Welcome

Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Word In Glory - New Years Eve - December 31, 2013 - Text: John 1:1-18

Our theme for this year has been The Word. Our text is John 1:1-18. Last week as we celebrated Christmas Day and the birth of our Savior, we continued our theme as we talked about the word fulfilled, that is the Word accomplishing all that was spoken and written about Him including and especially the Word being born in flesh. This evening we take up the topic of the word in glory. As we have made note all along, the Word is Jesus who was at creation with the Father and the Holy Spirit, who was promised through the oral prophecies, and later through the written prophecies. Jesus is the tangible word in His Holy Supper. He is the Word incarnate, in flesh in the person of the baby. He is the Word fulfilled in His life, death and resurrection. And He is the Word in glory, the Lamb of God enthroned in heaven. Again, this evening we take up the topic of the word in glory.
 
As we have reiterated time and again, the way we remember is to teach and reteach, to hear the message and hear it again, thus we begin by hearing again that Jesus is the Spoken and Written Word. We have already identified Jesus as the one spoken and written about in Genesis. He is the One about who God promised to send to reconcile, to redeem, to pay the price, trading His life for the life of all, to bring all people back into a right relationship with God Himself, a relationship broken by disobedience and sin. Jesus is the One who would have His heel bruised, that is He will die on the cross, but in so having His heel bruised, He would bruise Satan’s head, He would completed defeat and destroy Satan.
 
In the beginning God created, soon afterward man sinned and immediately God made a promise. We heard the promise and it is not that we actually heard it with our own ears as we would hear anyone today speak, but we heard the promise of a Messiah through our ears of faith. Just as we hear our Lord continue to speak to us today yet even more so through the written Word, through Holy Scripture, so we have indeed heard our Lord’s promises through our ears of faith.
 
Not only have we heard our Lord’s promises, but because He gave His Word to be written by many and various prophets of old, so today we have also read the promises. As we read through God’s Word we read of the many times the Lord reiterated His promise to send a Savior to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob, to Moses, to King David and so on down through the ages of the Old Testament. We heard the Lord speak His word to Zechariah of the one who would prepare the way and His word to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah and to Joseph that it was okay for him to take Mary as his wife.
 
We have heard, we have read and we have seen the promise. Indeed, with eyes of faith we have seen Jesus. As Job reminds us, “25For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another’ (Job 19:25-27). As Job was confident that he would see his Redeemer, but of course he was speaking about being in heaven, yet we have seen our Redeemer through His Word and we are confident we too will see Him in glory.
 
Finally we have tasted the promise. When we come to the Lord’s Table, we come to eat and drink the body and blood of our Lord. Just as the children of Israel would eat the sacrifices they would bring to the temple, thus participating in the sacrifice, so too, we come the Lord’s Table where we dine on our Lord, our Messiah who was sacrificed on the cross for us. We eat His body, we drink His blood, thus we participate in the sacrifice. His life becomes ours. His suffering and death becomes ours. His resurrection becomes ours.
 
Jesus was God and is God in the beginning at creation. He was and is God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. At no time is Jesus not God, and at no time is He separate from the Father and the Spirit. Now certainly we may not have a complete understanding of this relationship of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet we do have what He tells us.
 
Jesus is God, with the Father and the Holy Spirit and yet, for our sakes, because of His great love for us, His creatures, He gave up the glory that was His in heaven. As true God He was enjoying all glory, but for our sakes He gave up His glory and came down from heaven.
 
Jesus, true God, took on human flesh and blood, for us. He became one of and one with His creation. He came as one of His creatures in order to do for us what we could not do, yet what we were commanded to do, live perfectly. Jesus lived perfectly for us in our place because we can not. He then, of His own free will, and willingly, took our sins upon Himself and suffered the price for our sins.
 
Jesus died. Yes, our God died. Just as you and I will one day die, so Jesus and so our God in Jesus, died. And yet, death and the grave had no power over Him. He rose from the dead. He rose and He rose for us. His resurrection shows us that His promises are true and that we too will rise again, death and the grave have no power over us.
 
After His resurrection and showing Himself to be alive for forty days, Jesus ascended back into heaven, the place from which He descended. He ascending and there He is at this time in heaven, which does not negate the fact that as true God He is also always with us, as we say He is everywhere present, omnipresent.
 
At this time Jesus is in heaven watching over us, ruling over us, interceding for us. He is watching over our lives and caring for us. He is ruling over us and we find great joy and comfort especially in the fact that He is interceding, He is praying for us, because as we all know we can use all the prayers we can get.
 
Jesus is waiting until the last day when the Lord will send Him, when He will return to gather us and all the saints who have gone on before us. He will gather all people and He will judge the living and the dead. Those who have faith will be judged to eternal life in heaven. Those who have rejected Him will be judge to eternal judgement and hell.
 
We will see Jesus. We will see Him in all His glory. We will see Him with our own eyes, we will see Him and not another. Our hearts yearn.
 
Until our Lord returns, we wait and we spend our waiting time getting ourselves and others ready and being ready. We know we are ready as we live our lives ever expecting and anticipating His return. Which means that we keep our eyes focused not on this world and the temporariness, the fast and fading of this world, but we keep our eyes focused on the real world, the world to come, the everlasting eternal world of heaven.
 
We live our lives ever expecting and anticipating our going to Him. Our hearts yearn, not of this world and the things of this world, but our hearts yearn of being in heaven with Him. As many of my shut-ins often lament, our yearning is the same, “Why doesn’t Jesus just take me?” And as Paul so well said it, and I am paraphrasing, we would rather be in heaven which is far better, but while He has business for us here on this earth, we will work at the business He has for us, yet eagerly anticipating our going to be with Him in heaven.
 
When our last hour arrives either He will come to take us or we will go to Him, depending on if we are alive when He returns or if we pass on and go to Him. Either way, whether He comes to us or we go to Him, we will be judged and by His grace, which He has given to us, through faith, which He has given to us, we will be judge to eternal life in heaven. He will robe us with His robes of righteousness. He will invite us to be a part of His kingdom forever.
 
As we end this calendar year and are on the verge of a new calendar year, we are reminded once again that every year, yes even each and every day we get one day closer to our Lord’s return. We are reminded that it is imperative to watch and be ready. And we are reminded that God continues to get us ready through His means of grace. Thus we rejoice and look forward to seeing Him in all His glory and we say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

God’s Plan Is Not Coincidence - December 29, 2013 - First Sunday after Christmas - Text: Galatians 4:4-7

It was a cold night. You were on your way home from a friends house. It was late and the road seemed deserted. You had not seen a house or another car for miles. All of a sudden your tire blows, you swerve and find yourself in the ditch. You are not hurt, just a little shaken. You get out to survey the situation. Your mind is racing a hundred miles an hour as you see no way to move your car, and no house within miles. Behind you a car pulls up and stops. It is your neighbors who are on their way home. How relieved you are as you explain to them what happened. You all get in the neighbors car and marvel at the coincidence of the events that took place. I am here to tell you that it was not a coincidence. As a matter of fact, I do not believe in coincidence. God’s ways are not our ways. He works in our lives according to His plan and purposes. As I say that, however, let me remind you that God always has the best in mind for us in our lives. Pain, suffering, struggles, evil happen because we live in a sin filled world. Pain, suffering, struggles, evil happen because of sin. For God’s part, He always works to bring out the best in any and all situations. And the best may not always be what we perceive to be the best. Certainly we might not think of physical death to a very ill person as being the best, but in Godly terms, what is better than the perfect healing of eternal life in heaven? So, this story is not meant to suggest that God intends evil or “bad” things to happen, rather it  illustrates how God works good in our lives and so in our text this morning Paul explains the seeming coincidences of our salvation.
 
From the events at the end of the book of Malachi to the beginning of the events of the gospel of Matthew was a period of over 400 years. From the events of Genesis chapter three to Matthew was a period of over 4000 years. After Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden in Genesis chapter three, God immediately promised to send a Savior. God’s promise was that the Savior would come and would crush Satan, while in turn being crushed, that is in completely defeating Satan, God would suffer death Himself. God did not attach a time to His promise. And as we know, God’s time is not our time. God’s plan was that at the right time, the time He had set, this Savior would be born. Paul’s reference is that Christ’s birth, which we celebrated Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, was the right time, thus Christ Jesus was born. This was not a coincidence but was a part of God’s plan.
 
Joseph had to go to Bethlehem for the census of Caesar Augustus because he was a descendant of David, King David. Joseph was also a descendant of the line of promise of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Mary was pregnant at the time of the news of the census. You remember also that Mary’s relative Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist the fore runner, the way preparer of Jesus, was also pregnant at this time. That all these things were taking place and that Jesus was born at this time was not a coincidence, but was a part of God’s divine plan.
 
One other aspect of this fullness of time is that as Paul says in Romans [5:6-8] “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinner, Christ died for us.” God did not wait until we could work out our own salvation. He did not wait for us to become good people. It was not a coincidence that He came while we were sinners, as a matter of fact this is the reason He came. He came in the fullness of time, while we were sinners, because we are sinners, Because we cannot save ourselves.
 
Paul goes on to add that Christ was born of a woman. Something so obvious seems trivial, but Paul does not write to be trivial. Our Savior is our Savior because He was born of a woman. Only because He was a human being like us could He save us. Only because He was a human being could He be our substitute, trading His perfect life for our imperfect, sin filled lives. And, so that we do not go away mislead I must remind you that Jesus was also truly God, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit as we confess in the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed. He had to be truly God in order to be born in perfection, in order to fulfill the command of God to be perfect and in order to raise Himself from the dead. Before the time had fully come, at which time Christ became a man, He was true God with the Father and the Spirit in heaven enjoying all the glory that was His as God. When the time had fully come, when all of human history was at just the right point, when the nine months of gestation was completed, Jesus took upon Himself to be one of us, a human being. This was not a coincidence, but was part of God’s plan.
 
As a human being He was born under the Law, the civil law, the moral law and the ceremonial law. We remember that eight days after His birth His mother and father took Him to be circumcised and we remember that at the age of 40 days Mary and Joseph took Him to the Temple to offer the sacrifice to redeem the first born as prescribed by the Law. We remember that at the temple Mary and Joseph met Simeon and Anna. We remember that at the age of twelve Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover. He followed all the Jewish Laws, perfectly. This was not a coincidence, but was a part of God’s plan. What the whole nation of Israel could not do; what we cannot do; Jesus did perfectly, for us, in our place. All that the ceremonial laws command, all that the ceremonial laws were intended to point to, Jesus fulfilled, completing and abolishing all the ceremonial laws so that they are no longer necessary. All this He did for us in our place because of His great love for us.
 
He did all of this to redeem us. Redeem, that is a big word. When I hear the word redeem I usually think of trading stamps. You might remember, the S & H Green stamps. You collect the stamps, paste them in a book and then take them to the “redemption” center where you redeemed them or “traded” them for some merchandise. Redeem is a good word to use for Christ’s work. However, Christ did not collect a bunch of trading stamps with which to redeem us. We have been born into this world in sin. Each of us is a sinner. We are conceived in sin and lost and condemned from birth. By ourselves we are lost. There is no way we can save ourselves. By God’s grace, His undeserved love for us, He sent His one and only Son born in the flesh for us. As God, Christ was born perfect. As man, Christ was born as one of us in order to save us. Christ lived the perfect life, under the Law. He suffered, physically, mentally, spiritually and eternally and He died, suffering hell for us. By His suffering He bought us back, redeemed us from sin, Satan, death, and hell. He redeemed us, He traded, His life for ours, His death for ours, His resurrection for our. Purely by His grace for us, not as a coincidence, but as a part of His plan.
 
Because we are redeemed, God’s children, with the Holy Spirit we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Paul is not making reference to some charismatic utterance with which we will respond. What he is saying is that because God has redeemed us, made us His sons and daughters, He has filled us with His Spirit through which we can call upon Him and worship Him. Our worship of God is not something we do of our selves and is not a coincidence, but is from God and is a part of His plan.
 
“So you are no longer a slave, but a son” (v. 7). A slave is subject to a master. In our case we were slaves to sin, ruled by our own sinful desires. Now, because we have been redeemed, we are no longer slaves, but God’s children. We are ruled by God, living our lives to please Him. It is not a coincidence that we live our lives for Him, this is a part of His plan.
 
In all His doings God made us His sons and daughters and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. He did it all. There is nothing left for us to do. As His sons and daughters, His children, we are His heirs. We are the one’s who are given and who receive the inheritance of eternal life in heaven. So that at the right time, when our time has fully come, He will take us to be with Himself in heaven for eternity. This is not a coincidence, but this is a part of His plan.
 
The last two words of verse seven are very important. The last two words are “through God.” It is only through God and God in Christ that we are heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Paul expresses this same idea in Romans [8:15-17], he says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Through Christ we are heirs. Through Christ we share in His suffering, death, and resurrection. Through Christ we are redeemed, bought back and made heirs. Through Christ we share in His glory in heaven not by coincidence but by God plan.
 
That you are here today, that you are a redeemed child of God is not a coincidence. As Paul says in First Timothy, “This is good, and pleases god our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth [1 Tim. 2:3-4].” God has chosen you. He has sent His one and only Son to die for you and to rise for you. It did not just happen but is a part of God’s plan. Thanks be to the Lord for He is good for His mercy endures forever. To Him alone be the glory, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Word Fulfilled - Christmas Day - December 25, 2013 - Text: John 1:1-18

Our theme for this year is The Word. Our text is John 1:1-18. Last night as we celebrated Christmas Eve and the birth of our Savior, we continued our theme as we talked about the word incarnate, that is the Word in flesh. Today we take up the topic of the word fulfilled and finally, next week, on New Year’s Eve, the word in glory. As we made note last week and last night, of course, the Word is Jesus who was at creation with the Father and the Holy Spirit, who was promised through the oral prophecies, and later through the written prophecies. Jesus is the tangible word in His Holy Supper. He is the Word incarnate, in flesh in the person of the baby. He is the Word fulfilled in His life, death and resurrection. And He is the Word in glory, the Lamb of God enthroned in heaven. Again, this evening we take up the topic of the word fulfilled.
 
As we have reiterated time and again, the way we remember is to teach and reteach, to hear the message and hear it again, thus we begin by hearing again that Jesus is the Spoken and Written Word. We have already identified Jesus as the one spoken and written about in Genesis. He is the One about who God promised to send to reconcile, to redeem, to pay the price, trading His life for the life of all, to bring all people back into a right relationship with God Himself, a relationship broken by disobedience and sin. Jesus is the One who would have His heel bruised, that is He will die on the cross, but in so having His heel bruised, He would bruise Satan’s head, He would completed defeat and destroy Satan.
 
As John tells us in our text, in the beginning God created all things out of nothing. Of course we normally designate God the Father as the Creator and as the Preserver of all that He created. And yet, John reminds us, as we can read in Genesis as well. In Genesis we read the word “God” in the plural reminding us that our God is a plural God, yet a God who has complete unity and Oneness in His plurality, thus, at the creation of the world is God the Father and also with Him are God the Son and God Holy Spirit, three persons in one divine Godhead as we describe Him in our human language.
 
God created a perfect world. God created a perfect man and a perfect woman. God created a perfect Garden so that in the beginning everything was perfect. God gave Adam and Eve the ability to respond in faith by obeying Him, by not eating of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan, a fallen angel, kicked out of heaven, one hating God and all that is good, took the form of a serpent, tempted Eve and Adam so that they disobeyed God and ate of the fruit. Thus, sin entered and as a result, God cursed the world, yet, because of His love for us, God promised to send a Savior. This first promise was a spoken or an oral promise.
 
Later in history, God chosen Moses and in foreshadowing His salvation of the world, Moses lead the children of Israel out of their bondage of slavery in Egypt. Later, God moved Moses and had him write the spoken promises down so that now the promise was a written Word of promise. Throughout the Old Testament prophets came and went and their words of prophecy and promise concerning the Messiah, the Savior of the world were written down for all the world to read.
 
After many years, even some five hundred years of silence and having no word from the Lord, God appeared to Zechariah and announced the birth of a son, John the Baptist. The Lord sent an angel to announce to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah and also to Joseph that he would be the adopted earthly father of the Messiah. John the Baptist was born and came to announce the birth of the Messiah.
 
As the Gospel writer John tells us, John was not the Messiah, but pointed to the Messiah. In his words John writes, “6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light” (v. 6-8).
 
John the Baptist came to prepare the world for the Messiah. As for this Messiah He is the one who is truly God and truly human. Jesus is God and yet because of His great love for us, His creation, He gave up the glory of being God in heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood.
 
Jesus is the light of the world, born with Jewish roots, yet not recognized, but denied by His own Jewish family. The Gospel writer John says it this way, “9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (v. 9-11).
 
And finally John tells us, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14). Jesus is the Word, the spoken word and the written Word born in flesh fulfilling all of Holy Scripture.
 
This morning we celebrate. We celebrate God’s promises and especially His promises fulfilled in Jesus’ birth. The promises of the Old Testament pointed to this and to the subsequent events of Jesus’ life.
 
About this One of whom we celebrate His birth, this One is Jesus whose name means the Lord Saves. This Jesus is true God, along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, having been conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. This One Jesus is also truly human, true man, born of the human woman, the Virgin Mary. This One Jesus, came to fulfill all the Law and the Prophets. He came to fulfill all the promises concerning the coming Messiah. He came both in passive and in active obedience. He actively obeyed all of God’s laws perfectly and He actively took all our sins upon Himself. He passively allowed Himself to suffer the punishment for our sins and for the sins of all people of all places of all times.
 
Jesus is true God and true man. He had to be truly God in order to be born in perfection, in order to obey God’s commands to be perfect. And He had to be truly human in order to be our substitute, in order to make an equal trade of lives, His perfect life for our sin filled lives. He is the One who came to pay the price for our sin.
 
Jesus birth reminds us that the price for sin is death. Jesus was born to die. Yet, as we know the whole story, Jesus did not stay dead, but He rose from the dead. His resurrection defeated sin, death and the devil.
 
So now, by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, we have been adopted as His children and as children of Abraham. The Gospel writer John reminds us that the children of Abraham, the true Israel are not those who are descendants by birth, by DNA, by genetics, but those of faith as he says, “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (v. 12-13). We are the new Israel, by God’s grace through faith in Jesus which He gives to us and works in us.
 
This morning we are reminded once again and assured that our salvation is dependent on Jesus, just Jesus. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot look inside ourselves for help. We must always look outside ourselves and when we look outside ourselves we see Jesus.
 
Today we celebrate faith, forgiveness and life. We celebrate that our God loves us so much. That our God created us to love us. That He gave His promise and fulfilled that promise to take care of our sin for us, because of His great love for us. That Jesus is our salvation and that there is no other name on earth, given among men whereby we must be saved. We celebrate our salvation and we are moved to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Word Incarnate - Christmas Eve - December 24, 2013 - Text: John 1:1-18

Our theme for this year is The Word. Our text is John 1:1-18. Last week we talked about the tangible word. This evening, as we celebrate Christmas Eve and the birth of our Savior, we continue our theme as we talk about the word incarnate, that is the Word in flesh. Tomorrow we will take up the topic of the word fulfilled and finally on New Year’s Eve, the word in glory. As we made note last week, of course, the Word is Jesus who was at creation with the Father and the Holy Spirit, who was promised through the oral prophecies, and later through the written prophecies. Jesus is the tangible word in His Holy Supper. He is the Word incarnate, in flesh in the person of the baby. He is the Word fulfilled in His life, death and resurrection. And He is the Word in glory, the Lamb of God enthroned in heaven. Again, this evening we take up the topic of the word incarnate.
 
As we said last week, the way we remember is to teach and reteach, to hear the message and hear it again, thus we begin by hearing again that Jesus is the Spoken and Written Word. We have already identified Jesus as the one spoken and written about in Genesis. He is the One about who God promised to send to reconcile, to redeem, to pay the price, trading His life for the life of all, to bring all people back into a right relationship with God Himself, a relationship broken by disobedience and sin. Jesus is the One who would have His heel bruised, that is He will die on the cross, but in so having His heel bruised, He would bruise Satan’s head, He would completed defeat and destroy Satan.
 
Jesus is the Word spoken by God and He is the Word God moved Moses to write speaking of the promise of a Messiah. God gave to Moses to write the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, those words which give us the history of the world, God’s promise of a Messiah, the civil and moral law as well as the ceremonial laws which all pointed to the one Lamb of God that would be slain, that would be sacrificed, crucified on the cross to pay the price for sin.
 
God sent the angels to announce to the shepherds that the birth of the Messiah had taken place. The angels made a spoken announcement that the One about whom all of Holy Scripture speaks was born in Bethlehem.
 
Jesus is the spoken word, the written word, the tangible word and now we begin to celebrate that He is the Word incarnate, that is the Word made flesh. As John tells us, “1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God” (v. 1,2). Jesus was there at the creation of the world, with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, the trinity in unity and the unity in the trinity.
 
Jesus, the Word, is true God with the Father and the Holy Spirit, was in heaven enjoying all that it means to be true God in heaven, and yet He gave up the glory that was His in heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood. He was conceived in the human woman, the virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit so that what was conceived in her was truly human and truly divine as we confess in the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed.
 
Thus, the Word, spoken and written, the One promised from the fall into sin, became in carinate, in carnal, in flesh in the person of Jesus. As John tells us in his version of the nativity story, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (v. 14).
 
John fills us in on the details of the Messiah as he says, “9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15( John bore witness about him, and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.”’) 16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (v. 9-18).
 
Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness. Jesus is the light of truth, of perfection shining in the darkness of an imperfect world infected with sin and death. Jesus is the light which came into the world to expose the darkness of sin. And yet, even as is the case in our world today when those living in sin would rather continue living sin, so even in Jesus day, those exposed as living in sin rejected the One who came to save them, to bring them forgiveness and life.
 
Jesus, the light was born through the line of those promised, the Jewish nation, the children of Israel, and yet His own nation, His own culture, His own people refused and rejected Him, at least many of His own nation did, especially the ruling counsel of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.
 
Too many of His own people did not recognize Him. His own family, His brothers and sisters, and even at times it seemed His own mother did not recognize Him, at least not as the Messiah. Many rejected Him and yet many also did believe, not simply of His own people, but of the various cultures and nations to whom He came into contact in His life on this earth those He also came to save.
 
As Jesus spoke so well, to those who believe in Him, we are all a part of His family. It is not flesh and blood, it is not DNA, it is not genetics that make us brothers and sisters of Christ, and a part of His family. It is not our being born, nor our own human will that make us a part of His family. It is God who makes us a part of His family. It is God who gives us faith, forgiveness and life. It is God who has given His Son, even His own life, to be born as a human being in order to trade His life for ours.
 
This evening we begin our celebration of the Word, spoken, written, tangible, becoming flesh for the purpose of fulfilling our salvation. We begin our celebration of God taking on human flesh and blood, obeying all of God’s laws perfectly as our substitute, because we cannot. We begin celebrating that Jesus is the Messiah and He showed Himself to be the Messiah by fulfilling all God’s promises and prophecies concerning the Messiah, who He would be and what He would do. We being celebrating the fact that this child is God in flesh who was born for a purpose, to die, to reconcile our account with Himself, to give His life so that we might not die but have eternal life.
 
Yes, in the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word took on human flesh in order to fulfill the spoken and written Word concerning Himself. We rejoice and give thanks that this Word became flesh, became incarnate because of His great love for us. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Promise Beforehand - December 22, 2013 - Fourth Sunday in Advent - Text: Romans 1:1-7

Today is the fourth and last Sunday in Advent. In just three days we will celebrate what we have been preparing and waiting to celebrate, and I hope noone has jumped the gun and already begun celebrating. We will once again, as we do every year, celebrate the fulfillment of all the Old Testament as we celebrate the birth of God in flesh, Jesus, the Savior of the world. The world waited some four thousand years to celebrate. We have waited only twenty-two days so far. Our Old Testament reading for this morning is another of God’s promises pointing to the one who was promised in the Garden of Eden as Isaiah tells us that the virgin shall conceive and bear a son. And our Gospel reading gives us the historical account of Mary, the virgin mother giving birth to a son. Could all of this be a coincidence, I think not, rather this can only be the hand of God working in human time and history to accomplish what was first promised in Eden.
 
Which brings us to our text for this morning and our reading from Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome. Paul begins by introducing himself in verse one, “1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (v. 1). Paul introduces himself as a servant, literally he says he is a slave, and an apostle. Paul considers himself to be an apostle, that is one who is set apart for a purpose. Paul also considers himself a slave of Christ Jesus, as opposed to being the opposite which he tells us later, that we are slaves, either to sin or to Christ.
 
Paul says that he was called by God to be an apostle and he was an apostle. An apostle is one who was set apart by Jesus, one who walked with Jesus, so that there were truly only twelve apostles, yet, Paul was called personally by Jesus on the road to Damascus making him truly the thirteenth apostle.
 
Paul sets out to briefly explain the Gospel picking up at verse two, “2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,  5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (v. 2-6).
 
Paul speaks of the Holy Scriptures and here he means all of Holy Scripture, all of the Bible, the law and the prophets of the Old Testament. Paul was called by Jesus, the one first promised in the Garden of Eden immediately after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and brought God’s punishment and curse into the once perfect world He had created. This Jesus who was promised by God to reconcile His broken creation with Himself is the One who called Paul to be an apostle.
 
Paul explains that the One who would fulfill God’s promise of a Messiah, a Savior, would be from the line of David, King David according to the flesh. Indeed the promised Savior would be truly a human being and a descendant of King David. He would be one like the rest of His creation, except without sin. And this Savior had to be one like the rest of God’s creation so that He might trade His life as a substitute, taking our sin and giving us His forgiveness.
 
Paul continues explaining that this Messiah was also truly God according to the Holy Spirit, that is that the Savior was not conceived in the normal way, but God the Holy Spirit conceived this Savior in Mary’s womb. This Savior is truly God and He had to be truly God in order to be born in perfection, which is the demand of God and the law of God. And He had to be truly God in order to raise Himself from the dead.
 
Finally Paul explains the Gospel, the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is through Jesus’ obedience for the sake of, in the name of and in the stead of all humanity that we have forgiveness of sins. It is this Savior who through His perfect life, perfect suffering, perfect death and perfect resurrection that earned forgiveness and salvation for all people and you and me, that is the promise of Holy Scripture and the Gospel message.
 
Paul begins concluding his introductory words by reminding us of our part in God’s work, our calling. The first part of verse seven, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (v. 7a). Normally when I talk about God’s calling I begin by saying God first calls us to life and He calls us to life at our conception. Soon after calling us to life and very soon after our being born, God calls us to faith. God calls us to faith through the waters of Holy Baptism as water and His name are put on us. And God call us to faith through His Word. God calls us to faith, to believe in Jesus as our Savior.
 
God calls to life, to faith and God calls us to our vocation, that is He calls us to serve Him through our service to others. In essence He calls us to obedience, to live God pleasing lives. Notice as always, God does not call us to anything on our own, notice Paul’s words, to all who are loved by God. It is God who is the prime mover. It is God who loves first. It is God who works in and through us our obedience, our works of service, our serving Him by serving others.
 
Paul says that God calls us to be saints meaning that God calls us to be given faith and forgiveness of sins. Jesus has already won forgiveness for us on the cross. Truly in and of ourselves all we can do is resist, refuse and reject that forgiveness, which we do when we fail to acknowledge and confess our sins. The desire of one given faith is to be given the gifts God gives. The opposite is also true, to refuse the gifts, to absent oneself from where the gifts are given is lack of faith. The same is true in all aspects of the Christian life. Faith shows itself in its desire to be where the gifts of God are given out. Faith shows itself in its response of thanks, its response of first fruits giving. And the opposite is also true, a lack of faith is seen in one’s absenting themselves from the place the gifts of God are given. A lack of faith is seen in one refusing to acknowledge the gifts of God by not responding with one’s first fruits.
 
Paul concludes his introduction with words of grace and peace in the second part of verse seven, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 7b). Grace might be describes as God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. Grace is a free gift from God. Now I know you have heard me say that God does not do math, at least He does not do fractions. God gives the whole lot of His gifts and a whole lot more. But we might think of grace in math terms. Grace is zero, that is that we own nothing. Zero plus anything is the anything. Zero plus one is one. Zero plus two is two, and so on. The same is true for Grace. Grace plus anything is the anything. Grace plus works is works. Grace plus all you gotta do is all you gotta do.
 
And peace, peace is not as we understand the peace of the world, a few moments, an evening of calm and serenity. True peace, true Godly peace comes from the forgiveness of sins and the removal of guilt. We can only have true peace through the forgiveness of sins, because with forgiveness of sins is life and salvation.
 
What does this mean? Paul begins his letter to the Romans and God’s Word to us today by reminding them and us of God’s promises and the fulfilling of His promises completely in Christ. All of Holy Scripture, all of history points to the one moment of Christ birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. The Old Testament looked forward to this one event and we in the New Testament look back to this one event. God created a perfect world. Man spoiled God’s pefect creation. God promised to restore His fallen world and Jesus came as that restoration. Even today, as we continue to live in a fallen, sin filled world, we continue to spoil God’s reconciled world and yet, God continues to come to us to give to us, to bless us beyond what we think or imagine.
 
Because of our fallen nature all we can do in and of ourselves is refuse and reject God and yet He continues to reach out to us, to call us to faith, to give the gifts He has to give. God is the prime mover. Even though we refuse, reject and struggle against God according to our inborn sinful nature, God calls us, strengthens and keeps us in faith.
 
As we approach our Christmas celebration, the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promises, we look forward to celebrating these promises and their fulfillment in just a few days, three days. We do not celebrate yet, but we wait until Christmas day and then we celebrate and we celebrate for twelve days, the twelve days of Christmas.
 
What an awesome God we have. What a loving God we have. What a gift giving God we have. Our God is not a God who is a far off, but a God who is near, who is with us, who is acting for us on our behalf. God gives and we are given to. God gives life at conception to each one of us. God gives faith and forgiveness of sins through the water’s of Holy Baptism. God strengthens and keeps us in faith through His Word. God gives forgiveness through confession and absolution. God gives forgiveness and strength through His Holy Supper. God loves you so much and He has so much He wants to give to you. In two days we will begin our Christmas celebration. We will have the opportunity to be given the gifts God gives at our Christmas Eve service. On Christmas morning we will again have the opportunity provided by God to be given His gifts in our Christmas morning Divine Service. Four days later we will again have the opportunity to be given to by God at our Sunday morning Divine Service and two lays later at our New Year’s Eve service. Indeed in the next few days we will have four opportunities to come and be given to by our God, because He loves us so much. Indeed our desire is to be where the gifts are given so that we might be given the gifts. And indeed then we might well say of our great God, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Tangible Word - Advent Midweek 3 - December 18, 2013 - Text: John 1:1-18

Our theme for this year is The Word. Our text is John 1:1-18. Last week we talked about the written word. This week we continue our theme as we talk about the tangible word. Next week we will take up the topic of the word incarnate, followed by the word fulfilled and on New Year’s Eve, the word in glory. As we made note last week, of course, the Word is Jesus who was at creation with the Father and the Spirit, who was promised through the oral prophecies, and later through the written prophecies. Jesus is the tangible word in His Holy Supper. He is the Word incarnate, in flesh in the person of the baby. He is the Word fulfilled in His life, death and resurrection. And He is the Word in glory, the Lamb of God enthroned in heaven. Again, this evening we take up the topic of the tangible word.
 
As we said last week, the way we remember is to teach and reteach, to hear the message and hear it again, thus we begin by hearing again that Jesus is the Spoken and Written Word. We have already identified Jesus as the one spoken and written about in Genesis. He is the One about who God promised to send to reconcile, to redeem, to pay the price, trading His life for the life of all, to bring all people back into a right relationship with God Himself, a relationship broken by disobedience and sin. Jesus is the One who would have His heel bruised, that is He will die on the cross, but in so having His heel bruised, He would bruise Satan’s head, He would completely defeat and destroy Satan.
 
And we have already identified Jesus as the one spoken and written about in the Old Testament prophecies and promises. The promise of a Savior was reiterated to Noah after the flood and the ark landed. The promise was reiterated and the line of the fulfillment of the promise was made to Abraham. The promise was reiterated to Moses as he was chosen, not only to lead the children of Israel out of bondage of slavery, but also to write down the words and promises of God which He did in the first five books of the Bible.
 
We have already identified Jesus as the one who came to fulfill all the law and the promises perfectly. Not only did Jesus fulfill and obey all of the civil and moral laws perfectly, never being disobedient even once, but He also fulfilled all the ceremonial laws perfectly as well. It was these ceremonial laws which were given to remind the people that the price for sin was death, that blood had to be shed and it was these laws that in fulfilling, Jesus made them obsolete. No longer do we have the ceremonial law which simply pointed to Jesus on the cross, because Jesus has already died on the cross, thus completely fulfilling those laws making them no longer necessary.
 
And, we have already identified Jesus as the one who came to be our substitute. In order to save us, in order to be our substitute, Jesus had to be truly human and He was, being born of the human woman, the virgin Mary, as we confess in the second article of the Apostles’ creed.
 
This evening we want to talk about the fact that today, Jesus is the tangible Word. What does tangible mean? To be tangible means to be something we can handle, or hold. God is Spirit. Jesus is God in flesh. After His life, suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. If Jesus has ascended into heaven, how then can we handle and hold Jesus? How can Jesus be tangible for us today?
 
To understand the tangibleness of Jesus we must first go back to the first Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday. On Maundy Thursday Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples. Jesus celebrated the same festival that the Jews celebrated since the angel of death passed over the blood marked houses in Egypt. Jesus ate the bitter herbs, the matzah, the lamb, and drank of the four cups of wine as prescribed by the Passover celebration. But Jesus did not simply celebrate the Passover with His disciples, rather, from the Passover He gave them and us His Holy Supper.
 
In the Passover, the family slaughtered the lamb, put the blood on the door post and lintel, the up and down motion and the side to side motion making the sign of the cross, a foreshadowing of the cross of Christ. The family then ate the lamb as well as the unleavened bread, standing and in haste, ready to leave Egypt. The houses that were marked with the blood of the lamb were so marked so that the angel of death passed over their houses.
 
Out of this Passover Seder Celebration Jesus gave His disciples and us His Holy Supper, the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s Supper, the slaughtered Lamb of God is Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus is the Lamb of God who shed His blood on the cross. He won forgiveness of sins for us, paying the price for sin on the cross. Now at His Holy Table He gives us His body to eat and blood to drink for forgiveness of sins so that the angel of eternal spiritual death will pass over us.
 
Jesus is the Word. He is the Spoken Word as we hear about Jesus, the promises and prophecies. He is the Written Word as we read about Jesus, the promises and prophecies. There truly is no denying that the one spoken about in the Old Testament is none other than the One spoken about in the New Testament, Jesus Himself, the very Word of God
 
Jesus is the spoken Word, the Written Word and now we understand, we see, we know that Jesus gives us Himself to handle, to hold, to eat and drink, not symbolically, but in a real presence, in, with and under the very ordinary means of the bread and wine way, connected to the very Word of God so that through our eating and drinking we participate in His life, death and resurrection. Just as the Children of Israel participated in the sacrifice by eating the sacrifice, so we participate in Jesus life, death and resurrection by eating Jesus. We participate in the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. We participate in Jesus so that His life becomes our life. His suffering and death become our suffering and death. His resurrection and life become our resurrection and life.
 
We get it right, we get our theology right, we get God’s Word right, spoken, written and tangible, when we get Jesus right. It is God in flesh, God in Jesus who gives us Himself to eat and to drink. And even more than our receiving these gifts from God is the fact that we are given to. Receiving implies an act on our part, a none rejecting, which is our only option. So, take yourself out of the proposition, take yourself out of the equation. God gives and we are given to.
 
This recognizing, acknowledging and celebrating of the tangible Word this evening is what our whole Advent season of looking to and preparing ourselves for is all about. This evening we recognize that the celebration for which we are preparing is what the people throughout Old Testament times were awaiting. This evening we recognize that our celebration is to be a celebration of God taking on human flesh, and even more a celebration of our God giving Himself to us to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins, which is the greatest need we have and the greatest gift our Lord gives. Jesus is the Word, the spoken Word, the Written Word, the tangible Word in flesh. God gives us Himself in the person of Jesus. Jesus gives Himself to eat and drink, to handle and hold, to partake for the forgiveness of sins. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Remain Steadfast - December 15, 2013 - Third Sunday in Advent - Text: James 5:7-10

In the Old Testament Lesson for today we are encouraged by Isaiah’s prophecy to be strong and not be afraid. We are encouraged with the promise that the Lord, the promised Savior will come and we are encouraged that the Lord will bring us, His faithful people, into His eternal kingdom. In the Gospel Lesson we encouraged in our faith that Jesus is the one promised, that He is the Savior. We are encouraged to believe this, that Jesus is the Savior, even in the midst of John the Baptist’s doubt. We are encouraged to believe because Jesus shows Himself to be God in flesh, through the signs, wonders and miracles He has performed. As we come to this third Sunday in Advent we continue to prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Jesus’ first coming into the world. We do not celebrate yet. We still have some time to prepare and that is how we spend our time this morning, continuing to prepare ourselves.
 
In our text for this morning, the epistle writer, James urges us to be patient. Can you imagine how difficult this is? Think about when you were a child, as Christmas approached. It seemed as if it took forever to get here. As we grow older it seems as if the time passes too quickly and one Christmas rolls into the next. And yet, James urges us to be patient. One thing I will tell you concerning patients, that is I would encourage you never to pray for patients. Maybe you have done that before. What happens when we pray for patients. When we pray for patients, the Lord gives us tribulation so that we will learn patience.
 
James urges us to be patient. He urges us to be patient as the farmer, in our wait for the Lord. James says, “7Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains”(v. 7). I remember as a child, planting a seed and then waiting and waiting until finally I could wait no longer so I dug it up to see if anything was happening. Yes, the seed was growing and in my impatience, I dug it up and killed it. It is difficult at times, being patient with the Lord. God’s time is not always our time. We rush and rush and get no where and we wonder where is God in all our rushing. Why does not God work according to our time and our schedule? James urges us to be patient. Easier said than done.
 
James even urges us to work on our faith as we patiently await. He says, “8You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (v. 8). Of course we understand that James is not speaking specifically about waiting for our Christmas celebration. He is actually talking about waiting patiently for Jesus’ return, His second coming. Remember, I told you before that the readings for the end of the church year and the beginning of the church year, the readings for Advent, often have a duel purpose and here we see this duel purpose. We are to be patient and to be ready for the Lord’s second coming even as we are to be patient this time of year as we await our celebration of His first coming.
 
James urges us to be patient and more, he also urges us to remain steadfast in our faith. While we await the coming of our Lord James urges us to not grumble against one another, he says, “9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door” (v. 9). To wait patiently is difficult. Too often, while we attempt to wait patiently, we tend to get on one another’s nerves. Grumbling is easy. Remember, we are conceived and born in sin, so sinning comes easy to us, it is after all our nature. We live in a world where temptation and sin abound and so it is difficult to resist temptation and to not sin. As we are in the midst of the season of Advent and as our world and culture are in the midst of what is called the holiday season, people are busy running here and there, buying this and that, having this party and that get together, often so busy that it seems there is little time to stop and rest and contemplate what this season is really all about. And so our nerves get frazzled, our tempers shorten, our patients runs thin. Certainly this is the time of the year when it is difficult to “be still” and know that Jesus is the Lord.
 
Yet, James continues to urge us to be patient and to remain steadfast in faith. He uses the prophets as an example of suffering for their faith, as ones looking forward to, pointing to, but never enjoying the fulfillment of their prophecies, he says, “10As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (v.10-11). I believe the prophets had a very difficult job. Here they were blessed to be able to speak about the coming events of the Lord, yet they were never able to witness those things about which they spoke. James urges us to remain steadfast in faith and he gives us the example of Job. The Lord allowed for Job’s faith to be tested, beyond what you and I could possibly imagine and yet, he remained faithful.
 
Perhaps the key to Job’s steadfastness and the key to our own steadfastness might have been his eternal perspective of life. When difficult times come it is important to remember that they will last only for a while and as Paul says in his writings, the present sufferings are nothing compared to the glory which will be ours in heaven. Our life on this earth is but a twinkle of the eye compared to our forever life in eternity. One key to remaining steadfast in our faith, then is, to keep our focus where it needs to be, on our eternal well being, not on the difficulties of this present, short life.
 
James urges us to remain steadfast in faith. Certainly you have heard me time and again and you will continue to hear me time and again tell you that the way we keep the faith, the way we remain steadfast in faith is through making regular and diligent use of the means of grace. Unfortunately recent surveys among Christians has shown that this is another thing we are failing to do. Ever wonder why the world is in the mess it is in? Ever wonder why we struggle with temptation and sin? Making regular and diligent use of the means of grace is not simply a nice catch phrase, but it is what needs to be done and can only be done as the Holy Spirit has His way with us, moving us to be in the Word, to read and to hear His Word, to remember our Baptism, to confess our sins and hear His most beautiful words of absolution, and to partake of the Lord’s body and blood through His Holy Supper. These are the external means through which our Lord keeps us steadfast in our faith.
 
As James urges us, so he reminds us that the Lord is compassionate and merciful. We know that the Lord is compassionate and merciful because we know that our purpose in life is that God has created us in order to give all things to us. God has not created us in order to get anything from us, as if there would be anything that we could give to Him. God has created us in order to love us and to give to us all His good gifts and blessings.
 
Our Lord has shown His compassion to us through such events as the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, and the immediate promise to send a Savior. God has shown His compassion on us through the nation of the children of Israel, a people God chose and blessed, yet a people who continually rebelled against God. Even so, as our Lord has chosen us to be His people, we are a people who continually rebel against God and yet He continually calls us back to faith, forgives us, and showers on us all His good gifts and blessings.
 
Our Lord showed His mercy in giving the life of His Son on the cross. Jesus came, as one of us, one with us, one like us, except without sin. Jesus came to do what the nation of Israel could not do. He came to do what we, what you and I cannot do. He came to live perfectly. He came to fulfill all God’s laws and commands, perfectly and He did. He came to take all our sins, our sins of impatience, our sins of not remaining steadfast in our faith, our sins of omission and commission, our sins of thought, word and deed. He came to suffer the pangs of eternal death for us, in our place.
 
Our Lord shows His mercy in giving us His Word and Sacraments, the means of grace. Our Lord continues to come to us to gives us His good gifts and blessings, whether we want them or not. He sends His Holy Spirit to work in us, to stir in us to make regular and diligent use of these means through which He comes to gives us all His good gifts and blessings.
 
Our Lord will show His mercy even as He comes again. Yes, there will come a day when we will meet the Lord, when we will stand before Him, face to face. That day will come sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect. That day will come either when the Lord actually returns, on the day of judgement or on the day we die and go to Him, but it will come. Our Lord continues to shower us with His grace and mercy until that day.
 
So, what does this mean? James urges us to be patient and to remain steadfast. In and of ourselves we are unable to be patient and to remain steadfast, so, thanks be to God that our Lord works to help us to be patient and to remain steadfast. Our Lord works to get us ready. Our Lord works to get us ready for our celebration of His first coming as we celebrate Christmas and He works to get us ready to celebrate His second coming, either when He actually comes on the day of judgement or when we pass away from this earth in death.
 
Not only does our Lord work to get us ready, He also works to keep us ready. He works through the external means that He has given us, His Word, as we read and hear His Word proclaimed, through Holy Baptism, as we remember that water and His name were put on us and through this means He put His name on us, put faith in our hearts and wrote our names in the book of heaven. He works through confession and absolution and His Holy Supper to give us forgiveness and to strengthen and keep us in faith.
 
Our Lord gets us ready and keeps us ready because He will keep His promise, our Lord will return. Just as Jesus kept God’s first promise and came into the world to give His life as a ransom for us, so Jesus will keep His promise to come again to take us from this vale of tears to be with Himself and all the saints in heaven.
 
We are still thirteen days away from our Christmas celebration. Be patient, do not celebrate just yet. Remain steadfast in your faith in and in your resolve to not celebrate until that day. Because then, on Christmas Day we will begin our celebration and we will celebrate for the full time of celebration, the twelve days of Christmas. May the Lord get you ready and keep you ready. May the Lord work in you to be patient and most of all to remain steadfast in your faith until He comes again. To Him be the glory. Amen.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Word Written - Advent Midweek 2 - December 11, 2013 - Text: John 1:1-18

Our theme for this year is The Word. Our text is John 1:1-18. Last week we talked about the spoken word. This week we continue our theme as we talk about the written word. Next week we will take up the topic of the tangible word, followed by the word incarnate, the word fulfilled and the word in glory. As we made note last week, of course, the Word is Jesus who was at creation with the Father and the Holy Spirit, who was promised through the oral prophecies, and later through the written prophecies. Jesus is the tangible word in His Holy Supper. He is the Word incarnate, in flesh in the person of the baby. He is the Word fulfilled in His life, death and resurrection. And He is the Word in glory, the Lamb of God enthroned in heaven. Again, this evening we take up the topic of written word.
 
One of the things we are taught in teacher education is that the way to get people to remember is to teach and reteach, in other words to say the same thing over and over in as many ways as possible and using as many of your senses as possible so that we remember what we are being taught. It is for this reason, so that you will remember, that you will keep hearing me say and reiterate the same thing over and over again. With that said, I will, again, remind you that last week we talked about the spoken Word of God. We have already identified Jesus as the one who was with and is God at the creation of the world. And concerning the spoken Word of God, I think it is amazing that it was simply by speaking that God created all things out of nothing, simply by speaking them into existence.
 
Along with identifying Jesus as God, we have also already identified Jesus as the one spoken of as the one to be the Messiah, the Savior of the world. As John tells us, “4In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world (v. 4,5,9). And this light, this Messiah, the Savior is the one promised in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden immediately after Adam and Eve sinned.
 
And, we have already identified Jesus as the spoken Word becoming flesh at His birth. Again, John’s own words, “11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (v. 11-14).
 
We have identified Jesus as the spoken word of God, the word of promise and the word of prophecy first spoken by God in the Garden of Eden and also later to Abraham, at which time God narrowed the line of fulfillment of the prophecy. This evening we move to a later point in Israelite history at which time God calls Moses to lead His people Israel and to give them His Law and His written Word.
 
Following the Garden of Eden, man continued to sin. God sent a flood to wash the world. God reiterated His promise of a Savior to Noah. And the world continued to sin. At the tower of Babel the people of the world disobeyed God and instead of being fruitful and multiplying and spreading out into the world, they remained and thought themselves as gods. God confused their languages so they had to separate into the world. Later God reiterated His spoken promise to send a Savior through Abraham and even later to Moses.
 
Not only did God use Moses to lead His people Israel from their bondage of slavery in Egypt, He also moved Moses to write the first five books of the Bible, what is called the Pentateuch; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Now the spoken, the oral promises of God have become a permanent record, a written Word promising a Savior for God’s people.
 
When God gave Moses His Word and promises to write down, God gave to Moses the Law, the written Word which included the ceremonial, the civil and the moral law.
 
The civil and moral law were given for the protection of all people. The civil law is much like the civil law we have in our world today. The civil law regulates how we are to be in relationship with others in public, and most civil law is based on the moral law which is the Ten Commandments. In other words, it is the moral law which is at the heart of the civil law and which regulates the fact that we are obedient to those in authority over us, as stated in the fourth commandment. We do not hurt or harm our neighbor physically, mentally or emotionally, nor do we actually murder our neighbor, as stated in the fifth commandment. We do not lust after another man’s wife, nor fornicate with any unmarried people, as stated in the sixth commandment. We do not scheme, take or steal from our neighbor, as stated in the seventh commandment. We do not speak evil of others nor repeat gossip, we do not defame another’s character, as stated in the eighth commandment. And we do not covet anything that is our neighbors, nor begrudge them of what they have, as stated in the ninth and tenth commandments. As for the moral law, neither do we have other god’s before our one true God, we do not misuse His name, nor do we fail to be in divine service on the day of rest, as stated in the first, second and third commandments. Now, as I have listed these civil and moral laws, we must all admit that certainly we daily transgress all of these if not in action, we do so in thought and word and that is why we need a Savior.
 
Certainly many of you have heard it said that Jesus came to fulfill the law so that we are no longer bound by the law. While that statement is true, we must clarify that we are still under the civil and moral law. It is the ceremonial law which pointed to the Savior, which said that blood must be shed for sin. Although Jesus fulfilled all the law, civil, moral and ceremonial, it was this ceremonial law that Jesus fulfilled of which we are no longer under. We no longer offer sacrifices because Jesus has already offered Himself as the once for all sacrifice.
 
Jesus is the Word. He is the spoken, the oral word first promised by God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. He is the one who came to fulfill all the spoken promises and all the written promises. He is the one who is God in human flesh, born as one of us, as one of His creatures in order to be a substitute for us.
 
Jesus was born to fulfill all the law, all the civil law, all the moral law and all the ceremonial laws and He did, perfectly. All that the law requires Jesus fulfilled. All the promises and prophecies about the Messiah, Jesus fulfilled, perfectly.
 
The fulness of the Gospel is that Jesus lived perfectly for us in our place as our substitute. Jesus then, freely took our sins, suffered and died, paying the complete price for our sins, for us in our place. He died and was buried, but death and the grave had no hold over Him as He rose on the third day. He ascended into heaven where He continues even today to watch over us, rule over us and intercede for us. He is awaiting the time that He will return to gather us and all the saints to take us to be with Himself in heaven for eternity. And we will gather and stand before the Lord’s throne and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Be of One Mind - December 8, 2013 - Second Sunday in Advent - Text: Romans 15:4-13

Today is the second Sunday in Advent and we continue to prepare ourselves for our Christmas celebration. Remember, we do not celebrate Christmas yet, not until December 25 and then we have the twelve days of our Christmas celebration, until January 6 and the day we celebrate Epiphany. We continue to get ourselves ready for our Christmas celebration by our text reminding us of why we have Christmas in the first place. In the Old Testament reading for today we are reminded of the promise of God to send a Savior from the line of Jesse, King David’s father. We are reminded that this Savior will bring righteousness and eternal peace. In the Gospel lesson we are reminded that God never forgot His promises as we see the fulfillment of His promises begin with the coming of John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Savior, Jesus Himself.
 
Paul is the apostle who calls himself one abnormally born. Paul was not an eye witness of Jesus like the other apostles, but he was an eye witness as Jesus revealed Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus. In our text for today we have a plea from Paul to live in harmony. We read verses four through seven, “4For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (v. 4-7). Why do we need Paul to call us to live in harmony? Here is where we go further back into the Old Testament. Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given one word of instruction, to not eat from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Because they disobeyed God and ate of the fruit they brought sin into the world and with sin came God’s punishment and curse, death, physical death and ultimately apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus eternal spiritual death. This fall into sin broke the once perfect relationship between God and man and separated us from God. No longer do we have the perfect relationship and communion with God that Adam and Eve once enjoyed.
 
Not only did this fall into sin separate us from God, it also separates us from each other. Have you ever wondered why children are disobedient to their parents? Why teenagers fight with their parents? Why children fight with each other? Why adults, even husbands and wives have arguments? It is because we are all conceived and born in sin. We share in our first parents sinful nature. With our perfect relationship with God broken, there is no way we can have any good relationship with each other, because it is only as God first loves us that we are able to reciprocate that love toward others.
 
Now, here in our text, knowing and understanding our broken relationship with God and with each other, Paul would have us be reconciled to each other. It is Paul’s desire that we make amends for our sins and that we live in harmony, that we have peace with one another. Of course, Paul knows our nature. He knows that there is nothing we can do in order to be reconciled with each other. He knows that left to ourselves we would remain forever separated from God and from each other. He knows that we cannot look inside ourselves for the answer instead we must look outside ourselves.
 
Paul does not simply encourage us, he even gives us instruction in how we can be reconciled to one another. We pick up our text at verse eight, “8For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” 10And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” 12And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” (v. 8-12). First, Paul encourages us by giving us the answer to the problem of our being separated from God and that is that Christ came as one of us. Christ came as a servant in order to do for us what we are unable to do. Christ came to live perfectly for us in our place, because we cannot be perfect and remember the demand of God’s law is to be perfect, as He is perfect.
 
Going back to the Garden of Eden, God promised Adam and Eve that He would take care of their sin. He would send a Savior. He would send one who would reconcile the debt of their eternal life because of their sin. God reiterated His promise throughout the Old Testament. God reiterated His promise through the Patriarchs as Paul tells us. And God’s promise of a Savior for all people never changed. Yes, God did narrow the family line through whom the Savior would be born, namely through the line of Abraham, but the promise was never changed to be for only one ethnic group of people. God’s promise was always that He would send a Savior for all people. Jesus came to fulfill all God’s promises made in the Old Testament.
 
Remember, Paul is writing to the Christians at Rome. He is writing to Jew and Gentile alike. He is writing to those who were of physical descent of the patriarchs as well as those who were not. And he is writing to us today as well, most of whom are not physical descendants of Abraham. Jesus came, not simply to give His life for the Jews, but He came to save Jew and Gentile alike. Too often this was missed as the children of Israel believed that they alone were the ones to be saved and they believe this salvation was their birthright. As we look at the Old Testament texts Paul quotes we see that when God made His promise to take care of Adam and Eve’s sin and the sin of the world, there were no Jews and Gentiles, only people, so His promise was to save all people. We are reconciled with each other only as we are first reconciled to God who reconciles us to Himself through His Son, Jesus, the Savior.
 
Finally, Paul concludes with a benediction, “13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (v.13). Our God is the God of hope. And here, for us Christians, hope is not a wishy, washy, maybe, but a certainty. Our God is the God of certainty. For us the future may be unseen, but God knows all and sees all and He has a certainty of eternal life in heaven for us.
 
Our God is the God of joy and peace in believing. The peace which our God gives is a peace which passes all understanding. His peace is not simply a peace of mind, a peace of a few hours of relaxation. His peace is a peace of forgiveness of sins and the gift and promise of eternal life in heaven. Indeed, there is no greater peace for us than the peace of knowing our sins are forgiven because we also know that with forgiveness is life and salvation.
 
And our God sends the Holy Spirit to give, strengthen and keep us in faith. It is true, we do well on our own when it comes to sinning. We do not need God’s help or anyone’s help. We sin well all on our own and that is only what we are able to do. We cannot look inside ourselves to find the answer to life’s questions, to find a way to stop sinning, to find a way to bear up under temptation. We must look outside ourselves and we do that as we make use of the means of grace which our Lord gives to us and through which He comes to us to help us to bear up under temptation, to give us forgiveness and to help us to live God pleasing lives. Yes, it is the Holy Spirit who works in us to give to us, to strengthen us and to keep us in faith.
 
So, as usual we ask, “What Does This Mean?” As we prepare ourselves for our celebration of Jesus birth, we are reminded that God created everything in perfection and man ruined it. So, now we no longer live in a perfect world. We now live in a sin filled world. And we are sinners living in this sin filled world.
 
Thanks be to God that immediately after the fall into sin He promised to send a Savior and Jesus is that Savior and He is that Savior for all. God’s promise was not made to one person or simply to two people, but His promise was made to the parents of all people, so that just as their sin is born in us all, so through Jesus’ work on the cross, the giving of His life is for us all. This does not discount the fact that God chose the children of Israel to be the nation through which the Savior would be born, but the Savior was born not simply the Savior for this one nation, but for all and we see that in the Old Testament texts Paul quotes again and again.
 
And even today, God heaps His blessings on us. As we make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, reading and hearing the Word of God, remembering our Baptism, confessing our sins and hearing those most beautiful words of forgiveness, “your sins are forgiven,” and as we come to partake of our Lord’s body and blood through His Holy Supper wherein we are given all the good gifts and blessings our Lord has to bestow on us. Through these means we are given forgiveness and with forgiveness again we know we also have life and salvation. Through these means our Lord works to give, strengthen and keep us in faith until Christ comes again.
 
Paul’s Words remind us of our need for a Savior but even more they remind us that God has taken care of that need as well as all our needs. Jesus is the one promised by God and sent by God to do for us what we are unable to do. And we give thanks for all that He has done, for the giving of His life, for giving us faith and for keeping us in faith. And for giving us the words to say, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Word Spoken - Advent Midweek 1 - December 4, 2013 - Text: John 1:1-18

Our theme for this year is The Word. Our text is John 1:1-18 and we will talk about the spoken word, the written word, the tangible word, the word incarnate, the word fulfilled and the word in glory. Of course, the Word is Jesus, God the Son, who was at creation with the Father, who was promised through the oral prophecies, and later through the written prophecies. Jesus is the tangible word in His Holy Supper. He is the Word incarnate, in flesh in the person of the baby. He is the Word fulfilled in His life, death and resurrection. And He is the Word in glory, the Lamb of God enthroned in heaven. This evening we begin by talking about the spoken word.
 
The Gospel writer John is an amazing writer. He uses simple, down to earth words that are easy to understand and yet out of his simple words is amazing meaning. Rather than speak of the virgin birth in down to earth words, like conceived and born, John speaks of the nativity in words such as Light and Word. So, we begin with a little identification of the Word. John says, “1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (v. 1-3). So, from these first three verses we know that whoever or whatever the “Word” is, He was at the creation of the world, meaning that He either was God the Father or is One in unity with God the Father.
 
Further, John says that this Word, was with God, and was God. Here again, as God has revealed Himself to us as a God who is three persons in one Godhead, and understanding that the three persons of the One Godhead are never divided, this means that whoever or whatever the “Word,” is, He was indeed God, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
 
Again, still further, John says that this Word was the one who made all things and that there is nothing that was made that was not made except that He made it. We have attributed the Creation of the world to the person of God the Father and so here if the “Word,” is not God the Father, we at least know that He was there with God the Father at the creation of the world and that He is One with God the Father.
 
So, putting all this together, therefore we would understand John to be telling us that this “Word,” about whom he is speaking is One with God the Creator, that is that the “Word,” is One with God the Father making the “Word,” truly God and we would say, as we will continue to follow John that Jesus is God and Jesus is the Word.
 
In the beginning God created all things out of nothing and when God created all things all things were created perfect. God created a perfect world, a perfect garden, a perfect man and a perfect woman. God placed the perfect man and perfect woman He created into the perfect garden He created, the Garden of Eden. God gave the man work to do to care for the garden, not as toilsome labor, but good work as a response of faith. God also gave the man and woman another way to respond to all He had done for and given to them in that they were to obey Him by not eating of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
 
Sometime prior to these events, after God had created the angels, one angel, Lucifer, rebelled against God, thinking himself to be equal to and perhaps a god, and was cast out of heaven. This evil angel whom we refer to as Satan, hates everything that is good and from God and so, he came into the perfect garden taking on the form of a serpent and tempted Eve and Adam to disobey God. Satan tempted Eve and Adam with a false truth and a word of doubt concerning what God had given to them and said to them. They listened to Satan, disobeyed God and brought sin into the perfect world so that it was no longer perfect. As a matter of fact, because of their sin the world was cursed, so that it is no longer perfect.
 
At the same time that their sin brought a curse on the world, in His great love, God spoke a word of promise, that is that He would send a Savior, someone who would pay the ultimate price for their sin. Oh, I forgot to tell you, the price for disobedience had been set by God as death, that is that they would begin to die a physical death and ultimately, apart from God, they would die an eternal spiritual death of hell. God’s promise was not to keep them from a physical death, but that He would send a Savior to keep them from an eternal spiritual death in hell.
 
Although they did not know it specifically at the time, today we know that Jesus is the one that was being spoken of as the promised Savior. This is the one being spoken of in our text as John calls Him the Word.
 
Thus, in Jesus the spoken word of a promise made in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve and to all people was fulfilled at His birth. As John says it later in our text, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14). More concerning this becoming flesh, dwelling among us, and seeing His glory later.
 
Thus, Jesus is the Word made flesh, He is the Word that was born as the one promised to Adam and Eve, the One who would take care of their sin of disobedience, the One who would take care of paying the price for their eternal spiritual death, in other words the One who would suffer the punishment of hell for them. This Jesus is the Word who would also defeat the power of death that is physical death so that following the final day of judgement, when we reach heaven there would be no more threat of physical death. Yes, this Word made flesh in Jesus is the one promised to save Adam and Eve, His own people to whom He would be born, again as we will take up later, us and all people.
 
Finally, this Word, this Jesus brings grace and truth. Jesus brings truth because apart from Jesus there is and can be no truth. Satan brought, and continues today to bring, lies and deception, Jesus brings truth and forgiveness. This Word in Jesus also brings grace, God’s riches, God’s undeserved love. It is this Word of promise, first spoken in the Garden of Eden, made flesh in Jesus, who is Jesus, who is the Messiah, the Savior of the world who would reconcile, make right the world with Himself, God in flesh who created all things out of nothing.
 
What a great, holy, loving, almighty God we have. We have a God who created all things and us included, even though in His omniscience He knew that we would mess everything up. He then promised and fulfilled His promise to make everything better, which He did by taking on the very substance, by becoming one with and one of the creatures He created, by becoming incarnate, in flesh and living for us, by taking our sins, our mess upon Himself, by suffering and dying a physical death and an eternal spiritual death of hell for us, because of His great love for us. It is the birth of this Word, our God in flesh that we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate. Greater love can no one have than our God has for us. And He even gives us the opportunity and moves in us to respond in faith, to give praise and glory to His Holy Name. To Him be all glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Put On Christ - December 1, 2013 - First Sunday in Advent - Text: Romans 13:(8-10)11-14

Let me begin by saying “Happy New Year!” Today is the first Sunday in our new church year and so it is our church New Year’s Day. With that said, today brings us also to a new beginning in our lectionary series, that is in our Bible Readings. For those of you who do not know, our readings, the Old Testament Reading, the Epistle Reading and the Gospel Reading, as well as the Introits, the Graduals and the like, these are all put together in series. There are several different series that have been put together by different churches and these have changed somewhat throughout the years. For many years our church used a one year series of readings so that every year we heard the same readings over and over. When the last hymnal was published, the Lutheran Worship, a three year series was added, so that over the course of three years the same Bible readings were read. With our newest hymnal, Lutheran Service Book our one year and three year series readings have been revised again. What all this means for us is that we will continue to use this three year cycle of readings with some revisions. Last year you may remember that the text for my preaching were mostly from the Gospel readings for the day. Today we begin with series A and for this year I will be preaching mostly from the Epistle readings for the day.
 
The last Sundays of the Church Year call us to be ready for the end of our time on this earth, the day of Judgement, that is the day the Lord will return or the day we each die and pass on from this world. We were reminded that this day will come, soon, sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect, so we were reminded of the importance of being ready. We are to live our lives being ready for the day we meet our Lord. The beginning of the Church Year has a similar focus. Actually it is a two fold focus. The texts are words reminding us of getting ready. We are to get ready at this time for Jesus’ first coming, His birth in Bethlehem. At the same time, His first coming parallels the fact of His second coming and so these texts do have a dual purpose and a singular focus, to remind us of Jesus’ first coming and His second come and to be ready at all times, that is to be spiritually ready.
 
Paul begins by reminding us that the time to be ready is now. Now is the time, we read picking up at verse eleven, “11Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (v. 11). Paul had not personally witnessed Jesus’ birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection, but he did personally witness Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul was very aware of Jesus’ promise to return and he personally thought that Jesus’ return would be soon, even during his own lifetime. Perhaps if we each had that same belief, that Jesus may be returning during our lifetime, we might have a similar urgency about our own lives. The fact of the matter is, since Paul’s day, we have been waiting about 2000 years so we can know for certain that Jesus’ coming is sooner now than when Paul wrote these words.
 
We will, each one of us, stand before the Lord and be accountable to Him. That day of being held accountable will happen either when Jesus comes to us, the day He returns as He promised the He would and that is on the day of judgement; or that day of being held accountable will come on the day that we will go to Him, that is the day of our own physical death out of this world. I will not do it this morning, but you have heard me in the past read some of the ages listed in the paper’s obituaries, and from this evidence we know that we, each one of us has a limited amount of time on this earth, from the time of conception to maybe 100 or 110 years. And yet, death happens at any time during this length of time, at two months after conception, at one year after birth, at sixteen years of age, at thirty years of age and so on, it is inevitable, each one of us will die, and actually we can truly say, from the moment of conception we are destined to die.
 
Each year, each month, each week, each day, each hour leads us closer and closer to the end of our time on this earth. And so, how are we to live while we are on this earth? Paul encourages us to cast off the works of darkness and sin, we pick up our text as verse twelve, “12The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy” (v. 12-13). Ever since the Fall into sin, ever since Eve and Adam ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, there has been evil, temptation and sin in our world. We may well speak of these as the unholy three and the temptations of the Devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.
 
Temptations abound in our world. Paul lists the temptations of sin in orgies and drunkenness, and in sexual immorality and sensuality, in quarreling and jealousy. Simply check the newspaper headlines or the morning, noon or evening news headlines. Temptation and sin are running rampant in our world. The devil is having a free for all and we are his victims.
 
The worst temptations for us as Christians are the temptations to disbelief, despair and other great shame and vice. There is nothing worse than to fall into unbelief or disbelief, to despair of our faith. And the devil would delight in our demise. The devil knows our weaknesses and that is where he tempts us the greatest. Is our weakness the temptation to put other things before God? Is our weakness the temptation to curse and swear and misuse God’s name? Is our temptation to sleep in on Sunday mornings or have some other priority rather than be in Divine Service and Bible Class? Is our temptation to disobey and be disrespectful to those in authority over us, to hurt or harm others, to lust after others, to take things that do not belong to us, to gamble, to eat or drink too much, to say hurtful things about others, to covet what others have? Yes, the devil knows our weaknesses and he works to exploit those weaknesses so that we do fall into sin and then he works to move us to despair thinking that perhaps there is no hope for us. And left to ourselves, we would perish, eternally. Nothing would please the devil better.
 
Instead of falling for the lies and temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh, Paul urges us to put on the Armor of Light, that is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. We pick up at verse fourteen, “14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (v.14). How do we defeat the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh? We do not. We cannot. We cannot look inside ourselves to find the answer to defeat or even to counter the temptations of the devil. We must look outside ourselves for the answer. And when we look outside ourselves we are directed to the means through which our Lord saves us. We are to put on the Armor of Light, that is Jesus Christ and we do that through His means of grace. Jesus’ Name, His robes of righteousness, the Armor of Light, was put on us through the waters of Holy Baptism. As water and God’s Name were put on us, so He has claimed us and made us a part of His Kingdom and He works in us to help us to fight against temptation and sin. As we remember our Baptism and the fact that our Lord has put His name on us and we are His, so He helps us to bear up under the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.
 
We put on Jesus through the reading and hearing of the Word. As we daily read our Bibles, as we come to Bible class on Sunday morning, as we come to Divine Service, through this means of His Word our Lord gives to us, strengthens us and keeps us in faith and helps us to bear up under the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.
 
We put on Jesus through the forgiveness of sins given to us through Confession and Absolution. As we come here on Sunday morning and confess our sins and hear His most beautiful words of Absolution that “Your sins are forgiven,” then we know that this is what we are given, forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness of sins we know that we also have life and salvation. And so, also as we make use of this means of grace our Lord helps us to bear up under the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.
 
We put on Jesus through the eating and drinking of His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper.  As we participate in the Lord’s Supper, as we eat the bread and His body and drink the wine and His blood, so we participate in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection so that His life becomes our life, His death becomes our death and His resurrection becomes our resurrection. And so, also as we make use of this means of grace our Lord helps us to bear up under the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.
 
So, what does this mean? Today is the beginning of a new church year. This new beginning reminds us that for us there is always the possibility of a new beginning. Certainly we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness and certainly our Lord daily gives us that forgiveness earned by His Son for us taking our place on the cross.
 
Today we continue to think two thoughts. Our first thought is that now is the time to get ourselves ready to celebrate Christ’s first coming, His birth in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago. Our second thought continues to be the need to make sure we are ready for Christ’s second coming, when He will come to judge the world, or to be ready for our own passing on from this world at our own death.
 
Because of the constant ebb and flow in our own lives, the falling into temptation and sin, the repentance and forgiveness, there is the reminder to always be ready!
 
As Paul urges, so I urge, the time is coming, the day of judgement is near, nearer now than in Paul’s day, nearer than we think or imagine, so it is important to put off the old ways of temptation and sin, drunkenness and sexual immorality and instead put on the armor of Christ, His righteous robes given through the waters of Holy Baptism and renewed through His means of grace, the new ways of Jesus which are pleasing to Him and righteous in His sight. May our Lord Jesus get you ready and keep you ready for His own Name’s sake. To God be the glory. Amen.