Previous sermons can be found by scrolling down further.

Sermon for March 29

Based on John 11: 1 – 45. Please read this before viewing the message.

Sermon for March 18

Sermon for March 21 & 22

The text for this sermon is based on is John 9: 1 – 41.

“Everyone Has a Purpose”                                             

Good afternoon/morning. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The theme of the message I bring to you today is “Everyone has a purpose.” It is just a reminder of how important we all are in God’s divine plan. No matter how young or old, tall or short, loud or soft-spoken, rich or poor, deaf or blind; we all are here for a purpose. We all matter to God. Every one of our lives has God-given meaning and we all have an important role to play during our lifetime. Even if we never come to an understanding of what that purpose is, sooner or later others will see it in us. But not understanding what our purpose is does not diminish the fact that we truly do have a purpose.

In this Gospel text from the ninth chapter of John, the disciples ask Jesus why this man was blind from birth. In their human way of thinking, his blindness must have been some form of punishment by God for his sins or the sins of his parents. In their human way of thinking, blindness was a bad thing; a curse that could only have been brought on by some evil deed or lack of responsibility on the part of the parents. Now remember; this was long before the days of genetic science—where we now know that sicknesses, disease, or genetic flaws can cause a child to be born blind.

But in those days, it most certainly must have been either a curse or a punishment that caused blindness. Jesus takes the time to correct the thinking of his disciples by telling them that it was not for any sin of the man or his parents; meaning that his blindness was neither punishment nor curse. He was born blind that “the works of God might be displayed in him.”

In other words, God had a purpose for this blind man. His purpose was to show through Jesus the power of the one true God. He was to be a living testimony to what God can and will do for His faithful people. He was to be an example for the Pharisees. They were supposed to see him and realize that only the true and living God could have restored the sight of a man blind from birth.

The neighbors of the man blind from birth saw him and realized that he could now see and was no longer blind and they asked him what happened that he now had his sight and could see. So, he told them of what Jesus had done for him. And these neighbors believed; so much so that they brought the man to the Pharisees to get the opinion of the theological leaders of the day. And in their vain curiosity they asked him how is it that he could now see?

Without hesitation, he explained to them what Jesus had done for him, just as he had done for the neighbors. The Pharisees did not believe them, accusing Jesus of being nothing but a sinner.

These Pharisees were blind in their own special way. They were not blind of the eyes; they were blind of the mind. They did not believe the evidence of the eyes and ears. They refused to believe that Jesus could do the things others said He did, because He did not conform to their perception of what “Messiah” should be. In their minds, the Messiah would never violate the Sabbath by doing any type of work on that day, including the healing of a blind man.

The Pharisees were blind to who Jesus was and is. Because of their own self-righteousness, they could not see the truth. They were not born blind like the man in this story, but became blind, thinking they knew all there was to know about the Messiah, the Sabbath, and all things pertaining to Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Therefore, the Pharisees had a God-given purpose in life; to show the world the futility of not trusting the evidence of the eyes and ears.

The Jews also were blind in their own special way. They were not ready to believe that this man had been blind from birth or that his eyes had been opened by Jesus until they called his parents. In fact, they were ready to expel everyone from the temple who confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ. For this reason, the parents told them if they wanted the truth, they should ask their son. And so, we see that the Jews had a personal vendetta against Jesus. They could not and would not see Jesus for who He is, because again, He did not fit their expectations of what “Messiah” meant or should look like. They had created an image in their minds, and it did not match what they were seeing in the flesh.

This means the purpose of the Jews here in this piece of history was as antagonists. Did God harden their hearts so that they could not see Jesus for who He truly is? No. The Jews did that themselves in their self-righteous natures by attempting to make God conform to the image that they created of the Christ, the Messiah, in their minds. God did just the opposite; He exposed these Jews to the One and only Christ; hoping they would recognize Him. They didn’t. But the fact that they didn’t was not God’s fault.

The irony here is that God instructed the world to do the same thing the parents of the man born blind instructed the Jews; “If you want the truth, you should ask my Son.” At the heart of the Jews’ unbelief is their refusal to accept the truth when confronted with it. That is why they ask the man born blind again how his eyes were opened. In his answer to the Jews we see how the once blind man was fulfilling his God-given purpose. He spoke the truth to them; that Jesus must be of God or He would not be able to do such things as making the blind see.  He argued against Jesus being a sinner as they accused Him of being, saying that God does not listen to sinners but only to those who worship Him and do His will.

Again, these Jews would not listen and rejected the truth, believing that being followers of Moses were better than being followers of Jesus; instead of understanding that both are one and the same. So, they cast him out. He would no longer be allowed in the temple.

But Jesus lifted the man up letting him know that He is Lord, Messiah, the Christ and that these Jews cannot see that which God opened His eyes to see. He let the man know that nothing these Jews or Pharisees could do to him would be worse than what was waiting for those hypocrites. Jesus said to him, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

In that statement Jesus revealed to the man his purpose in life. Jesus opened his eyes so that the once blind man would be a witness to the power and glory of the Son of God.  Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees is found in the final words of this text: “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”   What He means is that if we truly do not understand, we are innocent. But if in our self-righteousness we claim a false understanding, we will be held guilty as if we truly do understand.

We all have a purpose in life. It will be lived out whether we understand what that purpose is or not. God will not be denied. His will is done regardless of what we think, say or do. Still, we all have a purpose; each one of our lives has meaning. You and I are of great value to God. That knowledge should bring comfort in the fact that God loves us all beyond measure,  and will never leave us nor forsake us, but empower and encourage us to fulfill our purpose. To Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be all glory and honor. Amen.

Sermon for March 18

Lenten Homily on Luke 22: 54-62

“Facing Denial”

54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

Good afternoon; grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Have you ever had someone you considered a good friend, turn on you, stab you in the back, or abandon you just when you needed him/her most? How did that feel? Not very good, I bet. Now imagine if all of your closest friends did that to you at the same time. Well, that is exactly what happened the first Maundy Thursday night. All of Jesus’ friends, companions and disciples fled, abandoning Him just when He needed them most. And Peter, the rock on which Jesus said He would build His church, added insult to injury by denying even knowing Jesus, not once, but three times! Yes, Jesus in His divine nature, knew it was coming, but imagine how He must have felt in His human nature when it actually happened! Although all of the twelve apostles abandoned Jesus, Peter was the only one who did it both in word and deed. It started back at Gethsemane when neither he nor the other ten could stay awake while Jesus prayed. And now in contrast to faithful Peter the brave, who was ready to defend Jesus to the death by pulling a sword and cutting off Malchus’s ear when they came to arrest Him, we now see fearful Peter the coward, afraid to even admit to knowing or ever having associated with Jesus out of fear of being put to death.

          Let me paint you a picture of what happened that night by giving you more of the details. And so our story begins: Peter, worried about Jesus, wanted to see what the arresting soldiers were going to do with Jesus. He followed them at a distance so as not to be discovered. Peter, with John’s help, managed to get into the courtyard with the Temple police, under the pretense that he was one of them. A detachment of them was kept there awaiting further orders.

The night was cold, therefore, there was a fire in the open court. Peter sat among the Temple police hoping that he would blend in. He had no business there and Jesus had told him not to follow. But Peter invented his own reason for coming. He made the excuse to himself that he wanted to see the end. In that way, Peter was much like us; we always invent good reasons for doing what we should not do. He thought he could pull it off and that no one would pay attention to him.

But what he didn’t count on was the servant girl who had let him into the courtyard at John’s request. She and another servant functioned as doorkeepers at the passageway that led from the street into the inner open court. Women were commonly given this job to do. Sitting there at the fire with Peter and the Temple police, she leaned in and took a closer look at Peter and recognized him. She must have come to the conclusion that Peter was a disciple of Jesus from the way John had persuaded her to let him in.

          She must have thought that exposing Peter would make herself important; that she would get some accolade for it. She may have wanted these men to know that she knew something they did not know; that while they were talking about Jesus and what had happened to Him, here was one of His disciples right there with them. “This man was with Him,” she says, while probably pointing her finger at Peter. With the suddenness of being exposed before the crowd around the fire came the feeling of mortal danger, and now Peter was filled with panic. He saw no way out but to lie. And his response is no less than a complete disowning of Jesus. “Woman, I do not know Him,” Peter said.

 So worried about what would happen to himself, Peter didn’t even realize that it only took a few words from a mere servant girl to turn the chief of the twelve apostles against the Lord of all creation. Peter the defender has now become Peter the denier. Here stands an errant coward who is not able to confess his heavenly Lord, cringing in lying denial. At the very first opportunity to confess his discipleship, Peter quickly denies his association with Jesus. In his heart, fear has conquered faith. He didn’t realize what a great sin he had just committed, because Jesus told us in Matthew 10:33, “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

          But it doesn’t stop there. Peter waited only long enough to have attention safely focused elsewhere, and then quietly made his way toward the long entryway so he could make his exit. The entryway was crowded now with people. And while trying to make his way through the crowd, someone else recognizes Peter and says, “You are also one of them.” Another opportunity for Peter to confess his faith and acknowledge his relationship with the Lord presents itself. And once again Peter flees from the opportunity and again denies Jesus saying, “Man, I am not.” He then gives up trying to get through the entryway; to runaway now that attention has been directed his way again, would confirm the accusations made against him. Once again he waits, trying to lose himself in the crowd. An hour passes and just when Peter begins to feel comfortable enough to make his move, the most decisive effort is made to identify him as a disciple of Jesus by a relative of Malchus’s who was there when the arrest was made at Gethsemane; the one whose ear Peter the defender cut off.

“Certainly this man was also with Him, for he too is a Galilean.” This charge against Peter is corroborative evidence because all of Jesus apostles, meaning the Twelve were Galilean, with the exception of Judas, and were recognized as such by their strong Aramaic dialect.

          But for the third time Peter denies Jesus saying, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” The more we lie the easier it gets to do the next time. Yet Peter’s denial here is worse than what Luke describes. Mark’s Gospel tells us that Peter cursed himself and swore oaths in this denial. This tells us that Peter was ready to resort to anything to save his hide. And while he is still shouting his protest, the rooster crowed. Roosters crow at dawn. This unholy mockery of a trial against Jesus lasted all night.

But at that same moment when the rooster crowed, the guards were leading Jesus from the hall of trial through the open courtyard to a place of detention where He could be held until called for again. We know for sure that at least two people heard the rooster, Jesus and Peter. When Jesus heard it, he looked at Peter. And when Peter heard it, and saw Jesus looking at him, his heart filled with pitiful sorrow.  Both men remembered what Jesus had said not so long ago that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. And now the prophecy was reality. Even so, Jesus did not look at Peter with an “I told you so” stare. In the midst of His own awful passion, Jesus’ Savior heart thinks of Peter; and with a look at the man on whose lips the fearful denials are still trembling, reaches into his soul in order to save him. For it was the look of Jesus that awoke the memory in Peter; a look that let Peter know that even though he denied his master, the Master would forgive him and rescue him from that great sin. It was a look of great love from Jesus, that brought Peter to utter contrition, so that he could be forgiven.

Contrition includes the realization that we have sinned and genuine sorrow for our sin. Peter had denied Jesus before three human persons that night, and in doing so denied Jesus before three divine persons as well, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. His sin was great; but not greater than the gracious love and mercy of the Savior. Yes, he wept bitterly, but Peter also demonstrated his sorrow for what he had done and also his love for Jesus in his weeping.

          This story of Peter has two important sides: first, Jesus prophesies, and the fulfillment, which is frantically denied, plays out just the way Jesus said it would; second the foremost apostle falls apart most terribly, and yet is restored when he repents.  For as God-fearing we believe we all are, what happened to Peter can happen to every one of us too. None of us are immune to denying our faith in the face of danger. The truth is we don’t really know how we will react until it happens.

But the ending of this story is the hope we can count on when facing denial. Even if we commit the great sin of denying our Lord and Savior, Jesus, before men, like Peter did, by contrition, confession and repentance, God is gracious and merciful to forgive. This is the essence of God’s love for us. Amen

Sermon for March 14 & 15

The text for this sermon is based on is John 4: 5 – 26.

Christ, the Living Water

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ! There is nothing quite as refreshing when we are really thirsty than a cool drink of water. It soothes the throat and hydrates the body like nothing else can.  Sometimes, our thirst can get pretty extreme.  Do you remember summertime when you were a kid, running around on the playground, jumping rope or playing ball games? We’d work up a sweat and a healthy thirst. And when we got home, we ran to the faucet, some of us sticking our heads under it and drinking straight from it or grabbing a container and drinking glass after glass until our stomachs couldn’t hold anymore. Do you remember that? Nothing refreshes the body like water.

Thirst, just like hunger is a powerful motivator.  Being thirsty can cause people to take some strange and drastic measures.  Many people have died at sea by drinking the sea water; a decision which leads to kidney failure and death within hours. Thirst can drive a person to make some pretty foolish, sometimes deadly decisions.

In our Gospel lesson for this morning, Jesus strikes up a conversation with a Samaritan woman who was drawing water from Jacob’s well.  He had just walked a long distance in the hottest part of the day, and now Jesus was thirsty. And because He was thirsty, He does something unusual for that time and place by asking this “enemy” a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. 

Now we’re never told if the woman actually drew some water for Jesus, but we are told that the woman was more than a little surprised.  “You, a self-righteous Jew, is looking to me, a ‘vile Samaritan,’ for help?  I thought you guys didn’t want anything to do with us”, is probably what she was thinking. Unfortunately, this poor woman didn’t know who she was talking to.  He wasn’t wearing that halo that we see in paintings. He wasn’t wearing a nametag that said, “Messiah.”  He looked and sounded like every other Jew that she had seen her in life. 

Does Jesus get mad and walk away? Does He rain down fire and brimstone upon her and her town for insulting Him or damaging His ego? No! Instead, Jesus ignores His own need for water, and uses this opportunity to patiently and lovingly teach and offer to her the free gift of “living water”; water that is able to thoroughly quench her spiritual thirst forever. 

When she hears about this amazing gift, she does just as Jesus had done, immediately asking for a drink of this “living” water.  Even without fully understanding what living water is, she still asks for it. But what she does understand is that Jesus is talking about something more than simple water; something far better and greater than the water at the bottom of Jacob’s well; something beyond the physical element.  She knew that whatever Jesus was freely offering to her had the ability, with just one drink, to quench all her thirsts in life.

So, what exactly was Jesus talking about?  What exactly is this gift of “living water?” In short, living water is that which quenches our spiritual thirst. One way to help us understand is to think about what we thirst for in life. You see, the thirst Jesus was talking about with this woman is the same thirst that affects each and every one of us in our lives, and it is a thirst that goes far beyond the body’s natural thirst for water. 

The question is, what causes us to thirst in this life?  Is it power, knowledge, or riches?  Is it the top job in the company we work for?  Is it the fastest car or the best clothes?  All of these things, and more are a part of our lustful thirsts. And what do we naturally do when we get thirsty?  We try and quench that thirst.  We begin to think maybe more money will quench our problems in life. Maybe more wisdom or more power will quench our selfish thirst for fame and attention. 

We are told that the Samaritan woman had five husbands and was now with a man who was not her husband. The thirst that she was trying to quench apparently was for sexual gratification, or real love and true companionship. But none of the things we seek out to try and quench our lustful thirst in life, to try and give us peace and assurance in our lives, none of them work.  We may find things that temporarily satisfy, but the thirst always comes back, doesn’t it?  And more often than not, it comes back worse than before. The more we get, the greater our thirst grows. It’s a lot like having that nice cold beer or a tall glass of lemonade on a scorching hot day.  They feel good going down and they certainly seem to quench the thirst; but give it a little time and we’ll be thirstier than when we started.  All they do is deceive our senses and dehydrate us even more. 

It’s the same when it comes to trying to satisfy our spiritual thirsts.  None of these things that we seek out in life can ever give us the peace that surpasses all understanding.  None of these things can ever see us through into eternal life. None of these things can ever quench the lustful thirst that was a part of us from conception as sinners and enemies of God. 

But the living water that Jesus talks about is the eternal life that can only be found in Him. Once we have come to know and love Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Once we have studied His Word and heard it preached in its purity. Once we have confessed our faith in the Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Once we have received forgiveness of sins. Once we have received the Holy Sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Holy Baptism, then we have drunk deeply from the wells of Living Water. This is why Jesus came into this world; to quench our spiritual thirsts. He came to take on our fallen and sinful flesh, including all the pains, temptations, and thirsts that belong to our flesh. 

Jesus suffered the same physical and mental troubles that we do in our everyday life.  However, Jesus did what we could never do.  He led the perfect life that is demanded of God’s law.  He never gave in; not once, to temptation.  He never gave into the thirsts of the flesh that plague each and every one of us from cradle to grave.  In taking all of our pain, suffering, and lustful thirst into Himself on His cross, it should come as no surprise that some of His last words spoken on that cross were, “I thirst.”  How could He not thirst?  The sins of the entire world; our sinful thirsts and pains, were hanging on Him as He hung nailed to a tree! 

But, in taking our lustful thirst upon Himself, Christ has, in turn, won for us the free gift of eternal life and salvation with our Heavenly Father. This is the free gift of living water that Christ has for every person of the world, whether Samaritan, Jew or gentile, the free gift of salvation and eternal life with our Heavenly Father.   

 Jesus Christ is here in our midst every day, holding out to all the people of this fallen and sinful world His free gift of living water; that is, His free gift of eternal life with Him.  We cannot, by our own reason or strength, quench the thirst of sin that separates us from God, which is why Christ, and Christ alone, comes to us and freely gives us His gift of life. This living water of the Gospel promise of eternal life with Christ is consumed day in and day out with our saving faith; saving faith which is also a free gift of God given to us through the working of the Holy Spirit. Saving faith hears the necessary cutting words of God’s law, just like the woman at the well did when her marital and living arrangements were exposed by Christ. 

What we have done is confused the emptiness inside each and every one of us with the need for spiritually fulfillment. This can be as deadly as drinking sea water. The bottom line is spiritual thirsts cannot be quenched with physical gratifications. But saving faith can and does. Saving faith is the fount that quenches the spiritual thirst that can only be quenched in the living water of Christ and His all-atoning victory, which Christ Himself has won for us and has given freely to us. There is no other way to get this living water. Yet it is welling up even now to eternal life within each and every faithful child of God.

Quenching our spiritual thirst with the living waters of Christ is even more refreshing and invigorating and satisfying than quenching our physical thirsts with waters from the faucet, glass, cup or bottle because it lasts forever.

All glory, praise, and honor to Christ alone, the living water of God made flesh who freely gives us His gift of living water and invites everyone to drink until all our thirsts are quenched. Amen