camp, and event under the sun. Soccer camp may be fun but it makes disciples of soccer, not disciples of Jesus. Even programs that are good and helpful to the community can be a distraction when those programs replace the only means that Jesus has given to His Church to make disciples – baptizing and teaching. Such programs can become the squirrel that distracts the church from what she is supposed to be doing – baptizing and teaching.

And these two things go together. Baptism goes with teaching and teaching goes with Baptism. Baptizing children without teaching them the faith into which they are baptized will result in the children leaving the faith when they grow up. It is like giving a child a meal to eat when they are young and then never feeding them again. Faith must be nurtured by the Word of God and the Lord’s Supper.

Likewise, teaching without baptizing is like teaching someone about God’s gifts but not actually giving the gifts; teaching about how forgiveness of sins, union with Christ, and adoption as God’s children take place in Baptism, but then not giving those gifts. Thus, these two means of making disciples go together, as Jesus clearly commands.

Baptism in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is indeed a gift. Everything that is received in Baptism is hidden in the water, like a present you receive that is covered in wrapping paper. The wrapping paper covers up the gift so that you cannot see what it is.

If you receive a gift that has a peculiar shape, the shape of the package can give you a hint as to what is inside. Something like a frying pan, tennis racket, or drill that’s in wrapping paper can still give you a clue as to what the gift is. So also the visible appearance of Baptism gives you a hint as to what the gift of Baptism is.

Titus chapter three gives us more than a hint, telling us that Baptism is a washing of rebirth, poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Baptism washes away our sins. It is a drowning of our Old Adam with its sins and evil desires, and the emerging of a new man arising to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. The wrapping paper of Baptism is water, but the gift in the wrapping paper is the washing away of sins and eternal life. The benefit of Jesus fulfilling the Law for you is given to you in Baptism. The forgiveness of sins earned by Jesus’ death on the cross for you is given to you in Baptism.

Baptism does such great things because you are baptized into the name of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are baptized into the name of God the Father, who in the beginning created the heavens and the earth. You are baptized into the name of God the Son, the Word through whom all things were created; the Word who later became flesh and dwelt with us and died for us. You are baptized into the name of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God that hovered over the face of the waters and brought life into being.

Yes, the Trinity is a mystery to us, but a mystery worthy of adoration. We cannot understand the triune God, but we can confess who He is based on His Word that He has given us about Himself. In the Athanasian Creed we get as specific as we can get without inventing something that God has not Himself told us. Attempts to simplify the Trinity so as to be understood by man, or attempts to explain the unexplainable fall into various errors and heresies. Instead, we cling to what God Himself has given us, and confess this to be our faith in the one true God and how He has saved us.

This faith is what the church confesses, and this faith is what the church teaches. This faith is the focus of the church’s existence so that we don’t get side-tracked by all the distractions that can occupy our focus. This faith is the gift of God to His church, the faith into which we are baptized, and the faith by which we are saved. Amen.

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

Let us then confess our faith in the triune God in the words of the Athanasian Creed on page 319.

Living Water

Sermon for the Day of Pentecost based on John 7:37-39

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

The province of Saskatchewan is susceptible to drought. The famous “dust bowl” conditions of the 1930s resulted in one of the most destructive prairie drought periods of that century. 1961 and 1988 were also years of drought, with the driest parts of the province receiving less than half of the average precipitation. The most recent drought period was from 2000-2003, with 2001 being the driest year in more than a century.

Most of you know very well the consequences that drought has on the province because of your involvement in farming or even just in living in the province through these times. Wetlands and wildlife are threatened. Municipal water supplies are diminished. The risk of forest fires is heightened. Livestock production is disrupted and crop yields are devastated. Drought has resulted in billions of dollars of losses to Saskatchewan agriculture (source: The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan).

You know what thirsty land is like, and you also know what it’s like when you yourself are thirsty. After exercise or working outside in the hot sun, you have found yourself dehydrated. After spending time in the hospital, dried out by medication and lack of fluids you may have found yourself very thirsty. After farming dry land in the hot sun, the grass crackling under your feet as you walk around dried up sloughs, your own tongue has also craved cold, refreshing, clear water, as the land has.

We can also speak of thirst in spiritual terms. David confesses in Psalm 32 that his sins left him parched. When he kept silent and did not confess his sin, he writes that his bones wasted away through his groaning all day long, for day and night God’s hand was heavy upon him; his strength was dried up as by the heat of the summer. A thirsty soul is one that is distressed because of sin and terrified over evil committed. A thirsty soul longs for the cold, refreshing, and clear water of forgiveness from God. Thus, Psalm 42 says, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Also, Jesus says in today’s Gospel lesson, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus gives living water that becomes a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:10,14).

If we do not recognize our thirst, however, we have no desire for living water from Jesus. The preached Word is despised by those who are not thirsty for it; by those who do not recognize their own sinfulness; by those who turn inwardly to look to themselves to quench spiritual thirst.

But just as you cannot turn inwardly to look within yourself for water to hydrate you when you are physically thirsty, so you cannot look within yourself for living water to hydrate you when you are spiritually thirsty. You must get water from outside yourself. You must go to the fridge, to the well, to the water cooler to get a drink of water when you are physically thirsty. When you are spiritually thirsty, you must go to where Jesus gives living water: to the waters of Holy Baptism, to the spoken word of Absolution, to the bread and wine of Holy Communion.

You have undoubtedly heard the advice to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. We may not truly require quite that much, but water is very helpful in preventing fatigue, flushing out toxins, boosting the immune system, and so on. Drinking water regularly prevents you from getting to the point that you are parched.

There is no set rule for how much spiritual water you should drink each day. The Psalms speak of devotional time in the morning, noon, and evening (e.g. 55:17). Certainly, Sundays are the day of the Lord, for receiving living water from Jesus in the Divine Service.

Just as physical water is good for us physically, spiritual water is good for us spiritually. It is helpful in preventing spiritual fatigue and indifference. Spiritual water flushes out the toxins of sin and false belief, and boosts faith, our spiritual immune system which keeps us spiritually alive.

Because of our sinful flesh, we have cravings to drink all kinds of things that aren’t good for us spiritually. We seek contentment, satisfaction, and pleasure from all kinds of things in this world that will never give any of these things even though they promise to do so. We chase after worldly success, worldly pleasure, worldly mammon, worldly praise, but none of these things will quench our spiritual thirst. Rather, they make us even more thirsty, even if we don’t realize it.

Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus gives living water in the water of Baptism, the word of Absolution, and the bread and water of Holy Communion. Not because the water used in Baptism comes from heaven, but because the water is included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word. Not because Absolution is spoken by a sinless man, but because Christ Himself has commanded repentant sinners to be absolved in His name. Not because the bread and wine of Holy Communion are special in and of themselves, but because Christ Himself instituted the Sacrament of the Altar to give us His true body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of all our sins.

Through these means of grace, Jesus gives us living water. It is living water because it brings us to eternal life. It is living water because Jesus died for us to give us eternal life.

The more we drink the living water that Jesus gives, the more our thirst is quenched. Not so that we would not need living water any more, but that we would desire it more and more. Living water quenches our thirst so that we are turned away from seeking contentment, satisfaction, and pleasure from drinking the waters of the world; those waters that will never give any of these things even though they promise to do so. Living water turns us away from chasing after worldly success, worldly pleasure, worldly mammon, worldly praise.

All of this happens from drinking the living water that Jesus gives, because through the living water, the Holy Spirit is received. “Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” ’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

The Holy Spirit is received in the living water of the means of grace. The Holy Spirit creates faith in you and also works in you to turn you away from drinking those things that are harmful to your salvation. He quenches your thirst through the forgiveness of sins so that you are content and satisfied. He gives you living water to the point that out of your heart will flow rivers of living water. Living water from Jesus fills you to the point that the living water flows from you to others, so that you yourself become a conduit of Jesus’ love and forgiveness to others.

In our lives, we may experience physical thirst and drought, but we need never experience spiritual drought because Jesus freely gives us living water that quenches our spiritual thirst. Through the living water, the Holy Spirit is received who forgives our sin, brings us to eternal life, and causes us our hearts to flow with living water. Amen.

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

Jesus’ Prayer for You

Sermon for the Seventh Sunday of Easter based on John 17:1-11

Dear disciples who have been given to Jesus by the Father: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus’ prayer recorded in our Gospel lesson took place on Maundy Thursday, the day He was betrayed and arrested. Jesus knew what was about to take place. He had even told His disciples, including Judas, that one of them would betray Him and that He would be killed.

Jesus knew the pain He was about to face. Jesus knew the rejection and mockery, and the brutally difficult task He would undertake. Yet Jesus prayed for His disciples. He wasn’t concerned about Himself even though He is the one that was heading to suffering and the cross. Jesus prayed for His disciples, for whom He was going to die.

When you have some weighty matter on your mind; some stressful matter; perhaps some difficult decisions, or some upcoming medical diagnosis or procedure, do you pray for others at such a time or for yourself? Our tendency is to think of ourselves first in every situation, most certainly when we are facing something difficult or trying. We tend to turn inwardly in every situation and think about ourselves first. Not Jesus. Jesus prayed for His disciples when He was just about to undergo more suffering than anyone in the history of the world. Even as He hung on the cross He prayed for those who crucified Him, saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

In the prayer for His disciples on Maundy Thursday, note the words that Jesus prayed. He speaks of His disciples as a gift from the Father: “Yours they were, and you gave them to me.” Jesus considers the disciples to be a gift from the Father to Him. He considers this sinful bunch of misfits to be a wonderful gift!

Jesus further says that the disciples have kept God’s Word; that they know that everything that the Father has given Him is from the Father; that they have received God’s Word and know the truth; that they believe that the Father sent Him.

You may well wonder what on earth Jesus is talking about. Is He talking about the same disciples we’re thinking He’s talking about? Those disciples who did not understand the things He taught them? Those disciples who didn’t trust Jesus to keep them alive in the boat during a storm, whom Jesus asks, “Where is your faith?” Those disciples who questioned what Jesus said and did, from saying that someone in the crowd had touched Him to telling them to feed the five thousand? Those disciples who could not cast out the demon from a boy, resulting in Jesus words, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you?” Those disciples who argued about who was the greatest, got jealous over other disciples, and wanted to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village? Those disciples who opposed God’s plan of salvation, including Peter to whom Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan,” and who would deny knowing Jesus three times? Is Jesus really talking about those same disciples who would all abandon Jesus and flee that very night when He was arrested?

How can Jesus say that they have kept God’s Word, that they have been faithful and know the truth? How can Jesus speak of these disciples like they are some great gift from the Father?

Jesus just overlooks their sins and their failures. The disciples didn’t always keep God’s Word, but Jesus says that they did. The disciples didn’t always trust Jesus in what He said and did, but Jesus says that they did. The disciples didn’t always bring glory to Jesus, but Jesus says that they did.

That’s what God’s forgiveness is. Forgiven sins are taken away from you like they’re simply gone, like they aren’t there now and never were there. Forgiven sins are not remembered by God. Yet those times when the disciples did what was right are remembered. Thus Jesus says that the disciples have kept God’s Word, know Him and the Father, and know the truth.

Jesus hasn’t changed the way that He prays for His disciples. He is your mediator and intercessor and you are His disciple, so you know that He prays for you, and you know that He prays for you in the same way as He prayed for His disciples years ago.

He prays to the Father saying that you are a gift to Him. You are a gift to Jesus! Jesus looks at you and says, “What a wonderful, perfect, gift! A dear disciple who keeps God’s Word, knows the truth, is faithful in all things, and brings glory to me.” That’s what Jesus says about you.

Jesus does not see your sins because He has completely taken your sins away from you. His death on the cross was for you and in your place. Through your Baptism you have put on Christ and His perfection covers your imperfections; His righteousness covers your unrighteousness; His holiness covers your unholiness. Through His Word and holy Supper He continues to give you His perfection, His righteousness, and His holiness.

Every good work that God has done through you even gets credited to you. Your sins are covered and forgotten and your good works are piled up and remembered. When Jesus prays for you, He prays for you like you are a gift from the Father to Him, and like you have done everything God has ever commanded you to do.

Jesus prays for you this way. He doesn’t pray for the world in this way. He prays to the Father, “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” Jesus doesn’t pray for those who are under the power of the devil, but for those whom He has claimed as His own through the waters of holy Baptism. Jesus doesn’t pray for the multitudes of unbelievers; He prays for those who are separated from the multitude of unbelievers by being Baptized into His death and resurrection.

Jesus prays and tells the Father that He will give eternal life to everyone the Father has given Him, so He tells the Father that He will give eternal life to you. Jesus gives you eternal life because He has paid the price of your sins, so when He prays for you He says that you are a gift from the Father; that you have kept God’s Word; that you know that everything that the Father has given Him is from the Father; that you have received God’s Word and know the truth; and that you believe that the Father sent Him. Amen.

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

The Heavenly Courtroom

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter based on John 14:15-21

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

If you are charged with a crime, the best thing you can do to escape punishment is to hire a team of lawyers to represent you. They know the ins and outs of the law. They know when to speak and when to be quiet. They know the best way to get you off the hook for what you’ve done.

On your own, without a team of legal counsellors, you would probably have the tendency to respond to the accusations of the law by saying, “It’s not my fault,” and trying to shift blame, thus perjuring yourself. You might also try to excuse what you’ve done wrong, seeking to justify it, thus incriminating yourself.

It’s best to have the counsellors do the talking for you. It’s best to have the counsellors deal with the prosecution’s discovery evidence and witness testimony that incriminates you.

Jesus promised that God the Father will send us another Helper or Counsellor. One way of looking at it when picturing the heavenly courtroom, is to think of the Holy Spirit as our legal counsellor representing us. And He’s not the only one. Jesus says “another” counsellor, indicating that there is more than one. And indeed, Jesus Himself is also in the heavenly courtroom representing us as our mediator and advocate. We have a team of lawyers defending us in the heavenly courtroom.

Without our counsellors, we would have the tendency to respond to the accusations of the law by saying, “It’s not my fault,” and trying to shift blame, thus perjuring ourselves. We would also try to excuse what we’ve done wrong, seeking to justify it, thus incriminating ourselves. On our own we would only make matters worse and dig ourselves into a bigger hole.

God’s Law accuses us. Jesus Himself says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” If you love God, you will keep His Commandments. Every single one. The Law thus tells us that we do not love God. We do not love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. Responding with “It’s not my fault” won’t cut it. Making excuses won’t get us off the hook.

It’s not just some prosecution investigators trying to find dirt on us or human eyewitness testimony that is presented for evidence. It is God Himself who accuses us and presents His evidence. He who sees the actions of all, hears the words of all, and knows the thoughts and hearts of all gives testimony against us. Every sin of thought, word, and deed is known to Him, including those sins of which even we are not aware.

This too, is where our counsellors come in. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning sin (John 16:8). This means He convicts you of sin. He opens your eyes to how you have not kept God’s Commandments. He convicts you of the fact that you have not loved God with all your heart, soul, and mind, or your neighbour as yourself. Even though He is your counsellor and representing you, He’s telling you to fess up. Confess what you’ve done. Confess your sins.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t tell you to do this so that you will be found guilty in the heavenly courtroom. In fact, that is how you get off in the heavenly courtroom. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9)

The way to be found guilty in the heavenly courtroom is to deny your sin; to make excuses for your sin. Saying that you love God with your whole heart and your neighbour as yourself is deceiving yourself. It’s being blind to the times you have had your priorities skewed, your own selfish interests at heart, and ignored the needs of your neighbour.

But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That’s how the heavenly courtroom works. It’s not about having your counsellors argue what a good member of society you are or listing the good that you have done. It’s not making excuses or pointing fingers at others. It’s about confessing your sins. Confessing what you have done wrong, without excuse. It’s about admitting guilt.

Then you are pronounced innocent, as Jesus, your mediator and advocate stands up for you because His blood has covered your sins and transgressions. He has already paid the price of your sins. He has already been found guilty of your sins and been punished for them. There’s no more punishment to come from the Judge. The legal demands of the Law have been met on your behalf by Jesus, and your punishment has been taken and paid by Jesus. You will be declared innocent.

You know that on Judgment Day you will be declared innocent, because you have a preview of Judgment Day every Sunday. Every Sunday in Divine Service you hear God’s Word, through which the Holy Spirit convicts you of your sin. Every Sunday in Divine Service you confess your sin and admit your guilt. Every Sunday in Divine Service you are declared innocent and free from sin, as you are absolved in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This absolution is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with you Himself, because it is He who has commanded your pastor to absolve you in His name. The Judge Himself has declared you forgiven and pardoned through His representative, thus you have already been judged.

Legally, you cannot be charged for an offence a second time. In American and Canadian law, this is called double jeopardy. No person shall be subject for the same offence to be twice put into jeopardy of life or limb. You cannot be again tried for something of which you have been acquitted. Since you have been declared forgiven and pardoned, you cannot be tried for them again. You cannot be charged with them again.

Jesus was charged with all your sins and found guilty. You walk away scot free because you have confessed your sins, and your counsellors have spoken on your behalf. You’ve been declared forgiven. Amen.

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

Citizens of Heaven

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter based on John 14:1-14

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

Without Jesus, God is unseeable and unapproachable. God is Spirit, a blinding light and a consuming fire. He is the almighty creator, immortal, invisible, all-knowing, and omnipresent God, not part of creation. As God told Moses, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Ex. 33:20)

However, in Jesus, God has come to earth, not only to be a part of creation, but also to partake of our very flesh. Thus Jesus, God in the flesh, tells His disciples, “Believe in God; believe also in me.”

This man, Jesus, is God. Believe in Him as you believe in God. Trust in Him as you trust in God. See this man Jesus as the almighty creator, immortal, all-knowing, and omnipresent God.

That is not how Philip saw Jesus, so he said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus responded to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

After all that time spent with Jesus, Philip still struggled to grasp that Jesus is God. This man who walked with them and talked with them and ate with them is God in the flesh. This man who grew up from a little boy is God. This man who was born of a woman, nursed and raised by her, and had his diapers changed by her is God. That just didn’t sit right with Philip, and we’d be lying if we said it sat right with us. Yet, it is true.

There’s even more. This man who was mocked and abused by men is God. This man who was shamefully treated, whipped, spit on, crowned with thorns and crucified is God. This man whose arms were outstretched on the cross at Golgotha is God. Colossians tells us that the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in this man Jesus, that He is the visible image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15; 2:9).

It is necessary that Jesus is God in order for Him to defeat sin, death, and the devil, and pay the price of our sins. It is necessary that Jesus is God in order to reconcile us to God.

Because we are reconciled to God by the death of Jesus, Jesus doesn’t just speak of God in a distant or generic sense. Jesus doesn’t speak of Him as if He is unseeable and unapproachable. Jesus calls Him Father. Because you are reconciled to Him through the Son, you can call Him Father.

And the Son invites you to His Father’s house, saying, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Because God the Son has reconciled you to God the Father, you have a place in the Father’s house waiting for you. God is no longer unseeable or unapproachable for you. In His house, you will get to see Him face to face and live. He will then no longer be invisible to you or seem distant from you.

So whatever troubles you in this life, cast your burdens on Jesus, because He’s got a place waiting for you in the Father’s house. Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Jesus, His Son.

The man Jesus not only has a place for you in eternity, but He also has promised that He Himself will receive you into the Father’s house. At Jesus’ death, as the temple curtain was torn in two no longer separating God and man, so the doors of the Father’s house were flung wide open for you. This means that whenever you die, Jesus is ready to receive you into your eternal dwelling in the Father’s house. The doors stand open waiting for you.

Jesus said that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. Thus, wherever Jesus is, there God is. Through Baptism, you are in Jesus. Those who have been absolved on earth in Jesus’ name are absolved before God in heaven. Those who have eaten and drunk the bread and wine of holy communion on earth have eaten and drunk the body and blood of God in the person of Jesus. You are in Christ; thus you are where He is.

Ephesians tells us that because we have been baptized into Christ, God the Father has taken us who were dead in our trespasses and made us alive together with Christ and has raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:4-6). To say that we are seated already now in the heavenly places sounds as crazy as saying that God was being nursed by Mary, but it also is true. Through our incorporation into Christ, we are where He is. We are not removed from earth physically, but we are already now sharing in the heavenly blessings. We already now reign over death which has no authority over us (Rev. 20:6). Our citizenship is already now in heaven; we’re already now enrolled in heaven (Phil. 3:20; Heb. 12:23). We already now have a place waiting for us in the Father’s house because we are already now alive in Christ.

God’s invitation to you through Jesus isn’t just for a nice meal at His house. There certainly will be many fine meals at the eternal banquet that never ends, but it is also so much more. God’s invitation is for you to live with Him eternally in His house where thieves cannot break in and steal; where tears will flow no more; where sin, guilt, and shame will be no more.

Since you are already enrolled in heaven; since your citizenship is already in heaven, let this be reflected in how you live here in exile, away from your eternal home. Live with your mind set on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Col. 3:2). Put to death the sinful desires that you have (Col. 3:5). Live like your sin, guilt, and shame has been removed from you, because it has. Jesus took all your sin, guilt, and shame on Himself so He has taken it away from you. You are a child of the heavenly Father with a special place prepared just for you in the Father’s house.

No matter what happens in this life, let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Jesus, His Son. Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. He is the one and only way to the Father. He is the one and only way to the Father’s house. Since Jesus has died for you and prepares a place for you the Father’s house, you can be certain of your place there. You can be certain that He will return, and will take you to Himself, that where He is, you may be also. Amen.

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