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The Good Kind of Pain

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “The Good Kind of Pain” based on 1 Peter 4:12-19 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, September 16, 2018

Pain is bad.  Ask someone who lives with severe arthritis and they’ll tell you.  Or someone who has dealt with kidney stones or migraine headaches.  Pain is bad.  We go through life trying to get rid of and reduce and avoid pain.  But is all pain bad all of the time?

In his book, Where Is God When It Hurts, Philip Yancey talks about the research that was done among people suffering from Hansen’s disease (leprosy).  There’s a misconception that fingers and toes just start falling off.  But in reality, those who suffer from leprosy often experience nerve damage and lack of sensation in their hands and feet and faces.  The result:  they can no longer feel pain.  Their damaged nerves don’t send out warning signals – “Hey, that surface is too hot…pull away.”  “That metal edge is sharp…don’t grab hold of it.”  Without that sensation of pain, they risk greater injury and danger.

So pain isn’t always bad.  Some pain can be a blessing.  Some pains, while uncomfortable, can steer us away from bigger dangers.  Today Peter takes on the issue of pain.  He addresses the “painful trials” we might face.  But here he’s talking about not a physical pain but the discomfort that is unique to people who believe in Jesus.  You and I would call it persecution.  Jesus in the Gospel for today calls it a cross.

What does it look like and feel like?  For Stephen, one of the faithful deacons in the early Christian church, his persecution was physical.  Because of his faith in Jesus, he was stoned.  For Christian living in North Korea, they could be arrested, sent to a labor camp or killed.  Again…physical persecution.  For you and me, the pressures are different.

Do you ever feel like you’re part of this small, shrinking group that still believes….

…in God’s 6-day creation

…that human life is precious (even and especially the unborn)

…that there are two genders

…that sex is for marriage and marriage is for life

…that there really is a hell and really is a heaven

…that church is for sinners who need Jesus because he’s the only one who saves?

What kind of world do we live in?  Well, it’s not illegal to be a Bible-believing Christian, but it’s not popular either.  According to a recent Gallop poll, only 24% of Americans believe the Bible is the true, literal Word of God.  What that means is, not everyone out there in the world shares your same beliefs about God…your same standard of right and wrong…your same values.  In fact, most people don’t.  So you may not get arrested or thrown into a labor camp, but you will face some pressures…some painful trials…some oppositions to your faith in Jesus….from strangers maybe…from co-workers maybe…even from friends and relatives who make it clear they think our faith in Jesus is foolish.

When that happens, don’t be surprised:  “Do not be surprised at the painful trials you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice…”

Did I hear that correctly?  If and when we are persecuted…looked at funny…ridiculed…shunned…we aren’t supposed to fight back….we’re not supposed to seek vengeance…we’re not even supposed to be shocked.  Instead, we are to be filled with joy?  Yes.  Because not all pan is bad, remember.  Some pain can actually be a blessing.  And Peter is going to tell us why the pain of persecution…the pain and discomfort of not fitting in with this sinful world is actually a good kind of pain.

  1. Any pain you have now…any suffering you endure as a result of your faith in Jesus will only heighten your anticipation for heaven. “Rejoice…so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 

Robin Graham was a 16 year-old who attempted to sail around the world…alone.  In 1965 he set out.  It took him five years.  As you would imagine, he had near-death scenarios and storms upon storms.  Repairs to his boat.  More repairs to his boat.  Once, being so fatigued and depressed, he doused his boat deck with gasoline, lit a match, and hopped overboard.  He reconsidered, climbed back up, put out the fire, and kept trudging alone.  After five years he sailed into a Los Angeles harbor.  He had completed his journey.  A crowd had gathered.  Cars honked their horns.  Boats blew their whistles.  People cheered.  That moment for him was awesome.  The depths of his agony made that welcome so, so sweet.  His agonizing journey was now over and it was capped with an over-the-top welcome home.

Could it be like that for us when we go to heaven?  Does God allow the conditions of this world to be so degenerate and depressing that we realize we don’t belong here…that we sometimes want to light a match to it all…but that we also realize that at the end of our journey, he’ll bring us into a safe harbor…an over-the-top welcome home harbor.  Keep sailing, because the pain and agony will soon take a drastic, wonderful turn.  It will be worth it.

  1. Any pain you have now…any suffering you endure as a result of your faith in Jesus is a vivid reminder to you that you belong to Him! “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ…If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

Praise God that you bear that name.  When you suffer pain…when you carry a cross…it is a little gospel sermon…a vivid reminder that you belong to the One who carried THE cross.  The One who looked upon a sinful world and he didn’t sit idly by.  He went “all in” and took on your flesh and blood and took up your sins and carried those sins to THE cross.  Your suffering today makes it clear that you don’t fit in with a world that hates Jesus and despises his Word….you fit in with Jesus…you are on the right side…you are bearing the name that really matters…the name of Christ.

  1. We know what it looked like when Jesus carried our cross…when Jesus was committed to us. What does it look like for us to be committed to him?  “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

You’re in good company.  The world hated Jesus too.  So don’t be surprised when the world hates you too.   Don’t take it personally.  Instead, take refuge in the hands of your Creator. Take comfort in his faithfulness.  Amen.

 

Jesus Fulfils Prophecy Perfectly

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Fulfils Prophecy Perfectly” based on Mark 7:31-37 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, September 9, 2018

If the world was perfect, would we still have to do laundry?  The innocence and wonder of a nine year old girl came up with that question earlier this week.  Of all the deficiencies and inconsistencies in this world; all of the pains and reasons for sadness; all the obstacles that stand in the way of true joy and happiness, she was worried about putting dirty laundry in a machine that washes your clothes for you.

Most of you are not nine year old girls and, unfortunately, no matter how much you may let your minds wander, you do not live in a perfect world.  You know that there are worse things in the world than having to do the wash. You also know that the reason those challenges exist is because of the sin that was brought into the Garden of Eden.

Immediately after that Fall into Sin, God explained how the sin of Eve and Adam would affect their daily lives.  Thorns and thistles.  Pain in childbirth.  And, of course, their bodies would decay and turn back to dust after death.

As generations have come and gone in this world, sin’s effects have become greater and more invasive on the human experience.  Hatred and violence.  Sickness and disease.  Selfishness, loneliness, depression, and so many different kinds of natural disasters.

In the Gospel today, there is an example of just such a defect that came as a result of sin in this world.  Some people brought to [Jesus] a man who was deaf and could hardly talk.

This deaf mute lived a silent life.  Even with today’s advances in a standardized sign language, interpreters, speech therapists, cochlear implants, and closed captions, those who are deaf or have a speech impediment have struggles that other members of modern society can’t even imagine.

This man, though, didn’t have those advances. He didn’t even know what he was missing out on most of the time.  He was likely isolated much of the time, especially because the prevailing belief in those days was that being deaf was not simply a consequence of life in a sinful world, but a consequence of some particular sin that the deaf person committed, himself.

Can you imagine studying your life, day in and day out, trying to figure exactly what it is that you did that caused you the suffering that you are enduring?  Or, maybe you don’t have to imagine.  Maybe you know exactly what that is like.

Some of you may struggle with your ears or have some difficulty articulating just what you want to say.  Those are real problems and, like the man in the Gospel account today, Jesus is concerned with your suffering.  There may come a time, here on this earth, when he gets rid of your ailment either through miracle or by working through advances in science and medicine.

However, there is also a sort of deaf and dumbness that each and every one of you have experienced in the past and which tries its best to make a recurrence at every turn.

Even before you were born, sin stripped you of your ability to hear the truth of the Gospel and to claim Jesus as your Savior.  And, like the deaf mute, you suffered the unfortunate consequence of not even knowing what you were missing out on.  Left to yourself, without someone bringing you to Jesus to be healed, you would have suffered a fate far worse than loneliness or, even, decaying into dust.  You would have been forced to endure eternal separation and decomposition in the fires of hell.

Jesus, both as true God and as true man, knew the deficiency sin caused and didn’t care for it.  What did he do right before he healed the man in the Gospel account for today?  He sighed.

Like a nine year old who is told to carry the hamper down to the laundry room, Jesus doesn’t care for the effects sin has on this world.  If only the world was still perfect.  If only there was a way to change things.  If only there was a way for this man to be able to hear and, then, to speak clearly—to get rid of the silence.

Say to those with fearful hearts, Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.  The will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

In good conscience and still following the fifth commandment faithfully, Jesus hates the consequences of sin, both physical and spiritual.  So, after sighing, he did something about it.  He came with divine retribution to save his people.

Did you notice how personally he dealt with the deaf mute?  He took him away from the crowd to have his full attention.  He then worked in a way that would be completely transparent to a man who could not hear.  He worked visually and tangibly.  He touched the untouchable man.  He showed him how he understood his defect by putting his fingers in the man ear and touching the man’s tongue.

He then looked up to heaven.  Why?  To show this man just what was sung about in our Psalm for today.  I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where shall come my help?  My help shall come from the one who has made the heavens and the earth. (Pilgrim’s Song – Psalm 121).

Then, in what may be both surprising and, at the same time, expected, Jesus did away with outward signs and gestures and healed the man with the most powerful means in the world.  Ephphatha.  He spoke.  Be opened! he said, and at this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

The Word of God is more powerful than any effect sin can have on anyone.  Yes, it can open deaf ears and loosen dumb tongues.  But, more importantly, it creates faith and applies forgiveness to those who could not and would not be able to hear about it on their own.

Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.

For you, Jesus worked visually and tangibly as well.  As he put the sign of the cross on your head and heart to mark you as a redeemed child of God and then, with a tender touch and such a small amount of water, he baptized you.  The pastor’s hand and the water, itself, had no healing properties.  But when you were baptized, faith was deposited in your heart and your sins were washed away because the person who baptized you used the powerful means of God’s grace.  They spoke the Words of Jesus.

And, of course, the only reason why those words work faith in you and forgiveness for you is because of what else Jesus said while he was on this earth.

Nailed to a cross and ready to sigh his last breath over the effect and punishment of the world’s sin hanging heavy upon him, Jesus spoke.  It is finished, he said.

With those words, Jesus removed the defects and effects of sin for you for all of eternity.  He finished the work of your salvation and gave you the healing that you needed the most.  Because of Jesus’ words, in the eyes of God, you have been restored to the perfection in which humanity was created.

Whether clothes would have eventually made their way into a perfect world or not is a question that, while it might be fun to speculate about, doesn’t really have an answer.

Instead, you have to continue to live in a sinful world, surrounded by its consequences on a daily basis.  But, friends, you won’t always.  A time is coming when divine retribution will again come to save those who are fearful.  When Jesus fulfils his final prophecy and judges the world, he will see your open ears and your loosened tongue.  He will hear you speak plainly the faith he placed in your heart and take you with him to the place where sin can no longer reach you.

With hearts filled of faith, be overwhelmed with amazement at everything he has done well for you.  Keep talking about it and wait patiently for the day when Jesus fulfils his final prophecy perfectly as well.  Amen.

 

Authentic Christianity

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Authentic Christianity” based on James 1:17-27 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, September 2, 2018

Ferdinand Demara was a man who wore many hats. His mile long resume included stints as a civil engineer, a doctor of applied psychology, a monk, a philosophy professor, a lawyer and a warden at the Texas State prison. There was only one problem. He didn’t have a single diploma, certificate or license to do any of it. He was a brilliant con man, with a photographic memory and astronomical IQ, who successfully did all those jobs—albeit for short periods in different places under various aliases. Perhaps his most impressive impersonation came when he passed himself off as surgeon during the Korean War and literally saved the lives of numerous casualties, including one who required major chest surgery. In 1957, TIME Magazine described him as an “audacious, unschooled but amazingly intelligent pretender who always wanted to be a Somebody, and succeeded in being a whole raft of Somebody Elses.”

I don’t know about you, but Ferdinand Demara’s story captivates me. To think of a man so brilliant that he could succeed in so many fields with no formal training—it’s the stuff of Hollywood films and best selling novels. But let’s face it, under normal circumstances, being an imposter is a decidedly BAD thing! I mean, honestly, would you really want your professor, your lawyer or your heart surgeon to be a fake, a person without any formal training or certified competency?

Isn’t being an imposter when it comes to our Christianity also a decidedly bad thing? Think about the Pharisees in our Gospel lesson. They wore all the right clothes, quoted all the right Bible passages, observed all the right outward rituals. They looked the part. And yet Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs”(Matthew 23:27)—pretty on the outside, rotten and decaying on the inside. In other words, he condemned them as imposters.

James was worried about the same things. He wrote to people who were phoning it in, Christianity-wise, sleepwalking through life, thinking they could wholeheartedly embrace sin and embrace their Savior at the same time.  To put it another way, the book of James questions fake Christianity and challenges people who were thinking: “I’m a sinner. But God forgives. So it really doesn’t matter what I do or how I live, because you know ‘Jesus saves’ and all that stuff.” James confronts that attitude by asking his readers, if not in these exact words…did you ever consider that you might be the imposter?

Yikes. That’s a hard question to have to grapple with. I mean, it’s relatively easy, maybe fun, for us to flag hypocrisy in other people. Nobody wants to consider themselves an imposter, especially with something as important as our faith. But look at the things James mentions in our text. And then superimpose it over our lives. Is there any way that this is going to end well?

James describes Authentic Christianity when he says….Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Are you slow to speak? Or are you lightning fast on the draw, willing to talk right over the other person, because you need to make sure your point is heard and heard now. Are you slow to become angry? Or does the bile always bubble hot in you, right below the surface, ready to lash out at the first thing that even mildly annoys you or the first person who gets in your way?

James says….Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Are there times when you head home from listening to the Word at church and do the exact opposite of what we just talked about in worship? Or does your Monday morning way of speaking differ immensely from your Sunday morning way of speaking?

James says…. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself.  Do you want to do better with your words, but then don’t?  Do you try, but some times forget? Do you promise to keep a tight rein, but then in the heat of the moment, there you go again—saying something that’s more from a red hot heart, than a cool calm head? Do your words and actions always match up with your values and principles? Mine don’t. Yours don’t either.

Does that disqualify us from Authentic Christianity? Or is it possible that that just might be Authentic Christianity? Or at least a part of it. The Pharisees never considered themselves to be hypocrites. They were quick to speak and slow to listen, no matter how many times Jesus warned them. But we just listened. And were convicted. We didn’t speak….except to say, Jesus forgive me for my hypocrisy.

Jesus even loves hypocrites. He even loves me. He even loves you. We struggle with consistency. But his promise remains ever valid and his blood remains an ever acceptable payment for sin. When our actions prove us false, we look in faith to the One who is true. When confronted with the impurity of our hearts, we cling all the more tightly to the One who is pure—and covered us (head-hands-mouth-and heart) with his perfection. Jesus saved me and you.

That’s authentic Christianity.

If you ever start to feel like you might be the imposter, look less at your works and more at the font. Remember his table. Drink deeply of the Word. It’s in those places that our true identity is revealed, because it it’s there that God tells us who we are. And he does not lie.

Yes, Jesus even loves hypocrites. But he does not love hypocrisy. Jesus forgives us for those times when we are exposed as imposters. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to be an imposter.

Authentic Christianity means looking at temptation like it’s poison, not drinking it like it’s a glass of water on a hot day. Authentic Christianity means struggling against the devil like the apostle Paul did, boldly proclaiming “Sin will not be my master!” (Romans 6:14) Authentic Christianity means listening closely to the words of Moses in our Old Testament lesson: Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.  Authentic Christianity means revisiting and recommitting to the path James describes in our text. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Don’t pass that by too quickly. You know… “Don’t know any orphans, so cross that off. Be kind to little old ladies. Will do. The world is bad. Got it.” James is talking about two general attitudes that radiate from an authentic Christian constantly, everyday. Embrace those who need you. Keep the world at arms’ length. That doesn’t mean we’re anti-social. It does mean that we take much of what we see on TV, or on social media, or in workplace conversation and we say, “That’s not what I’m about.” Live in the world. Enjoy God’s blessings in this world. Don’t be polluted by the attitudes of the world. It’s not doing the right thing in order to get to heaven. It’s doing the right thing because you already are. That’s authentic Christianity.

May the Holy Spirit enable you and those you care about to believe it, to grow in it and live forever because it. Amen.

 

Be my rock of refuge to which I can always go.

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “Be my rock of refuge to which I can always go” based on Psalm 71 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, August 26, 2018

Two teenage girls were in the kitchen cooking when all of a sudden a grease fire broke out.  They panicked.  They ran…out of the house and into their front yard.  A neighbor came to their aid, learned of the fire, and calmly asked if they had any fire extinguishers.  The girls said yes, in fact, they had three of them…handy, right near the kitchen.  So the neighbor calmly but efficiently zipped into the house, located an extinguisher, and quickly put out the fire.  You see, help had been right there, but the girls just didn’t see it, think about it, or know how to use it.

Do you think that ever happens to Christians today? Do you think Christian believers ever get weighed down by burdens or surprised by hardships or overwhelmed by trials to the point that they panic a little and maybe even run right by the help which is right there before them?

Today, the Psalmist shows us the importance of knowing where our help is found and then how to use that help.  The help, obviously is the LORD.  Referring to the Lord, the Psalmist says…My Rock of Refuge to which I Can Always Go.  At every stage of life…thru every chapter of our lives…in any circumstance of our lives…God is our rock and our refuge.

Psalm 71 doesn’t specifically mention who the author is.  But because of some of the familiar phrases and where in the book of Psalms it is located, most everybody agrees that Psalm 71 was written by King David in the late stages of his life.  And if we are looking for an example of someone who turned to the Lord throughout the different stages of his life, I can’t think of a better example than David.

Just open up his scrapbook.  Do you see the picture of young David tending sheep.  And there’s a picture of him taking a sack lunch to his brothers who were off at battle.  Oh, and look at this picture of David trying to wear the armor of King Saul…he’s drowning in it.  And this one – David carrying a sling shot with Goliath towering over him.  How will this shepherd boy ever defeat the giant?

And here’s another picture from a different time in his life.  It’s a picture of him hanging his head in shame.  Nathan the prophet had just visited him…reminded him of how he stole Uriah’s wife and took Uriah’s life and then tried to cover it all up.  Great King David had fallen…the moral leader had had a great moral laps.  What an embarrassment to himself and to his people. How could this guilt and shame ever be lifted?

And here’s a sad photo.  David, fearing his newborn child might die.  He eats no food.  He lies on the ground.  He prays and prays.  And yet his child does indeed die.  How will he ever be comforted?

You know the answers to those questions.

It was the Lord who defeated Goliath…not the stone…not the sling….not the shepherd boy.

It was the Lord who took away David’s sin, as far as the east is from the west.

It was the Lord who comforted David even in his darkest hour.

This much is true – no matter what stage of life, you’re going to have challenges.  Young people have young people challenges; old people have old people challenges.  But you have the same God…the same rock of refuge to which you can always go.

Do you have sins to confess?  Have you allowed worldly things to take a priority in our life while God has been cast aside?  Have you allowed yourself to coast a little bit, treating your Christianity kind of like a diet…sometimes you’re serious about and well, sometimes you’re not?  Do you have sins to confess that no one knows…sins you’d hate to be revealed?  Have you been weighted down by guilt?

I know where you can ALWAYS go…to the Lord, your rock of refuge…he will never turn you away.

Instead he’ll turn you to Jesus.  He won’t treat you as your sins deserve, instead he’ll treat you in grace.  He’ll lift away the sin and remove the guilt and cover you with forgiveness.  And he’ll give you a promise so real you can taste it.

Some have called Psalm 71 a prayer for aging believers.  That’s because David was up in age…and I wonder if he started to feel a little irrelevant.  Have any of you ever felt that way?  I was surprised when I looked up challenges that older people face.  I saw the usually suspects – diminishing immune system, loss of eyesight and hearing and memory, fragile bones.  On that list – depression.  I wonder if David was depressed when he realized he wasn’t the strong king any more…when his own family members were trying to oust him.  I wonder if any of our aging members get depressed when they realize they can’t do the things they once could….aches and pains increase…health decreases…children and grandchildren move away…loved ones pass…the house gets quieter…or maybe the house gets traded in for assisted living.  Young or old, do you ever get depressed?  Every start to feel unwanted or irrelevant?

I know where you can ALWAYS go…to the Lord, your rock of refuge…he will never turn you away.

Instead he’ll turn you to Jesus….and he says, others may forget about you, but I never will.  Others may leave you, but I never will.  I will love you with an everlasting love.

Do you need the strength to keep the faith and confess that faith in a world that is sometimes hostile?  Do you want to get better at seeing the positives in this life rather than dwelling on all the negatives?  Do you want a more grateful heart?  Do you want to have the wisdom and strength to set a good Christian example for your kids and grandkids?  Do you want to be a more loving husband or wife…a more patient parent?

I know where you can ALWAYS go…to the Lord, your rock of refuge…he will never turn you away.

Instead he will turn you to Jesus.  And he will help you to share Jesus.  And he will empower you to live for Jesus.  And he will help you to love like Jesus.

Those two teenage girls were just too preoccupied to realize they were running right past their source of help.  There was a fire in the kitchen…and all they could think about was running out the door.  No matter what stage of life – you’ll have problems and challenges and maybe a few grease fires…young people have young people problems and old people have old people problems.  Lord, give us the mind and the heart…so that all we think about is running to you, our rock of refuge.  Amen.

 

Seek the One Who Sought You

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Seek the One Who Sought You “ based on Matthew 6:33 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, August 12, 2018

Do not worry. 

That’s the way that Jesus begins this pericope—this section cut out– from his infamous Sermon on the Mount.  For three chapters in the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus taught his people about so many different aspects of Christianity.

Jesus saw a crowd of people who were hurting and hopeless.  They were searching for answers and were desperate.  They were not finding fulfilment in their fishing, in their carpentry, in their tax collecting, or in their farming.  Their marriages were breaking or already broken.  Their children were rambunctious and didn’t listen.  Their friends betrayed them, their drachmas and denarii were dwindling, and, well, to be quite honest, their healthcare system relied heavily on a miracle worker like Jesus to take away their pains and sicknesses.

Jesus saw all this and reached out to people that he loved and cared for.  He knew that these people were in need and so he helped them by preaching to them.  He sought them out and shared with them wisdom from above.  And smack dab in the center of three chapters of these teachings is this encouragement and enjoiner from Jesus, Do not worry.

You have likely heard it said before, but it bears repeating: the Holy Spirit doesn’t waste words.  As he inspired Matthew to write these words, he likely did not have him record a word for word dictation of the entirety of this discourse, but, rather, to share what was most needful.

In so doing, these words stand out.  You could even say that the words Do not worry serve as some sort of an overriding theme and central focus for the whole sermon.  And, if you do that, a wealth of knowledge is opened for, and shared with, those who read and hear these three chapters.

Are you hurting?

Are you seeking answers?

Are you unfulfilled?

Is it your marriage that is falling apart—or, are you just a bit jealous of those whose are because you wouldn’t take marriage for granted like they have?

Are you the one wondering how tuition, the car, the house, or even tonight’s dinner is going to be paid for?

Are you the one with the sickness that even modern medicine can’t mend?

Friends, Do not worry.

If you are hurting, Jesus has comfort.

He has the power to fix what is broken.

He has love that surpasses this world’s most desirable romances.

He has riches far beyond the biggest billionaire’s bank accounts.

He has the cure for any and all ailments.

Jesus has it all figured out, is in control of all things, and has the ability to give you all these things as well.

Jesus is telling you to have faith—to trust that everything is going to be ok.  Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.  Everything in this world may be telling you otherwise, but Jesus says not to worry about it.

In essence, the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount is an expository, or explanatory, sermon of the 1st Commandment.  Fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  Do not put your trust or your reliance on anything other than your God.

Truthfully, Jesus could have just said, Do not worry as his whole sermon and, because he is God, expected and required you to believe him and think, speak, and act accordingly.  Like a parent who gets fed up with his child who keeps whining and complaining, Jesus could have just told his disciples of all eternity not to worry “because I said so.

But he didn’t.  He sought you out in your pain, sickness, sadness, and anxiety, and shared with you the secret to removing that worry from your life. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

He doesn’t promise to eradicate cancer, to deposit drachmas or denarii on your doorstep, to force your kids to do their chores, or to get your nagging wife off your back.  But what he does promise is to remove your worry over them.  You see, when you seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, you begin to realize quite quickly that you have something far more worrisome than all of those issues combined.

Without Jesus, you are not a part of his kingdom and you are the complete opposite of righteousness.  The original sin inside of you since the moment your life began not only caused you to be unworthy of your God and unable to enter into his presence, but it is also the reason why you commit so many of your sins, from worry, itself, to the selfish thoughts, words, and actions that flow so freely from it.

Notice that Jesus did not say to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness so that all these things will be given to you.  Rather, first, have faith and then recognize that all of these things will be taken care of by the one who loves you and gave you everything that he has.

Trust to be true all that he did for you.  Believe that, while you were completely lost and unworthy of his attention and his love, he kept the law of God in your place.  He put the will of God in front of his own and sacrificed what was best for him for what was best for you.  He put your wants, needs, and even your worldly possessions in front of what he could gain for himself.  He became a human being in order to be the perfect substitute for you, both in the perfect life you were unable to live and the sacrificial death that you don’t have to die.

He lived and died to win forgiveness for you, to clothe you with the robe of his righteousness, and to reconcile the relationship between you and your God.  And not only did he have the power to do those things, but he actually did them all—for you.

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, not so that he will share with you all that he has.  Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, that is, have faith in what he has done for you is true, and know that not only can he provide for all your earthly needs, he will, because he did everything in his ability to make you his own.

Seek first the One who sought you.  Believe that he has it all figured out, is in control of all things, and he will give you all these things as well.  Amen.

 

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.