21 August 2016 Trinity Lutheran Church
Pentecost 14 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Just a portion of the text today. Can’t preach it all. So off we go!
Faith worships. In other words, Christians worship Jesus. It’s what faith does. Worship is fundamental to being a Christian. The fruit of your faith in Jesus.
Or let me put it to you this way. God saved you from the damnation of your sin and the hellaciousness of eternal death through Christ’s Good Friday death in order to restore you to worship Him rightly!
That’s why worship is the focus of the first 3 commandments. You are to worship the Triune God alone: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then God’s Triune Name is kept holy and God’s Word is honored when you invoke His name for Him to be physically with you, gather to hear His saving Word and for Him to bless you through His Word. In other words, you call on the Holy Trinity to be God FOR YOU in His Word according to His name. Worship is to faith as breathing is to the body. The two go together and cannot be divorced. A body that is alive and healthy BREATHES. It inhales. It exhales. Faith that is alive and healthy breathes. It receives (inhales) and it offers (exhales). It receives (inhales) the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation that Jesus won by His dying and rising in the Word and sacraments. Faith also exhales. Faith offers prayer, praise and thanksgiving.
Again, breathing involves inhaling and exhaling. You can’t just inhale and hold your breath. Sooner or later the air has to go somewhere. Similarly, you cannot simply take in forgiveness and not have it do something to you. Forgiveness inhaled or received in the Word and Sacraments is then exhaled as prayer praise, thanksgiving and works of love for others. And you can’t just exhale either. Or you will run out of breath. Prayer and praise without the inhalation of Word and Sacrament quickly run out of gas!
You can exhale your prayers, praise and thanksgiving anywhere – while driving the car, in the kitchen, on the golf course, on the lake, at work or at school. And you should! But you can inhale the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation on where Christ’s Word and sacraments are going on. Ordinarily that means going to church and attending the divine service. The divine service is where the Word and the sacraments of Jesus are going on. Where Jesus is breathing His breath of life in its most concentrated form!
The Book of Hebrews was partly written to encourage Christians to go to the divine service. To join with their fellow believers in hearing God’s Word and to eat and drink the Lord’s most holy body and blood. It was also written to discourage them from abandoning Christianity to go back to Judaism and the worship at the Jerusalem temple. Today’s text from Hebrews gives you seven good reasons to be in the divine service today and every Sunday.
First, when you come to church you have come to Mount Zion. To the heavenly Jerusalem. To the city of the living God. When you come to church you come to God’s city. Never mind who or what you see. Listen to the Word. Where Jesus is proclaimed as your crucified and risen Savior for your salvation and where His sacraments are offered and applied to sinners, IT IS LITERALLY HEAVEN ON EARTH. You do not have to wait until you die to go to heaven. You don’t have to struggle and strain to mystically reach up to heaven. HEAVEN COMES DOWN TO YOU WHERE THE WORD AND SACRAMENTS ARE.
Note too that according to the text you have come to Mt. Zion when you come to church, not Mt. Sinai. Sinai was the place where sinners were told to stay away or they would be destroyed. The church, however, is the place to come near to God so that you won’t be destroyed with the wicked world. The divine service is God’s sanctuary – a city of mercy. It is a place where broken, repentant sinners can receive forgiveness and peace with God. Where Jesus lords His death and resurrection over sin so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe in Jesus.
It doesn’t matter whether it is 1,000 people gathered in some magnificent cathedral or 125 of the faithful gathered here at Trinity. It is heaven on earth not because of the people or the buildings or the music but because the Triune God dwells among His people with His Name, His Word, His Baptism, and His Son’s body and blood. The divine service is God’s city! His dwelling place! Heavenly Jerusalem in the midst of rural Murdock NE. Why come to church? The first reason is that IT IS HEAVEN ON EARTH!
Second, there are angels! If heaven comes to earth, there must be angels. More than you can imagine or more than the ushers can count if they made themselves visible to our eyes. In the divine service there are thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly. Together with the angels we sing their hymn of praise: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.” The angels worship with us and we worship with the angels. Worship is what angels do before God without ceasing. That is why many churches have statues of angels on or above the altar. Because they are there in the divine service worshiping Jesus with us and us with them. Angels are among us. They are real. There are also guardian angels (Psalm 91). Hebrews reminds you to extend hospitality to strangers because some have entertained angels without realizing it. Why come to the divine service? The angels are there.
Third, you have come into the presence of your fellow believers in Christ. “To the church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven.” Every gathering around God’s Word and the sacraments that Jesus instituted, no matter how small or struggling it might be to human eyes is the fullness of the Church. As you hear the gospel preached and as you eat the Lord’s body and blood today you are spiritually joined to all believers in Jesus everywhere! For example, the apostle John as he worshiped together with a handful of prisoners on the island of Patmos was joined with his congregation in far away Ephesus. St. Paul reminded the Corinthians that though he was away from them in the body, he was with them in spirit when they gathered together for the divine service. There is only one church. Where the church is gathered around the Lord in His Word and sacraments, the entire church is present. There’s only one mega church! Why come to church? Your fellow believers are there.
Fourth, you have come to God who is judge of all. To hear God’s Word spoken to you is to come under God’s judgment. God’s word of law condemns you. Kills you. Even the slightest glance in the wrong direction, the most careless word of anger, the momentary flash of lust makes you worthy of God’s judgment of death and damnation. But He has judged His Son Jesus in your place. He made Jesus to be sin and damned Him in your place. He declared you innocent for Jesus’ sake. He judges you to be righteous for Jesus’ sake. He lowers the gavel, excuses the jury and adjourns the court. You are forgiven, acquitted, free. Why come to church? To be declared innocent by God the judge!
Fifth, you have come to the spirits of righteous men made perfect. In other words, you have come in to the company of the justified. Those that have died trusting in Jesus and not themselves. You are in the presence of all the saints who have gone before you. Who have fought the fight of faith. Like Paul Reinke who we just buried this past Thursday. Or Helen Knop just over a month ago. Who now rest from their labors in Christ. They are with us. They are part of the church too.
Now, some people go to the graveyard to be near those they love that have died. Some gaze at a picture on the wall or hold precious memories in their hearts. That’s OK. However, let me tell you a closer place to be with those who have died believing in Christ. It’s in the divine service. In the divine service Jesus is present — physically. And with Him are all the citizens of heaven: angels, archangels and ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN! That includes three of my grandparents. Your loved ones who believed in Jesus. Together with all the company of heaven you praise Jesus the Lord of your salvation. Where Jesus is, there His saints are too. In the divine service you are in the company of those that have received what we now hope for. Adam. Even. Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. Joseph. Moses. Miriam. Peter. Paul. James. John. Why come to church? The saints are there!
Sixth, you have come to Jesus when you go to church. Angels are nice. So are the saints both living and dead. But none of that is possible without the presence of Jesus. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I AM in the midst of them,” (Matthew 18). You have come into the presence of Jesus when you go to church.
And He is the “mediator of a new covenant.” What’s a mediator? A mediator is a go-between. One that stands between two conflicting parties and brings them together. Jesus stands between God the Father and you – fully God and fully man – perfect and sinless. Jesus speaks to us on behalf of His Father. He speaks to His Father on our behalf. Through Jesus we have a covenant relationship with God the Father. He promises to forgive you for Jesus’ sake. He receives you as His own people. He gives you eternal life. All and only through His Son Jesus the Mediator. Why come to church? Jesus the Mediator is there to speak on your behalf to His Father!
Seventh, you have come to the sprinkled blood of Jesus. Blood is life. “The life is in the blood,” the Old Testament says. Blood is atonement or forgiveness. Sprinkled blood is sacrificial blood. Without the shedding of blood there is not forgiveness.
Blood is cleansing. “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses you from all sin,” (1 John 1). The sprinkled blood tells you that Jesus’ death and life are yours. It is one thing to know that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. It is quite another thing to trust that His death on the cross was FOR YOU. That He bore YOUR SIN! That His life is now YOUR LIFE!
How can you be sure? How can you know for certain that Jesus died FOR YOU? LOOK FOR THE SPRINKLED BLOOD OF JESUS! The blood that was poured out FOR YOU on the cross is sprinkled on you with the water of holy baptism, the absolution that I speak in your ears, and in the cup of the Supper. You weren’t there when Jesus shed His blood for you on the cross. But the blood of Jesus is here FOR YOU in the cup telling you for certain that He did indeed did FOR YOU!
Jesus’ blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Abel, you remember, was murdered by his brother Cain. And Abel’s blood pleaded to heaven for justice. It testified against his brother. But of the blood of Jesus speaks a better word. It testifies FOR YOU, not against you. His blood pleads to heaven for your forgiveness. His blood cried out for God to have mercy on you. His blood covers you before God the Judge. His blood qualifies you to worship with the saints and angels.
So why go to church? You now have seven good reasons.
It’s heaven on earth.
The angels are there.
Your fellow believers are there.
God the Judge is there with forgiveness.
The saints are there.
Jesus is there.
And His sprinkled blood is there for your forgiveness, your cleansing and your life.
All of that is here Sunday after Sunday for you to receive.
Happy receiving. Happy worship properly.
In the name of Jesus.
18 August 2016 Trinity Lutheran Church
Thursday of Pentecost 13 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Funeral of Paul Reinke
Paul’s confirmation verse: “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
Sadly, many are ashamed. Embarrassed to be a follower of Jesus. Mortified to be one of His hangers on. So they won’t be caught dead (pardon the pun) in Jesus’ company or at the receiving end of His gifts. That’s a hellacious shame. I mean that. That’s no joke. In Mark 8:38 Jesus categorically states: “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words … of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” You’re not embarrassed or ashamed of Jesus or his gospel words are you? I sure hope not.
Paul Reinke, however, when push came to shove was not ashamed. From the day of his baptism Paul was a disciple of Jesus. Paul renounced the devil, all his works and all his ways. Paul promised to be dependent on Jesus for salvation.
And he was dependent on Jesus. Thanks be to God! Because Paul knew that he was a sinner. A sinner that needed the gospel! A sinner that couldn’t live without the gospel! Why? Well, it’s as his confirmation verse says: “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
Even when he physically couldn’t come to church anymore, he always wanted me to bring him the power-of-God-gospel-for-salvation in the Lord’s Supper. He wanted to be given Christ’s Good Friday body and blood with His promise of bestowing His Good Friday forgiveness of sins just FOR HIM. Even as death approached he would mumble the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer with me. Wouldn’t say much of anything else but he did mutter the true faith and the prayer the Lord gave us. Isn’t that incredible? It was the power of the gospel given in holy baptism still bearing fruit in his life! And no wonder! After all, Jesus died for Paul. He rose for Paul. Winning forgiveness, life and salvation for him. And in holy baptism Jesus gifted Paul with God’s divine saving name and all that He won for Paul on the cross.
In other words Jesus gave our brother Paul salvation. It’s what Jesus promises in Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” The apostle Peter says that, “baptism now saves you,” (1 Peter 3:21). The apostle Paul declares that God “saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:6). Did you hear the “s” verb in those texts? Baptism delivers Christ’s Good Friday’s power of forgiveness to sinners — SALVATION! Or to use the word from Paul’s confirmation text: “the gospel!”
Yes, “the gospel.” It is the power of God that saves! When you say “the gospel” you’re saying “Jesus who saves.” When you say “Jesus who saves,” you’re saying “the gospel.” The gospel is the good news that Jesus is the Savior of sinners. Savior of you. Savior of all. Savior of Paul. That’s really good news. After all, sinners can’t save themselves. Not in any way, shape or form. Only Jesus does the saving. At Calvary He achieves salvation. In the Word and sacrament He delivers, bestows, gives what He won: the gospel.
So let’s hear Paul’s confirmation verse again: “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
You’re not ashamed. You’re emboldened. Comforted. Hopeful. Because the “gospel is the power of God for salvation.” It’s why Paul went to church all his life. To hear, receive and be given the gospel –THE POWER OF GOD FOR SALVATION — by Jesus in the sermon, the absolution and the Supper. To hear the good news that Jesus atoned for all his sin, defeated Satan, and put death to death.
So there’s no better time to hear the gospel than today. Listen to Jesus Himself. His best friend’s funeral is over. His best friend has been in the grave four days. Nothing left to do but mourn and move one. That’s when Jesus audaciously promises: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever believes in me shall never die.”
The one who speaks at the grave is the same that declared in Genesis, “Let there be light.” Now, like in the beginning, His words do what they say. He marches to Lazarus’ tomb. Barks out the order: “Lazarus, come out.” And Lazarus does! Jesus uses Lazarus as an object lesson to show that He truly is the resurrection and the life. That all who believe in Him have eternal life. That death and the grave do not have the last word. And as you heard from the reading today: “Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.” (John 11:45)
Jesus has the say so. Jesus has the last word. His promises are full of forgiveness, life and salvation. That’s the gospel. The power of God that saves you. That saved Lazarus. That saved Paul. Power that even raises the dead from the grave.
So Jesus asked Martha the most important question anyone could ever be asked in her life. “Do you believe this?” She was not ashamed to say: “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Paul’s answer all his life was the answer of faith’s, “Yes, Lord. I believe in you too. I am nothing. You are everything. You are my Savior.” Every time he confessed the Creed that’s what he was saying unabashedly. With no shame.
Yes, the Lord Jesus is the Savior. Yours too. You are very precious to Him. He died FOR YOU. He conquered death and hell for you. All your sin is answered for. You are forgiven. He is the resurrection and the life. He is the firstfruits of them that sleep.
That’s the gospel. It is the power of God for your salvation. For Paul’s salvation. One day you and all believers in Jesus will see with your eyes the final fruit of the gospel’s power. Today is not the end. There is more to come. St. Paul put it this way: “Listen, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep but we will all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we will all be changed.”
In other words, on the Last Day Jesus does His cup of tea. He will raise the dead. Not just Lazarus but everyone. Even Paul. Bestowing on him and all believers in Jesus the full blast clincher of the gospel – the power of God – salvation that you can see. He will say, “Wake up sleepy heads!” And Paul’s body, your body, all the bodies of dead will be raised. Believers raised for eternal life with God in restored and perfect bodies. Imperishable. Immortal. Incorruptible. Death swallowed up in victory! The victory of Jesus! For you. For Paul.
Just like the patriarch Job unabashedly confessed: “I know that my redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (Job 19:25-26)
Or as we sang just a little bit ago:
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail
And mortal life shall cease
Amazing grace shall then prevail
In heaven’s joy and peace. (#744:4)
“I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
“Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
In the Name of Jesus.
14 August 2016 Trinity Lutheran Church
Pentecost 13 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
What does the life of faith look like? In other words, when you believe that Jesus died and rose for you what does you life look like?
Hold on tight folks. Buckle your seat belts. Because the answer will surprise you. Shock you.
Your Christian life is a race. A foot race. Not a 100 meter dash but a marathon! Have you ever run a marathon? It’s one of the most difficult races. Watch it this week in the Olympics at Rio! A marathon race is what the Christian life of faith in Jesus looks like. To be a Christian is like running a marathon. Like running a marathon the Christian life of faith calls for endurance. It calls for renunciation. Discipline. Repenting of your sin. Believing in Jesus for forgiveness. Leading holy lives according to God’s Word. It’s the life of living in and from your baptism into Christ’s death (Romans 6)!
Like a marathon living the life of faith, living in and from your baptism, comes with pain. Burning legs. Blurry eyes. Aching lungs. You don’t think you can take one more step of being a Christians. Your entire body aches and you debate about whether to stick it out or just drop out of Christianity and living outside your baptism.
But then you enter the stadium for the last lap. The crowd rises to its feet. The crowd cheers you on. “Go! Go! Go!” Then you see the finish line ahead of you. You aim for a point beyond the tape as you ignore everything else.
Again, this is how Hebrews describes the life of faith in Jesus. The most common virtue that describes Christians in the Bible is: “patient endurance.” Patience in the midst of suffering for being a Christian – a disciple of Jesus! This is the point of our Lord’s words today in the holy gospel from Luke 12. When you confess Jesus as the Lord many people won’t like that. Such a confession is by its very nature divisive.
If you haven’t already, you will soon learn what that means very quickly in this country. You Lutherans as well as all faithful Christians will soon be called enemies of the state and prosecuted accordingly. You will suffer for defending God’s Word, worshiping Jesus only and not the state. Like Jeremiah, you will be demonized by false teachers in the church as unloving, uncaring, bigoted, etc. for telling the truth of God’s Word to every situation. Like Moses who “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt …” You will suffer for defending the unborn or speaking for holy marriage according to God’s mandate and institution. You will lose close friends, immediate family members, clients, jobs, reputation, property and perhaps even your life. Yes, suffering is THE distinctive mark of being a Christian. Of running the race that began when the Holy Spirit called you to faith in Jesus by the preaching of Good Friday Jesus who died FOR YOU!
However, Hebrews tells you that you are not alone in your race that is full of pain and agony. You are surrounded by a cheering mob. “The angels, archangels and all the company of heaven!” The saints and martyrs who have run this race of faith before you. They serve as examples to you. Especially when it comes to trusting only in Jesus especially when times are the toughest in your life. These are the people that trusted in Jesus and His Good Friday death for their salvation. Who died believing that only Jesus could save them. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Jeremiah, etc. Having run the race and finished before you they now cheer you on in the race God has marked out for you.
Now, beyond the finish line is who? Yes, that’s right, Jesus! He has gone the way ahead of you. He lived, died and rose from the dead FOR YOU. He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Salvation begins and ends with Jesus. He endured the pain of the cross for the joy of redeeming you. He scorned the shame of His death to save you from your shame. He reigns in glory at the Father’s right hand to lord His Good Friday forgiveness and salvation over you. Yes, Jesus has gone ahead of you through suffering and death to resurrection and glory.
Keep you eyes of faith fixed on Him. Through the eyes of faith you see Jesus as He really is. He is the Savior! Your Savior! But only through His holy precious blood and by His innocent suffering and death. He is the author and perfecter of your faith. He is the only One who saves you. And like a runner straining toward the finish line, reaching to break through the tape, you push forward, through life, through death and on to the resurrection focused on Jesus.
No need to look at the cheering crowds. They can’t get you across the finish line. Don’t look at your fellow runners. Don’t look at your feet to see how you’re running. Look only to Jesus.
When the pain of being a Christian is so great, look to Good Friday Jesus. He suffered and died FOR YOU. More than you can ever imagine. More than you could ever bear. He carried all your sin in His suffering and answered for them all. So quit trying to bear and answer for your sin yourself. That’s a lost cause. It’s a hellaciously colossal waste of time. Instead, as the text says, “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” How do you spell that sentence with one word? How do you throw off the sin that hinders you in the marathon life of being a Christian? It’s spelled:
R-E-P-E-N-T! And that heart of repentance is spelled:
F-A-I-T-H. Faith in Jesus who died FOR YOU AND ATONED COMPLETELY FOR ALL YOUR SIN WITH HIS GOOD FRIDAY BLOOD. To say that, “Jesus died for me the sinner” is the life of faith. Faith in Jesus who alone saves sinners.
So I tell you one more time. With the eyes of faith look only to Jesus. His promises will see you through. Promises like this: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16). “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life,” (John 5:24). “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” (Mk 16:16). “My body. My blood. Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” (Matthew 26:26-28).
Happy running the marathon race of faith! With Jesus beyond the finishing line, “you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
In the Name of Jesus.