Advent Midweek 3- Is. 9:6-7 (Savior of the Nations Come)
 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (ESV)
 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (ESV)
A King is coming! And not just any King, but the King of all Kings, the King of heaven and earth. “Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,” Isaiah tells us.
He isn’t coming the way we might expect, in glorious fanfare and pomp, with shouts of trumpets and lightening flashes. This King comes from heaven to earth, but clothes Himself in meekness and humility. He comes to be born of a woman as was promised from the beginning. He comes to earth leaving His heavenly home to be born of a virgin, as was Promised from the beginning when sin entered through the first man and woman. There was no way for Adam & Eve to fix their situation and no way for them to make amends for the evil that entered the world, they were helpless to save themselves, but the Lord who made them and made all the earth, in His great love, would come to save the man and the woman, and all their children, grandchildren and on and on…He would come and save, come and reverse the evils of the Fall by taking upon Himself human flesh. He would come and be with us, He is Emmanuel. He would eat and drink with us, and then He would suffer and even die on a cross for us. He is a King like no other. As we sang in our hymn tonight:
Here a maid was found with child,
Yet remained a virgin mild.
In her womb this truth was shown:
God was there upon His throne.
The child, Jesus who was born of Mary, was the King of all Kings. A King who didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a Ransom for us. He came as a gift for us, as Isaiah prophesied in our first reading tonight. “For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;” Is. 9:6
The King of all Kings is One who loves us and therefore gives to us. He gives us Himself, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son”. For He is “full of grace…”. He would give us the ultimate gift of Himself, to make us clean. He would come to cleanse sinners with His own body, given into death for our sins, and His very blood shed for the forgiveness of our sin.
This King of all Kings comes to serve you, He has Baptized you and spoken you clean with Word of the forgiveness of all sin on His account. He died Once for all for you. He shouted His victory over sin, death and the devil into hell itself and has Risen and Ascended to be your defender and He calls you His friend and heir of His kingdom, which has no end.
As we sang tonight:
God the Father was His source,
Back to God He ran His course.
Into hell His road went down,
Back then to His throne and crown.
In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.
5 u“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
vhumble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt,1 the foal of a beast of burden.’”
In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.
In the dark setting of fallen creation, in the coldness of hardened hearts set in rebellion to the Lord our Creator comes the light of the Gospel, promised from the beginning. To a people bound and enslaved to sin comes freedom for the captives and the brightest light in the darkest of winter. Our Lord works often when and where we least expect Him to. Whether in the midst the epic tragedy of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against their Lord in the garden, or through an old and barren couple named Abraham and Sarah, through the oppression of slavery in Egypt, or in the midst of adultery and murder as the king of a nation, David is promised One who would remove the dark stain of sin that had overtaken him. Here, in our first Sunday of Advent, we don’t get what we might expect. Our Gospel text doesn’t show us a king coming to conquer the way we might think would make sense. Not on a white horse with a sword to destroy the Roman stronghold over Israel, but rather Jesus the king comes on a borrowed donkey, in humility as the Promised One coming to die for the sinner, and to remove the curse that mankind has brought upon itself.
St. Matthew, quoting Zech 9:9 from the OT shows Jesus as the king who has not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. Though the king comes to Jerusalem with cries of Hosanna (or LORD save us), He comes to die for those whom He has made and yet have rejected Him as their Lord. For the same ones that cry “Hosanna to the Son of David! (Matt 21:9) are the also the ones who will soon cry out “Crucify Him”. Hope doesn’t always look the way we expect it to look and our Lord, who is the One who gives true hope, works in ways that often to us seem unlikely and even unbelievable, through Word, water, bread and wine.
Our Old man of sin expects to find a new law giver, even a new Moses to give a set of new rules that we might be able to keep. We expect new tools to help us work towards becoming better stronger and more worthy and improving. We, like the rich young ruler ask, “What must I DO to inherit eternal life.” We expect lists of “dos and don’ts” that we can follow, we confuse the Gospel with the Law, so we can mark of the list what we have accomplished and all the while hoping that God grades us on a curve. Surely, God will send a Savior who understands that we’re “doing the best we can” and will just tell us that it’s the thought that counts. That makes sense to our Old man of flesh. However, the cold darkness of our hearts is much darker than we even know. God’s Law spoken to us shatters the false notion that we aren’t that bad, or that our best is good enough. It destroys the lies that the problem of sin is really the world around us, or that person we married, or those people at work, or in our family. The clear mirror of God’s Law shows us where the real problem is, and we have room to point any fingers.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9)
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. (Matthew 15:19–20)
So now, enter Jesus, the true Light of the world and King of all kings who has come and entered into His creation not to destroy it as He rightly and justly could, but to answer the cries of the crowd, “Hosanna!” or Lord save us. So, entering into the darkness of a sinners comes the Promised son of David to become a curse for you, and to be judged in your place for your sin on the cross. He enters Jerusalem, where He came to die, not randomly or half-heartedly but as: “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2
So, he comes as God with us, who is friend of sinners, who eats and drinks with tax collectors, harlots and men and women like you and me. He comes in true love to rescue the poor in spirit, comfort those who mourn, and to give Himself for people who have nothing to bring except empty hands, like that of beggar who cry out KYRIE! Or “Lord have mercy on me”
He comes for the blind, sick, the lame, and those born spiritually dead in trespasses and sin to bring real life. Jesus comes for you, that He might speak you alive with His word of all sins forgiven on account of His death and payment of the sins of all the world. For the coming One during Advent season that we might wrongly anticipate, doesn’t come in shouts of thunder and lightning, but born of a virgin and lying in a manger. He comes as a poor carpenter’s son in what we would call ordinary circumstances. He then extraordinarily lives to die in your place and rise for your sins, that He might make you His own, not as your flesh would expect through some sort of mutual cooperation of God plus your effort or through some decision or commitment that you might make, but He does it all, everything you can’t do, for even the name He is given, Jesus, says Yahweh is salvation! So, He comes in the through the power of His Gospel to give you Himself as your Savior, He comes to die on a cross for you. This is not some afterthought or plan B, but His word says He is the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world. Our Gospel text this First Sunday of Advent comes from Zech. 9 and Is. 62 where we hear of His promise to come a first time but, we are told in His Word the He will also come again as we confess in the Creed, as the judge of the Living and the dead. So for us there is a definite preparedness for Jesus that is spoken of and rightly so at this time of the church year, as we begin a new Advent season anticipating both His First coming or Advent as the Word Incarnate or God in human flesh for us, but also always with a view to His coming again or Second Advent. There are many verses about being ready or prepared for Him to come, and even a deep longing for His coming and as we also confess in the Creed “the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.” Whether speaking of His first or second advent it is always the Lord who is the One who is preparing US and working in US. He is the One who works in you give to you in His service. He has gathered you to His name, and through His Word and Sacraments, He is truly present for you, preparing and sustaining you by giving Himself to you. Jesus comes again and again to cleanse you and feed you as He will in the feast to come as John writes about in
 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.
The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 24, c]
October 20, 2019
22 The same night [Jacob] arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
In the Name of Jesus.
God comes to Earth in the flesh, in the form of a man, for a short time—what is God up to?
It is Jacob to whom God comes down—Jacob the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. So that Jacob is the one on Earth carrying the promise of redemption for all sinners.
The promise of a redeemer from sin was given to Abraham, with the promise that from Abraham’s lineage would come forth a descendant who would bless all nations. Then the promise given to Abraham went to Abraham’s son, Isaac. From Isaac, it went to his son Jacob. And now we see Jacob, and God comes down in the flesh, as a man, to him. What will God say?
Because Jacob has big trouble coming at him just around the corner, we might hope God will say something that would pull him out of disaster.
We remember some of the story. Jacob is getting ready to cross the Jabbok river and meet his brother Esau. Jacob hasn’t seen Esau since that terrible scene where Jacob schemed and lied to steal the family promise away from Esau and make it his. After that, Jacob quickly pulled up stakes and left town, moved away to a foreign land, married, and raised a family. But now he’s returning. Esau has had several decades to stew in bitterness, hoping for a day for revenge. Jacob deserves it.
Jacob crosses the Jabbok river in fear. The day of reckoning with Esau is here.
So when God comes down to Earth in the form of a man to meet with Jacob, maybe we will hear some deep wisdom about how Jacob can handle this Esau problem with success.
God comes down in the flesh, and this is what he says,
“What is your name?”
No great wisdom about how to handle a problem. Just a question:
“What is your name?”
A name is no mere label.
With the name comes the person, all that he is—his good, his bad, his honor, his guilt—and with the name comes all that has been done to a person, all that has oppressed him, defiled him, all that has brought shame to him.
With a name, you get the full person.
A name such as Stalin or Hitler—just whisper the name; we all know immediately what comes with the name. A name such as Einstein or Marie Curie, do we even have to say what they did? It’s given with the name.
All that a person is and has done, and that which has been done to him—it’s given with the name. By the Commandments, we are not to bring shame on another’s name, for an attack on the name is an attack on the person.
“What is your name?”
says the Lord.
Jacob is holding him down in his grip, demanding the blessing, and the Lord says,
“What is your name?”
To give his name will expose Jacob, it will bring with it all that Jacob is, and has done, and all that has been done against Jacob, bringing him into shame. In giving his name, Jacob is vulnerable.
It’s all there. Jacob is a Hebrew word meaning “supplanter.” He had supplanted his own brother Esau—Jacob’s name exposes him as a cheat, as one who takes things from others.
Before God, nothing is hidden.
Jacob, supplanter, is his name. But then God says,
“Your name is no longer Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and prevailed.”
“Israel” is a Hebrew word meaning just that—he has striven, he has wrestled with God. He held God down; he didn’t let God go until he heard the blessing: “Israel.”
God knows our names. All that we are, all that comes with our names, all that we have done, all that we will do in our sinful flesh, all that we are in the deepest corners of our sinful hearts—it is all held up to the light of the Law, exposed in our names.
He knows our names. He gives us a new name: Israel. The church is named as the New Israel, the New people of God who strive with him. We are, all of us, “Israel”—named by him.
Strive with God. Hold him. Cling to him. Don’t let him go until the blessing. This is the language of faith. Faith is born of the Gospel.
In the Law God comes to us in strength. The Law exposes sin, names us as supplanters. We cannot stand before God like that and live. The Gospel is the Lord coming to us in his self-chosen weakness. The Gospel speaks forgiveness of sin, giving us the blessing of the Lord’s holy Name.
God wants to be known for the Gospel, for the forgiveness of sin, for the blessing. He wants to be known by his Name. By his Name the sinner will know him and who he is, will know all that he has done, and all that has been done to him, against him, bringing shame upon him.
By the Lord’s Name, we know how our sin defiled and crucified him.
By his Name we know how he stood in front of the Pharisees and let them insult him, in front of the soldiers and let them spit on him—and we know how he stands in front of us, even while our sin and our arrogance, bring shame to him.
But he took all that upon himself, and put it to death in his own body on the cross—that’s all according to his Name, Jesus.
Now he is the God who wants the sinner to strive with him, and hold him down, until the blessing.
This is the life of faith, the life of prayer.
Our conversation with God is no sweet whispering of flowery words. It is an actual conversation rooted in life’s pain. It’s wrestling and striving, speaking to God of what really hurts, of what leaves us empty, of what brings shame upon our names. In this conversation we hold him tight, in order to say,
“You are my Lord, I must have your blessing. I hold on to you, I will not give up speaking, until I hear your blessing upon my name.”
Our Lord gives it that way. He will have it no other way. He showed up to Jacob by no accident. The Lord didn’t come down and find himself walking around on the banks of Jabbok to, all of the sudden, find himself ambushed and head-locked by some guy named Jacob.
He came down in order to wrestle with Jacob. In order to ask him his name, to bestow upon him the new name, “Israel”—to bless him.
He comes to us by no accident. He is not ambushed by our sin. He is not surprised by the shame attached to our names. He knows it all, better than we do ourselves, and it is for that reason that he shows up to us in the flesh.
“This is me,”
“My Body, My Blood, and I know your name, who you are, what is your pain, what is your shame.”
“Strive with me, hold on to me, expect from me the blessing of my Name, for you are Israel,”
he says to us,
“You strive with God.”
So we hold onto him, to the Body and the Blood, to the Name spoken with the Body and the Blood, Jesus, and holding on to him, we are blessed.
“Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord,”
we sing in the Liturgy. The Name of the Lord is Jesus. He comes to us by that Name. In that Name, we find the blessing: your sin is forgiven, your shame is removed—he covers you in honor.
In the Name of Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:1–13
 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,  and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.  Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.  An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.  It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.  Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,  for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.  The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
In the Name of Jesus, AMEN
We are in a culture today where as much as probably any time in history, we are surrounded by distractions. Emails, texts, apps, social media and screens and every kind of electronic notification can consume us. Not to mention the various vocations and other things that demand our constant attention. In other words, even for people who aren’t ADD or ADHD, staying focused can seem near impossible today. St. Paul in our text is writing to his young pastor friend Timothy in one of his final letters about what he should be focused on in his ministry to the church and the other pastors he is mentoring. This is Paul’s final letter of instruction and to his apprentice and he emphasizes over and over again for Timothy to be about One Thing primarily, the proclamation of our Lord’s death and resurrection, the Gospel. Using the metaphor of a good soldier, he warns Timothy not to be about entangled in “civilian pursuits”, which could easily distract, but rather “please the one who enlisted him”. Like the great athlete, training for the prize or the good farmer focused on growing good crops, Paul urges Timothy to stay focused, through difficulty, hardship, suffering and distraction on delivering the gifts of our Lord Jesus Christ who has died and risen for His church. Just as there are many causes and even very good ones that any church or pastor could focus on, it’s important for us to note that above all Timothy is to preach Christ crucified for the sinner, the Gospel. He is to preach the justification of the sinner, the forgiveness of sins for all on account of our Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s easy to put our energy on everything around us, except the main thing, to be distracted by people, politics or social causes as the church’s main charge which is why Paul reminds the church in Ephesus also when he tells them,
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Eph 6:12
Our real enemy isn’t our neighbor but sin, death and the devil, all of which are dealt with on Christ’s cross for us.
So Paul says, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,  for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” In other words just as certain as Jesus is risen from the dead, so His word of forgiveness goes out and accomplishes its purpose, bringing life to those who are spiritually dead, healing and cleansing those who are spiritually diseased and leprous, just like in our Gospel reading this morning.
Paul, who had his share of beatings and imprisonment for preaching the Gospel, isn’t focused on his circumstances or even his suffering, for his hope is in the word of the Gospel of the forgiveness of all sins on account of Christ. Paul isn’t preaching his own methods of cleaning up your life, or self-improvement. He isn’t giving pep talks or motivational speeches, but is boldly proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of all sins. This word, which is Jesus’ word given to Paul, the other apostles and now to Timothy and the entire Christian church is “the power of God unto salvation”. It is the Word of Gospel that creates faith in us, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ”. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This is why the single focus of the pastor and the single Word of the church is the Word of Jesus, who has risen from the dead for you, and forgives your sin this day.
To be clear, it’s not that there aren’t many things that are important to be instructed on in all of life’s vocations. We can get teaching on finances, marriage, relationships, parenting and lots of other good things. The reality though is that Jesus did not come into the flesh, die and rise to simply make us more moral or give us some good advice on different aspects of life, but as the angel says to Mary, “you shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins.”
His very name speaks of the forgiveness He came to give you. For, like all sinners you may think that if you just do this, that or the other enough, you will be ok, but the Scriptures teach that your condition is far worse than you imagined. For you were born, “dead in your trespasses” and sin. So our Lord’s Word for you is not reformation but resurrection. Your hope is exactly what Paul tells Timothy here in our text. “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,”. While your Old Adam still somehow thinks he is good enough and smart enough to figure it out, the Law of God actually condemns all of you even your “Good works” done in the flesh as filthy rags before the Lord, for He is holy and commands the same of you, not a few of the 10 commandments, but all of them are demanded in terms of the Law. But in His Word of Gospel He gives you what you don’t have, He gives what you cannot do for yourself, He gives you His perfect life as gift, He is your substitute, and Jesus is your righteousness. This is why He has called you here this morning, to be gathered to His name, the name by which you were baptized into His death and resurrection, so as certainly as He was raised, so are you, as new Adam, new creation by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone.
“The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;” 2 Tim 2:11
The Gospel for you that Jesus gives, is a Gospel that is rooted not in your faithfulness, or ability to do good and get better, but in His already finished work on the cross for you. He promises in our text today to continue that work, despite your unfaithfulness, His word and His promise to be with you, named as His own through water and the word forever. “if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.”
In the Name of Jesus,
 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,  saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Now that the crowds following Jesus are very large Jesus is discussing what is means to be his disciple or person following His teaching. We hear the word disciple in the new testament a lot, so Jesus answers the question to all those that seem to be following Him “what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? In answering this question, rather than speak in any “seeker-sensitive” or culturally relevant way, Jesus speaks about the cost of following Him in a way that isn’t popular or even culturally relevant. It is the opposite of what one would expect when you have drawn a huge crowd. Instead of playing to crowd and giving them what they want to hear, Jesus speaks about giving up everything, even father, mother, possessions and He speaks so clearly that we can’t misunderstand, in terms of the Law, what it means to be His follower, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33 In case you’re wondering what the Greek word for “all” in this text means, it actually means “all”. So that we have no doubt what Jesus is talking about in terms of our following Him and being His disciple, it is clear here that it is a total and complete, it involves our entire lives, with 100% abandonment of everything else and completely following Him all the way to the cross. IN fact this sounds an awful lot like what He will soon tell a young wealthy man in Luke 18 when that young man asks about attaining eternal life, so Jesus responds similarly, “
 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’”  And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.”  When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.  Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! (Luke 18:20–24 ESV)
It gets even harder here in this text, when we listen closely, since Jesus ultimately speaks about dying. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” In his famous book called The Cost of Discipleship, Deitrich Bonhoeffer a German Lutheran pastor during WWII in speaking of what the Bible says about following Jesus and being a disciple explains “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” If this is accurate, the question is, how can anyone be Jesus’ disciple? Again the answer is the same as how Jesus answers the young wealthy man in Luke 18, “What is impossible with man, is possible with God.”
When I was growing up in the Baptist church in Texas, we used to attend what were called discipleship classes. Usually they went something like this: You would attend a series of Bible studies or complete levels of booklets and age appropriate series of workbooks and then by the end of it, you were supposed to be at a new level or had progressed so that the next series of books would take you to the next level and then the next and so on. It was like going through levels of Christianity. Then later on, you could then train others or lead them through the same kind of thing. After years of what the churches I grew up would call “discipleship” you were supposed to have it figured out, problems fixed and a lot of language was thrown around, even what we called “testimonies” were shared and we were supposed to tell stories about how we used to do this and that, but now we’re doing something great or helpful and are no longer cussing as much, or drinking or gambling or whatever moral behavior was a problem, because of these classes and other spiritual disciplines, you were supposed to be good now or at least a lot better. The reality however was that I wasn’t getting any better, and people around didn’t seem to be any less sinners than before, but now were just sinners using more church language, or often shifting or trading one sin to another, from despair to pride and so on.
Jesus here in our Gospel text isn’t saying anything about classes, moral improvement, levels of disciples or giving this or anything of the sort. In the very center of our text Jesus doesn’t talk about moral improvement, but about dying. Again He says, ““Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Cross language is the language of dying, and this is what Jesus came to do, head to Jerusalem and die on a cross for your sins and mine. So if we are to follow Jesus truly, we go to die as well with Him. Death is the result of sin, not bad moral choices or moral lapses, but Original sin. This taints everything about us and is actually why we commit “sins”, because we are born sinners and the Scriptures teach that the “wages of sin is death.”. Jesus first told Adam & Even in the garden in Genesis 2:16–17
“ And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (ESV)
It is our Lord, who created the earth and all that is in it to be received, and enjoyed and yet when sin entered in we exchanged the gifts of God for gods themselves and as Paul says in Rom 1, “worshipped the created things rather than the Creator.” Due to our now fallen nature inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, we, like them and all their descendants worship anything and everything but the One who made us and gives us all good things. IN other words, we are guilty of breaking the First commandment where we are told “You shall have no other gods” and then the remaining 9 that all flow from that first commandment.
The question again is, how can we be Jesus’ disciple if we’re dead and have nothing? We must remember that the good news of Jesus is predicated with the bad news about our condition. We are bring nothing to the equation except for sin and resistance. We are blind, poor and spiritually dead, but the Good News of the Gospel, however, is that Jesus, the one who was crucified, is also the ONE WHO IS RISEN. It is our Lord Himself who brings His cross, His death to you and the power of His resurrection to you. For its Jesus who bared the cross for you, the penalty that you deserve for your sins, Jesus took upon Himself and He willingly went to the cross and died in your place, for your sins. Although you can’t go back in time and literally go to the cross, it is our Lord Himself who brings all that He won on that cross, where He defeated sin, death and the devil, He brings it to you. His victory is now yours by grace, through faith. It is our Lord Himself who baptizes both the helpless baby and you, so that now you are a baptized child of God who has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you. And the life you now live in the flesh you live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave himself for you.” (Gal 2:20) (ESV) So it is accurate and surely true that to be a disciple of Jesus costs everything, but Jesus gave everything on Good Friday to you, so that even this very morning He speaks His word of forgiveness to you. As St. Paul puts it in Rom. 8:3–4 “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.” In other words God Himself does for you what you can’t do because of your sinful flesh. What is it that God has done for you? “He sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,” The Old Adam, your sinful flesh is now dead on the cross with Jesus “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, or in YOU, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” So the follower of Jesus, is the One walks by gift or grace, not by self-effort, but by receiving the Promise that on account of Jesus all your sin is forgiven. For, not only has Jesus died &risen for the forgiveness of your sins, but you are His, now and forever. To Him be the glory forever and ever.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
John 8:48-59: June 16, 2019
 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”  Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.  Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.  Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”  The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?”  Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’  But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”  So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”  Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” (John 8:48–59)
In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.
On this Sunday of the Holy Trinity, we hear from Jesus in one of His many encounters with the Pharisees about who He is. They obviously knew He was powerful. He was bold in His teaching, He spoke as One with authority, He performed numerous miracles, He feed thousands, He healed many, He rebuked the demons, and so they wanted to know where His power came from. He obviously had power like they’d never seen. No one could deny it, but where was it from, where was He from. He certainly couldn’t be who He claimed to be, and they were surely not children of the devil, as He called them. They were certain that they were right and He was false. After all they were descendants physically from Abraham. They knew their lineage, they had the Scriptures, they were teachers of the Scriptures, so if this man, Jesus was opposing them, He must be from the devil. There is no way He could be who He was claiming to be, the God of Abraham, the God who made the heavens and the earth, and still be standing right in front of them. He was in His thirties, not 2030s. So they asked, but truly they didn’t really want the answer, because they had already made up their minds. Jesus obviously knew this, he knew who they were, he knew their very hearts. He knew they didn’t believe in His word. They didn’t have faith. That which trusts the Word of God and receives His gifts, His promises. Just a few verses earlier we get the context of the conversation.
 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.  Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.  You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (ESV)
It is then from this context of calling them children of the devil, which according to Jesus are those who do not believe in who He is, the Christ, Son fo the Living God, or YHWH in human flesh, that the Pharisees begin our Gospel reading calling Jesus both a Samaritan and having a demon. Jesus answers them “, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.  Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.  Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
The Pharisees trusted in themselves, what they could do, where they came from, they trusted in their keeping of the law, their cooperation with God to make themselves clean, for this is what the natural man born in sin does. The Old Adam doesn’t look outside Himself to Jesus, but inside for spiritual ability and even inside for faith, which is no faith at all, for faith is a gift from God to you, through the Word, which Jesus says we should guard, or keep, or believe. We look, however, according to our sinful flesh, within ourselves for the answers, for the good, for the will power and ultimately for the means of salvation. Nothing good however is ever found in us, the Scriptures are all too clear on this as Jesus told the Pharisees, “It is because you cannot bear to hear my word “. Our Lord Jesus, on the other hand, comes to us, from outside of us. Heaven has come to earth. He speaks, He announces and He comes to the sinner. He went to Calvary to bear the sins of the world, and delivers by His Spirit His gift of the forgiveness of sin to you personally through His Word and Sacraments. That’s exactly why Jesus’ statement is so mind blowing for them, it’s truly unbelievable for the Pharisees and according to our flesh, also for you. As we are gathered here on Trinity Sunday to hear His word, left to ourselves, we don’t believe Him either. We can’t believe Jesus, because we are fallen from birth. We don’t “seek God” the scriptures tell us, we don’t “love God and neighbor” as we ought to, for we, like the Pharisees look within ourselves, rather than to God for goodness, peace, salvation, hope. This is the temptation of the Fall where the serpent tells Eve, if you eat of this fruit, you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” This too, like all the devil tells us, is manipulated, lies, false. As Jesus says, “because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
So, if keeping His word is how we “never see death” what does this mean? Well, to keep His word is to believe Jesus is who He says He is, “Before Abraham was, I AM”. Jesus is YHWH, the God who created from the beginning, as we confess the Creed, this is the catholic, or Christian faith. To keep His Word is to believe as Peter confessed that “Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God.” It is to believe that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:11) To know the Father is to believe Jesus when He says “before Abraham was” I AM. This is Jesus’ claim that He is the God of the Old Testament, the One who Abraham saw and rejoiced in, according to Gen 15, He “was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits an the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” To “keep His word”, is to believe Jesus is the One promised in Genesis 3, as the seed of Eve, the Promised Son of David, the Messiah, who would defeat sin, death and the devil, He cleanses the sinner and brings eternal life to all who would receive Him. This is the language and reality of faith, that which receives Jesus as your Savior, the One who Redeems YOU from your sin.
Still, our Old Adam, our fallen nature hates this language, as did the Pharisees, and as do all of us. But God, who is rich in mercy has revealed to us His Son, who became weak for you, suffered for you, died for your sins, and has risen for you. Your Lord Jesus creates your faith through His Spirit, whom He has sent, gives you the gift of being able to believe, and you now are His own as John says in the beginning of his Gospel:
“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11–13)
This is why Jesus came to the earth, “not to condemn the world, but that through Him, the world would be saved.” In other words, He came to save you. He came that you might believe and keep His word. He came to make you His child and freely and lovingly feeds you His true Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sin, and in doing so all that is His, is now yours, and His Father is YOUR Father. His honoring of the Father, is now yours as gift. His righteousness is yours. He has given the very Name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit to you in Holy Baptism. He gives all that He is to you, so that by grace, through faith, on account of Jesus you are forgiven, absolved, and holy and He is holy, holy, holy.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.