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Lifting Our Spirits

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Lifting Our Spirits “ based on Psalm 51:10-12 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, August 12, 2018

Goldenseal, Grape seed extract, St. John’s Wort, Dandelion root, Cytogreens and something called “Mushroom Emperors”—which I’m assuming are legal, but also sound kinda’ shady! You know what they all have in common? They’re all dietary supplements touted by the testimonials of world famous internet “physicians”—who may or may not be real. One thing’s for sure, they promise big things. One supplement I came across hyped its effects this way:

This powerful enzyme has been proven to dissolve non-living
tissue and leave any living tissue alone.  It can safely remove the
fatty deposits and fibrin buildup on the inside of your arteries
without any side effects.  The dissolved deposits flush harmlessly
out of your body!

In other words, take a pill and that little tiny enzyme will go to work cleaning up your heart,  chomping up years’ worth of garbage and restoring veins and arteries to pristine condition. Does it work? I have no idea. But when I read that I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be cool to have something that works like that on our stubbornness, on our selfishness, on our apathy, a spiritual drano that gets rid of all the junk that clogs up our hearts with things that keep us away from God? And is that what David was praying for when he penned the words of our text for today, the familiar of the words of the “Create in Me” from Psalm 51? Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Perhaps one of the reasons that Psalm 51 is so familiar and so dear to so many of God’s people is because we see so much of ourselves in David. He messed up, big time, he knew it and he knew there wasn’t anything he could do to make it right. Specifically, he’d committed adultery with another man’s wife and then had that man, a faithful soldier named Uriah, killed on the field of battle. It seemed like the perfect cover up. But God knew the truth. And when the prophet Nathan called David out for his sleazy behavior, there was no place to hide any longer, there was no way to deny the facts any longer. He was bad guy.  From inside the vice of public shame and profound, sleepless night, never a moment of solace guilt, David does the only thing he can do. He begs for mercy. Can you hear the frantic nature of his crying out, just in these verses? Look at all the imperatives, every phrase is begging for something. This is not the sound of a man bossing God around. This is the sound of man drowning in his sins, going under for the last time, desperately pleading, “Save me!”

Isn’t that at the heart of our worship service confession? “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” Isn’t that at the heart of our bedtime prayers? “Jesus, Savior, wash away, all that I’ve done wrong today.” Isn’t that at the heart of our pre-communion self examination? “Lord, may your body and your blood be for my soul the highest good.” There’s a deep need in all those entreaties, the sound of the helpless drowning in their sins, going for the last time, desperately pleading, “Save me!” If we speak those words thoughtlessly, merely going through the motions we have some serious soul searching to do. For the sins that clog up our hearts are not benign—they are ugly cancers that kill faith and will grow out of control if left unchecked.

But when we cry out, “Create in me a clean heart!” our desperate cries do not fall on deaf ears. Jesus hears, his heart is moved, he reaches out a nail marked hand and he says—every single time, without fail—“The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. If you are lost, you are the one that I’ve come to find. If you are a mess, you are the one I’ve come to clean up. If you are the one drowning in sins, you are the one I’m here to save.”

Once we’re in the boat, so to speak, the question inevitably comes to mind. “What happens next? If I’m pulled out the depths by my Savior, it would be pretty stupid to jump back. But, you know, I can be pretty stupid.” When we pray Create in me a clean heart, we’re not only praying “forgive me,” we’re also praying, “change me from this day forward.” That’s where the Holy Spirit really starts to shine. It’s true that No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. It’s also true that no one can truly hate sin, daily drown the Old Adam, consistently offer up sacrifices of loving obedience—except by the Holy Spirit. You can see it in David’s words. In verse 10, David pleads for a steadfast spirit. In verse 12, David pleads for a willing spirit. But the meat in that sandwich, the thing that ties our text together is found in verse 11. “Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me.”

How does the Holy Spirit change hearts? In Baptism, he creates a new person in us, and then recreates that new person in us each day throughout our lives. In Lord’s Supper, he empowers us to believe that Jesus’ in really present and strengthens us to leave sin behind. In the Word, he tells us how we are loved by God and how we can live for God. Through what we call the Means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments, he goes to work on our hearts, chomping up the bad stuff, daily clearing out the things that alienate us from the Giver of All Good.  Now…you, me and every Bible writer as well, understand that we’re still people who wrestle with temptation living in a world full of temptation. But no longer does the devil always win. In fact, it’s our goal that he doesn’t win and  a lot of the time, he gets a real beat down. That wouldn’t happen, those attitudes wouldn’t exist in us if the Holy Spirit wasn’t at work. He’s the one who cleans hearts, who makes us want the things that God wants and love the things that he loves and actually grow in those things.

With that in mind, David’s words in Psalm 51 give us something to take with us today. Whether you call them prayers, commands, requests or desperate pleas for help, there are a whole bunch of them in these verses. Maybe we could shine the spotlight on just one. “Renew a steadfast spirit within me.” The Hebrew word that’s translated “steadfast” means to be firmly established—it’s used to describe a roof that’s held up by cement pillars. The roof can bear a lot of weight, it can remain unshaken in many storms, not because of any power or strength by itself, but because it’s held up by the pillars. Oh, Holy Spirit, give me, give us that kind of spirit—a steadfast spirit! That we may remain unshaken in many storms—not because of our strength, but because we’re held up by you.

A believing soul. A cleansed heart. A steadfast spirit. The works of the Holy Spirit are indeed great and glorious! His name is worthy of praise! Amen.

 

We Believe Jesus Is Lord

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled ” We Believe Jesus Is Lord based on 1 Corinthians 12:3 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, August 5, 2018

When amazing, miraculous things happen…and they happen often enough, they begin to lose their luster…the WOW-factor, and we begin to view them as routine.

For instance…

  • A small seed is planted into the ground. Weeks and months and years later, that small seed is now a large tree producing shade and fruit and turning carbon dioxide into oxygen.
  • A human life is formed in the womb (knit together by God, the psalmist would say)…we watch through ultrasound eyes. 12 weeks – fingers and toes and developing lungs; 16 weeks – heartbeat; 32 weeks – unique fingerprints being formed.  And then delivery…and then a toddler…and then a teenager.
  • A giant orb of rock and dirt and water hurls through space as it circles the sun. It spins at a rate of 1,000 miles per hour and moves over 60,000 miles per hour.  And yet we aren’t violently shaken and flung off?  Why not?    No one can understand how or why gravity works.  It’s amazing.  But since it’s always happening, we view it as rather routine.

Here’s another seemingly “routine” occurrence.  For generations the Lord has used people as his agents.  He’s used prophets and preachers and parents and they have delivered and proclaimed and shared the gospel message of Jesus.  It seems so routine, so unremarkable…but when teachers teach God’s about Jesus….when missionaries or neighbors or friends introduce unchurched people to Jesus the Christ…something amazing is happening.  Yes, those people…those agents are telling others about Jesus but it is the Holy Spirit who is explaining and enlighteningconverting and capturing hearts…creating and growing faith.  And that, my friends, is amazing…it’s a miracle.

And you are the living proof.  It is not just highly unlikely, but by human standards, it is impossible that any of you should be here today, confessing together: We Believe Jesus Is Lord.

It’s true, the human mind seems to have almost unlimited potential.  Are you amazed at the advancements in technology? (you can pay bills, buy/trade/sell on the stock market, turn off the lights in your home or adjust your air conditioning just by typing a speaking a few words into your phone).  Medical advancements have been enormous.  So many diseases have been cured or curbed by medications.  Some disease remain a mystery, but research and development continues…because the human mind has almost unlimited potential.  Except for this one important thing.  The human mind can never and will never be able to grasp or understand or believe in Jesus Christ.  Not without help.

Why not?  Remember our second lesson for today?  The Apostle Paul told us:  “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God…they are foolishness to him…he cannot understand them”…those truths are “spiritually discerned.” 

Whether we like the description or not, the Bible says that ALL people are conceived and born in sin.  Yes, we know that.  Yes, but the Bible also says ALL people are conceived and born in unbelief.  It uses words like spiritually dead and living in darkness to describe you and me and all people.  Isaiah in his 59th chapter describes this spiritual blindness and need for the Spirit when he says:  We look for light but all is darkness; for brightness but we walk in deep shadows.  Like the blind we grope along the wall (Is 59:9). Yet, here you are.  You aren’t groping, you are worshiping…you aren’t stumbling in darkness, you are basking in the light of Jesus…you aren’t searching, you are confessing, “We Believe Jesus is Lord.”  What happened?  The Spirit happened.

He used agents – people who told you about Jesus.  All of it seeming so routine.

  • A baby is held over the font by a parent or sponser.
  • A toddler sits on dad’s lap as he reads a Bible story.
  • A preschooler listens to Sunday school teacher explain why Jesus was born and why he died and why he rose.
  • A Teenager memorizes Bible passages and then systematically sorts through the basic teachings of the Bible in catechism class.
  • A young couple…a family…an elderly couple…a widow…a widower sits in the pew.

It seems so routine…and to some, maybe even a little boring.  Where’s the luster?  Where’s the WOW-factor?  Here it is.

  • The same Word Jeremiah says can smash rocks to pieces.
  • The same Word Paul says is powerful like dynamite.
  • The same Word that made Timothy wise for salvation.
  • The same Word the writer to the Hebrews says is sharper than any double-edged sword.

That same rock-smashing, light-giving, faith-nourishing Word is spoken and taught in every inch of that school and read as God’s truth from this very spot and taken in every time you have your own morning or lunch-time or evening devotion.  And there’s the Holy Spirit.

  • He loosens your grip on self-reliance and helps you hold tighter to Jesus.
  • He turns your eyes away from decaying material things and helps you see value in eternal treasures.
  • He entrances you with a story that so many in the world consider too simple and too silly for them to take seriously…but here in the powerful Word the Holy Spirit tells you of a Jesus…who was perfect for you…who was punished for you…who is alive for you.

No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.  The deep love of the Father.  The selfless sacrifice of Jesus his Son – all that would be meaningless to you, had the Holy Spirit not done his routine, amazing, miraculous work and so enabled you to say, “Jesus Is Lord”…Jesus is my Lord.

Let me close with these two points.

  • The fact that saving faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit ought to keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves. There’s a danger for us to look around at the inhabitants of this world and identify those who malign conservative Christianity and see them as lesser human beings.   Just remember, you and I were among those ranks too…we also, in our unbelief, found God and his message foolish.  We were just as blind as they are now.  Those blind folks need our prayers and they need someone to introduce them to Jesus…to share the gospel of Jesus…so the Holy Spirit can start swingin away with his powerful, rock-smashing, faith-creating Word.  You see, God wants them in heaven too. Young people, our world needs more pastors and teachers.  Members of Peace, our neighborhoods need more Christian witnesses.
  • Also, the fact that faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit is a big comfort. The deep love of the Father and the selfless work of Jesus is not contingent upon how big or small your faith is.  On your down day, when you feel lost and alone and weak in faith…Jesus still is your Savior and God still loves you.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t use his power to manipulate your emotions…he uses his power to keep your eyes focused on the facts…to keep your grip galvanized on Jesus.  And that is amazing, miraculous.

And there’s your Wow-factor.  There’s your luster.  God has seen fit to love you, send Jesus for you, and give you the best teacher ever – the Holy Spirit, who enables you to say now and forever:  I believe Jesus is Lord!  Amen.

 

The Things You Don’t See

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “The Things You Don’t See” based on Isaiah 53:10-12 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, July 29, 2018

Man, Chicago Cubs fans are real pieces of work. That’s what a lot of people were thinking—not to mention openly proclaiming—after they saw this video that went viral earlier this week. In case you missed it, Cubs First Base Coach Will Venable tossed a souvenir ball toward a little boy in the front row. The boy missed…the ball rolled under his seat…and the full grown adult sitting in the row behind him gleefully scooped it up and presented it to his significant other, totally ignoring the fact that the ball clearly wasn’t meant for him, but rather for the poor kid in front of him. TV cameras were rolling, soon people posted the video online, and as you might expect the internet responded in its usual gracious, measured, thoughtful manner. Not so much!

There was outrage, name calling, and not at all subtle suggestions for major acts of physical harm to be rained down on this joker. The only problem….it was all a misunderstanding.  Eventually, the true story came out. Apparently, earlier in the day, from his seat in the second row, this guy had already caught a ball and given it to the kid in the row in front of him.  Then he caught a second ball and gave it to a kid in his row. When this third ball came into the stands, he picked it up and gave it to his wife. But the third time was the only time that the cameras caught!  Why am I telling you this story? Because it perfectly illustrates how one brief snapshot often fails to tell the whole story.

The same is true for Jesus’ life, and we see it in our text today. Imagine if our text ONLY consisted of the brief snapshot that we see in verse 10.  Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer. What kinds of things do we crush? Aluminum cans and paper cups. (Things we have no use for.) Spiders and mosquitos. (Things that repulse or annoy us.) The Holy Spirit doesn’t use any words accidentally. He knew exactly what he was trying to convey when he talks about the Lord’s will (the original Hebrew word is even stronger—to delight!)…about the Lord taking delight in crushing Jesus.

Our text is talking about the cross, of course—where Jesus was crushed to billions of pieces under the mountain of our sins. When you see the blood oozing out from under that mountain, you realize that somebody paid an unspeakable price. Being crushed is gross, and it’s ghastly. And maybe that image sticks with us. So the next time we take inventory of our hearts and see ugly bitterness there, the next time we have opportunity to look at things we should not, and to lash out in hateful words, or to explain away our sins as if we are totally justified in giving ourselves to them…the next time those temptations come, maybe we remember that God is serious enough about sin to draw blood. So serious is he about sin, so much does he hate sin,

What you don’t see is often as important as what you do. If you only concentrate on verse 10, you don’t see what Isaiah says next, especially what he says at the end of our text. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.

He was numbered with the transgressors, so that we might be numbered with his holy ones. Through the pouring out of his life, he opened the doors to eternal life for you and me. Only if he first died, could he then rise from the dead three days later. And only a living Savior could hold our hands as we lay dying and say, “Because I live, you too shall live.” The snapshot of the crucifixion is a vital one, but only when we confess, “On third day he rose from the dead, he ascended and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty”—only then do we know the whole story.

God crushed him. But then he put him back together and exalted him. Through faith you and Jesus are inseparable. And so that’s what he does for you too.

I don’t know about you, but so many days I feel crushed. Not by God necessarily, although there certainly Biblical precedent for that sort of thing. Moreso though, we feel crushed by responsibilities and demands—family, work, financial, house and home—they come at us from every direction, there are always new ones being added to our “to do” list, and they all need our immediate attention. That’s enough to leave a person crushed beneath their weight.

Worry can be crushing as we wonder what problem is just around the corner, what issue might occasion our next trip to the doctor, what feather or firestorm will finally be the one that carries a tenuous relationship over the edge. Worry can crush a person beneath its weight.

But perhaps the most crushing weight one can carry is the cargo of conscience. Every day we want to do the right thing, say the right thing at the right time, make God happy, lift up the people around us. And every day, no matter how well we do, or how much good we do, we come to our bedtime prayers with things that haunt us, and a devil that taunts us. The past—be it long ago or quite recent can crush us beneath its weight.

But when you’re crushed, remember—you’re only seeing a snapshot. Even if it feels like you’ve been crushed for decades, it’s really only one page of your eternal story. The God who sees us crushed is also the God who gently, purposely, skillfully puts back together. And exalts us. As it was with Jesus, so it will be with the friends of Jesus.

So understand a few things as we try to tie this all together.

  • Contrary to appearances and real live feelings, crushed isn’t all that bad of a place to be. In the Bible, it’s the people who appear to have it all together are actually the ones who are furthest away from the kingdom of God. “But a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
  • Even when he’s the one doing the crushing, Our God sees the big picture. When Jesus was crushed, the Father knew exactly how, when, where and why he was going with all of it. Though the humiliation was great, God saw the exaltation that was coming like unstoppable freight train barreling down the tracks. So it is with us. I think that’s one of the neatest things about believing in God. There are so many days, when all I see is the snapshot, a ten second video clip of our existence. I can’t make sense of much. It all looks like swirling chaos. But I believe, you believe, we believe that there is one who knows exactly where all this is headed. And even if he doesn’t explain it, he’s doing what’s necessary to get us to his side forever. Only then will the unseen be seen, and unknown fully known.

So we entrust ourselves fully to the One who is seated at the right hand of the Father. He’s living proof that what God breaks apart, he can beautifully restore. Today we may be crushed, but because of Jesus, we know—and we rejoice–that one day, our crown is coming. Amen.

 

Jesus Was Humiliated For You

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Was Humiliated For You” based on Matthew 26:47-56 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, July 23, 2018

Friend, do what you came for.

Judas had arranged a signal with those chief priests and elders of the people.  The one I kiss is the man.  Even if Jesus wasn’t omniscient, the all-knowing God, he would have known that this kiss from Judas was something different.  The very word that Matthew used to describe it is only used a handful of times in the New Testament.

When the prodigal son, practicing his apology speech, wandered back home with hopes to become his father’s slave, his father ran out to meet him on the road, threw his arms around him, and kissed him because of how much he loved him.

When the Apostle Paul, preparing for another missionary journey, told the Ephesian elders that he would likely never see them again, they cried and embraced him and kissed him because of how much they loved him.

And, just days before this night in Gethsemane, when Jesus was staying at the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany, a woman came to him, knelt down in front of him, washed his feet with expensive perfume and her own hair, and would not stop kissing his feet because of how much she loved him.

This was the type of kiss that Judas gave to Jesus. The same kiss and embrace he had given him in the past.  The same kiss he had received from Jesus when troubled times wreaked their havoc in his life.  And yet, with this kiss, Judas betrayed Jesus and handed him over to his enemies for sure and certain death.

And, because he is omniscient, the all-knowing God, Jesus knew why Judas came to the garden that night, with the crowd from the chief priests and elders of the people, with their swords and clubs.  He knew why Judas came in close and gave him this kiss.  But he didn’t stop it.  He didn’t call down twelve legions of angels to be at his defense and disposal.  He knew it had to be this way.  He knew the Scriptures had to be fulfilled, so there was only one thing for him to say.  Friend, do what you came for.

Jesus’ words did not excuse Judas’ thoughts, words, and actions.  Rather, Judas’ thoughts, words, and actions were the reason why it all had to happen this way.  Not just on that night in the Garden of Gethsemane, but throughout his whole life.

Can you imagine the emotions Jesus must have felt 3 years earlier as he called Judas to be one of his closest companions?  Among the rag-tag team of disciples, Judas must have blended in well enough; at times asking Jesus important, faith-filled questions, and putting his trust in Jesus’ response.  Other times, like when that woman washed Jesus’ feet, Judas, as did the other disciples, expressed his misunderstanding of Jesus’ ministry.

The whole time, Jesus knew that Judas would betray him with a kiss and not only did he allow it to happen, but he allowed all the event of that evening to happen so that he could win forgiveness for that betrayal and for all of Judas’ sin.

With how much Jesus loved Judas and with how much Judas loved Jesus, one begins to wonder why Judas would have gone through with it.  Yes, the Scriptures had to be fulfilled, but that wasn’t the priority on Judas’ mind.  He also wasn’t some robot, programmed by God to carry out this task without any consideration for his own will or volition.

Judas, while not the omniscient, all-knowing God, did know who Jesus was and did know what the chief priests and elders of the people wanted to do with him once they could get their hands on him.  And yet he not only allowed this betrayal to happen, but even did all he could, with secret midnight meetings, in full premeditated motive, to make it happen.

Do you ever try to come up with an excuse for Judas’ thoughts, words, and actions?

It was just a rash reaction, as the treasurer of the disciples’ bank account, to the woman breaking the alabaster jar of perfume and wasting it on Jesus’ feet.

He was just fulfilling the purpose for which he was put on this earth.

He was overcome by the temptations of the Devil.

He was confused.

He made a mistake and didn’t fully understand the repercussions.

Say what you want, but none of those excuses remove Judas’ fault and culpability for his sin.  And, unfortunately, the same is true when you try to use those same excuses to remove your own fault and culpability for your sins.

One thing led to another and, before I knew it, it got out of hand.

I didn’t know how strong that last drink was going to be.

It started out so innocently and then I made a lapse in judgment.

I didn’t know what else to do.

It was a simple mistake.  Everybody makes mistakes.  Nobody’s perfect.

You know right from wrong.  You know who Jesus is and that, when you sin, you are disobeying him.  You know that you are not simply allowing sin to happen but, so often, you are, with full premeditated motive, making it happen.

Try as you might, you cannot excuse your sin away, diminish it, or sweep it under the rug.  The only way to get rid of it is for your friend to do what he came for.  You need Jesus to be humiliated for you.

Jesus’ humiliation was not simply some sort of embarrassment therapy he underwent as some spiritual journey throughout his years on this earth.  His humiliation was him accomplishing a task that was outright inconceivable for the almighty God to undertake.

Jesus left the honor and praise of his throne in the glory of heaven to become an embryo in the womb of a woman.  The sinless Son of God submitted himself to the authority and commands of sinful human parents.  The author and very personification of the Word of God spent day and night studying, meditating on, and teaching the Scriptures in the Temple and its courts.  The almighty God, the Sabaoth LORD, in control of the myriad armies of heaven, allowed humans with crude weapons to take him into custody.  The one whose face exudes glory allowed it to, instead, be marred by fists and spit, cuts and bruises.  The very Resurrection and Life in human form died the death of a common thief and was buried in someone else’s tomb.

He did it all, not to excuse your sin, diminish it, or sweep it under the rug; but to fulfill the most ancient prophecy in the Scriptures and conquer sin, death, and the Devil for you.

Knowing all that you would do, all the sinful thoughts, words, and actions that you have committed and all that you will commit in the future, Jesus was humiliated for you; to live his perfect life in your place and sacrifice that perfect life as payment for them all.

Friends, knowing who Jesus is and what he has done for you, do what you came here for today.  Do not do what Judas did, seeing how greatly he sinned against his Jesus and, in despair and desperation, think that your sins are unforgivable as he did.

Instead, confess your sins to the one you have sinned against and repent of them.  Kneel down in front of your Savior and, because you love him so much, lay everything you have at his feet.  And, because he loves you so much, know that he did what he came for.  Jesus was humiliated for you.  He fulfilled the Scriptures.  You are forgiven.  Amen.

Jesus Has Something to Say

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Has Something to Say” based on Matthew 6:25-34 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, July 15, 2018

Have you heard the one about the mouse and the magician?  A mouse has this great fear of cats.  A magician took pity on this poor, little mouse and turned it into a cat.  Before long, that cat developed a crippling fear of dogs…so the magician turned the cat into a dog.  The dog soon became afraid of panthers…the magician turned the dog into a panther.  And in short order, the panther was deathly afraid of hunters.  He begged the magician to turn him into a hunter.  He magician replied… “I will not.  You may look like a panther on the outside, but you still have the heart of a mouse.”

This may be a silly fable, but it does reveal something about you and me.  We may try to look tough on the outside…we may try to look like we’re ready to conquer the world…we may want to look like panthers to all who see us…but so often on the inside, we’re just a little mouse…frightened and worried about many of the things around us.

What is it that occupies your thoughts at this stage of your life?  What worries you?  I’m guessing all of you, if given enough time, could come up with a list of a handful of real-life issues that stress you out.  I’m also guessing, that somewhere on that list you’d have something that has to do with finances or money.

Will we have enough?  Have you ever asked that question when it comes to finances?

  • Will we have enough once we get out of college?
  • Will we have enough to start a family?
  • Will we have enough to take care of our kids and put groceries on the table and put gas in the car…without putting thousands and thousands on credit cards?
  • Or maybe we already have thousands and thousands on credit cards…will we ever be able to dig ourselves out of debt?
  • Will we have enough to pay for school or pay for medical bills?
  • Will we have enough to retire? How much will I need?

Finances are important.  Because we live in a world where so many of our decisions have to do with money, it’s important that we think about and talk about and plan and spend wisely.  But it’s also very easy for us to become consumed.  And it’s easy for us to worry and be afraid.  That can lead to poor decisions like failing to hear and listen to the voice of Jesus.  Jesus has something to say.

First of all, worrying doesn’t work.  Just like it doesn’t work or help when I yell at the TV when my favorite wide receiver drops the ball or the running back fumbles at a crucial time during the game.  My telling doesn’t change the outcome.  So also, my worrying and stressing won’t pay any bills or shrink my credit card debt or put the kids through college.  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  So why do it?  Because there are so many unknowns.  Weren’t you listening before when we wondered if we’d have enough?  Haven’t we all been conditioned, in this economy-minded world, to think that the more we have in the bank…the more equity we have in our home…the more stocks and bonds in our portfolio the safer and more secure we will be?  That’s why I worry!  Even if it doesn’t do any good, it’s natural for us to worry, right?

Wrong!  Worrying – listening to what the world has to say and NOT listening to what Jesus says…that’s not natural; that’s sinful.  So yes, Jesus has something to say.  And he uses two unlikely preachers:  a bird and a flower.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin…yet, your heavenly Father clothes them.  It’s a little embarrassing that birds, possessing no soul and no reason, know how to instinctively trust the Creator more than we do.  While we’re fretting over whether or not we’ll have enough, the birds take God’s blessings, day by day.  While we’re losing sleep over whether or not we can afford a new home or wondering about how we’ll retire, the beautiful flowers of the field stand as a testament of God’s ability to wrap wonderful clothing around his creation.  What are you worried about?  To worry is to miss the valuable lesson Jesus wants to teach you:  you are valuable!

  • For Jesus did not humble himself and take on the flesh and form of a bird or a lily…he took on the flesh and blood of a human being – that’s because you are more valuable.
  • Jesus wasn’t punished for the transgressions of the animal or plant kingdom – he paid for the sins of the world…a world of sinful human beings.
  • In your baptism, Jesus put the sign of the cross on your head and your heart…not the sparrow’s…and your baptism stands as a testament of God’s ability to wrap wonderful clothing around the crown of his creation…a garment of righteousness more beautiful and pure than anything worn by Solomon or anything seen in the fields.
  • And it’s true, the Bible says the Lord is so caring and so invested in the whole of his creation that even a sparrow will not fall to the ground without his knowing and caring, yet when Jesus looks at the palm of his hand he doesn’t see the names of sparrows engraved there…but he does see your name. Are you not much more valuable than they are?

You can give your ears to what the world has to say about finances and money.  You can follow their advice: Greedily grab as much as you can and stock up as much as you can for the future.  You can put your trust in the economy and the size of your savings, which can disappear as fast as you can say Great Depression or Great Recession or Stock Market Crash.

Or you can give your ears to Jesus and put your trust in him. He has something to say.  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

  • He won’t promise to drown you in worldly wealth, which can rot and rust – he’s already given you an inheritance which can never perish, spoil, or fade…he’ll make sure you also have bread and water and house and home.
  • He won’t promise to be a magician who waves his wand and removes any and every circumstance that seems big and scary – instead he’ll stand by you and invite you to cast your cares on him.

So don’t worry.  Why not?  Because worrying doesn’t help.  Worrying replaces the promises of Jesus with stress about the future.  Worrying is unnecessary – for you already have eternity in your hands…you have Jesus!

Amen.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” based on Psalm 139:14 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Jesus is the Lord of Life and Death

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus is the Lord of Life and Death” based on Mark 5:21-24, 34-43 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered: Sunday, July 1, 2018

When the Pharisee Nicodemus, the member of the Jewish ruling council, came to meet Jesus in that famous section of John, chapter three, he did so under the cover of night.  It was a secret meeting.  Nicodemus didn’t want his coworkers to know that he was going to see, and to talk with, Jesus.  He was likely afraid of what they would have not only thought about him, but also what it might have meant for his career.  He couldn’t be seen or known to hang around with Jesus, the troublemaker.

Jairus, the man in the Gospel account today, came under no such pretense.  He didn’t care what people thought about him, what they might say to him, or what it might have meant for his career.  Yes, he was a synagogue ruler.  Yes, Jesus’ work was, in some ways, making his own job obsolete.  Yes, there would be consequences for being seen or known to hang around with Jesus, the troublemaker.  But, that didn’t matter to him in the least.  There was only one thing on Jairus’ mind; only one thing important to him.  His beloved daughter, his 12 year old girl, was dying and Jesus was the only one who had the power to help.

Have you ever had to get a second opinion?  The doctors say that they can’t do anything to help.  The disease has taken its hold and no amount of surgery, therapy, or medication will change that.  They say they could possibly slow it down, give you a couple more weeks, months maybe, but there is nothing else to do other than just make your loved one more comfortable in their last days.

Well, that may be what Hartford hospital has to say—but what about Froedtert?  The Mayo Clinic?  St. Jude?  That drive down to Milwaukee wouldn’t bother you a bit.  Plane tickets to Minnesota or Memphis?  Who cares how much they would cost, just get me a flight as soon as possible!

The bible doesn’t say exactly how Jairus knew that Jesus had the ability to help.  Mark’s Gospel, prior to this account, reads like pop star’s summer concert tour.  Jesus performed here and there, sometimes twice in one day.  He drove out a demon and healed a leprous man.  He went to a different town, there healing a paralyzed man and performing an exorcism.  He went out to sea, calmed the storm, came to land, sent demons into a herd of pigs, and crossed back over to the other side of the lake where Jairus was waiting for him.

It’s possible that Jairus heard about, or even saw, some of these miraculous signs.  Maybe members of his family, seeing him in distress, mentioned the man who worked wonders as a last ditch effort.

Whatever it was, Jairus believed that Jesus could do what he was asking.  My little daughter is dying.  Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.  So that.  Not, perchance, she might, if you would.  Not, I’m all out of options and I’m just hoping.  Put your hands on her so that she will be healed.  He believed.  So Jesus went with him.

Jairus got the second opinion he was looking for.  The healer was going to heal.  He must have been so excited as they traveled back to his home.  But then came the terrible news.  Some men came from the house…Your daughter is dead, they said.  Why bother the teacher any more?

He trusted.  He had faith.  He believed Jesus had the power to help and Jesus had agreed to help.  But now it didn’t matter.  His beloved daughter, his 12 year old girl, was now dead.

Jairus had seen her suffering.  He heard the local doctors tell him that death was just around the corner.  No matter how much hope he held out in his attempt to get Jesus to help, it didn’t change the fact that he knew that the death of his daughter was something he would almost certainly have to face in the near future.  However, no matter how much you prepare yourself for that which will eventually come, it still comes with shock and surprise and pain and overwhelming sadness.

It wasn’t some sort of failure of faith, it was simply facing the reality of the situation.  Even the most minor of medical procedures have a chance for complications.  And, the reality of life in this sinful world makes you face reality in more situations than the severity of life and death.

You can have the strongest faith in the world, but still have to face the truth that you might, at any time, lose your job.  Your wife could, one day, decide to leave you or, maybe worse, carry on with someone else while still staying with you.  The house could go up in a fire, the transmission in your Toyota might drop, or your friends and family could find out about that sin you committed in secret and you would have to live the rest of your life in boatloads of shame, day after day.

That, brothers and sisters, is not doubt.  That is not an empty faith.  Recognizing the distinct possibility that any of those, including life and death situations, could happen at any time is not sinful.

However, when the fear of those circumstances, or fear during those circumstances, drives you to despair; the corner has been turned.  That is what Jesus warns against in this section of Scripture.  Listen again to Jesus’ response to the worst news Jairus ever heard:

Don’t be afraid; just believe.

Just a few chapters after this account, Jesus told his disciples that faith can move mountains.  Jairus didn’t need his faith to move mountains, he just needed his faith to move his feet forward, following Jesus to the house where his daughter lay dead.

The thought of moving mountains, simply by faith, might be intriguing, but don’t you have more pressing matters to attend to in faith?

Don’t be afraid; just believe that your job loss doesn’t mean the end of your livelihood.

Don’t be afraid; just believe that the difficulties in, or even the end of, your marriage doesn’t mean the end of your experience of love in your life.

Don’t be afraid; just believe that God will forgive even that sin that shames you.

Don’t be afraid; just believe that even though you are suffering right now so terribly, it will not last forever.

Don’t be afraid; just believe that the same Jesus who raised the daughter of Jairus back to life was raised to life again, himself, after the death he died for you and your sins.  Don’t be afraid; just believe that he shares the benefit of his death and the power of his resurrection with you and that he delivers and demonstrates it, just as he did for Jairus, through his Word.

Don’t be afraid; just believe his promises to you.  Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will wear he promises.  Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you is his pledge to you.  I know the plans I have for you he declares.  He invites all who are weary and burdened to come to him and he vows that he will give you rest.

Your daughter, dad, or friend might not rise to live here on this earth with you again, but that doesn’t change his lordship.  The suffering, pain, and even death that you see and experience is only temporary.  It is possible that those circumstances will be removed now, but, even if they aren’t, you can believe beyond any shadow of a doubt that the Lord of life and death will use his power and authority for you.  He will remove you from this world of sin and sickness, pain and sadness, when he wakes you from the sleep of death.  He will take you by the hand and allow you to feast at his banquet for all of eternity.  Amen.

God is Our Guide

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “God is Our Guide” based on Job 38 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered: Sunday, June 24, 2018

About a year after we were married, Shelly and I took a trip out west to Boise, Idaho. While there, we went white water rafting. Now, in high school I remember rafting the Wolf River here in Wisconsin and canoeing down the Crystal River, but this was the North Fork of the Payette River…a main tributary to the Snake River and a stretch of water experts have deemed one of the most challenging class of rapids in the country, maybe even the world.

Rapids are rated by class – 1,2,3,4 and 5. On the Payette River you can’t just hop on a raft and float. You need a guide. A good guide will help the rafters learn how to paddle through some of the lower class rapids. A good guide will know how to avoid the dangerous waters – the class 4 and class 5 rapids. A good guide will know when a group of rafters is ready for something more challenging and when they need to stick with more mild waters. A good guide has one job – get those rafters through the waters safely.

That trip to Boise was a blast. And that rafting experience is one I’ll never forget. White water rafting, while challenging, is fun. The river of life often brings us through some pretty choppy waters and it isn’t always fun. In our Lord we have a good guide…a perfect guide…a powerful and loving guide. He knows (better than we do) when we can handle or when our faith can benefit from class 2 or 3 rapids and he knows how to keep many rough waters away from us altogether. But he has one job – get us through the waters of life so we can arrive safely to heaven…with our soul and faith in tact.

The book of Job introduces us to a very devout and godly believer. The Bible tells us he was a believer who lived is faith, prayed for his children, and worshiped the Lord. His waters were smooth and serene. But then the Lord allows a series of class 5 rapids to come crashing down and around Job. His possessions were taken away, his children (all ten of them) were killed in a tornado-like accident, his good health was replaced with sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. His wife and his friends offer no words of support or comfort, only bad advice. Job’s faith was rocked. He still trusted the Lord, but he had questions:
• Why me, Lord? Why are you doing this?
• Surely I don’t deserve what you have given me, especially since so many wicked people out there seem to be prospering.
• Why, Lord? If you have the power, why not make my life better?
• Explain yourself, God!

Ever been there? What rough waters have you been through?….are you going through now?…how would you classify the severity of those rapids?
• Raising a family isn’t easy. Raising teenagers…raising toddlers…raising teenagers and toddlers.
• Being a teenager isn’t easy. Extra responsibilities…Extra peer pressures…Extra temptations.
• Relationships aren’t easy….picking up the pieces after a family has been broken apart – not easy.
• It’s hard to paddle through when finances are tight, when my body hurts, when old age is taking its toll, when memories of my loved one
still bring daily tears to my eyes.

Like Job, these rough waters don’t make us lose our faith, but we have our moments. We have our quiet, behind-the-scenes moments where we look up to heaven and ask, Why me, Lord? Surely, Lord, you could just reach out your hand and make my life a little better, a little easier. Why don’t you? Don’t you care about me?
I have a question for the children and teenagers. Have you ever heard one of your parents say something like this….particularly after you might have been arguing about something or complaining that some decision they made was unfair: “Maybe you’d like to try running this household. If you think you could do a better job of being a parent, then you can start paying all the bills and doing all the maintenance on the house and the vehicles and setting up all the doctor and dentist appointments and buying all the school clothes and school supplies for your siblings…if you think you can be such a better parent.”

That’s kind of how the Lord responds to Job. Job is starting to question the Lord and some of his actions or lack of actions. The Lord speaks. The Lord doesn’t feel the need to justify his decisions or to give answer to Job’s complaints. But he simply reminds him that he is certainly capable of his job – getting Job to heaven not making his life easy. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

Do you think you could do better? When we consider how God created the world and now cares for the world….when we consider how he keeps the lakes and the streams and the oceans in place…when we consider how he set the stars and galaxies in place…how he made the animal kingdom – some creatures so powerful, yet they answer to their creator (he spends a couple more chapters talking about this), are we really going to call God into our office, sit him down in a chair across from our executive desk, and lecture him on how he should do this or do that in our life? O Lord, in our weak moments, we speak about things we do not know. Forgive us.

Just a word about Job. He lived during the time of Abraham. That means he didn’t have a Bible on his bookshelf or coffee table. So many of the Gospel promises we have known since our youth, Job simply didn’t have.
• Can you imagine going through choppy waters without having God speaking to you and guiding you in his Scriptures?
• Can you imagine being tired and weary but not knowing about Jesus invitation: Come to me, and I will give you rest?
• Can you imagine a guilty conscience and the weight of sin pressing so heavy upon you without also hearing Isaiah shout out – Yes,
we’ve gone astray, just like sheep…and the LORD has lifted our iniquity off our backs and laid it on Jesus?
• Can you imagine feeling alone and not knowing how Jesus has said: Surely I am with you…always?
• Can you imagine going through a class 4 or 5 rapid without having the assurance that this too will be a blessing to your faith and
that adversity will cause you to cling to the life raft of God’s promises all the more.
• Can you imagine losing a loved one, without the words of Jesus – because I live you will live – echoing from the mouth of the empty
tomb?

All the angels shouted for joy when the Lord displayed his power after his creation was complete. The angels shouted for joy when the Lord sent his one and only Son into this world. The angels shout for joy when sinners repent and turn to the Lord. And won’t they shout when the Lord our guide accomplishes his goal…as he guides us through the rough waters…and brings us safely to the other side of the shore.

Certainly a God who has the power to control all creation…a God who has the compassion to give us his Son…if THE God who serves as our capable guide. Amen.

Jesus is Lord of the Kingdom

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Is Lord of the Kingdom” based on Mark 4:26-34 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered: Sunday, June 17, 2018

Last week, we celebrated a fun anniversary in my family, one that’s unique to families with adopted children. Last Friday was the anniversary of the day in 2010 when we got the phone call that told us that a baby in China had been matched up with our family, and that we should check our email for a picture. Last Friday was the anniversary of the first time that we saw our daughter’s Nora’s face.

It doesn’t seem like 8 years ago. It seems like just yesterday that we received that picture.  It seems like just yesterday that we were playing “this little piggy” with her toes and popping a seemingly endless stream of cheerios into her mouth. It feels like I blinked and eight years have passed. She’s not a grown up yet, but boy has she grown and it makes me ask myself….how exactly did that happen?

We didn’t tell her to learn how to walk or to talk or to lose her baby teeth. Those things just happened. We didn’t consciously will her to get taller, or to develop her unique set of character traits and personality quirks. They just happened and are continuing to happen. In short, she’s doing what all the rest of did or are currently doing. She’s growing up.  We didn’t make it happen but it sure is cool to be a part of it.

Jesus makes the same point in our Gospel lesson. The kingdom of God grows subtly, mysteriously, wonderfully. We don’t make it happen, but it sure is cool to be a part of it. He doesn’t use the illustration of a child growing up. Instead he talks about a seed planted in the ground.

You probably know that Jesus had this habit of describing intangible things in tangible ways. So he wouldn’t talk about love, he’d talk about a father running out to meet his prodigal son, first throwing his arms around him, then throwing a party around him. Jesus wouldn’t talk about persistence, he’d talk about a little old lady who badgered a magistrate so often and so intensely that eventually he gave in. The “kingdom of God” is definitely an intangible thing. It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around such an abstract concept. So Jesus described it in various places in various ways that people could understand—it’s like a precious pearl hidden in a field, it’s like a net with all kinds of different fish, it’s like a banquet that people are invited to. Or in this section from Mark 4, This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.

The first thing He wants us to notice is how “out of our hands” the kingdom of God is. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. So you might be thinking, “If the growth of God’s kingdom is out of our hands—if it just “happens” like a baby growing into an 8 year old, or a seed pushing up through the ground…well then why do bother doing anything? Cuz life in this kingdom can be exhausting, even brutal some times! Why do we give our offerings? Why do we unlock our school doors and welcome students year after year, when it is so costly, so time consuming, and judging by the post-confirmation church attendance numbers, so often ineffective? Why do we haul our kids and grandkids up on our laps and teach them to sing, “I am Jesus’ little lamb.”? Why do we put hours and hours of preparation into a worship service? Why do we study the Word with earnest and inquisitive hearts? Why do we crucify our sinful natures and submit our will and wants to God’s will? If the seed grows all by itself, why do we invest so much of ourselves into the effort?

The answer’s quite simple, really. Because He lets us! He lets us be a part of and play a part in His kingdom. And that is a privilege that is both generous and entirely undeserved. I had a professor back in college who marveled at the fact that God can save anyone….even pastors. (He got it. He was a pastor himself!) And the longer that I live in my own skin, the more I realize the wisdom of that statement.  Love that is big enough to take such an undisciplined disciple, such a consistent backslider, such a chronic complainer and not only have mercy on him, but then also set him in a pulpit and make him an instrument, that is love worth sharing, a gospel worth dying for, a seed worth scattering.

Think about it another way. You’re here today because somebody at some time scattered a little seed towards you. Somebody taught you the demands and commands of holy God. Somebody cared enough about you to tell you that were wrong, to cut you down to size, to not allow you to get away with doing stuff that God hates. And most likely, it was that same somebody who showed the blood stained cross and explained what happened there. Somebody told you that you had an identity not given by a world that lies, but by a God who always tells the truth. Somebody told you that about what it means to be forgiven and forgive, what it means to serve without expectation of recognition and give without expectation of repayment. Somebody told you that you don’t have to be afraid of death. You’re here today because somebody scattered a little seed your way. And because the Lord of the Kingdom saw fit to make it grow. Who was that person for you? Who might be the person who will some day look back at you and smile…because you were the one who scattered a little seed into their hearts?

You see, it’s not like the farmer is incidental in the whole story. He has an important job after all. He scatters the seed. It’s just that he’s not the one who makes it grow. He can’t make it grow faster or slower. He can’t make it grow by shouting at it, sweet talking it and compromising with it. He just scatters the seed. The Lord of the Kingdom makes it grow.

So as we look this text, a bunch of important applications come to mind. Don’t be fooled by appearances. Seeds don’t look like much. That’s why they put pictures of the plant on the seed package and not pictures of the seeds themselves. The seeds don’t look like much. But boy do they grow. So also God’s Word might not always look like much. And we live in a world that loves to point out that how outdated it is, how irrelevant it is, how overly simplistic it is, how unduly complicated it is. They only see the seed. They have no idea how big the plant grows, or how long the plant lasts—for decades, for generations, even for eternity.

Secondly, don’t be discouraged. Some times the seed seems to be doing nothing for a really long time. We get discouraged when we don’t see the growth in our lives or in the people around us that we’d hoped. When the temptations don’t immediately go away, in fact they get more intense. When the attitudes don’t immediately change 100 percent, but instead we see no change at all, we tend to get restless and expect results right away. Be patient. Remember that there may be growth that only God can see. Keep scattering the seed for yourself and those around you. Then watch and see how the Lord of the Kingdom might make the plant grow.

Finally, don’t forget there’s a harvest coming. Jesus said as much. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” No farmer plants grain just for kicks, just because he’s bored. He has the harvest in his sights. The Lord of the Kingdom causes his gospel to grow in homes, and hearts and churches with a goal in mind. He plants with a purpose—that one day he will gather his grain into the storehouses of eternity. Until that day, may the one who caused the seed to take root in you, continue to make it grow—for he is the Lord of the Kingdom. Amen.

Jesus is Lord Even Over Evil

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Is Lord Even Over Evil” based on Mark 3:20-35 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered: Sunday, June 10, 2018

What can the power of Christ strengthen you to accomplish?

Perhaps you are having difficulty in your marriage. The power of Christ is strong enough to overcome selfishness on your part or even the sins of your spouse. Strengthened and motivated by his love, and in thanksgiving for his love, there is no rift that cannot be reconciled.

Maybe, for you, it is an habitual sin or addiction that, try as you might, you have not been able to quit. 12 steps and a slew of self-help books haven’t been able to scratch the surface of your struggles. However, the power of Christ, through his Word and Sacrament, is stronger than your own willpower. He can, and will be, the fix your heart, body, and mind are so desperately seeking to find.

You may have your doubts about the power of Christ in those situations. And, truth be told, overcoming those obstacles, with something as simple sounding as Word and Sacrament, is certainly easier said than done. And, in the Gospel for today, from Mark, chapter 3, there is a strong case study for why that power of Christ can be so difficult to trust.

It started with a little bit of betrayal. Long before Judas and his infamous kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane or Peter’s repeated denials before the rooster’s crows, others who were supposed to be loyal to Jesus showed themselves to be quite the opposite.

It was those closest to him who threw the first stone. Here, his family; his mother, brothers, and sisters—they were the ones who went to take charge of him, to seize him, to grab him and shake him by the shoulders. They are the ones who were saying, over and again, He is out of his mind.

But his family wasn’t alone in placing stumbling blocks along his path. The teachers of the Law, who came down from Jerusalem, too, tried to get Jesus to stop what he was doing—to stop preaching, to stop teaching, to stop healing, and, as odd as it sounds, to stop driving out demons from those who had been possessed.

Of these two groups standing in the way of Jesus’ mission, it might be easier to understand where his family was coming from. They may have thought, like some silly Snickers commercial, that Jesus simply wasn’t acting himself because he was a little hungry. He got so wrapped up in his work that he didn’t have a chance to eat and, therefore, he was doing things that made him appear beside himself—a little out of his mind.

The teachers of the law, though, were a different story. They, themselves, were so caught up in trying to discredit Jesus that they abandoned logic in their accusations.

How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.

While some were saying that Jesus was out of his mind, it was actually the charges of those teachers of the law that were bordering on insanity.

Why would Satan control Jesus to drive out Satan? That doesn’t make any sense. Satan would be fighting against himself and against the demons that he sent if he had possessed Jesus and gave him the power to expel and exorcise them.

No, Jesus was not possessed by Satan or any demons. In his address of the accusations that stood against him, Jesus revealed the work that he came here on earth to accomplish and who, instead, was actually in Satan’s possession. And, as he often did, he taught this truth with a parable. Listen again:

No one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.

You know the rules for interpreting parables, right? You find out who or what is meant to represent you in the parable and who or what else is being illustrated as well. Finally, then, you search for the heavenly truth that is being taught.

Are you the strong man? Are you the robber? No, brothers and sisters, you are the possessions. And, unfortunately, the strong man who had possession of you is not Jesus or God, but, rather, someone who you needed to be stolen away from. That strong man is Satan, himself.

Ever since the fall into sin, all of mankind has, by nature, been under the possession of the Devil. And, as Jesus intimated in his parable, Satan was able to keep human beings in his possession because he is strong. He is so strong that he convinces those in his possession to do things they ought not, and sometimes even know they shouldn’t, do.

The strong man had convinced Jesus’ own family to call him insane. The strong man had convinced the teachers of the law to abandon logic. What has the strong man, through his powerful lies, strengthened you to accomplish?

To distrust or doubt the power of Christ?
To be selfish in your relationships?
To depend on bottles of booze or pills to get you through the day?
To worry about and fear the challenges you face on a daily basis in your health, in your bank account, or in your career?
To covet that car, that house, that wife, or those children because, with even more lies, you believe that you deserve them?

In the opening hymn today, you sang, “This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none. He’s judged, the deed is done! One little word can fell him.”

In order to get you, the possessions of the strong man, Jesus had to tie him up. He had to take away his power, to remove the venom from the ancient serpent’s bite.

In writing this hymn, Martin Luther identified the way that Jesus was able to take away Satan’s power, the one word that he, and we, can say to overcome his temptations and accusations. Jesus identified Satan for what he really is. That one word is “liar.”

Satan works against you in the same way that he did against Adam and Eve in the beginning. He lies. Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from this tree? Did God really say that he will strengthen you and support you and provide for you all that you need? Did God really say that you shouldn’t desire things that aren’t yours? Did God really say that you should love your husband unconditionally? Did God really say that you are forgiven?

Satan is a liar! Jesus tells the truth. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.

Do you doubt the power of Christ? You are forgiven.
Have you gone back to the same habitual sin or addiction over and again? You are forgiven.
Have you been selfish, greedy, impatient, or discontent? Forgiven, forgiven, forgiven, forgiven.

Jesus is able to pronounce that forgiveness upon you because of what he did for you. He lived perfectly in your place and, sacrificing his perfect life on the cross, he received the punishment that your sins deserved so that you wouldn’t. He gives you forgiveness because God’s wrath for sin has already been doled out on him. He gives you forgiveness because his work declares you innocent in the eyes of your God. He gives you forgiveness because the debt your sins incurred has already been paid.

Yes, you deserve hell. It is true that God shouldn’t provide for you or preserve you. But, because of Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death, done for you, when Satan says that you are going to hell or that God doesn’t love you and that he will not provide for you, he is lying.

Satan is the strong man who tried to keep you as his possession in his house. But, thankfully, for us fights the valiant One, whom God himself elected. You ask, who is this? Jesus Christ it is. The almighty Lord. And there’s no other God; he holds the field forever.

The Devil is strong, but Jesus is the Lord even over evil. By the power of Christ, your sins are forgiven. By the power of Christ, the Devil is undone. By the power of Christ, given to you in Word and Sacrament, call the Devil a liar and be strengthened by the truth. Amen.