The Word – Opposed, but Salvific

Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 6:14-29 (Amos 7:7-15)

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

The preaching of God’s Word is opposed everywhere it is heard. The prophet Amos was told to leave the land of Israel and never again prophesy there; never again to speak God’s Word to them there. John the Baptist wasn’t just asked to leave and never preach again. He was beheaded in prison.

Both messengers of God had merely preached the Word God had sent them to preach. Amos called the people of Israel to repentance over their idolatry and various other sins such as taking bribes, fornication, and not helping the needy. John certainly called the Israelites to repentance over many sins, but it was his calling of Herod to repentance over adultery that he was put to death.

No one finds the preaching of God’s Law to be pleasant. You don’t like it when I tell you that you are despising God’s Word when you don’t come to church. You don’t like it when I tell you that you are robbing God by not giving more offerings to support this congregation. You don’t like it when I tell you that sex outside of marriage is sin and that those who live together outside of marriage are to repent. God knows what discord and conflict has been caused in this congregation when I have called couples living in sin to repentance.

No one finds the preaching of God’s Law to be pleasant, but it is necessary for salvation. It is necessary that you have God’s Law preached to you so that you would recognize sin to be sin and repent. It is thus necessary that you support this congregation so that it can remain here, and the preaching of God’s Word can be heard here.

If you don’t support this congregation, and it does close, where are you going to go to church? An ELCIC “Lutheran” church in town? They don’t call sinners to repentance. They harden sinners in their impenitence. Did you know that at their sister church’s teen assembly in the U.S. earlier this month they had a boy who says he is a transgender girl speak to the teens about God’s call for him to be transgender? This was received with loud cheering by the teenagers. They had a woman who cross dresses as a pastor have the teens repeat after her that homosexuality is beauty. She also has drag queens perform at her church, calls some of Scripture “wretched,” teaches that hell is not real, and views the Wiccan goddess as an aspect of God. (See https://www.exposingtheelca.com/ for this and much more.)

Is that where you are going to go to church and is that where you’re going to send your children and grandchildren for youth camp, or are you going to support this congregation so that God’s Word can still be heard here in this place?

No one else is going to support this congregation. Those who are on the membership rolls but despise God’s Word aren’t going to give a red cent. Nor should they. Why would they support the preaching of God’s Word which they don’t want to hear? Why would they support the preaching of repentance which they despise? They’d sooner support an ELCIC congregation that encourages them to keep sinning. They need to be removed from membership, but that’s another matter. The point is that you need the preaching of God’s Word here, and in order for you to have it, you need to support it.

It is not for my sake that I say this, but yours. It doesn’t matter what happens to me. Like Amos, I can be told to leave here and never again preach God’s Word to you. Like John the Baptist, my preaching can be stopped by the authorities who hate God’s Word. For your sake, you need God’s Word preached to you. You need to support this congregation so you do not lose the great treasure of the preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

God can keep this congregation here until Christ returns. If He does so, it is not for your sake that He acts, but for the sake of His holy name, which you have profaned (cf. Ezek. 36:22). You have profaned it by not supporting the preaching of His Word or gladly hearing and learning it. You have profaned God’s name by your sins which have caused God’s name to be blasphemed by unbelievers (cf. Rom. 2:24).

But God does not save you because of what you have done or left undone. He saves you for His own name’s sake. He has sprinkled you with water and cleansed you from your uncleanness, and from all your idols He has cleansed you. He has given you a new heart, and a new spirit He has put within you. He has removed the heart of stone from your flesh and given you a heart of flesh. God has put His Spirit within you, and He will cause you to walk in His statutes and be careful to obey His rules (cf. Ezek. 36:22-27).

And God says to you, “Bring the full tithe… And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” (Mal. 3:10-12)

God promises you every blessing in giving your tithes and offerings to Him. The greatest blessing is that your offerings ensure that His Word remains in your midst; that Absolution is still spoken to you to forgive your sins; that Christ’s true body and blood are still given to you to nourish and strengthen your faith.

The truth is that you have supported and do support this congregation, otherwise it would not be here today. God has already moved your heart to give to Him, and He continues to move you to give.

I am confident that you will ensure that God’s Word is preached to you, not just today, but for years to come.

In this world that has abandoned sanity, you need God’s Word preached to you in its truth and purity. In a world that watches some vile, bottom-feeder from Hollywood say, “God bless abortions” on her Netflix special, you don’t need a church like the ELCIC that encourages abortion. You need to hear the truth that God abhors abortion as a detestable and horrendous sin.

In a world which cannot differentiate male from female, natural from unnatural, or good from evil, you need to hear the truth that God created us male and female, and that He instituted marriage for one man and one woman for life.

You need to hear what is right and true so that you will also recognize where you have departed from God’s thinking and followed the world’s thinking. God has His Law preached to you so that you would turn from sin and receive forgiveness.

Forgiveness is after all what God wants for you. It doesn’t matter the sin, God wants to give you His forgiveness. Every sin is forgivable, whether it is living together outside of marriage, homosexuality, divorce, or abortion. Jesus knows these sins. Jesus died for these sins.

Jesus didn’t think that He was coming to die for people that were overall pretty good. He knew our detestable and wicked sins of rebellion and selfishness, and He came to earth to die on the cross for them. He came to forgive sin. He came to give new life. He came to soothe guilty consciences that have made decisions that cannot be undone. He came to give comfort to you, living in this world of confusion and chaos. He gives you His body and blood to keep you in Him to life everlasting.

Cling to God’s Word and do everything you can to ensure it is preached to you. The Law that points at our sins is not pleasant to hear, but it diagnoses our sinful condition, so that the soothing ointment of the Gospel will comfort us with forgiveness, life, and salvation.

God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105). Cling to its light to stay on the path that leads to everlasting life. Amen.

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

What is Truth?

Sermon for the Seventh Sunday of Easter based on John 17:11b-19

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

“What is truth?” Pilate asks Jesus this question during His trial (Jn. 18:38). What is truth? This question continues to be asked even today in the same cynical, indifferent way as Pilate spoke the words. The question is asked intending to say that any discussion of religious truth is pure speculation, as if we cannot know truth no matter what. What is truth?

The world and the devil would have you believe that there is no such thing as truth. Look at all the religions out there. Look at all the “Christian” denominations out there. Look at the fact that even the Lutheran church is split into different denominations, holding to completely different beliefs. Doesn’t everyone think that they’re right? How is it possible to know truth?

Jesus says in His prayer to God the Father, “Your Word is truth” (v. 17). The Word of God is truth. So if you want to learn the truth of God, you know where to find it – in His Word. His Word is truth. If you want to know God’s will for you, you know where to find it – in His Word. His Word is truth.

What would happen to Lutheran Church-Canada if we lost the truth of God’s Word? Then we could join the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). They, as a synod, do not believe that God’s Word is truth. They say that the Bible contains human opinion, cultural limitation and bias, as well as contradictory views of God’s word, ways, and will. Thus the ELCIC teaches that you can reject the Triune God and still be saved; you don’t need to believe in creation as taught in Genesis; you don’t need to believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead or that Jesus was actually born of a virgin; you can abort babies, practice homosexuality, and ordain women to be pastors. See, when God’s Word is not truth, you can invent your own truth.

There may well be Christians within the ELCIC, but the teaching of that church body is unscriptural. The teaching of that church body is Satanic. They do not teach God’s Word so they do not teach the truth.

Herein lies the problem then when a visitor from the ELCIC visits our congregation and why they cannot commune. Over the last few decades, their church body has completely forsaken the truth.

Today our confirmands will confess their faith. They will confess that they believe God’s Word is truth. They will confess that they believe in the one and only true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They will confess that what the Bible says about creation, Jesus’ birth and resurrection, abortion, homosexuality, women pastors, and any other matter is true because God’s Word is truth. Our confirmands will confess what we confess, what our church confesses, and what Scripture teaches: God’s Word is truth. And our church believes that until our children have been taught the truth and confessed that they believe it, they should not be communed so that they do not eat and drink judgment on themselves or sin against the body and blood of Christ (I Cor. 11:27-29). We want what is best for our children because we love them and don’t want any harm, especially spiritual harm, to come to them.

Should we not then out of Christian love show this same concern for our visitors as we do for our children? Should we not seek to avoid any spiritual harm from coming to them?

Since we cannot judge hearts and we cannot see into anyone’s heart to see what they believe, we must go by what they confess. For our confirmands, we will take their confession today to be the declaration of what they believe. Those who belong to the ELCIC confess their agreement with the teachings of that church through their membership in that church body. Their membership makes a confession of what they believe. Yes, it is true, not every member in the ELCIC believes the false teachings of that church. But by their membership in such a heterodox church body, they confess that they believe what that church body believes. Those who are in such a false church yet believe that God’s Word is truth should abandon that false church and openly confess the truth. Scripture requires that only those who confess the truth are communed at the Lord’s Table.

Yes, we practise closed communion. Sometimes what this means is misunderstood. Closed communion just means that communion is open to everyone who has been taught in the truth of what Scripture teaches and has confessed that they believe it. That doesn’t sound so cold and unloving, does it? That’s what we do for our own children because we love them and want what’s best for them. We are following God’s Word on the Lord’s Supper, because God’s Word is truth. We do not want to lose the truth of God’s Word.

Lest this sermon comes across as nothing more than bashing the ELCIC, I should say that’s really not the point. The point is to be a warning and example to us. A warning and example for us to take heed lest we fall (I Cor. 10:12); a warning and example for us to not fall away from the truth. The second we give up one iota of truth, we are heading into trouble. The second we start to say, “Yes, that’s what God’s Word says, but it’s going to hurt feelings so we won’t do it”, then we are heading into trouble.

For the most part, ELCIC congregations didn’t start out in full-blown heresy on day one. They didn’t start out with homosexual pastors – first came the appeal for tolerance. They didn’t start out with women pastors – first came women readers in the Divine Service. They didn’t start out denying the Trinity – first came the denial of the Word of God being the truth. We need to take heed lest we fall from the truth. We need to cling to the truth of God’s Word even in matters that hit close to home; even in matters that oppose the view of our culture. We need to cling to the truth of God’s Word even in matters that cause the world to hate us (Jn. 7:14).

Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn. 8:31-32) Abiding in God’s Word is abiding in the truth, and the truth will set us free. We do not want to lose the truth, because the truth sets us free.

That’s what Jesus prays in today’s passage from the High Priestly prayer. Jesus prays for His disciples but He also prays for the entire Church throughout all time. He prays for us. He prays to God the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (v. 17) Jesus prays that we would be sanctified, that is, made holy; set apart for God in the truth; set apart for God in His Word.

This has already happened. Just as Jesus in His prayer says that the disciples were already given to Him by the Father (v. 6), that they already belong to God (v. 9), and that He has kept them in the Father’s name (v. 12), so we also already have been given to Jesus, already belong to Him, and are also kept in His name.

The truth of God’s Word has set us free. It has set us free from the lies of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. The truth of God’s Word has set us free from the punishment we deserve for our sins because in His Word He tells us that Jesus took our punishment in our place, suffering and dying on the cross for us. God’s Word is truth. It is God’s Word of truth that keeps us in the Father’s name. It is God’s Word of truth that has brought us to faith and keeps us in the faith.

What is truth? God’s Word is truth. And you have been sanctified, that is, made holy; set apart for God in the truth; set apart for God in His Word. And Jesus prays for you that you would be kept in the Father’s name through His Word of truth: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Amen.

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