Sermon for Exaudi, 2021

Text: John 15:26-16:4

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This past Thursday was one of the high feast days of the Church calendar. Sadly, because it falls on a Thursday, it goes largely ignored by even regular churchgoers. 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended bodily into heaven before the eyes of his disciples. In his ascension, Jesus went to sit at the right hand of the Father so that he could there intercede for us before our Father in heaven. In his ascension, Jesus also showed the way that we will one day go. On the Last Day Christ will return and take us and all believers to himself in heaven.

The fact that Ascension Day was just this past Thursday puts us in a kind of strange place this morning. The two Sundays that follow today are both feast days: first Pentecost, then Trinity Sunday. Today, though, we are kind of stuck in the middle. Next week we will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the birth of the Christian Church, but this morning we wait. We wait just as Jesus’ disciples waited. Before Jesus went up into heaven he told them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come. So today, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, is odd. Yes, it’s still Easter, but it has the feeling of moving on to something else. It’s almost a sad feeling. For 40 days Jesus was with the disciples, but now he’s out of their sight.

That’s why Jesus spent so much time preparing his disciples for his departure. You might have noticed that we’ve been reading from the same three chapters of John’s gospel for the past 6 weeks. I’ve even pointed it out once or twice. In these chapters, Jesus is teaching his disciples about what is to come. They are sorrowful because they know that he’s going away. Jesus comforts them with the promise of God’s abiding presence through the Holy Spirit who will come. The Holy Spirit will come not with a new message. He won’t whisper something new and exciting into their ears. The Spirit will speaks to them, but with the exact same truth that Jesus has already proclaimed. In turn, this is the same message the disciples are to proclaim. The message of the Gospel doesn’t change. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone has always been the message of God for his people and will always be the message that God has for his people. Jesus has taught them all things and will continue comfort them with these things. Jesus will not abandon his disciples, nor will he abandon us.

The disciples, and indeed, the whole Christian Church will need the comfort that comes from the Gospel. Jesus tells the disciples that they will be put out of the synagogues. This wasn’t just a matter of being shown the door on any given day. This meant that they weren’t welcome there anymore. They were out for good. It separated them from family and friends. It would have probably had financial cost associated with it as well as nobody wants to do business with someone who’s been put out of the synagogue. Well, you don’t have to go very far into the book of Acts to find this happening. The disciples proclaim the truth – the same truth that Jesus revealed to them and that the Holy Spirit reinforced in them – and they are rejected. As it turns out, not everyone really wants to hear that which is true. It gets worse. Jesus says that the time will come when those who kill the disciples will think they are offering service to God. Again, the early church is replete with examples of this becoming a reality.

The Church has been persecuted to this day for the same thing: for proclaiming the truth. As the people of Christ’s Church, we have sometimes rejected the truth, too. Even within our own church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, there are numerous examples of pastors being removed from office by their congregations because they proclaimed the truth and the congregation didn’t like it. Even in places where it hasn’t come to that, there are plenty of examples of people making life uncomfortable for their pastors for no other reason than that they didn’t like what he was saying. It doesn’t matter if that which the pastor proclaims to us is the truth, we don’t like what the man says. May we repent of such evil!

Even the idea that killing those who proclaim the truth of God’s Word is not hard to find today. Islamic terrorists have taken up where the Jews of the First Century and the Roman Empire of the centuries that followed left off. While it doesn’t dominate our headlines much, especially in a news cycle that continues to be dominated by COVID, broken bridges, and hacked gas pipelines, the killing of God’s people around the world continues today. About 160,000 Christians are killed for their faith each year, in fact.

Jesus tells his disciples that he is sending the Holy Spirit to comfort them when these things happen. Notice, though, that the comfort isn’t what we’d typically expect. The events that Jesus describes as coming for the disciples are rough. They will cause all kinds of physical hardships. They will experience hunger, financial ruin, and isolation from their community. Their lives will be threatened. They will have all kinds of physical needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. One would think that Jesus would promise them that they would have plenty of all of the above. But that’s not what Jesus promises at all. Rather, he promises to comfort them with his Word. It is true that Jesus died to redeem both body and soul, but the comfort here offered is not the comfort of extended physical life, a bed to sleep in, or a full belly, but the comfort of a good conscience. When things go south for the disciples, they will be tempted to think that the truth that they proclaim is not really true. They will be tempted to abandon the truth altogether. The Holy Spirit is there to comfort them and remind them that Jesus is indeed with them even to the end of the age.

When we as the Church feel the discomfort that comes along with the proclaiming the truth of God’s Word, we are tempted to abandon it and instead to fit in with the culture of today. Indeed, many so-called Christian churches have succumbed to this pressure. They have decided to make sure that everyone is comfortable over and above making sure that everyone hears the truth of the Word of God. God sends his Holy Spirit even today, though, to remind us of what his Son, Jesus Christ, has done and the truth that he has proclaimed to us. In Holy Baptism we were made God’s children. Through the preaching of God’s Word our consciences are comforted with the forgiveness of sins. In the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s body and blood strengthens our faith. The truth of God’s Word is revealed to you again and again by the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace. This is our assurance that we are living today in God’s kingdom. This is the true comfort that comes only from above. The things of this world can all be taken away, but the promise of God’s kingdom can’t be taken away. It is the treasure that neither moth nor rust can ever destroy. The Holy Spirit may not bring excitement and enthusiasm, but it will bring the everlasting comfort of sins forgiven in Christ Jesus.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Sermon for Ascension, 2021

Text: Acts 1:1-11

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

One of my cycling friends indicated in a message thread last night that he was going to ride some Ft. Roots repeats today. This means that he was going to head over to Paul Duke Drive just across from Riverview Park and ride the road all the way up to the back gate of the VA, ride back to the bottom and do it again. This is an exercise that we’ll sometimes do in order to prepare us for longer climbs on longer rides. I commented that it was rather appropriate to climb on Ascension Day. I don’t think anyone got my joke. I would ask you all tonight if you know what significant day in the Church year today is, but that would be a rather silly exercise, wouldn’t it? After all, you’re here. It might be possible that you didn’t think about today being the Ascension of Our Lord before you either saw on the church calendar for the month or before I announced the service on Sunday, but the point is that you’re here. Sadly, in spite of the significance of this very high feast on the church calendar, most of the world, in fact, most of Christendom forgets all about. Nobody gets the day off from school or work because of Ascension Day. The majority of Christian congregations, not even the ones that follow the Church calendar, have a service today to celebrate the occasion. Even our pews here tonight are largely empty because priorities lie elsewhere.

We are gathered here tonight for just that purpose, though. We recognize the significance of the Ascension of our Lord. And today, perhaps more than ever, we need this day. We need this celebration of Christ ascending to the throne of his Father to sit at his right hand.

We need Ascension Day because we so often find ourselves staring into heaven just as the disciples were, wondering what is going to happen next. We stare up into heaven because looking at the things that are happening all around us makes us not want to look at anything down here on earth. The world seems to spin out of control morally. And so we stare up into heaven asking God “How long will you let this complete and utter nonsense go on?” The disciples were wondering if Jesus was going to restore the kingdom of Israel. They wanted everything to go back to the way it was when everything was perfect. Or least when they thought it was perfect. That’s what we all want, too. Somehow, someway, we’d like God to make everything like it was back when it was perfect. Whatever our definition of perfect is anyway.

There are a couple of things that can be said about this. No how much better we might think things used to be in our world or in our country, they were never perfect. When removed from a situation, we tend to look back on it more fondly than it actually was when we were experiencing it in real life. The truth is that sin has always been around us. Maybe the moral decay of society wasn’t as “in-your-face” as it is today, but it’s always been there. The hearts of men have always been full of evil thoughts and intentions. The same can be said for the disciples’ desire for the restoration of Israel. The truth is that Israel was always living up to its name. They were always struggling with God, falling into the worship of idols and moral decay of their own.

But, in addition to that, Jesus has warned the disciples, and the warning passes down to us as well, that the world will not receive the people of God kindly. Our Gospels readings over the past few Sundays from John have shown us this. Jesus tells his disciples that the world will hate them. The world will persecute them. In the world they will have tribulation. And in the Gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday of Easter from John 16 Jesus tells the disciples that they will be “put out of the synagogues” and “the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” Indeed all of these things happen to the disciples in a rather short amount of time following his Ascension.

These words could just as easily be directed toward us. The world hates us. Just look at how the world responds when you try to espouse the teachings of the Word of God when it comes to social issues. The persecution that we face in our land is quite minor, to say the least, right now, but we know it will likely get worse. Look no further than terrorist attacks by Muslims and others around the globe to find Jesus’ words about those thinking they are offering service to God by killing Christians coming true right before our eyes. Yes, we, like the disciples, stare into the heavens and ask God, “How long? How long until you will reestablish your kingdom among us?”

The disciples misunderstood what the kingdom of God was all about. This is clear from their reaction to Jesus’ Ascension. The angels who address them re-focus them. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” Jesus had told them what to do. They were to wait for the Holy Spirit to come to them to clothe them with power from on high so that they could be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the end of the earth. And so the kingdom of God is tied directly to the activity of the Holy Spirit. Even with all the stern warnings that Jesus gives to the disciples, he comforts them with the reality that the Holy Spirit is coming. This Holy Spirit will remind them of all that Jesus has done and said to them. The kingdom of God is not some earthly utopia that can be found on a map. The kingdom of God is found where the Holy Spirit is living and active working through the means of grace. These means of grace deliver to us the gifts of Christ won for us on the cross in his innocent suffering and death.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for God’s kingdom to come. We pray this prayer, knowing that his kingdom comes even without our prayer. We can be assured of this because God establishes and sustains his kingdom through the means of grace. So we don’t look for God’s kingdom by staring to the clouds and wondering when it’s going to come down to us. No, we look to Holy Baptism, where we are clothed in the robes of Christ’s righteousness. We hear the words of the Absolution where our pastor, standing in Christ’s stead, forgives our sins. We eat and drink the body of and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. All of these things establish the kingdom of God and sustain us in that kingdom. We don’t have to stare into the heavens looking for it. It’s right here, right now.

None of this would be possible if Christ had not ascended. From the right hand of God, where Christ sits, he exercises his power over all of creation. He sends pastors to proclaim the message of salvation, he intercedes for us before his Father in heaven, and rules and protects His church, and governs over all the world for the benefit of his church.

His promise holds true. The risen and ascended Lord is always with us in Word and Sacrament. We can’t bank on much of anything that this world has to offer, but we can count on that. And we can be assured that he will come again just as went into heaven. On that day we will go the way that he has gone. On that day we will be delivered from this valley of sorrow to himself in heaven.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Sermon for Rogate, 2021

Text: John 16:23-33

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Latin names for each Sunday following Easter thus far have come from the first word (or words) of the Introit for today. Not today, though. Today, the name is Rogate. Rogate comes from the Latin word rogare, which means “to ask.” This name is given to today because the theme of prayer is woven throughout the propers for today. It comes out most explicitly in John 16 where Jesus says, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

When it comes to prayer, we often struggle. We struggle for multiple reasons with prayer. We struggle to find the words to pray. We struggle to know what it is that we should pray for. And we struggle with the idea of prayer in the first place. That is, we know that we have a God who knows all things. We have a God who knows what’s going to happen to us and to this world before it even happens. We also know that God’s will in always best. So the logical question that follows is this: why pray? What good will it do? God will do what God will do. Besides that, we have found in the past that God doesn’t answer prayer the way we want him to. He either doesn’t answer our prayer when we want him to or he doesn’t give us the answer that we want him to give us. This leads us to believe that God either isn’t listening or doesn’t care. I’m sure that most of us would not actually say that’s what we think about God, but our actions can certainly show that to be the case. Our prayers falter as we become discouraged by a perceived lack of action on the part of God.

There are three reasons, however, that we should pray. The first reason is rather obvious, but it is no small matter. God commands us to pray to him. This is what he tells us in the Second Commandment. God gives us his name for the expressed purpose of praying to him. The Lord wants us to pray to him. He wants us to ask him for things. He wants us to ask him for things because he wants to gives us good things. After all, we know that God gives us everything we need to support our bodies and lives. He gives us clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, land, animals, and all we have. He richly and daily provides us with all that we need to support our bodies and lives. Why does he give us these things? Is it because we deserve them? Certainly not! He gives all these things to us only out fatherly, divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness in us. This is the character of our God. We wants to give us all good things. And he earnestly desires that we ask him for these good things. This is the promise that Jesus makes in our Gospel reading: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” At first glance, one may come to the conclusion from this passage that God is some sort of vending machine. Just say the magic words “in Jesus’ name” and you’ll get whatever you want. But asking for things in the name of Jesus implies submission to God and his will. God’s will is always best. He desires that we be bold in our praying and promises to give us what is right.

The second reason that we should pray is that God promises to hear us. We can often be tempted to pray with timidity thinking that we are unworthy to approach the throne of God’s grace with our petitions. This is false humility, though. It fails to take into account the fact that as baptized children of God our sins are covered and we are enabled to approach our Father in heaven as dear children approach their dear children here on earth. We are no longer strangers and aliens to God. We are no longer at enmity with him. We have peace with God because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. God has no wrath left to pour out on us anymore. Instead, we come, covered by the blood of Jesus, and present our petitions to God in heaven with boldness and confidence that he hears us just as he hears his only-begotten Son.

The third reason that we are to pray is that God gives us the very words to pray. Often we struggle to find words to pray on our own, forgetting that God has already given us a whole slew of prayers in his Word. We suppose that perhaps we need to be more eloquent in our praying if we’re going to do it. What we really need, though, is to be more familiar with God’s Word. Look at the book of Psalms! It’s an entire book of prayers. There are prayers appropriate for any occasion in life in there. Have you sinned? There are prayers of repentance. Have you been sinned against? There are imprecatory Psalms. Do you have reason to give thanks? There are psalms of thanksgiving. The list goes on and on. Add to that the Lord’s Prayer which Jesus gave to his disciples when they asked him to teach them to pray, and you have more than enough words – given by God himself – to pray to him.

We need not wonder if God is listening if we pray. He promises that he is. We need not wonder if God answers prayer. He promises to answer us. We need not worry about needing words to pray. God gives those to us, too. Jesus tells us to ask that we may receive and our joy will be full. Our joy is, indeed, full. It is full because we know that Jesus has overcome the world in his death and resurrection. Even when we don’t get the answer that we desire in prayer, we have the assurance that God works through all things for the good of those who love him.

If you are one whose prayers have faltered, ask. Ask your heavenly Father knowing that he has promised to hear you and give all that is right.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Sermon for Cantate, 2021

Text: John 16:5-15

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

These weeks that follow Easter, especially last week, this week, and next two weeks, bring us a bit of déjà vu. The context for each of these three Gospel readings is the upper room with Jesus and his disciples. This conversation is all taking place on the night that Jesus was betrayed. Didn’t we just visit the events of Holy Week enough during Holy Week? Why do we return to this scene so much?

Of course, one could make the point that we are always preaching about Jesus. Namely, we are always preaching about the crucified and resurrected Jesus. Therefore, the events of Holy Week are absolutely fair game, and, in fact, should always be the subject of our preaching no matter what the calendar says. More so than that, though, the specific topic of Jesus’ monologue during these weeks is that of the Holy Spirit. This prepares our hearts nicely for Pentecost, which is just round the corner.

As our Gospel reading begins today, the disciples know what’s about to happen. They know that Jesus is about to die. Jesus is doing all the talking here, but he tells us what the disciples are thinking and saying, or, rather, not saying. They aren’t asking Jesus where he’s going. They aren’t asking because they know. They aren’t asking Jesus any questions because they’re sad. They don’t want to talk about it. You’ve all been in a similar position before. You’ve been in that room where everybody is sorrowful because they know that something bad has happened or is about to happen. You don’t want to talk about it because, well, it makes you sad to talk about it.

Jesus, makes it clear, however, what is best for the disciples. They think, of course, that it would be better that Jesus not die. It would be better if he would stay right there with them. This is not what is best, however. It is best that Jesus go away. It is best that Jesus die. Why? Because then the Helper, the Holy Spirit, will come to them.

When we think about the Holy Spirit coming, we typically think of Pentecost, and rightfully so. That is, after all, when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, enabling them to speak in many different languages so that they could proclaim the message of the Gospel to all gathered in Jerusalem for the feast. That was the beginning of the Christian Church as 3,000 were made the children of God through Holy Baptism.

This is not, however, the only time that the Holy Spirit comes. Jesus himself breathes on the disciples Easter evening and says to them “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Jesus must go the way of the cross and die, but this is not a cause for sorrow as the disciples think right now, but a cause for rejoicing. Jesus declared peace to the disciples when he appeared among them because that was what was accomplished by him on the cross. Forgiveness of sins was won there by Jesus, so forgiveness of sins is now what the disciples are given to do as they receive the Holy Spirit on Easter evening.

John is the only Gospel writer to use the term Paraclete for the Holy Spirit. You have it in many of your English translations as “Helper.” Paraclete can be used to describe one who is called to aid someone else. This is certainly true of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit delivers to you the gifts won by Christ on the cross. There is nothing that is of greater help to us than that.

Paraclete can also be used to describe a legal defender—kind of like a defense lawyer. Certainly, when accused by Satan, we are defended by the Holy Spirit who reminds Satan, your accuser, that Jesus has already paid the price for your sins and that you are declared “not guilty” on account of him.

Perhaps the best way to look at the term Paraclete, though, is as one who gives you comfort. The Holy Spirit is sent to you by the Father. He is given to you through the Son from the Father. The Spirit of truth, as Jesus calls him, will be with you forever. And how is it that the Paraclete, the Helper, the Holy Spirit, brings you comfort? He points you back to Jesus. He gives you peace and faith in what Christ has done for you. That’s comfort. That’s what the Holy Spirit is all about.

The Holy Spirit will come, as Jesus says, to convict. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin because they do not believe in Jesus. When you think about sin, you typically think about things like stealing, adultery, and murder. These are, indeed, sins, but the ultimate sin is that of idolatry. Luther highlights this in the Small Catechism as each of the meanings for the commandments begin with the phrase “we should fear and love God.” All sin, at its root, is idolatry, that is, belief in a false God. Now certainly you don’t just go around building gods made out of stone or wood these days. I suppose that might happen in an isolated undeveloped country or two in the world, but the average American isn’t thinking about how to fashion a false God using his two hands and a lathe and chisel. This idea of all sin being idolatry may seem a bit provocative to you, but if you think about, this is how it’s been from the beginning. As I stated earlier, Jesus is telling the disciples that it is best for him to go away. He is telling them what it is that is best for them. This is what God’s Law does. It shows you what is best for you. God told Adam and Eve what was best for them. It was best for them not to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

It is best for you to keep the commandments. Things will go better in life for you if you do. The thing is, though, that you fear the world more than you fear God. You know very well that God can see all that you do. He is omniscient, that is, he knows all things, and he is omnipresent, that is, he is everywhere. Yet you still openly sin against the commandments. The thing is that you fear what the world thinks of you more than you fear God. This means that you’ll make decisions about what you do or don’t do not based upon what God says is best for you, but on what your friends and family think is best. This is how your fear love and trust is not in God. This is how all of your sin amounts to idolatry.

The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning righteousness. The Holy Spirit declares the world righteous on account of Jesus. The world, not just believers, mind you, the whole world is declared just and righteous on account of Jesus—even those who do not trust in him. It is best for the world that Jesus go the way of the cross and die because in this action God is reconciled to the world. His wrath is appeased. Sadly, this does not mean that all are saved. Faith receives the gift of salvation. By faith you are reconciled to God. Faith receives the gift of salvation won by Christ on the cross.

The Holy Spirit will convict the world of judgment because the ruler of this world is judged. The ruler of this world is Satan. Satan is judged in the death of Jesus. He thought he had won. He thought he had beaten the Son of God. But it turns out all his accusations are now false. Satan stands as your accuser. He stands there trying to show the Father in heaven that you are a sinner who deserves to live in hell for eternity. But remember, you have been reconciled to God. You have received the gifts of Christ by faith. Your sins are forgiven. You are no longer guilty, for you have been cleared of all charges. The ruler of this world, Satan, is judged.

So today, Cantate, sing a new song to the Lord. Sing with joy that Jesus has gone the way of the cross to the Father and that in his death he brings your lasting comfort and peace. Rejoice that the grave could not hold him and that it will not hold you as you have been declared righteous on account of Jesus. Rejoice that the Holy Spirit who brought you into faith through the waters of Holy Baptism continues to deliver the forgiveness of sins to you through the Word of God and through bread and wine. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he always gives you what is best for you.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Sermon for Jubilate, 2021

Text: 1 Peter 2:11-20; John 16:16-22

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Indeed, Christ has risen from the dead. We unite our voices in songs of great jubilation on this Jubilate Sunday knowing that death has been defeated and no longer has dominion over us who have been baptized into the death of Jesus and are raised to new life in him just as he is risen from the dead. As the Church Year applies to the life of the Christian, historically Lent was a season of catechesis and prayer for new converts to Christianity who would be welcomed into the Church, baptized at the Easter Vigil, and join the Church in receiving the body and blood of Jesus. St. Peter writes his epistle to new Christians who fall in this category. I don’t know, of course, if the practice of baptism at the Vigil at come into being yet, but Peter’s audience consisted of people who had not long been part of the Church. Many of us have been part of the Church for years, of course. Maybe even for the entirety of our lives. No matter when you became part of the Church, though, things changed for you at that moment. You were no longer under the power of the devil. In your baptism the unclean spirit that was in you was cast out to make way for the Holy Spirit.

The fact remains, though, that you are still in this world. You still have to deal with our sinful flesh whose desires are, as St. Paul writes in Galatians 5, directly opposed to the desires of the Spirit. St. Paul also laments in Romans 7 that the evil that he does not want to do he keeps on doing. It is also true that we remain in a fallen, sinful world. This world is opposed to the things of God. You don’t have to look terribly hard to find evidence of this. Jesus says, in fact, that the world will “rejoice” when it sees God’s people suffer. The world rejoiced when Jesus was crucified. They thought he was dead for good and that they had gotten ridden of him. They thought it was good that the man who claimed to be the Savior of the world was dead. This is the way it is in the world. Good is turned into evil and that which is evil is esteemed as good. This is just how Satan wants it. Ultimately, he is behind all that is evil in this world. He desires nothing more than that all turn away from God and their faith be destroyed or, better yet, never even come into existence. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil.

So what are we to do? How are we to live as God’s people when our sinful flesh, the world, and the devil are constantly trying to do irreparable damage to us and our faith? St. Peter sets forth to answer that very question in his “Table of Duties.” You may or may not be familiar with that term. Luther included a Table of Duties in his Small Catechism. It consists of a list of Bible Passages that teach us how we ought to live as the people of God in relation to one another. This is what Peter is doing in our epistle reading for today, too. In the verse that precedes our epistle reading for today, Peter tells his readers that once they were not a people, but now they are a people. They are a people who have received the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. You also have received this mercy.

Then he goes on to show what that means. Notice the importance of making a good confession in front of the Gentiles. Here, “Gentiles” doesn’t refer to non-Jews; it refers to non-Christians. In the First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray that God’s name would be kept holy. The way that we keep the name of God holy is not only that we teach the Word of God properly, but that we lead holy lives according to it. You see, you were marked with the holy cross in your baptism. You had God’s name placed on you there. Everything that you do in your life reflects on God. Everything you do either brings glory to his name or it profanes it. Peter urges us to keep our conduct pure among the unbelievers that they may see our good deeds and glorify God in the day of his visitation, that is, when Jesus returns on the Last Day.

This exhortation from Peter stings, though, doesn’t it. For just as the passage I alluded to earlier from Romans 7, we don’t do the things we ought to do. Peter tells us to respect those who are in authority over us even when we suffer for doing good. This is a hard thing! The world around us teaches that we are to fight back when those in authority misuse their authority, but Peter tells us that we should instead suffer injustice at the hands of those in authority because all authority comes from God. Are we actually supposed to just let people walk all over us like that? The Word of God says “Yes,” but our fallen world says “No, that’s pure foolishness.” Unfortunately, we too often listen to the world on this one.

Then we hear hard words like this from St. Peter that cut us to the heart. We sorrow over our sin. Then, when we actually try to do the right thing, we are filled with sorrow because of the injustice we suffer at the hands of the world.

Know this, though, dear friends in Christ, today the world rejoices and you are filled with sorrow, but Jesus says that your sorrow will be turned to joy. Your joy doesn’t come in the form of revenge over those who deal with you unjustly, though; your joy comes in the form of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

As the baptized, we wait for the day of the Lord’s visitation. We wait for Christ to return that we may be taken from this valley of sorrow to himself in heaven. We wait for that day, but Jesus still visits even now. Today is the day of your visitation. For Jesus comes in the lowly forms of bread and wine to deliver to you that which he won on the cross. Come. Eat and drink that you may be filled with the joy of sins forgiven.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Sermon for Quasimodo Geniti, 2021

Text: John 20:19-31

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk of the word.” So we chanted earlier in the service. St. Peter wrote those words to urge recently-converted Christians who had, for various reasons, been scattered far and wide across the ancient world. What the people needed was the pure spiritual milk of the Word, for that is how they were brought into the faith and that is how they will be kept in the faith. We confess this in the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed. We cannot, by our own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ or come to him. Thanks be to God that the Holy Spirit, working through water, Word, blood, and wine, converts unbelievers and keeps unbelievers in the true faith. Without these gifts, we’d only be left with our reason and strength.

These show themselves inadequate. Obviously. Look at Jesus’ disciples. They are there in the locked room for fear of the Jews. Why do they fear the Jews? On the one hand, it makes a lot of sense. You see what they did to Jesus. They were ruthless to Jesus. Jesus didn’t do anything wrong. Jesus, in fact, did the opposite of wrong. He was good and perfect. He healed the sick and raised the dead. Yet his end was death. Maybe the Jews will do the same to those who follow Jesus. Their fear was already evident on Maundy Thursday. Do you remember what they did when Jesus was arrested? They all left him and fled. Peter ends up following at a distance to see what will happen, but he cowers in fear as he’s asked if he knows Jesus, denying him three times. But, again, do you blame them?

On the other hand, they should know what’s going on. Jesus told them at least three times what was going to happen. He told them he would be crucified, but rise form the dead after three days in the tomb. They also have multiple witnesses that have either seen Jesus or been told that he is risen from the dead. There were the women at the tomb in the morning who came to find it empty and who were told by the angel that he had risen from the dead. Peter and John both ran to the tomb to find it empty. Mary Magdalene spoke to Jesus. Jesus revealed himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus and they ran back and told the disciples in the locked room that they had seen the Lord. Jesus told them what would happen and all the reports that they’re receiving are confirming that what Jesus told them would happen has happened. There should be no fear in the disciples at all. Why are they afraid?

They’re afraid because they lack faith. Their reason tells them that they should be afraid. Their reason tells them Jesus is dead. Their reason tells them that Jesus can’t be alive because when people die they stay dead. They saw him get nailed to that cross. They saw him laid in the tomb. He is dead. They can either believe the reports that defy reason, or they can trust their own reason and strength. They choose the latter. Fear and unbelief rules the day for them. Their sinful flesh will not allow them to trust what the Word of God says.

Jesus still steps into this situation, though. He doesn’t need the invitation of the fearful, doubting disciples. They don’t ask him into their heart like Armenians. In fact, he doesn’t even need a door or a window. The resurrected, exalted Jesus Christ appears in the flesh right before the eyes of the disciples. He shows the disciples his hands and his side. Now they now that the reports are true. They know that Jesus really has risen from the dead. Along with that fact comes dread, though. They see how foolish they were. They had disbelieved the Lord himself when he said that he would rise from the dead. Had Jesus only shown the disciples his hands and side, they would not have been glad when they saw him. They would have glad. They would have remained in fear and dread. They would have remained in their sin.

That’s why the words that Jesus speaks are so important. “Peace be with you,” he says. This is not just a trite saying by Jesus. It’s not just a simple greeting. Jesus is absolving the disciples. He is telling them that their sins have been covered. His death paid for their sins of fear and unbelief. This is the peace that surpasses all understanding. This is the peace that was promised by the angels when they proclaimed the birth of Jesus to the disciples. This is the peace between God and man of sins forgiven.

It’s also really important to see that Jesus doesn’t just forgive the disciples once, he repeats the action when he comes to them again eight days later. Again, he says, “Peace be with you.” Forgiveness is not a one time thing. Were the disciples’ sins forgiven the first time that Jesus came among them? Yes, of course. Did the disciples remember their sins, perhaps even the same sins that they felt guilty about when Jesus came the first time? Probably.

In this whole process, Jesus gives his disciples the Holy Spirit for the express purpose of forgiving the sins of those who come to them burdened by sin. To this day, God sends us pastors who have been entrusted with the Office of the Keys to proclaim the forgiveness of Christ to sinners with burdened consciences.

This is something we sorely need. For we, like the disciples, listen to our reason that tells us that what we read in the Word of God might not be true. Maybe God really didn’t say all the things that we find in the scriptures. Maybe the skeptics are right. It might just be a set of myths and elaborate fairy tales. Many of the things that Jesus did simply aren’t scientific. For that matter, large portions of the scriptures seem to record things that are simply not possibly true. Of course, few of us would go so far as to label the scriptures as untrue. But we might be tempted to compromise on some of the details. We might attempt to harmonize rational human explanations for the miracles of Jesus, or the creation account, or Jonah swallowed by a big fish, or the crossing of the Red Sea. Maybe there are natural explanations for all of it.

You can’t have it both ways, though. Either the pure, spiritual milk of the word is true or it isn’t. When you think you know better than the Word of God, repent. Repent of your idolatry that puts yourself in the place of God. Repent, and drink the pure spiritual milk of the Word that gives you the forgiveness of sins. Whether your sins are “big” or “small,” Your Father in heaven wants to forgive you. This is why God gives his Word to you. He wants you to have the peace that he won for you on the cross. This is why he sends his ministers to you to pronounce his absolution. This is why he gives his body and blood to you to eat and to drink. You’ll notice that the Pax Domini comes right on the heels of the Words of Institution each Sunday. That’s because, that’s what we receive in the Sacrament of the Altar. Jesus’ body and blood are not there for you simply as a memorial meal. They are there to take what was won on the cross by Jesus and give it directly to you.

Just as Jesus returned to his disciples eight days later to deliver this peace again, Jesus comes to you week after week with the same forgiveness. Were you not forgiven the first time? Of course you were. But memory of sins forgiven and the guilt that comes along with those memories doesn’t fade that quickly. Jesus stands ready to give you his peace again and again.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Sermon for The Resurrection of Our Lord, 2021

Text: 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

What a sad walk Mary, Mary, and Salome had as they approached the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices. Jesus was dead (or so they thought). They had followed him and listened to him teach. They thought that he was to be their Messiah, the one who would redeem them and all Israel. They were, of course, quite wrong. Jesus had risen form the dead. His body was nowhere to be found. The angel tells them that he’s risen and they still don’t really believe it. Trembling and astonishment sized them and Mark writes that “they said nothing to anyone” even though the angel had just told them to go and tell Jesus’ disciples and Peter.

Why don’t they believe? Didn’t they hear Jesus when he predicted that this is exactly what would happen to him. Had not Jesus told them that he would suffer many things, be crucified, die, and, after three days, rise again? They heard those words, no doubt, but they didn’t believe them. Their minds were clouded with sin and unbelief.

St. Paul writes that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. My wife does all of the bread making at our house (as many of you probably know), but even I know that it’s true that a little bit of leaven – that is, yeast – goes a long way. Laura tells me that a small 4oz jar of yeast will last her about a year under normal circumstances. St. Paul’s use of leaven and bread in 1 Corinthians 5 is, of course, a metaphor, though. Leaven is used as a metaphor for sin. Even the smallest sin ruins everything. It infects everything. And it happens fast.

Look no further than the fall into sin from Genesis 3 for evidence of this. One sin ruins everything. It’s difficult for us to even imagine a world with no sin in it. Adam and Eve’s sin infected every bit of God’s creation. It didn’t just destroy the relationship between God and man, it destroyed the relationship between people. It destroyed the relationship between animals. It destroyed the relationship between people and animals. Everything that ails this fallen creation can be traced back to that moment. Death came into the world through the sin of Adam and Eve. Can you imagine a world without death? That’s what the creation was before the Fall. Nothing dies until God makes garments of animal skins to cover the shame of Adam and Eve.

Of course, the fact that sin is traced back to that moment in the Garden of Eden doesn’t get us off the hook. It’s not like we can just point the finger at Adam and Eve and blame everything on them. Each and every one of us bears the guilt of our own sin. It would be one thing if we were able to live perfect, God-fearing lives, but we can’t. The reason we can’t is that we’re infected with sin. The way that infections work is that they spread. They spread through the whole body. Sin permeates us and makes us altogether evil. Just like a little leaven leaven leavens the whole lump, a little sin desecrates the entire being.

The worst part about this problem, though, is that it’s impossible to solve. Once the leaven gets into the lump, you can’t take it out. It’s there no matter what you try. We can’t solve our sinful condition. We can try all we want to balance out the bad with the good, but the bad will always be there, hanging on. There is no way to remove it. The stain of sin can’t be taken out with hard work and determination.

Instead, it has to be removed from the outside. Someone else has to take care of that for us. There is only one who is qualified for the job. The shortcoming of all of the sacrifices that were made for sin in the Old Testament was that they had to be repeated. Yes, they were given by God to bring about forgiveness, but they were always incomplete. The priest making the sacrifice even had to make a sacrifice first to cover their own sin. All of this, though, was pointing the people of God forward to Jesus.

The picture on the cover our bulletin today illustrates well what Jesus does for us. Notice that he’s grabbing the arm of a man to his right. That man is Adam. Notice that Jesus is grabbing him by the wrist, not by the hand. That is, Adam is not working here. Jesus is doing it all. He is grabbing Adam by the arm and dragging him up from death. Eve waits on the other side for Jesus to do the same for her. This is how it is for us. Sin has ruined us. It has left us for dead. There is nothing that we can do to remedy the situation. We can’t grab onto something in the hopes that it will help us. But Jesus destroys death in his death and he comes down to us and raises us up, grabbing hold of us. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. There is no more payment needed for our sins. All has been done. Death is defeated. We could not do anything to rescue ourselves, but Jesus has done it all. Now he plunders the devils goods, us included.

“So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

The Kingdom of God comes to us today in the fruits of the cross and empty grave. Through the unleavened bread that his body and the wine that is his blood, Jesus today gives us the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Let us celebrate the festival by receiving these gifts in faith and confessing with our mouths that Jesus is risen from the dead.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Sermon for The Vigil of Easter, 2021

(with excerpts from the Easter Sermon attributed to St. John Chyrsostom)

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Are there any who are devout lovers of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Are there any who are grateful servants? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord! The Lenten season has come to an end. The fast is ended. Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages!

Tonight we have recounted the history of the salvation of God’s people. Jesus compares his kingdom to a vineyard in Matthew 20. The Lord promises to pay what is fair to those who labor in the vineyard. Tonight is the night we celebrate what God gives to those who labor in his vienyard.

Adam and Eve and Noah and his family have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons came after the third hour,

let him with gratitude join in the Feast! The Israelites that were led out of Egypt by the Lord’s strong arm, crossing the Red Sea and ultimately led into the Promised Land arrived after the sixth hour.

Let them not doubt; for they too shall sustain no loss. Those who remained faithful in the exile to Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendago among them—and prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel who came at the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let them come too.

And finally, we have those who arrive in the vineyard of the Lord at the eleventh hour, the apostles, the entire New Testament Church, and even you, Allyssa, and all those here holding vigil this night. Tonight reminds that we are not alone. Not only is the faith that you confess tonight your faith, but it is the faith that has been confessed by the Church throughout the ages. Let us not be afraid by reason of Christ’s delay. For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.

He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.

He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.

The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward;

rich and poor, rejoice together!

Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,

rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Enjoy the foretaste of the Lord’s feast at his holy altar. Eat the body of the Lord. Drink his blood. For Jesus has promised that all who eat his flesh and drink his blood will live forever.

Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.

Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.

Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,

for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;

for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.

He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.

He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,

“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.

It was in an uproar because it is mocked.

It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.

It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.

It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.

It took earth, and encountered Heaven.

It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?

O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!

Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!

Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!

Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead,

is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

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Sermon for Good Friday, 2021

Text: John 18-19

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The cross is the most commonly-used symbol of Christianity. We rarely give it any thought. We wear crosses as jewelry, we hang them on our walls, we wear them on our clothing. In fact, we tend to see crosses everywhere we look. We see two intersecting lines anywhere and our mind instantly goes to the symbol of the cross. Doors with raised panels look like crosses. Intersecting support beams for a building or a fence look like crosses.

A cross is more than simply a decoration, though. It is an instrument of death. More than that, it is an instrument of humiliation and torture. When criminals are executed by means of the death penalty today, we do it as humanely as we can. The cross is different. The cross extends the process of death over several hours. The cross was the most evil way to bring about death and was used by the governing authorities to scare people into submission.

Jesus tells us to “take up our cross and follow him.” For some of the disciples, they would literally do just that. That is, they would suffer and die for their faith. They would be martyrs. As recently as one hundred years ago, in fact, Christian men, women, and children were crucified in Muslim Turkey for being Christians. The apostles and martyrs boldly confessed the faith rather than forsaking it even though it cost them their lives.

Thankfully, the cross is more of a metaphor for us most of the time. We speak of difficulties that we have in our lives as crosses that we bear. We may be tempted by this or that thing. We may deal with injury or disease. Aging, conflict, despair, and loneliness are all crosses that we bear. Christians today may suffer financially for their faith as they may reach a point where it would violate their conscience to do what they are asked by secular authorities. The truth about all of these crosses, though, is that they are products of our sinful condition.

It’s completely different with Jesus, of course. Jesus, when he was handed over to be crucified, took up his own cross and was led out to the place of the skull, that is, Golgotha. That’s where Jesus was crucified. Jesus bears a literal cross, the instrument of his death. But the metaphorical cross that he bears is yours. The metaphorical cross that Jesus bears is the cross of your sin. He takes it up and dies in your place.

We call today Good Friday because of this. It’s good for you because you aren’t the one suffering and dying. You benefit from the cross because God pours out every bit of his wrath on his only-begotten Son Jesus at the cross instead of you. This is what we call the blessed exchange. You trade your sin in for Christ’s righteousness won on the cross. You are Barabbas, the murderer and insurrectionist who is set free rather than facing the death penalty. To our evil world, this just seems wrong. It seems unjust and arbitrary. Christians look, at the very least, strange, and at the worst sick and demented as we look to the cross and call it good, and, in turn, adorn our sanctuaries, homes, bodies, and clothes with this symbol that appears evil. This has even led some Christians to abandon the use of the cross. They don’t want the outside world to see them using an instrument of suffering and death as a celebrated decoration.

Here’s what all of those who object to the image of the cross: Jesus goes to the cross willingly. God is not arbitrarily punishing Jesus for your sins. Jesus is, of his own free will, taking your place. Yes, the cross is a symbol of death. Or at least it was. Now the cross is a symbol of love. It is a symbol of the love that the Father has for you. He loved you in this way: he sent Jesus to die for you. The cross is a symbol of the love that the Son has for you: the Lamb goes uncomplaining forth. This symbol of love is not just for you, though. The love of Jesus is for all. Jesus prays to his Father that those who nailed him to the cross and mocked him might be forgiven. The Jews cry out: “his blood be on us and on our children,” and it is so. The blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, is great enough to cover the sins of even his fiercest enemies. The cross is where true love is found. The world defines lust as love and looks at this true love of Christ as foolishness. Jesus defines love this way, though: “Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” This is the love displayed by Jesus at the cross. The love that Jesus displays at the cross brings life. Out of death comes life. The cross, a symbol of torture and death, is now a symbol of life and salvation.

Today is a good day. Today we gaze upon the cross and recognize it as good for that is where our salvation was accomplished. From today, our eyes look to the tomb and beyond: to the joyful expectation of the resurrection.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Sermon for Maundy Thursday, 2021

Text: Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

On the night that Jesus is betrayed, he institutes the Lord’s Supper as he and his disciples celebrate the Passover. We read of the institution of the Passover in our Old Testament reading. Each Israelite household was to kill a year old lamb without blemish. They were take some of the blood of the Passover lamb and paint it on their doorposts. When the Angel of Death would come, the homes with blood on the doorposts would be “passed over” and the lives of the firstborn males within that household would be spared. Meanwhile, the people were to eat the Passover lamb in haste, ready to leave Egypt. God would grant deliverance for his people Israel through the Passover. Through his gracious intervention, the nation of Israel was no longer in bondage. Each year, from then on, the people of God were to commemorate the Passover that they might remember what God had done for them.

It says in Exodus 12:14 that God’s people were to celebrate the Passover forever, as a feast. That might trouble some of us. Why don’t we keep the Passover anymore? Why aren’t we out buying lambs without blemish, killing them, painting some of the blood on the door jambs of our houses, and eating the lamb in haste?

The answer to that question is found in Jesus’ institution of the Sacrament of the Altar. Just as it is with the whole law of God, Jesus does not come to abolish the Passover, but to fulfill it. We don’t celebrate the Passover as Christians anymore because Jesus has fulfilled the Passover for us and given us a new covenant. Our Passover Lamb is Jesus. The deliverance of Israel from slavery to Egypt cost each household a perfect lamb. Our deliverance is bought and paid for not from our own goods, but by the merits of Christ Jesus who will, the day following his institution of the Sacrament of the Altar, be nailed to a cross not because of his own sin, for he had none, but for ours. Let us meditate this evening more fully on what Jesus gives us in the blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

As it was with Baptism and Confession, the two other sacraments, Luther begins his section on the Sacrament of the Altar with the simplest of questions: “What is the sacrament of the altar?” Over the years the answer to this question has somehow been muddied. As that statement implies, this really shouldn’t be that complicated. Jesus said to his disciples, “Take eat, this is my body… Take, eat, this is my blood…” So what is it that the disciples eat and drink at the Last Supper? The body and blood of Jesus. It’s crystal clear. But how can that be? It looks, smells, and tastes like bread and wine? There are few different ways of explaining that. The sacramentarians, those who deny that power of the sacraments, will say that Jesus is using picture language. Jesus didn’t mean that the bread and wine were actually his body and blood. He meant that they represent his body and blood. They are only symbols. On the other end of the spectrum is the Roman Catholic Church. They say that upon the consecration of the bread and wine, the bread and wine cease to be bread and wine and are only the body and blood of Jesus. The body and blood only “appear” to be bread and wine. The problem with both of these is that they simply don’t take the Word of God at face value. Jesus says “This is…” He doesn’t explain how the bread and wine are his body and blood, simply that they are. So we leave at it that. In the Sacrament, Jesus gives Christians his body and blood to eat and to drink.

For what purpose? Again, Jesus says it right there when he institutes the supper. It is for the forgiveness of sins. Some have tried to argue that eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus can’t possibly give the forgiveness of sins. They consider that to be salvation by works. Eating and drinking can’t save. Jesus saves. Well, here’s the thing. All we’re doing as Lutherans is looking for the places where Jesus promises to forgive sins. There are three places where he explicitly roots this promise: Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution: and the Lord’s Supper. In all three places, man is not the one working. God is the one at work. God is the one who makes one his child in baptism. God’s Word of forgiveness is spoken by the pastor in the Absolution. Jesus attaches his promise of sins forgiven and, in turn, life and salvation, to his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. The simple act of eating and drinking is not what brings the benefits of forgiveness, life, and salvation, though. Faith receives the gifts that Christ gives. Faith says “Amen” as Jesus gives his body to eat and his blood to drink. The “Amen” is saying that what Jesus says about his body and blood is true and the promises that he attaches to it are real. Faith receives the gift.

We would love for everyone to come and receive the body and blood of Jesus at our altar. We want all to come to receive the gifts of the cross. Sadly, though, we can’t just let it be a free-for-all. That was the problem that St. Paul was dealing with at the church in Corinth. There was division in the church at Corinth. Division among the body of Christ is bad. When we commune at an altar, we are making a declaration of unity with the those with whom we are communing. We are declaring that we are in agreement with all that is taught concerning the Word of God at this altar. If that isn’t the case, we are introducing division into the body of Christ where there should be unity. Paul doesn’t mince his words when it comes to the consequences of such unworthy reception of the body and blood of Jesus. He says that “anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” Because we certainly don’t want anyone to bring judgment upon themselves, the Church has practiced closed communion since the beginning. It always pains us to have to tell someone “no,” but it truly is the most loving thing that can be done at times. Think of the doctor writing a prescription. Will he knowingly prescribe a drug to you that will cause you harm or even death? Of course not. At least not a good doctor. So it is with the medicine of immortality. Drugs are good when used for their intended purpose. The Lord’s Supper is good when used for it’s intended purpose.

So let us examine ourselves and see that we need what the Lord comes to give us in his Holy Supper. For we can’t deny that we still have flesh and blood and live in this world where the devil rages and tries at every turn to destroy our faith. Our sinful flesh clings to us, but Christ, our Passover Lamb, the perfect, spotless Son of God, has destroyed death in his death on the cross and now gives us the fruits of the cross as he feeds us with his body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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