The Day of Pentecost - May 20, 2018

"Every Nation Under Heaven"

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this morning comes from the Second Reading, particularly Acts 2:1-11, which reads, "When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians-we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." Amen. So stands God's Word. Amen.

There are many things in the world that divide people from one another. People look differently. People enjoy different foods. People have different styles of dress. We live in different climates. We have different customs. We often have different forms of government and education styles and requirements. But of course one of the biggest obstacles to unity of people is the many different and diverse languages that we speak. We can desire the same thing but still not be able to come to an understanding because of the barrier of our different languages. Imagine what it would be like to be able to go anywhere in the world, to any country on earth, and to be able to understand what people are saying; and that they too can understand what we are saying to them. Many of the conflicts and petty squabbles that blow up to a full scale battle could be avoided if we could only all speak the same language.

Well, there was a time when all people could understand one another, there was no variety of languages. Communication was so very much easier. It was so much easier for people to work together toward a common goal. But of course we know that the problem was man's sin. Sin and our committing of it is the cause of all the heartache and trouble on the earth. Nothing good comes from our sins. Think about it for a minute; Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden because of their sin. God sends the worldwide flood to wipe man from the earth, all but Noah and his family because of man's sin.

But, after the flood, when God had caused the waters to recede from the earth and Noah and his family leave the ark, God says this to them in Genesis 9:1, "And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." Well, how in the world could people disobey this command of God? Isn't this also a blessing? Wouldn't the natural course of population growth cause this command from God to be carried out? Well, no, the hearts of mankind were full of rebellion and disobedience, just as they are to this very day. Look at what happens as the population of the earth grows after the flood. Genesis 11:4 has the people saying, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." The people decided that they were not going to obey God's command to fill the earth. They wanted to have a central point to keep them in one place. We are told that God comes down and sees this and says, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech." You see, God knew that if this were allowed to continue the sin and depravity of humanity would know no bounds. There would be no limit to humanities rebellion against God.

So, God confuses man's languages and causes them to be dispersed over the earth. But, now, we see in our text this morning that God causes this confusion of languages to be reversed. God had once confused languages as a curb on man's sinfulness; and now He causes people from many different nations to be able to understand one another. This is not a complete reversal of course. People were not, from then on, able to completely understand each other. No, but we are told that on this day, the Jewish feast of Pentecost, there were Jews who had been dispersed over the whole known world and that they were citizens of many other countries, and they spoke any different languages; in fact there are some fifteen different countries which are mentioned. These Jews, who could not normally understand one another, and certainly would not have been able to understand the disciples, were able to hear them and understand them, in their own separate languages. They heard the disciples speaking about the "mighty works of God." What would these "mighty works of God" be? This would be God's wonderful saving work through Christ. God's great saving work through the life, suffering and death; and then His glorious resurrection from the dead for the sins of the world.

This reversal of the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel serves to advance the spread of the Gospel. We know that God desires all people to be saved. Christ was not sent into the world for the people of one nation, or one language only. Christ was sent so that the people of all nations, who spoke any language would hear God's gracious saving Word and be brought to saving faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. When we first read this account we might possibly think that the disciples all began to speak at once in all of these many languages. But we know that we serve a God of order and not of disorder. Listen again to verses three and four of our text, "And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." In 1 Corinthians 14:29-33 we read, "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace." If they had all begun speaking at the same time in all of these different languages, wouldn't it still have been confusing and impossible to understand?

Paul in Romans 10:14 writes, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" then to continue with this theme, even if a person is hearing the word preached to them, but if it is in a language they don't understand it does no good because it is not understood. But, on the Day of Pentecost God gave His servants the ability to proclaim the Good News of His mighty works of salvation though His Son to many people from many nations in many languages so that it could be understood. This is the beginning of the fulfillment of Christ's words from the first chapter of Acts, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." We are all witnesses of the wonderful saving works of God through Jesus Christ His Son. We are His witnesses here in this place where He has put us. God has spread His saving Word through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and now over all the earth. God desires that all people be saved and to be brought to the knowledge of the truth that we are sinners and that our one and only hope for forgiveness and life is in Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sins and the sins of the entire world. This reversal of Babel continues to this day and beyond as missionaries go out into all the world and as the Bible is translated into more and more languages and dialects. In fact, as of October 2017 the full Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament alone into 1521 languages and Bible portions or stories into 1121 other languages. Because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, not matter what language they speak, and they need to hear God's mighty, saving Word; His Word of forgiveness and grace in the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding forever keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus out Lord. Amen.

The Seventh Sunday of Easter - May 13, 2018

"Not of the World"

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The text that engages us this morning is the Gospel reading, John 17:11b-10 which reads, [Jesus said:] "Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth." Amen. So stands God's Word. Amen.

Our text this morning is a part of what is known as Jesus' Great High Priestly Prayer. Jesus knows that His ministry and His mission are about to come to its completion. Very soon Jesus is about to be arrested and tried. Very soon He will be beaten and nailed to a cross as if He were nothing but a common criminal, between two common criminals. Jesus knew that all of this was about to happen. Can you imagine what this would be like? I can't possibly imagine what that would be like. I can't imagine what it would be like to know for certain that in a matter of days I was going to go through what can only be described as a hell on earth; and that I was innocent, that I in no way deserved what was about to happen to me. I cannot possibly imagine what would be going through my mind. Maybe some of you remember the movie starring Tom Hanks, "The Green Mile". This film was about an innocent man, falsely accused but still arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. This man has some kind of mystical ability that he does not use for himself, but he uses it for the benefit of others. He takes the diseases of others into himself and he heals them; and then he expels the disease. This man shows no concern for himself, even to the last. His concern is for those who are putting him to death. There are some ways in which, if you examine them closely, you can see this as a salvation story. You can see this as an account where this man has changed those who knew him. But still and all, after everything was said and done, this man died, he was of the world, no matter how special he appeared to be.

In our text this morning we see and hear Jesus. Jesus is praying to His Father and to our Father. The first part of verse eleven is not included in our text, but I am going to address it. Jesus prays, "And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you." At the beginning of His High Priestly Prayer Jesus prayed, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." So, Jesus is fully aware that His time has come and that He will very soon be coming into His Kingdom on the cross. Very soon through His suffering, death, and glorious resurrection from the dead He would glorify the Father and that He would be glorified. Jesus would, beyond any shadow of a doubt, prove Himself to be exactly who He proclaimed Himself to be and exactly who He showed Himself to be through the great signs and wonders which He performed. But, still and all, Jesus knew that He would be rejected and crucified. But His concern is not for Himself, His concern is for His disciples and those who they would be bringing the saving Word to after He had gone back to the Father. Jesus, true God and also true man was indeed born into the world. He lived in the world and experienced all that you and I experience. He experienced temptation, grief, loneliness, pain, exhaustion, hunger, and thirst. He experienced unbelief and opposition. He experienced mocking and people whom wanted to kill him before it was time, but yet, even in the face of all of this He did not sin. Could any of us go through all of that and not succumb to sin, absolutely not, we sin every day.

Jesus knew that His disciples would experience a great deal of opposition and persecution. Jesus was concerned for them, not Himself; Jesus was praying for them and not Himself. Even after He is arrested and on trial before Pilate this idea of not being of the world is still stressed. In John 18:36 we hear Jesus tell Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world."

In the midst of His prayer Jesus asks the Father to keep the disciples as one just as He and the Father are one. Jesus prays that the disciples be kept in His name. Jesus prays that the only one who was lost was "the son of destruction" and that was so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled. You see Jesus did not go helplessly to the cross. He was not a helpless and hopeless victim. All of this was part and parcel of God's plan. This was all according to God's unfathomable mercy, grace, and love.

The disciples and we too of course are still out there in this world. Jesus had given the disciples and us His word and because of this Word the world hated them, and it also hates us. Listen to 1 Peter 4:1-4, "Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you." Indeed, the world hates anything that is not of it, that does not join in with what it loves, and as brothers and sisters in Christ, forgiven and redeemed by His blood, we are no longer of this world. Certainly, just as the disciples were, we are still in it, we live here, but it is not our true home. O yes, the world can continue to deceive us. The world can continue to cause us to stumble and fall into sin. But we have the Word of truth in our hearts. We have the promised Holy Spirit who continues to remind us of everything that Jesus taught and did for us and for our salvation.

Jesus was praying so that all of the disciples could hear what He was praying. Jesus knew that in the hours to come they would experience grief. But Jesus prayed that they would be sustained and protected by the Father. Jesus prayed that they would experience the joy that Jesus had because His mission of sacrificing Himself for the forgiveness and salvation of the while world and so fulfill God's promise of a Savior. Now they would have the joy of proclaiming this saving message to all peoples so that they too would be included in this joy.

But, the disciples were not the only ones whom Jesus was praying for that day. Chapter seventeen goes on as Jesus prays, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me." We are included in Jesus prayer. He is praying for all of those who will come after and who will believe in Him. We see His great desire for the salvation of the whole world. Brothers and sisters in Christ, what a joy it truly is to know that through Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord we are not of this world, the closing verse hymn 748 in the "Lutheran Service Book" - "I'm But a Stranger Here" puts it in this way, "Therefore I murmur not, Heav'n is my home; Whate'er my earthly lot, Heav'n is my home; And I shall surely stand There at my Lord's right hand; Heav'n is my fatherland, Heav'n is my home. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding forever keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Sixth Sunday of Easter - May 6, 2018

"The Love of God"

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this morning is the epistle reading, 1 John 5:1-8 which reads, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood-Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree." Amen. So stands God's Word. Amen.

What a wonderful thing love is. When we talk about love, when we see love, when we give love, and when we ourselves receive love there is no other feeling that is quite like it. People have been trying to figure love out for centuries. Poems, stories, and songs have been written about love that can bring a person to tears. Some of the greatest and most well-known stories of love involve one sacrifice or another that one of the lovers made for their true love. Marriages are great celebrations of love. Scripture tells us that marriage, from its very beginning, was instituted by God. Genesis 2:24 reads, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." In Genesis 1:28a we read, "And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." Then Adam and Eve have children, another example of great love, a mother and father for their children. Then there is the love that sibling have for one another. So, we see love all over here. First and foremost is God's love in His act of creation. His creation of a wonderful garden into which He places the man and the woman He created, also out of His love. Then we see the love of the man and woman for each other, and at last the love of the parents for the children. But of course, we all know that we had a problem arise. By the time Adam and Eve bore their first child, Cain, love had become tainted, just like the rest of God's previously perfect creation. Because of their disobedience and rebellion against God, who created them and gave them all of His wonderful gifts of love, love was distorted. They immediately cast blame on one another in the garden, they even cast blame upon God Himself for their sin. How easily love was broken and tarnished. Then the love that sibling should have for one another was also shown to be broken as Cain killed Able his brother and became the world's first murderer. How easily and quickly love can dissolve. We see how fragile and fleeting love can be today. The love of husband and wife disappears. The love of parent for child and child for parent is no more. The love of sibling cracks and crumbles to dust. Then, the love of neighbor for neighbor is no more.

1 Corinthians 13 is known as the great love chapter, it is often a request text for weddings. Here is just a small, but certainly very familiar section, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." That is an absolutely wonderful definition of love and its qualities. But I wonder, do any of us love like this? Can we look at our lives and how we love our families, our neighbors, and yes, even how we love God; and honestly claim that we always love with those qualities? I mean, after all, we are told to love our enemies, we have a hard enough time loving those who love us back don't we? We are too also love those who are strikingly different from us, and we have a hard enough time loving those who are most like us don't we? I can look at all of those things that Paul tells us that love is not and shamefully remember time after time when I did them.

Now, in our text from 1 John this morning we read, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." Only those who have been born of God, born of water and the Spirit, or as Jesus told Nicodemus, born of above, are able to believe in Jesus Christ, that He was born true God and also true man, and is their Savior. Being born of the Father causes us to love the Father and to love all of those who have also been born of Him. Because of Jesus and His all-availing sacrifice on the cross for our sins we have been born again, we have been born from above, and we can love. We can love because He loved us first and loved us with a perfect and an unchanging love. In Malachi 3:6 God told His people, "For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed." God and His love do not change. God still condemns sin, but He is also still great unchanging in His great love and mercy. In the time of the prophet Malachi the people's sins and idolatry were so very great that God had every right and reason to do away with them, to consume them. But, because of His great and unchanging love and mercy He did not and He does not. Because of His great love for us, even when we sin we are not consumed. We do not receive the punishment that we deserve for our great lack of love for one another and for God. How can I possibly say that we do not show our love for God? Well, listen to this part of our text again, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." Wow, that we love God and obey His commandments. Boy, I cannot help but think about what Luther said regarding our place under the Ten Commandments, "Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?" If we are honest with ourselves before God we have to answer yes to all of those questions. We look at this and we look at 1 Corinthians 13 and can say that they sound a lot alike in describing what love is not. So, we have to admit that many of our thoughts, words, and deeds are so tainted by sin that we do what love is not. But, let me take you back again to this section of verse three of our text, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." You see our love for God causes us to desire to keep His Commandments. God's love for us is so great and so powerful that He inspires us and gives us strength and ability to obey. God loves us so strongly and powerfully that He gave us the Holy Spirit, He gave us the gift of His Word, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper. 1 John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This is all because God so loved the world that He gave Jesus, His only-begotten Son for the sole purpose of being the propitiation for our sins. All of this is while we were still God's enemies that Jesus died for us. 1 John 4:10-11 tells us, "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." Our love is never perfect, but God's love for us is always perfect, and He has shown His great love for us in Christ and enables us to love Him and to love our neighbor, and when we fail to always receive grace and forgiveness. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding forever keep our hearts and minds n Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Fifth Sunday of Easter - April 29, 2018

"Many False Prophets"

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this morning is the epistle reading, 1 John 4:1-11 which reads, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." Amen. So stands God's Word. Amen.

What does it mean to be a prophet? When I think of a prophet I usually think in terms of religion. Of course there are those whom we refer to as prophets who work in other fields. There are prophets in the field of science. There are prophets in the field of economics. There are prophets in politics. For many weeks prior to this weekend there have been so-called prophets in the field of sports, specifically referring to the National Football League college draft. In the lead-up to the draft you heard so many "prophets" talking about who would be drafted where, which teams would trade up or down, and what players would be worth it to draft in the higher rounds. Now these so-called prophets base their "prophecies" on research and observation. They are never one hundred percent correct. But yet, whatever their field, whatever their record of accuracy, these people always seem to be back year after year.

Our text this morning warns us in verse one, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." This is a warning which is good for us to remember today. In fact there are many false prophets in the world. But what is a prophet? What makes a false prophet? Well, a prophet is someone who has been chosen by God to speak for God to His people. Moses is spoken of as the greatest prophet of the Old Testament. An important thing to remember is that prophets were not self-appointed, they were chosen by God, and some, like Moses, were reluctant prophets. A prophet of God was required to have a 100 percent accuracy rate. When they said that they had a word of the Lord for the people or "Thus saith the Lord", what they said had better be 100 percent correct. God gave instructions for us concerning prophets or so-called prophets in Deuteronomy 18:20-22, which say, "But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?'- when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him." Then we read this in 1 Peter 1:20-21, "knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." Then in our epistle text this morning we read something else that is of critical importance. This is what verses 2 and 3 of our text tells us, "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already."

So then, what is this telling us? Well, we can easily break down these verses. They tell us how we will know the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus the Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Christ is not from God, pretty simple isn't it? Well, these days it's apparently not so simple. The truth of Jesus' words from Matthew 7:15-16, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" What are these so-called prophets proclaiming? Well, as our text speaks of confessing that Christ has come in the flesh, we can compare what they are saying of course to Scripture, but also the Apostles' Creed, which we confess that agrees with Scripture when it says, "Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary." Then also in the Nicene Creed when we say, "Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirt of the Virgin Mary and was made man." But there is more to this than just the mere confession that Jesus has come as a human being. It is also the question that He has come as the incarnate Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, true God and also true man. That Jesus (the Lord saves) Christ (the anointed) has come and will save His people from their sins. Every true prophet in both the Old Testament and the New Testament confessed that the Christ would come in the flesh to save the world from sin, or that He has come in the person of Jesus Christ and that through His sinless life, His undeserved, brutal suffering and death paid the penalty that we rightly owed because of our sins. Then through His resurrection Christ has shown that He has indeed won the victory over our ancient enemies of sin, death, and the devil; and that His sacrifice has been acceptable and pleasing to God the Father and that anything else is unnecessary because Jesus has done it all for us.

Jesus as we know holds the three fold office of prophet, priest, and king. As prophet He forth-told the Word of God, that the Kingdom of God is at hand; and He also foretold of His own suffering and death, and that after three days He would rise again from the grave. Jesus forth-told that the Father had sent Him for the purpose of saving the world from and that He and that Father are one. Jesus also made it perfectly clear that as far as salvation and forgiveness were concerned, as far as the way to heaven, He is the only way. When Jesus rose from the grave on that first Easter morning He proclaimed His victory and He foretold that when He returned to the Father He was going to prepare a place for us His Church and people and that He would send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all that He had done and taught us. He then promised that He would return for us to take Him to be with Him and the Father in heaven for all eternity.

John writes that everyone who believes this has the spirit of God and is of God, but everyone who does not believe this does not have the spirit of God and is not of God. In John warns that to not believe rightly is to have the spirit of anti-christ. To worship false gods, to rely on anyone or anything other than the one true God and His Son Jesus the Christ for our salvation, pray to saints, to deny baptism, to deny the body and blood in the sacrament, to rely on our own good works in cooperation with Jesus for our salvation is a denial of Christ and is in the spirit of anti-christ because it is in denial of the clear Word of God. But yet is does not just stop there. Many in the so-called church have already fallen from their one true love and are even denying the resurrection of Christ, they are denying that He will return. These are messages that are going out from pulpits in so-called evangelical churches, and to claim to be evangelical is supposed to mean, "The belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ's atonement." This is being lost today as many churches are falling into false belief.

But praise and thanks be to God and Jesus Christ our Lord, false belief will not overcome God's people. There is also still opportunity for anyone to repent and believe in the one true Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen again for our sins and that one day, as He promised, He will return for His Church. Yes, there are many self-proclaimed and false prophets out there in the world and they come to us from every angle. They speak to the world what the world wants to hear and not what it needs to hear. But we know that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world and that the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ's Church. That when Jesus returns every eye will see Him and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding forever keep our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Fourth Sunday of Easter - April 22, 2018

"The Name of Jesus Christ"

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this morning is from the first reading, particularly Acts 4:8-12 which reads, "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

Can you imagine what the world would be like if people had no names? It actually sounds foolish to even consider such a possibility. Names are important. Names are how we identify ourselves. We can identify ourselves by our professions but we are more importantly identified by our names. In fact both our given, or Christian name, as well as our last, or surnames have meaning. "Last names as we know them now originated in the Middle Ages from people's occupations, where they lived, their father's first name, or even their appearance or disposition." First names of course are generally given by the parents after great thought. But as important as our names might be they do not indicate the person that we will become. Of course there are names that have taken on other meaning because of the person who had them at some point in history. For example, Judas, Benedict Arnold, Mother Teresa, Pontus Pilate when you hear these names you immediately have a picture come into your mind of who that person was. When God created man, his name, Adam, came from the Hebrew word "Adamah" or "earth. Then of course when God made woman, the name woman because she was taken from the man.

Ultimately she was to be called Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. All throughout God's Word we can see that names are very important. We also see instances where God changes a person's name; Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of many nations), Sari to Sarah (princess), Jacob (supplanter) to Israel (struggles with, contends). In the New Testament we see John the Baptist, John means "the Lord has shown favor." God had shown great favor to Zachariah and Elizabeth in giving them a son in their old age. He also was continuing to show His favor to Israel and to all people for John had the privilege of preparing the way for the coming Messiah. The Messiah, the Anointed One, whose coming was promised so many years before. The One who was talked about and pointed to all throughout the Old Testament. The prophet Isaiah described Him many times and gave Him a number of names. Look at Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." All of those names describe someone who will indeed be wonderful. In fact they describe someone who could not possibly be an ordinary man.

At last the One who had been promised was going to be born. He was first announced to Mary in Luke 1:31-33, "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Then to Joseph in Matthew 1:20-23, "An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us)." God with us. God is with His people in the presence of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus, the One who had been promised. The One who would save His people from their sins. Because on top of all the other things that Jesus did the most important for us (sinners) is that He lived without sin, suffered, died, was buried, and then rose again on the third day.

The first reading from the fourth chapter of Acts tells us about when Peter and John were taken before the Jewish ruling council, or the Sanhedrin, They were teaching the people about the Christ. In chapter three a lame beggar had been healed. In Acts 3:6-10 we read, "But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him."

But as they were teaching the people they are arrested and questioned, "And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening." Then they ask them by what power or authority they are doing what they are doing. Peter answers by the power of the Holy Spirit when He says to them that it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth that all of these things had been done. Then Peter goes on, like a good Lutheran preacher, and proclaims the Law and the Gospel to them.

In Acts 4:11-12 Peter says, "This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." That is some very important information because we had been under the name of sinner. This identified us as being outside of the family of God. This name made it clear that we were in big trouble and we needed someone to rescue us. This is because in our sin we were dead and the dead cannot rescue or help themselves. That was true for the Jewish leaders who questioned Peter and John, and it was true of us as well. Peter tells them that they rejected the Christ, and not just rejection but they had Him crucified. But Peter tells them that God raised Jesus from the dead and made Him the cornerstone that supports His Church.

Then Peter tells them that Jesus is the only name given under heaven by which "we" must be saved. You see the Jewish leaders were placing their faith and trust in themselves and their own keeping of the Law; there are still people today who believe that they can please God on their own and that they do not need to believe, or have faith and trust in Jesus for their salvation and forgiveness. But they are still identified as sinners and because of their sins they are lost. But we who have brought to saving faith in Jesus are still sinners, but we are forgiven sinners, we are forgiven for the sake of Jesus the Christ. Because of this gift of faith in Jesus we are covered with Christ's robe of righteousness and we too are given a new name. We are now also saints of God, we are forgiven and redeemed. It is not because of anything that we have done, or because we deserved God's grace, because we didn't. Just like the lame beggar who was healed by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth; we have been healed from our sins and delivered from death by that same name, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Savior, Lord. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding forever keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Third Sunday of Easter - April 15, 2018

"We Are God's Children"

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for out meditation this morning is the epistle reading, 1 John 3:1-7 which reads, See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous." Amen. So stands God's Word. Amen.

We look up children today as gifts of God to us. Children are given to us to love, to provide for, to raise up into adulthood, and most importantly to teach about the one true God and His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; and what He has done to make us His forgiven and redeemed people. Because let's face it, we cannot know about this most wonderful gift of grace unless we are taught; or a Paul writes in Romans 10, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?"

Couples will go to great lengths and great expense in order to have children. There are many medical options that a couple can opt for, but if even those hold out no hope many couples will seek to adopt one or more children. They do this out of love, a desire to love and care for a child and raise the child up as their own. The most loving parents are of course the ones who raise their children up in the fear and love of the Lord, with faith in Christ Jesus as their Savior. These are the parents who bring their children to the fount to be baptized. These are the parents who read the Scriptures to their children and place the Scriptures into their hands so they can read it for themselves. These are the parents who know the Scriptures themselves and read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them so that they can guide their children in their understanding of God's love and grace for them and for all people; and the fact that not only are they your children but that they and you as well are children of God our heavenly Father, adopted sons and daughters of God for the sake of Jesus and His perfect life, His bitter suffering and death for their sins, your sins and the sins of the whole world; as well as Christ's triumphant resurrection. That is the responsibility of all parents to their children whether they are from their own bodies or are made their own by adoption.

Adoption has long been practiced by different cultures and societies. For example, in the Roman Empire, although adoption was practiced, it had an entirely different motive. Adoption was not out of love. The following is from the website "The motivation to adopt was very different in Roman times than today. While contemporary adoption is aimed at placing a child in a loving family, Roman adoption aimed at providing a suitable male heir to become the new pater familias when the family patriarch died. If a man had no sons, adoption was a common solution among the noble orders of senators and equestrians. How common it was among the lower classes is harder to determine. Women were seldom adopted, regardless of class. Families with surplus sons were often willing to have one or more sons adopted to make desirable family connections and to improve their sons' opportunities." Adoption, under Roman Law did make the child a son of the adopting family with all of the rights and privileges of a naturally born son and he received a new name, a new identity as well, just as adopted children do today. Roman fathers could also make their illegitimate sons legitimate by simply adopting them, but this was not the case with their daughters however.

John in the epistle tells us, in fact he assures us of the fact that now we are God's children. He says, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are". Remember, God's words have power. God's Word brings about reality, when God speaks what did not previously exist comes into being. Here God emphatically calls us His children. This is significant because once we were estranged from our heavenly Father because of our sin, rebellion, and unbelief. But, because of His great love for us He has made us His own, He has adopted us as His sons and daughters for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter tells us this in 1 Peter 2:9-10, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."

We, as well as all people sorely needed God's mercy and His grace. We sorely needed a new life and a new identity. We were once slaves to sin. We were once identified as poor miserable sinners without any hope of reconciliation with God. Ours sins had doomed us to death, separation from God forever in hell. Paul, in Galatians puts it like this, "In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." We have been brought into the family of God with all of the rights and privileges that come with being His children. We are now heirs of God in and through Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Just think about how wonderful it is that age doesn't matter. We are made God's children and adopted into His family regardless of age. It doesn't matter whether you are a man or a woman, you are adopted as a child of God through Christ by faith. At our Baptism we are given a new identity, a new name. We are marked as one of God's children, as one who is redeemed by Christ the crucified. We leave our old identities behind. We are no longer the person who we used to be. The world does not know us or understand us because it does not know or understand Jesus. The love that He has shown to us is incomprehensible to the world. It can only be understood through the power of the Holy Spirit who calls and enlightens us through the Word.

John goes on to tell us that, "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." Luther explains it like this, "A Christian and believer is God's child and in heaven. But it is still hidden and does not appear. The devil and men do not see it. Indeed, it often seems to be the opposite even for our eyes. Yet in its time it will become manifest and apparent." This is that great tension of the now and not yet that we all live in as Christians. We are God's forgiven and redeemed children in Christ, heirs of the heavenly kingdom and eternal life. But, the fullness of this is not complete and will not be complete until we see our Savior face to face when either He calls us home or He returns again in glory for His Church. Yes, we are God's Children for whom He has great everlasting love. Amen. The peace of God that passes al understanding forever keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Second Sunday of Easter - April 8, 2018

"We Have an Advocate"

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this morning comes from the epistle reading, particularly 1 John 2:1-2 which reads, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." Amen. So stands God's Word. Amen.

If you are a person who watches television crime dramas for entertainment on a regular basis there are a couple of things that you can probably take away from them. This first is that about ninety percent of criminals are just not very smart. The second takeaway, and in fact the one that is the most important is, if you ever find yourself in trouble with the authorities keep your mouth shut except to ask for your lawyer. Ask for someone else to speak for you, ask for another to be your advocate. Have someone else speak for you to the authorities and have them defend you, have a capable person to be your advocate. There is an old saying that comes to mind which reads something like, "The person who represents themselves has a fool for a client.

Now praise God that the majority will never find themselves in need of a lawyer, an advocate, to speak for and to defend them in a criminal case before a court of law. Most will never be charged with a criminal offense that puts them in danger of being sentenced to a term in prison. If they were, they would not hesitate to engage a lawyer, an advocate to speak for and to defend them. But, I am here speaking only in human terms and human experience. I am here also only talking about human and temporal consequences. So, if it is so important to have an advocate in our temporal dealings before a human earthly court, how much more important do we think that it is to have an advocate to speak for us and to defend us before our heavenly Father, the One who created us and to whom all people must one day give an account of what that have done and what they have not done in this life?

Now the dictionary defines an advocate in this way, "a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor; a person who pleads the cause of another in a court of law." But in our text this morning from the epistle of 1 John gives us another important word, a word that we do not hear used very often, that word is "propitiation." The dictionary defines propitiation in this way, "an action meant to regain someone's favor or make up for something you did wrong." So then, consider those two words used together; advocate and propitiation. An advocate speaks for and defends; while propitiation is something done to appease and to satisfy. You rarely, if ever, hear of these two things being embodied in the same person. In fact, I can only think of one time, and in reference to one person.

If you are brought before a court of law after being accused of a crime, you will be defended by you lawyer, who is your advocate before the court. This person is trained and well qualified, they know the system and work in it every day and so should be able to give you the best possible defense. But, if the other side, the prosecution is better, if they have the stronger case and you lose, your advocate will not serve your sentence for you. Your advocate will not put themselves in your place to make satisfaction to appease the system; you will be the one to serve whatever punishment the judge hands down. But again, praise God that the majority of people will never find themselves in that position. That is good news, but it is not the "Good News." You see you may never need an advocate to represent you before a human court and judge. You may never need to make propitiation, satisfaction to the legal system. But that doesn't mean that you are without guilt. That doesn't mean that you don't need and advocate or need to make propitiation before the heavenly Judge. Because each and every one of us are guilty. Each and every one of us need someone to intercede for us before the heavenly King and God. No matter what we might believe, we are not qualified or able in any way to represent and defend ourselves. We can offer now propitiation or satisfaction to appease God for our sins against Him.

Scripture tells us in Paul's letter to the Romans, "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." That is clear, and that is not good news for us. But the chapter continues, "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

John, in the epistle for today was writing a letter of encouragement to the Church. He was writing to those that he thought of as his children in the faith. John writes to encourage them and strengthen them in the faith, to encourage them to resist the temptations of the devil, the adversary, which entices all to rebel against and to sin against God. But, John also writes knowing that we do sin. Her writes, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." Satan, our great accuser, throws our sins at us continually, and what he says in true, we sin every day. We see a sample of this in the book of Job, "And the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" Then Satan answered the Lord and said, "Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face." We too stand accused, and we too stand guilty. We cannot defend ourselves before the heavenly judge just as, in the end, Job could not. Job knew he needed someone to save him. He said in chapter 19, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God. Job had faith in the One who was to come, the One who would be both the advocate and the propitiation for us before the heavenly Judge.

Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Righteous One, speaks on our behalf before the Father and He offers up the best possible defense against the great accuser, the devil. Jesus tells the Father that yes, while we are guilty of disobedience and sin and that sin deserves the punishment of death, He points to the scars on His hands and His feet where the nails were. He points the wound where the spear pierced His side. Jesus tells the Father that He is the One who took the sin and the guilt and the shame and suffered the Father's wrath against sin as He hung naked on the cross.

Jesus is the One who is the propitiation, the One who satisfied the Father's holy and righteous demand that our sin be punished. Jesus, the Great High Priest who sacrificed Himself for the world's sins. Jesus is the One to whom we can point to as our defender, our advocate and the One who served the sentence that rightly belonged to us; something that no earthly advocate could never do. Praise and thanks be to God that we do not have to stand before Him and try the hopeless task of defending ourselves and end up paying the price for our sins, But we have one who always defends us before the throne of God and One who made propitiation, satisfaction before the Father on our behalf. He stood silent when the time came to defend Himself, but He tireless speaks as our advocate; and that is truly the "Good News!" Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding forever keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Advocate, the propitiation, and our Lord. Amen.