Generous Wages

Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost based on Matthew 20:1-16

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

Do not run your vineyard, or your farm, or your business like the master of the house in Jesus’ parable. If you pay the labourer who works for one hour in the day equal to the one who works twelve hours in the day, you will not find many labourers willing to work twelve hours, but you will find many willing to work one hour.

It simply is not fair to give equal pay for unequal work. If one labourer worked twelve hours, it is not fair to pay him the same as to the labourer who worked only one hour. We have a sense of what is fair and right, and that’s not it.

If you want to run your farm or business profitably, you have to reward the behaviour in your employees that helps you make more money. You have to pay the employees more that do more work and pay the employees less who do less work. That’s how you stay in business. That’s how you don’t lose the farm. It’s just good business. Equal pay for equal work, right? You get paid for the work you do, but not for the work you don’t do.

The Church, which is the kingdom of heaven on earth, is not a business. Sure, we have to do some business-like things, but the Church is not a business. We have to pay the bills. We have to maintain the building. We have to give enough to balance the budget or this congregation will close. However, the Church is not a business. Equality in the kingdom of heaven is not the same as equality in business.

In one sense, we are all equal. We are all sinners deserving temporal and eternal punishment. That is where the equality stops. Some members of the kingdom of heaven spent a lifetime living in sin before entering the kingdom of heaven, while others were baptized into the kingdom of heaven the day they were born. Some members of the kingdom of heaven have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat, working on the church council, as treasurers, as trustees, while other members simply show up and reap the benefits. Some members support the church through sacrificial offerings to the congregation, to seminaries, to missions, while other members contribute next to nothing at all. Despite these differences in labour, we all get equal wages – eternal life in the kingdom of heaven.

This doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t seem right. That’s even before we start comparing ourselves to those who have worked as missionaries in dangerous places, sacrificing the comforts of this life to bring the Gospel to others, sometimes even sacrificing their very lives. Yet, we all get the same wages that we were promised.

The kingdom of heaven is not a meritocracy. We don’t get what we deserve in God’s kingdom. If we got what we deserved as our wages, we would all get eternal death. As Scripture teaches, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

Rather, everyone in the kingdom of heaven receives the same undeserved wages – “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

God does not give out varying amounts of forgiveness. In Jesus, He always gives us full and complete forgiveness. Regardless of the amount of sin in your past, Christ covers them all with His righteousness. You cannot be more righteous than Jesus, so when Jesus gives you His righteousness, there is no one more righteous than you. Before God’s judgment throne, you are as perfect and righteous as Jesus, since He has given you His righteousness. The same is true of everyone who is God’s child, no matter what they’ve done or left undone.

Now, we can look at those who we deem to be more sinful, or those we deem to have worked less or given less than us, and say that it’s not fair that they get the same wages as us. God responds to us, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Are you not getting the wages that I promised you? I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”

We need to stop looking at others and look to ourselves. We are all guilty before God and deserving nothing but hell. Out of His great love and generosity, He forgives us all freely and gives us wages that we do not deserve. How dare you begrudge God’s generosity to others! Is God not allowed to give His forgiveness to everyone as He sees right? Is God not allowed to give all His children His overflowing, undeserved forgiveness like He gives it to you?

God is so generous and overflowing with His forgiveness so that we all know that it is for us. The kingdom of heaven is not a business. Forgiveness is not sold. Forgiveness is not earned. Forgiveness is given freely because Jesus has paid the price of the sins of the whole world.

Through His life and death, Jesus earned the wages of eternal life for us. He is the one who earned and accomplished what we cannot. He alone earned salvation for us and gives it to us freely, as a gift.

Christ gives salvation freely through Baptism to the infant just newly born. He gives it freely to the sinner who finally on his deathbed recognizes and confesses his sins and is absolved. Christ gives His salvation freely in the Sacrament of the Altar, where all we do is receive His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, and yet we receive the wages of eternal life that Christ earned for us.

None of us has accomplished the work necessary to save us, but Jesus has. None of us has laboured to the point of earning eternal life for ourselves, but Jesus earned eternal life for us. None of us deserves eternal life, but Jesus gives it to us freely. His Church is not a place of business, but a place where forgiveness is given freely, abundantly, and generously. Amen.

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

…As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost based on Matthew 18:21-35

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

The unmerciful servant was thrown into jail for eternity because he did not forgive his fellow servant. Jesus says, “So also my heavenly Father will do to everyone of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

That’s a scary statement. It is found elsewhere in Scripture also. After Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, He said, “if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mt. 6:14-15) In other words, if you do not forgive those who have sinned against you, you are going to hell for eternity.

These are not easy words to hear. They’re not easy to hear because we know how much we struggle to forgive. We have been sinned against. Those close to us have betrayed us. Evil things have been said about us. We’ve been cheated. Precious things have been taken from us. Our families have suffered because of things done by others, and we are the ones who are in danger of hell if we don’t forgive?

We must understand correctly what this means. First, we must understand that it is not our forgiveness of others’ sins that earns us forgiveness for our sins. We are not forgiven because we forgive others. We are forgiven freely because of Jesus’ death in our place which paid the debt of our sins. There is no payment made by us for our sins.

Consider the servant that was forgiven his debt of ten thousand talents. He pleaded for time to pay it off, but this was a delusion. He could never pay it off. In today’s dollars, based on the price of gold, ten thousand talents would amount to over ten billion dollars. This servant didn’t have a hope to pay off his debt.

The king forgave the debt. The king took it upon himself to pay the debt because he knew only he could pay such a debt. The king took it upon himself to pay the great debt because he had mercy on his servant; he had compassion on his servant. Rather than throwing the servant into jail for eternity, he forgave the debt freely with no cost to the servant.

That is how God forgives us. God took it upon Himself to pay the debt of our sins, because our debt of sins is too large for us to ever pay off. Jesus paid our debt with His holy and precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. God had mercy and compassion on us and forgave us, because our debt has been paid by Jesus. Rather than throwing us into hell for eternity, He forgave our debt freely with no cost to us. Thus, we are not forgiven because we forgive others. It is not our forgiveness of others’ sins that earns us forgiveness for our sins. We are forgiven because Jesus has paid for our sins.

The next thing to understand is that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, so the debt of every single sin, including those committed against you has been paid. You have no right to refuse to forgive a sin that has been paid by Jesus’ death. If you do not forgive someone who has sinned against you, it means that you do not believe that Jesus’ death has paid for the sins of the world. Refusing to forgive someone is saying that the payment of Jesus’ most holy obedience, suffering, and death is not enough to pay for that sin. Thus, someone refusing to forgive shows that he is not a believer, that he does not believe in the forgiveness of sins.

Christians forgive. Christians forgive because we have been forgiven. Christians forgive because we know that Jesus died for all sin – our sin and the sin committed by others against us. Christians pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Christians confess in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

If Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, why is everyone not going to heaven? Why does anyone end up in hell? Why was the unmerciful servant thrown into jail for eternity even though the king had forgiven his debt?

Let’s go back to the text. The servant did not ask the king for mercy. He didn’t ask the king for compassion. The servant didn’t ask for the king to forgive the great debt that he could never pay. No, he asked for patience. He asked for a little bit of time to make the payment. He didn’t want the king’s forgiveness. He wanted time to earn the billions of dollars that he really had no chance of earning to pay the debt.

The unmerciful servant did not believe in forgiveness and mercy, thus, even though the king offered it to him, he rejected it. That’s why he went and choked his fellow servant and threw him in jail, refusing to forgive him. This man who did not want to be forgiven, did not want to forgive.

God offers His forgiveness freely to all. If you don’t want it, then He won’t give it to you. If you reject His forgiveness, then you don’t have it. God will take it away from you.

Refusing to forgive others is refusing to be forgiven by God. It is rejecting forgiveness. If you do not forgive your brother, then you do not want God’s forgiveness.

Do not ask God to just be patient with you. Asking for patience is not a confession of sin. As long as you ask for time instead of forgiveness, you remain under the burden of sin. As long as you think you have something to offer, you reject the forgiveness of sins God offers to you freely.

Thus, we go to God with nothing to offer. We don’t approach Him making promises to do better. We approach God confessing our sin. We don’t look at our mountain of sin and say if we had some time we could pay it off. We confess our sin, and God forgives our sin.

The mountain of debt that we had has been forgiven. Jesus paid for it. Jesus paid for the debt of all sin, including our brother who sinned against us. With our sin forgiven, we therefore also forgive our brother. Seven times? No. Rather seventy times seven. We keep forgiving.

We keep forgiving, because God keeps forgiving us. God does not count how many times He forgives us. He doesn’t have a quota for absolutions. He doesn’t ration the Lord’s Supper and say that you’ve had enough. God’s forgiveness in Christ is always offered to sinners.

God even forgives those times in our past when we held a grudge and did not forgive. He forgives us and strengthens us to forgive them now. God’s forgiveness even enables us to let go of angry feelings and pray for those who have sinned against us.

God’s forgiveness has wiped out all of our sins. Our mountain of debt that we could not pay off was paid by Jesus’ blood. God has had pity and compassion on us. He has shown His mercy to us and saved us from hell. We will not be cast into hell for eternity because God has forgiven us and continues to forgive us, so we can forgive our brother who sins against us. Amen.

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

Sin is Serious

Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost based on Matthew 18:1-20

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

The world laughs at sin. To them, sin is just a big joke. Everyone does whatever he wants, and any suggestions that God has given us His Commandments to follow with threats of punishment for not following them is laughable to the world.

This is reflected in today’s media. What sin is not laughed at? It is thought to be hilarious when children are defiant to their parents and even curse at them. It’s funny that someone keeps stealing from his neighbour or keeps doing stupid things when he’s drunk. It’s a joke that someone keeps cheating on his wife. Movies and shows often are based entirely on such “humour” to the point that we get immune to even thinking about how disgusting and sinful such actions are. We get immune to the point that when we see such things in our own families, we don’t even think of them as sins. We are in danger of sin becoming as big of a joke to us as it is to the godless world.

Sin has certainly become a joke to some churches already. The “bishop” of the other Lutheran church body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, just declared this past week that God does not condemn sin. She said if there is such a thing as hell, it is empty. Sin is just a big joke to that church body. That is one of many reasons we are not in fellowship with them.

To God, however, sin is no joke. You heard what Jesus tells you to do, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” Go confront your brother if he sins and rebuke him. Jesus doesn’t tell you to laugh at your brother’s sin. He doesn’t tell you to ignore your brother’s sin. He doesn’t tell you to go tell your pastor about your brother’s sin or to gossip to anyone else about the sin either. Jesus tells you to go confront him. Rebuke him. Correct him.

Why? Because sin is not a joke. Sin is a breaking of God’s Commandments. Sin is rebellion against our creator. Sin is turning away from God’s good and perfect will to the devil’s evil and wicked will. Sin breaks communion with God and separates the sinner from God. Sin most certainly can damn a sinner to eternity in hell, that place of torment and gnashing of teeth which God’s Word tells us is not empty. That is why Jesus tells you to go confront your brother who sins. Jesus does not want to be separated from communion with your brother. Jesus does not want your brother condemned to hell.

Don’t tell me you’re too timid or shy to correct your brother who sins. If someone tells you that it is good that our Prime Minister pays out $10 million of our tax dollars to a terrorist murderer, you will voice your disagreement. If someone tells you that your favourite television show is a waste of time, you will speak up and defend it. If someone mocks the Roughriders, I hardly think you’d keep quiet. So why keep quiet when your brother sins?

We can only conclude that politics, television shows, and sports are more important to us than God’s Word; that they are more important to us than our brother’s salvation. We’ve bought into the devil’s lies about what is important to stand up for and defend and what is not.

We need to repent. We need to repent because neither our sin nor the sin of our brother is a light matter or a joke. That’s why Jesus says if your brother doesn’t listen to you, take one or two others with you to call your brother to repentance. If he doesn’t listen to you still, tell it to the church. If he refuses even to listen to the church, then he is to be treated as someone outside the church, outside the kingdom of God. He is to be treated as someone on the way to hell.

So many steps. So much hard, stressful, difficult work. That’s how much God loves our brother who sins. God wants to give him every opportunity to repent. That’s how much God loves us. He wants to give us every opportunity to repent.

Repentance has two parts. First, that we are sorry for our sins, fear God’s wrath, and grieve that we have sinned when God’s Word condemns our sin. And second, that in the midst of grieving over sin, we believe and trust that our sin is forgiven freely on account of Christ.

Our sin is forgiven freely because God takes sin so seriously that He gave His only Son to die for sin. Sin is so serious that God punished all sin in Jesus. Sin is so serious that Jesus was mocked, beaten, tortured, and killed because of it. Sin is the reason God the Father forsook His Son and would not listen to His cries, moans, or prayers as He suffered and died.

You have been bought with a price – the holy, precious blood of Christ, and His innocent suffering and death. You have been redeemed – God has bought you back for Himself and rescued you from all the weight of your sins.

Sin is not a light matter or joke, but forgiveness is an even greater matter. Forgiveness of sins brings sinners from darkness to light, from death to life, from hell to heaven. Forgiveness of sins snatches us out of the grasp of the evil foe and into the hand of our heavenly Father, from whose hand no one can snatch us.

It doesn’t matter how many people take sin lightly and laugh it off. Great numbers do not sway the truth, and they don’t sway God. Jesus promises to be present where two or three are gathered in His name.

Where one baptizer baptizes one person, there is Christ among them. Where one penitent is absolved by one who pronounces absolution, there is Christ among them. Where just one shut-in or hospitalized member celebrates the Sacrament of the Altar with one celebrant, there Christ has promised to be.

Baptism, Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar are no light matter either. They are the means by which God gives you the forgiveness of sins.

If I told you that there is a bank account with a million dollars in it, it would do you no good if you cannot access it. The money is sitting there, but if you cannot receive it, it is useless to you. But if I gave you a cheque book, a bank card, and an online banking password, all of a sudden you can benefit from the money in the bank account. You can receive what is there for you to receive.

Just so, there is forgiveness of sins and eternal life which has been bought for you by Jesus’ death. It does no good to you if you cannot access it. If you do not receive it, it is useless to you. Thus, Christ instituted Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. These are the means Christ instituted so that you can have access to His forgiveness and receive it. There’s not even a limit on the account! You can keep receiving forgiveness over and over. You can keep accessing and receiving forgiveness, given and shed for you. God gives it to you in unlimited supply.

Sin is such a serious matter, that God will continue to forgive you so that you will not end up in hell. Sin is so grave a matter, that God will continually forgive your sins all the way to the grave so that you will enter eternal life. Sin is such a big deal, that God gave His only Son to die for sin, so that you can receive unlimited and unending forgiveness over and over, day after day, to eternal life. Amen.

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

 

What is Murder?

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany based on Matthew 5:21-37

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

God’s Law says, “You shall not murder.” Our sinful tendency is to apply this only to the course outward deed of striking our neighbour so that he dies, as if that is the only thing forbidden in this Commandment. Our sinful tendency is to think that we can do anything we want to harm our neighbour, so long as we do not personally and physically put him to death.

This was the interpretation of the Jews, and thus they thought they were not guilty of killing Jesus. They delivered Him over to Pilate for crucifixion and considered their own hands to be clean and innocent of His blood. When Peter accused the Jewish Council of being guilty of killing Jesus (Acts 4:10), they respond by saying, “You intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (Acts 5:28) as if they were innocent and the Gentile Romans were the guilty ones, even though it was the Jews that compelled Pilate against his own will to kill Jesus.

So also, David thought he was innocent of the blood of Uriah the Hittite when he had Uriah put to death by the hands of the Ammonites. David had committed adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, and to cover up his sin he put Uriah at the forefront of the hardest fighting where the enemy had their most valiant fighters. Then David had the rest of the soldiers pull back from Uriah so that he was struck down dead by the enemy. Somehow David thought he was innocent of Uriah’s death because his own hand had not struck the killing blow.

What Pharisaic holiness! It dismisses the heart full of anger, hate, and envy, of hidden and evil schemes of murder. It dismisses the indifference the heart has to the needs of neighbours, as if we can do anything we want to our neighbour as long as we don’t personally take his life. As if we can be angry and unforgiving towards our brother, insult him, hold a grudge, and betray him to be killed as long as we do not strike him dead ourselves.

Jesus teaches us the true meaning of the Fifth Commandment when He says, “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” God’s Law demands to be kept not just outwardly, but also inwardly, in the heart. We are not to break God’s Commandments in thought, word, or deed. Insulting our brother makes us as guilty in God’s eyes as if we had murdered him.

Even failing to help our neighbour in need is breaking the Fifth Commandment. Luther explains this in the Large Catechism, “If you send a person away naked when you could clothe him, you have let him freeze to death.  If you see anyone suffer hunger and do not feed him, you have let him starve.  Likewise, if you see anyone condemned to death or in similar peril and do not save him although you know ways and means to do so, you have killed him.  It will do you no good to plead that you did not contribute to his death by word or deed, for you have withheld your love from him and robbed him of the service by which his life might have been saved.  Therefore God rightly calls all persons murderers who do not offer counsel and aid to men in need and in peril of body and life [LC I.V. 190 – 191].”

Jesus also teaches us the true meaning of the Sixth Commandment when He says, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” This Commandment also is not only about the course outward deed of adultery, but it is also about the heart, the eyes, and the mouth – sinful lust, looking, and speaking. This Commandment is not just broken when you fornicate, but it is broken when you don’t love and honour your spouse as you should, when you speak poorly of him to your friends, or when you selfishly neglect her needs. This Commandment is broken when you are unsatisfied with your spouse and look at or think of someone else in the way you should only look at and think of your spouse.

Jesus teaches us the true meaning of these Commandments so that we would not be proud and flatter ourselves by considering that we have fulfilled them. He wants to lead us to repentance, so that turning away from our sins, we would receive forgiveness.

He shows this when He says, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Here Jesus is saying that if you are about to do the best good work you can do, of giving God an offering, of sacrificing or giving up something He has given to you, God wants no part of it unless you are first reconciled to your brother. If you intend to serve God while you have unrepentant sin in your life, Jesus says, “Stop! Lay it down right now, drop everything, and go be reconciled with your brother first.” Repent of your sins or God will accept nothing from your hand.

It is an unchristian attitude that is hateful and bears a grudge. It is an unchristian attitude that refuses to repent and refuses to be reconciled.

Jesus sets the example for us in bearing the hatred and grudges of the world and still desiring nothing except our good. It was, after all, our sins that killed Jesus. We are guilty of murder here, too. Do not respond with saying, “You intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” as if you are not guilty of murdering Jesus just because your hands did not do the whipping, nailing, and piercing. We are guilty. Jesus died because of our sins. Yet the very One we are guilty of murdering gladly took our sins. He was pierced for our sins. He was crushed for our sins. He voluntarily died for our sins.

See how Jesus fulfilled the Fifth Commandment? Jesus helped you in your physical need. To prevent your eternal death because of your sins, He Himself died. To prevent your eternal suffering and death He instead suffered and died in your place. As He was crucified by you and your sins, Jesus did not get angry with you or insult you or bear a grudge against you. He prayed for you. He said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do [Lk. 23:34].”

The suffering and death of Jesus on your behalf is why you are forgiven. Your failures to keep the Fifth, Sixth, and every other Commandment were put on Jesus. The very piercing and crushing of Jesus is what brings you peace and heals you.

Jesus teaches us the true meaning of the Commandments so that we would not be proud and flatter ourselves by considering that we have fulfilled them. He wants to lead us to repentance, so that turning away from our sins, we would receive forgiveness.

God’s forgiveness is what enables you to repent of your sins and to be reconciled to your brother. You are forgiven, so turn away from your sins. You are forgiven by God, so forgive your brother. You are forgiven, so you have God’s promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus died for your sins, so your sins have been taken away from you, and you are forgiven. Amen.

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

[i] Part of the ideas in this sermon are indebted to Luther’s sermon on the Sermon on the Mount, AE 21.

Promised Paradise

Sermon for the Last Sunday of the Church Year based on Luke 23:27-43

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

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” What comfort for the criminal on the cross to hear!

The criminal’s life of sin had caught up with him and he was being justly punished by the governing authorities. There was nothing he could do to undo what he had done. He could not give back what he had stolen. He could not bring back to life those he had murdered. He could not make up in any way for any sin he had committed. Yet, Jesus promised him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

At that point in time, what do you think mattered to the criminal? The profits he had amassed from criminal activity? His memories from visiting the beaches of Greece? The respect of his peers? No. The only thing that mattered to the criminal was his impending death and what comes after death.

The criminal confessed that he was guilty and deserving of death. He said to the other criminal that they were justly under the sentence of condemnation, receiving the due reward of their deeds. But he also confessed that Jesus had done nothing wrong. Unlike the criminal’s life of sin, Jesus never did anything sinful or harmful or hurtful to anyone. Jesus never even said or thought anything wrong. So, the thief confessed two things – he deserved to die, and Jesus did not deserve to die.

We struggle to believe that we deserve to die. We have a hard time believing that we even deserve to have anything bad happen to us. If something that we view as bad does happen to us, we ask “Why? Why did this happen to me?” We see everything bad that happens to us as injustice. We don’t think we deserve to have anything bad, only everything good.

The truth is, we deserve death just like the criminal. Our sins deserve crucifixion and then eternal death in hell. Yet, when we die, Jesus will say to us, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

What great comfort it is for us to hear those words! Even though we are not hanging on a cross dying, just like the criminal we also cannot undo the evil we have done. We cannot undo our sins. We cannot make up in any way for any sin we have committed. We cannot go back and redo our lives. Even if we could, we would still not be able to avoid sin. We avoid one sin only to fall into another. If we could relive our life a thousand times, a thousand times we would deserve crucifixion and eternal death. Just like the criminal on the cross, Jesus is our only hope, so we pray, “Jesus, remember me.”

Jesus will remember us. The day we die, Jesus will say to us, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” That day the money we have in our bank accounts won’t matter. Our vacation memories won’t mean a thing.  What other people think of us will not be on our minds. The only thing that will matter to us will be our impending death and what comes after death. And with Jesus’ promise that we will be with Him in Paradise, we know what comes after death for us.

Because the innocent Son of God suffered death for us, we will receive eternal life. Jesus took all the punishment of our sins on Himself. It wasn’t just physical pain that He suffered. Jesus also had all our guilt and shame on Him, weighing Him down. Jesus took all the wrath and anger of God on Himself, and was abandoned and forsaken by God the Father for us.

As Jesus suffered in this horrible way, men mocked Him and scoffed at Him. They cast lots for His clothing and tauntingly offered Him sour wine. Still, Jesus does not get angry with them but lovingly prays for them, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Even while suffering and dying, Jesus was still thinking of others and praying for them. He was praying for those whose hands whipped Him and nailed Him to the cross. He was praying for those whose mouths were still mocking Him. Jesus continued to love His creation despite their sin. He still prayed that they would repent and that the Father would forgive them.

Jesus prays for you, that the Father would forgive you. That was the purpose of Jesus coming to earth. He came to face the judgment of God against sinners so that we will receive forgiveness. He came to die so that you may live.

Because Jesus faced the judgment of God against sinners, you will not have to. God turned away from Jesus because your sins were on Him, but now God will never turn away from you. God the Father forsook Jesus, His only Son, because He was covered with your sins, but now God will never forsake you.

So now you can pray, “Jesus, remember me.” And Jesus will tell you on the day you die, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Amen.

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

God, Be Merciful to Me, the Sinner

Sermon for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost based on Luke 18:9-17

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

When you come to God’s house, you can come as the Pharisee or you can come as the tax collector. You can come as one who relies on his own works, or you can come as one who relies on what Jesus has done. You can come to thank God how good you are, or you can come praying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”

Our trouble is that we have a hard time seeing our own sin. Our eyes are blinded by our own sin so that we do not always recognize it to be sin. It is easy for us to come to God’s house thinking about our own good works: how we help our neighbour; how we give offerings to God; even about how we come to church in the first place while so many others don’t.

It’s easy to look at the world, to listen to, read, or watch the news and think, “The world is full of horrible people. The world is full of awful sinners. Thank God I’m not one of those murderers, arsonists, or terrorists. God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” It’s easy to trust in ourselves that we are righteous, while treating others with contempt.

Scripture, however, teaches that “whoever keeps the whole Law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” (James 2:10) The same Law that says you shall not murder tells you not to sin when you get angry (Eph. 4:26) and to help your neighbour in every physical need (SC I.5). The same Law that says you shall not commit adultery tells you not to lust (Matt. 5:28) or even speak crudely or foolishly (Eph. 5:3-4). The same Law that says you shall not steal tells you not to be dishonest and to actually help your neighbour improve and protect his possessions and income (SC I.7).

You cannot come to God on your own merits because you don’t have any. You cannot rely on your own good works because they cannot save you. Scripture says that our good works are like filthy rags (Is. 64:6) so how polluted do you think our evil works are; how polluted our sins are? If we come to God relying on our own works, we will not go home justified.

If you take the case of the Pharisee praying in God’s house, the Temple, you will see that he wasn’t lying in the eyes of men. He was not an extortioner in the eyes of men. He wasn’t unjust in the eyes of men, nor was he an adulterer in the eyes of men. He didn’t sin in these open ways that others could see. He kept his sins hidden. He did such a good job hiding his sins that he had even convinced himself that they weren’t sins. All he came to God with was his own merits, his own works: “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” He claims to be doing even more than the Law demanded of him. He’s fasting more than the Law demands and giving a tithe of more than the Law demands.

The Pharisee’s prayers were a charade. Prayer is an act of worship, but the Pharisee wasn’t worshiping God. He was worshiping himself. He trusted in himself as righteous and treated others with contempt.

Since prayers were normally spoken out loud, whether in private or in public, the Pharisee also prayed to be heard by others. He wanted everyone else to see how good he is and worship him, too. Maybe even the tax collector could hear him saying, “Thank you God that I am not like this tax collector.” He hides his own sins and compares himself to those whose sins can be seen by the whole world, so that in the eyes of men, he would be justified and righteous.

But Jesus says that that Pharisee did not go to his home justified. God did not declare him righteous. He could fool men, but no one can fool God.

The tax collector, however, came to God’s house in humble repentance. Were there worse sinners than him in God’s house? He didn’t care. They weren’t his concern. He didn’t compare himself with others or his sins with others. He hung his head in shame and prayed saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” He actually uses the definite article, not calling himself “a” sinner, but “the” sinner. God, be merciful to me, the sinner, like he is the only sinner on earth. No one else’s sins mattered to him. Why should they? You cannot use someone else’s sin as an excuse for yours. It benefits you not at all that someone is a worse sinner than you.

We should all say to ourselves, “My sin is why Jesus died. I crucified Him. My sins are the reason Jesus came and suffered. My sins are inexcusable and undeniable. God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”

True worship is not being in church so that others can see you. True worship is not pretending to be good or trying to get men to think that you are good.

True worship is receiving the gifts of God. True worship is believing God’s promises and receiving blessings from Him. True worship is coming in humble repentance to God’s house and praying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”

Praying “God, be merciful to me” is praying that God would be propitiated to me. God set your anger aside. Do not deal with me in your anger and wrath. Be merciful to me.

God is merciful. He has never and will never refuse to forgive a penitent sinner. He has never and will never charge a repentant sinner with his sins because Jesus was charged with and paid the price all sin. God has never and will never reject the sinner who comes to Him relying not on his own works, but on what Jesus has done.

We can rely on what Jesus has done. Jesus never failed even in one point of the Law, yet He was held accountable for all of it. He was held accountable for all our failures to fulfil the Law. He was held accountable for all of our sins of thought, word, and deed. Jesus was held accountable for the sins of the entire world, and suffered the wrath and punishment of God for all sin.

You can rely on what Jesus has accomplished because He has accomplished everything for your salvation. The price of your sins has been paid in full. God is not propitiated to you because of your pleas for mercy, but on account of Jesus. Jesus bore the punishment and wrath of God for your sin. That’s why the Bible says that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins (I John 4:10). Jesus turns God’s anger away. On account of Jesus, God is merciful to you.

So you can say, “Jesus’ death on the cross was for my sin. My sins are forgiven. My sins are forgiven whether they are known to others or if they are secret. I have peace with God. God has been merciful to me, the sinner.”

You will go home justified. You will go home declared righteous. In God’s house you receive the forgiveness of sins that Jesus earned for you by His life, death, and resurrection. Through Absolution you have been declared righteous. Through the true body and blood of Jesus you will be justified because you will receive forgiveness. Through the Lord’s Supper you are united in communion with Christ, so when God looks at you, He does not see your sin. He sees Jesus. God sees His own Son who has fulfilled the Law.

God, be merciful to me, the sinner. Don’t make excuses. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t tell God what good you’ve done. Rely on what Jesus has done for you. Rely on the forgiveness you will receive in the true body and blood of Jesus, and you will go home justified. Amen.

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

Mustard Seed Defeats Millstone

Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost based on Luke 17:1-10

Dear believers with faith like a grain of mustard seed: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Do not cause one of Jesus’ little ones to sin. Jesus says it would be better for you to have a millstone hung around your neck and be cast into the sea than to cause one of His little ones to be scandalized and fall away.

How do you cause one of Jesus’ little ones to sin? Jesus mentions two ways: failing to rebuke him, and failing to forgive him.

Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him.” If your brother sins, you are to rebuke, reprove, and warn your brother so that he does not fall away. You must point out your brother’s sin to him so that he will turn away from his sin. If you do not reprove his sin, he may become hardened in his sin and turn away from God. If you do not warn him of his sin and the danger of hell, your brother may end up in hell because of your failure to do what Jesus commands you to do. If you do not rebuke your brother who sins, it would be better for you to have a millstone hung around your neck and be cast into the sea.

That’s not what the world tells you to do. The world tells you to live and let live. Be tolerant. Be easy-going, non-judgmental, and accepting of sin. The world claims that the loving thing to do is to accept your brother and the depravity in which he is engaged.

That’s not the loving thing to do! Your failure to warn your brother could mean that he goes to hell. How loving is that? Of course, the world doesn’t believe in hell, only in heaven, and they think that everyone ends up in heaven with or without Jesus, but that’s why they’re not going to heaven.

The loving thing to do if your brother sins is to rebuke him. If you love your brother and don’t want him to go to hell, warn him when he sins. That’s what Jesus tells you to do. No, don’t go tell your neighbours. No, don’t go tell your friends. No, don’t go tell your pastor. Go to your brother who sinned and tell him. Show him his fault between you and him alone (Matt. 18:15).

Are you going to let your brother die eternally without concern? Are you not grieved at all, even though impenitence is the true death of the soul? Do you look on without concern? Do you show careless neglect? Then it’s back to the millstone for you.

Jesus continues, “and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

This can be difficult, especially if he has badly hurt you, repeatedly. It’s difficult enough to forgive one sin. The memories of hurt can still linger years after the fact. We can still remember sins against us even if the offending party has passed away. This memory of sin leaves a wedge between you even if it is forgiven, because it is remembered.

Jesus speaks of continuing to forgive, even if the offender continues to sin against you. Each time he asks you for forgiveness, you must forgive him. If you do not forgive him, we are back at the millstone again.

To top it all off, Jesus says that if you do these two things perfectly, then you haven’t done anything special; you’ve only done what you were commanded by your master. If you’ve lovingly rebuked every sinner and forgiven everyone who has sinned against you (grievously or otherwise, repeatedly or not), then you have only done your duty. Jesus says you’d still be an unworthy servant. Do not expect God to give you any thanks for doing what you are supposed to do as His servant.

No wonder the disciples responded to Jesus by saying, “Increase our faith!” They recognized how impossible this is. They realized how often they turned the other way when their brother sinned because they didn’t want a confrontation. They recognized how difficult it is to forgive at all, and even more so to continuously forgive a repeat offender who says he repents but shows no sign of repentance. They were cut to the heart and understood that they deserve the millstone hung around their necks.

But more faith is not the answer. Faith like a grain of mustard seed is the answer. The tiniest speck of faith is all it takes. Why? Because faith gives you all the benefits of Jesus fulfilling what you cannot fulfil. Faith gives you the forgiveness of sins because it clings to Jesus not to your own attentiveness to rebuke your brother’s sin or your own ability to forgive those who sin against you.

Faith realizes that your sins of holding your tongue when you should rebuke and struggling to forgive were already punished. Jesus already took the punishment for your sins. Jesus already took your millstone, my millstone, and every millstone and was plunged into the abyss of death for us.

It is faith that enables us to avoid causing Jesus’ little ones to sin. It is faith that enables us to rebuke now where we have failed to rebuke and to forgive now where we have failed to forgive. It is faith that can give thanks for the rebukes we ourselves have received and for the forgiveness we have received.

And God’s forgiveness is not like the forgiveness of man. God completely forgives and actually forgets your sins even if your neighbor cannot forget and you cannot forget. God says, “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Is. 43:25). He says, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34; cited also Heb. 10:17).

What this means is that each time God forgives you your sin, it is like the first time that He forgives you. He is not counting up your sins on a tablet throughout your life. He doesn’t add your sins onto His scales of justice, weighing them out for punishment. Every time you are absolved, your sins are wiped clean and removed from you as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). Every time you receive the true body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins God treads your sins underfoot and throws them into the depths of the sea (Mi. 7:19). Your sins are washed away and God remembers them no more.

God’s forgiveness is perfect. It is complete. Jesus’ death was the perfect and complete sacrifice for all sin and all sinners, so no sin remains for those who are in Christ. Jesus crushed the scales of justice since He took the weight of and paid the price of everyone’s sin. God throwing your sins into the depths of the sea is like Him taking the millstone from your neck, tying it to your sins, and throwing them altogether into the sea.

Jesus’ love for you is also seen in His command to your brothers that they rebuke you and forgive you. Jesus is looking out for you through your brothers in Christ, by having them rebuke you when you sin, and by having them forgive you when you sin.

The answer is not more faith. The answer is the faith that we already have, faith like a grain of mustard seed, and clinging to the promise of forgiveness for Christ’s sake who has taken our millstones and our sins away. Amen.

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

Already Forgiven

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost based on Luke 7:36-8:3

Dear debtors with cancelled debts: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The entire city knew her sin. Of whatever shameful and disgraceful sin she was guilty, everyone knew it. The entire city looked down on her and she would have liked to do nothing more than crawl under a rock and disappear rather than face the disgusted expressions on the faces of those who saw her.

Whatever her sin was, society in general was agreed that it was horrible; something upsetting the very fabric of life in their city. Maybe something more common in some pagan city far away, but not there in a Jewish city. Maybe something they’d heard someone doing somewhere else, but not there in their midst. Yet there she was, guilty of this sin, right there in the house of Simon the Pharisee, a leader of the church of that time.

Despite what the city thought of her, the sinful woman of the city didn’t crawl under a rock and disappear. Despite what Simon the Pharisee thought of her, the sinful woman of the city entered uninvited into his house. Despite the disgusted expressions on the faces of those who saw her, the sinful woman of the city washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with expensive ointment.

The woman just had to do it out of love for Jesus. Jesus had forgiven her all of her sins, including the sin that everyone else knew about and talked about. In God’s eyes, her open shame was covered and her sins had been washed away. Jesus had rescued her from her life of sin and she now hated her sin as much as everyone else in the room. Her sin which had started small and then spiralled out of control; her sin which had grown larger and larger and enslaved her; her sin from which she was not able to escape had been taken away by Jesus and forgiven. She just had to show her love and devotion to her Saviour despite what other people thought about her and her actions. She loved much, because she was forgiven much.

We, on the other hand, tend to be more like Simon the Pharisee. We see the sins of others very easily, but we think that we ourselves are pretty good. We think forgiveness is for people like this woman of the city, but not so much for us. Oh, sure, we need forgiveness for this little thing or that little thing, but it’s really no big deal. We’re so blind to our own sins that we don’t think we even need all that much forgiveness.

God commands us to love Him with our whole heart (Luke 10:27). We think we’ve done it even though we cling to the things of this world and don’t want to lose them or even give them back to God, thus we break the First Commandment. We think we love God with our whole heart even though we’re more likely to misuse His name as an exclamation than call upon it in prayer, thus we break the Second Commandment. We think we love God with our whole heart but anything that comes up on Sunday morning is guaranteed to be more important than the Divine Service, and every family activity is more important that reading God’s Word together, thus we break the Third Commandment. No, we do not love God with our whole heart.

God commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves (Luke 10:27). We think we’ve done it if we haven’t physically murdered, committed adultery, or stolen. Yet we despise our authorities and speak evil of them, breaking the Fourth Commandment. We get angry at our neighbour who does evil against us and we don’t help our neighbour in need, breaking the Fifth Commandment. We do not love and honour our spouses as God commands or hold marriage to be God’s gift to us, breaking the Sixth Commandment. We do not give to everyone who begs of us, and we demand our goods to be returned to us if someone has taken them away, breaking the Seventh Commandment (Cf. Luke 6:30). We gossip about the sins of others and hurt their reputations instead of putting the best construction on everything, breaking the Eight Commandment. We are not content with what God has given us, but we want what our neighbour has, whether it’s his house or his wife, breaking the Ninth and Tenth Commandments. No, we do not love God with our whole heart, nor do we love our neighbours as ourselves.

To top it all off, even if we did all these things perfectly, Jesus says “When you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:10) Even if we loved God with all our heart and our neighbours as ourselves, we still wouldn’t be doing anything great or grand, but only what we are supposed to do and have been commanded to do, and we would still be unworthy. If we are unworthy when we obey, how much more unworthy are we when we disobey?

Our sins are really the same as those of this sinful woman of the city. Maybe we hide them better so that the whole city doesn’t know them, but our sins are just as filthy in God’s eyes and require the same forgiveness that Jesus gives.

Just like this woman of the city, our sins are already forgiven. Jesus said that she was showing this love towards Him because she has already been forgiven so much. Even so, Jesus once again told her, “Your sins are forgiven,” and “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Jesus once again absolved her of her sin.

She came to Jesus because she was forgiven. She washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair because she was forgiven. She poured expensive ointment on Jesus’ feet and kissed them despite the thoughts of those in the house because her sin was forgiven. Yet Jesus once again absolved her of her sin.

So also we continuously need our sins forgiven. Even though our sins are already forgiven, we continuously need to hear God’s absolution. Even though your sins are already forgiven, if you need to hear it personally, confess your sins to your pastor and in the stead and by the command of Christ, he will give you Christ’s absolution. Even though your sins are already forgiven, continuously come to the Lord’s Altar and receive the true body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of all your sins and the strengthening of your faith.

There is no sin for which Jesus did not die. Regardless of what some self-righteous Pharisee thinks; regardless of what the town thinks; regardless of what onlookers think, Jesus died for your sins and they are forgiven through absolution and through receiving Jesus’ true body and blood. That is where you get the benefits of Jesus death on the cross in your place. That is where you receive forgiveness of sins whether or not society agrees that what you’ve done is horrible, and whether or not the whole town knows what you’ve done.

He who is forgiven much, loves much. The more we recognize our sin, the more we realize how much we have been forgiven, and the more our hearts are filled with love for Jesus and the salvation He has won for us. The more we realize that we are forgiven, the more we want to receive that forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper, and the more we want to hear, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Amen.

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

Father, Forgive Them

Sermon for Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion based on Luke 23:1-56

Dear sinners for whom Jesus died: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The Roman soldiers did not know that they were crucifying the Son of God. As they pounded the nails through the flesh of Jesus and mocked Him, they did not know who He was or understand what it was that they were doing. Jesus prayed to the Father that He would forgive them.

The chief priests, scribes, and leaders of the temple did not know what they were doing. When they gathered a band of soldiers to arrest Jesus, they did not believe that He was God. When they dragged Him to Pilate with false accusations against Him and when they urgently demanded with loud cries that He be crucified, they did not understand what it was that they were doing. Jesus prayed to the Father that He would forgive them.

Pontius Pilate did not know what he was doing. He found no guilt in Jesus. None of the accusations was proven and the witnesses conflicted each other with their false testimony. When Pilate allowed himself to be pressured into doing what he knew was wrong and unjust, he did not know what he was doing. He did not know who it was that he sentenced to death. Jesus prayed to the Father that He would forgive him.

The disciples of Jesus did not understand what they were doing either. Even during Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, John writes that the disciples did not understand what was happening. That’s why the disciples slept instead of praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. That’s why Peter started swinging with his sword during Jesus’ arrest. That’s why all the disciples fled and abandoned Jesus. That’s why Peter denied even knowing Jesus three times. The disciples did not know what they were doing. Jesus prayed to the Father that He would forgive them.

Do you know what you are doing? Do you understand what you are doing with your love for the vain things of this world? Do you know what you are doing when you are lured by the enticements of the world? Do you know what you are doing when you allow your mind to be fascinated by the lusts and sharp temptations of the world? Do you know what you are doing when you fall yet again into your favourite sin and think it’s not a big deal?

Sometimes we think we know what we’re doing. We think we know how good we are and how insignificant our sins are. But in reality, we are so busy accusing others and excusing ourselves that we don’t know. We can easily see the sins of others against us and are quick to accuse them and even use their sins against us as an excuse to justify what we do. We do not know what we do.

Psalm 19 confesses, “Who can discern his errors?” and prays, “Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” (v. 12) Scripture confirms that we do not know what we do.

We have to take our place along with the Roman soldiers, the chief priests, Pilate, and the disciples. We do not know what we do. We barely even consider our sins to be all that bad even though Jesus died because of our sins. We are quick to fall into one sin or another because we do not know what we do.

As we sing in the hymn:

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered Was all for sinners gain;

Mine, mine was the transgression, But thine the deadly pain.

Lo, here I fall, my Saviour! ‘Tis I deserve Thy place;

Look on me with Thy favour, And grant to me Thy grace. (LSB 450 st. 3)

Our sins are the reason Jesus died – the sins we know and the sins we do not know. We do not know what we do, yet Jesus prays for us, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus prayed this prayer right at the moment when He was paying the price of our sins; right at the moment when He made it possible for God the Father to forgive us our sins.

Sins do not just disappear. Sins cannot just be swept under some carpet somewhere. The price of our sins had to be paid. Jesus’ death makes it possible for God to forgive us because He paid the price of our sins. Jesus took our punishment. He took the full wrath of God for all the sins of the whole world. Jesus was charged with every point of God’s Law that we have failed to keep and was found guilty. He redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). He was forsaken by God the Father so that we will not be forsaken by Him.

One of the criminals crucified with Jesus understood this. He confessed that he was receiving a just punishment; the due reward of his deeds. He recognized that he did not know what he had done and was now judged on earth and the judgment of heaven was imminent. What could he do to undo the evil he had done? How could he repay those from whom he had stolen? How could he unhurt those he had hurt? There was nothing he could do. His life of crime resulted in the Roman authorities executing him on a cross as an example to others. His life of sin deserved an eternal judgment from God. There was nothing he could do to turn his life around. There was nothing he could do to save himself.

Yet Jesus said to this criminal, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” The Holy Spirit included this conversation in Scripture for a reason. It teaches us that we are not saved by anything we do. We are not saved because we do more good than bad in this life. We are not saved because we manage to undo the bad things we have done. We are saved even though we do not know what we do. Jesus’ conversation with this criminal also teaches us that there is nothing left to be done. Jesus’ death completes the payment for our sins.

There’s no such place as purgatory where we have to go to suffer for the temporal punishment of our sins. If there was such a place, Jesus would not have told the criminal that he would be with Jesus in Paradise today. If there was such a place as purgatory, this criminal would have had millions of years to spend there. He spent his life doing evil. If his family spent all they had to light candles for his soul and buying indulgences and going on pilgrimages even to this day, they would not even have put a dent in his time in purgatory. Yet Jesus told him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

On the day of your death, you can rest assured that this promise of Jesus is also for you. Not because of what you’ve done or left undone. Not because you have done more good than bad. Not because you know what you do, but because you know what Jesus did for you. You know that He paid the price of your sins. You know that His death is your death and His life is your life. Baptized into Christ you have the promise that just as He rose from the dead, so you too will rise from the dead. On the day of your death, you have the promise from Jesus, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

We do not know what we do. We do not understand the enormous price of our sins. But we do know that Jesus paid the enormous price of our sins. We do know that Jesus has taken all our guilt away. We do know that Jesus gives us His body and blood to eat and to drink so that we can be certain that the promise of the forgiveness of sins is for us. We can be certain that on the day we die, we have Jesus promise: today, you will be with me in Paradise. Amen.

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