October 18, 2016

22nd Sunday after Trinity + Matthew 18:23-35 + October 16, 2016

Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15
Introit - Pg. 81

Deuteronomy 7:9-11
Philippians 1:3-11
Matthew 18:23-35 

Collect for Trinity XXII
 O God, our Refuge and Strength, Who art the Author of all godliness, be ready, we beseech Thee, to hear the devout prayers of Thy Church, and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.  

Sermon on the Holy Gospel 

Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         A King desires to settle debts with His servants. He calls them in one by one. The first to come before Him is a man so hopelessly in debt that he will never realistically be able to pay off what he owes. A talent was a weight of coin, which could run somewhere between fifteen-hundred and two thousand dollars. That would make his total debt somewhere between fifteen and twenty million dollars! This servant of the king owes a crushing debt. Even by today’s standards, in a society which seeks to drive people into debt, this is an unfathomable amount of money he owes. Against this enormous and massive debt, the only collateral he had is himself, his wife, and his children. This man’s debt is so overwhelming that he realistically only has one option: a life of slavery to repay his debt. “As he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.”

2)         In this we see a terrible picture of the debt we owe God the heavenly Father. Ours is the debt of sin. And it is a great debt, one that we could never hope to repay.  Like the man in the parable, we have no collateral to offer to the Lord because we daily sin, often without even realizing it, and often we fall to temptation out of weakness. Some people will, of course, try to weasel out of the whole transaction and claim that their debt isn’t the much, or that they have no debt before God at all. But before the Lord sin is sin and as St. James teaches, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). The Scriptures teach us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Human experience teaches us this as well, so much that even those who are unreligious can excuse their actions with a pity, “no one’s perfect.” Like a growing credit card balance accruing interest, the debt of sin can be ignored, but this great spiritual debt will eventually come due.  

3)         This debtor in the parable, when faced with a life of slavery for himself and his loved ones, “fell down before him, saying ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’” He knows he can’t actually do that. He is pleading for any sort of mercy that the King is willing to give. If the King agrees in principle for some sort of payment plan, the man’s life, along with the life of his wife and children, has been spared. He seeks mercy from the king and finds it. The king he petitions is the same one who said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). He seeks patience and that is exactly what he finds, though to a much greater degree than he had hoped! He begged for the King’s patience so that he could find a way to repay the debt. The King shows His graciousness by foregoing patience altogether and instead fully cancels what the man owes. The man pled to be a debtor for the rest of his life, working off the debt. The King would have none of that. He removes the terrible burden from this man’s ledger and mind. The master “was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” If this man’s debt shows us the great depth of our sin and our own inability to make restitution for it, the King’s clemency shows us an even greater picture of the grace of God, who through His gospel richly and daily forgives all the sins of those who ask for it in faith. Jesus makes the debt in the parable so unfathomable and so unrepayable not only to plumb the depths of our sin against God’s commandments, but also to show us how gracious God the heavenly Father is. No debt is too large for him to forgive. No sin, or collection of sins, is so great that it is unpardonable.

4)         This by itself would make for a rich parable. We could, and should, spend our lifetimes contemplating both the depth of our sin and “the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). In fact, that is what the man in the parable did NOT do. Leaving the king’s presence, the incredible debt lifted from his soul, his life his own once again, he forgets all that has just happened. He forgets that he was, just a moment ago, a debtor headed for destruction. He forgets the incredible graciousness and forgiveness of his king. And putting both of those things out of his mind he finds himself in an interesting position. Moments ago he had been a debtor. Suddenly he finds himself in the place of the king. He sees a man who owes him one hundred denarii, which is a pittance compared to what he previously owed the king. The former debtor grabs his fellow servant by the throat and demands payment. He found himself in the same position as the king just a few moments before, except there was no compassion, no charity, no warmth of spirit and generosity. The former debtor was possessed by selfishness and self-righteousness. He feels enabled to not only confront this fellow servant whom he stumbled upon, but rough him up as well. He tosses his fellow servant into the debtor’s prison “till he should pay the debt.” The former debtor was so calloused and cold to the king’s graciousness that he did not even hear the echo of his own plea for mercy in this man’s plea.

5)         This shows us the callous way that many treat the forgiveness of their sins. They lament their sins. They wish to be rid of the guilt they have accumulated from their bad decisions and relapses due to weakness. They receive with joy the gospel that forgives all their sins. But then they go back to their daily life and live as if they never had such a great debt that had been absolved. When their neighbor, their spouse, their children, their co-worker, their employee, or someone else slights them in the smallest fashion, they take great offense and refuse to forgive their neighbor. Even when their neighbor is penitent and asks for forgiveness, so many, who themselves has been absolved, are too cold and calloused to mimic the mercy their Lord has showed them. This man, the former debtor, is called back before his king. “’You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’” Here Christ shows us that to not forgive our neighbor is wickedness. He calls that servant wicked because he has accepted the king’s mercy and then not had mercy on his fellow servant. The amount is irrelevant, even though it was considerably smaller. The principle remains that if you have received mercy, you ought also to show mercy to those who sin against you. The man is handed over to the torturers and will repay every last cent of his ten thousand talent debt because He did not value the forgiveness the king gave him.

6)         Christ ends the parable with this warning, “So my heavenly Father also will do to you if you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” It is a stern warning not to receive the grace of God in vain. When we confess our sins and receive the absolution from God through the pastor, we ought not become proud and forget the great debt that has been cancelled. That doesn’t mean we are to hold onto our confessed sin, or beat ourselves up over it, we are simply to remember that we and our neighbor are in the same boat: we are all sinners before God and we all sin against each other daily. Christ teaches us this in the Our Father as well when He teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He goes on to say in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Christ wants us to prize His absolution over all things in this life and keep it before us every day, which is evident from this warning that He gives at several points in the gospel accounts. It’s also important to understand that when He threatens to retain our sins if we do not forgive others, He is not teaching us that we earn God’s forgiveness by our action of forgiving others. Rather, our forgiving our neighbor is a visible sign that we have truly received the forgiveness Christ offers through His Word and Sacraments. If we find ourselves holding a grudge against a neighbor, that is a sign to us that we ought to retreat from that battle and first consider our own sins along with the great graciousness of God.

7)         The point is that the gospel should leave its mark on you. That mark is joy that your sins, though many and mighty, have been completely forgiven. The mark that gospel leaves on you is the peace that God has absolved you of your trespasses and remembers them no more. This gives you the freedom to stop dwelling on them. The mark the gospel leaves on you is humility because we heard in today’s Psalm that if the Lord should mark iniquities, no one could stand before him, but that with him there is forgiveness therefore we fear Him. The mark the gospel leaves on you is that you forgive your brother when he sins against you. Whether his sins against you are petty or awful, slight or vile, how often or few, Christ wants each of us to forgive our neighbor, even if he sins against us seventy times seven times. Christ your Lord wants you to forgive your neighbor as He has forgiven you because you to treasure His forgiveness, because you prize the absolving word which removes all your sins, and because you cherish the good gifts He gives to us even though we ourselves daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. When we forgive our neighbor’s sins against us, this is surely a sign that have received God’s forgiveness of our sins, and that we are growing in our appreciation and gratefulness for the graciousness of God which gives us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

October 09, 2016

21st Sunday after Trinity + Ephesians 5:10-17 + October 9, 2016

Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15
Hymn # 329 From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee 
Hymn # 447 Fight the Good Fight with All Thy Might 
Hymn # 429 Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart 
Introit - pg. 81

Hosea 13:14 
Ephesians 6:10-17 
John 4:46b-54

Collect for Trinity XXI
Lord, we beseech Thee to keep Thy household, the Church, in continual godliness, that through Thy protection she may be free from all adversities and devoutly given to serve Thee in good works, to the glory of Thy Name; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Epistle Lesson

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         The Word of the Lord tells us that the Christian life is a struggle and fight. It is not a struggle against blood and flesh, however. The enemy which engages us is not another person. That would be easy enough because we know how to deal with flesh and blood people. When our struggle is interpersonal we know our enemy fairly well because it’s a person like us. But the Christian is not called into a conflict with other people. Quite the opposite. The Christian is to love his neighbor as he loves himself. Jesus tells you to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). The conflict to which all Christians are called is conflict with Satan and his angels. Jesus once told Peter, “Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31) and that is precisely what the devil desires of all Christians. Satan’s goal is not the destruction of life and limb. His goal is to destroy the faith that God has placed into your heart through the preaching of the Gospel. He wants to tear faith from your heart so you that revert back to your previous condition of spiritual death, despair of God’s mercy, or false belief about God.  That is what Jesus means when He tells Peter that Satan wants to sift him like wheat. Satan wants to grind your faith into a fine powder so that it can be driven away with the slightest gust of wind. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against something far more sinister.

2)         Our Lord does not leave us to our own devices as to how we are to engage in this combat. Christ our Lord calls us out of this world and away from this wicked generation and thereby gives us the armor by which He wants us to stand against Satan’s schemes. Paul compares these gifts to the outfit of a Roman Hoplite soldier. He does this to inspire you to courage in the face of your great enemy. The Christian is a solider. Brave. Fortified. Well-armed and aware of wiles of the Devil. This armor does not disappoint because it is a spiritual armor for a spiritual fight. Paul tells you to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” With these pieces of heavenly armor you will not falter in times when Satan tempts you to sin, when he lobs accusations against you to wound your conscience, and when he tempts to you doubt God’s Word and despair of God’s mercy. He says, “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth.” Truth is to be as belt around your waist. You are not to fall to the world’s belief that there is no truth, or that there are many “truths” that are all equally valid. You are not to look upon your Lord as one who deals in half-truths and possibilities. The Christian is to be girded with truth as an absolute, not as something that is subjective and individualistic. It is the firm belief that God’s Word is true over against every other word in this life, so that you can sing with David in Psalm 40:11, “Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.”

3)         After you gird yourself with truth as a belt around you waist, you are to “put on the breastplate of righteousness.” This is not moral righteousness. This is not your own personal holiness and good works which you are to wear as a breastplate. If you rely upon your own good works, good deeds, and good intentions in the moment of temptation and accusation you will certainly fall, for our good works are filthy rags and not fit to be worn as a breastplate to protect our vital organs. If you want your own righteousness and works to protect you in the hour of temptation the Devil will run you through easily. When someone wants to rely upon their own good works and personal holiness, the Devil easily dispatches that one by saying, “That is all well and good, all your good deeds, but how to you know they are enough to make you righteous before God, since He has demanded perfection?” The breastplate of righteousness cannot be our own rightness. It is must be that righteousness of Christ which is only taken hold of by faith, the righteousness Paul writes about and preaches about over and over, that we are saved by grace through faith and not through works, human will or decision, or anything we can muster. Relying upon Christ’s righteous, the Christian is able to answer Satan’s accusations confidently and say, “I know I am sinner and I know full well what I deserve! But Christ has died for me and given me His perfect righteousness, so that in God’s sight I am as innocent and pure as He!”

4)         Next Paul tells you to “shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” By this Paul reminds us that in all things our footing is sure. We have peace with God because we are declared righteous by faith. Romans 5:1 says that “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Faith is what makes us into children of the heavenly Father and heirs of all the blessings Christ wins on the cross. Faith justifies us and so all who believe the Gospel have peace with God. God is no longer wrathful against the believer because all who believe have their sins forgiven, and where this is no sin, there is no wrath. It is precisely this peace with God that puts us into conflict with Satan. The unbeliever has no conflict with the Devil. The unbeliever feels no temptation. He is driven by his sinful desires and has no inclination to fight them. The unbeliever has perfect peace with the world. But when faith comes and justifies the sinner, declaring him to be perfectly righteous on account of Christ alone, then the Devil cannot stand that one of his own has been stripped from him. This is why the Devil furiously thrashes against Christians and engages in this combat for their souls. They used to belong to him because all are born sinful. This peace with God brings us into conflict with the devil but it also allows us to withstand his thrashing about. You know that no matter what Satan does to you, or of what He accuses you, your fate is secure. You are baptized and by that water and Word you are sons of God. Your sins are absolved and no more. Your faith has been fed and nourished with Christ’s body and blood. Let Satan thrash and rage about. You possess the peace of God. You are freed from God’s wrath. What is Satan’s wrath compared to that?  

5)         Paul then says, “Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” This is not your personal faith which are you to use to extinguish the fiery darts of the devil. Our English translations betray Paul’s language here. You are to take the shield of THE faith, not personal, subjective faith, but the shield of the Christian faith, the Christian truth, the Christian doctrine. When Satan lets loose a flaming arrow of temptation at you, you are to deflect it with the Christian doctrine, the Word of God, His truth. When Satan wants to lead you into temptation and sin you are to hold up the faith which teaches us to say with Paul, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:2,6). When Satan attacks us with temptation to sin against others or our own bodies, we are extinguish those temptations with the Christian Faith which teaches all believers to say, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). We cannot rely upon how strong our faith is at any given moment because frankly, at times our confidence in Christ is quiet weak. Instead we are to rely upon the Christian Faith, the truth spoken in the Scripture and we can rely upon it at all times since it is our solid rock and unshakable fortress in the day of trouble.

6)         Finally Paul tell us take to ourselves “the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God.” Our minds are to be protected by the thought of our salvation in Christ Jesus, so that as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, we might bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.By this Paul means to teach us guard our thoughts against sinful intrusions and when we are tempted to sin in our thoughts, we are to identify them and fight against them, even fleeing if necessary. This is followed by the only offensive piece to this set of arms. All of this “armor of God” has been defensive up to this point. But we cannot defend forever, otherwise the devil will overpower us and bring us into sin, into doubt, and into despair. Christ gives us the Word of God, everything which proceeds from the mouth of God, as our weapon against the devil, the temptations of the world and those of sinful flesh and mind. We are to use the Word of God as our sword against all the lies of the Devil just as our Lord Jesus used the Word alone during His temptations in the wilderness. We cannot overpower our enemy in any way but through trusting the Word in truth faith and confidence. Each of us have our certain temptations which strike us more severely than others. The Word of God speaks to every sin a word of law and gospel that we need to learn to take to ourselves as a weapon against the Devil in the hour of temptation. The Word is the only weapon which Christ has given us so that we may stand against the sin and the Devil.

7)         Satan wants you, so that he might sift you as wheat, pound you to a pulp, and destroy your God-given faith. Dearly beloved of God through faith in Christ Jesus, put on the whole armor of God every day through continued faith, through patient study of the Word, and through prayer. The Lord has promised a way out of every temptation, not a way out of temptation altogether. The way of escape He provides is faith in His Word. Whether it be temptation to engage in sin, temptation to doubt God’s Word, or to despair of God’s mercy so that you think your sins are too great to be forgiven, God’s word speaks to every temptation, if we would but use it and believe. May God grant us such faith and resolve so that we “may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand,” not by our own strength and armor, but solely by the grace of God which He freely gives us in Christ Jesus.

May the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

October 07, 2016

20th Sunday after Trinity + Matthew 22:1-14 + October 2, 2016

Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15
Hymn # 239 Come, Thou Almighty King
Hymn # 375 If Thy Beloved Son, O Lord
Hymn # 402 O God Forsake Me Not
Introit - Pg. 81

Isaiah 65:1-2
Ephesians 5:15-21
Matthew 22:1-14

Collect for the 20th Sunday after Trinity
Grant, we beseech Thee, merciful Lord, to Thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed form all their sins and serve Thee with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel

Grace and Peace be unto You from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         The Kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son.” What is this blessed union which God the Father, the King of all things, arranges for His Only-Begotten Son? It is the incarnation. God the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity, He who in the beginning “was with God and was God” (John 1:1), “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The incarnation of the Only-Begotten Son of God is a true marriage of two different things, for in the incarnation God becomes man yet remains fully God. As an earthly marriage takes two people and unites them into one flesh, so the incarnation unites the divine nature with human nature in the mystery of the ages. God prepares this blessed union for His Son so that, becoming enfleshed, the Son of God might be made like us in all things and live a fully human life. The incarnation is the heart of the gospel. It is what makes the gospel good news. The gospel message is that Christ has died to atone for the sins of the entire world, so that all who repent of their sins and believe that Christ’s death atones for their sins have the forgiveness of all their sins. The incarnation, the blessed union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ make the gospel possible. God cannot suffer or die. Man cannot atone for the sins of his neighbor, let alone his own sins. Therefore the Only-Begotten Son unites with human flesh and becomes fully man so that He was able to suffer “for us in the flesh” (1 Peter 4:1). His human nature is able to suffer and die. His divine nature, being united to His human nature, makes it possible for that death to atone for the sins of the entire world and all its inhabitants. So it is not a mere man who has died for your sins, but God in human flesh who has suffered for your sins died to atone for them.

2)         This is the marriage, the union, which the Father then invites all people to attend, for the King “send out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding.” We see this call taking place, not once, not twice, but continually throughout history. The Jews were initially called to witness this blessed marriage of God and Man, “and they were not willing to come.” So throughout the four gospels we see the Jews rejecting Jesus Himself, stopping up their ears to His teaching, and despising His mercy. But the Lord demonstrates His mercy in that He continued to call His people to the union of His Son so that they might enjoy all the benefits of that union. He calls them tenderly. His invitation is meant to lure them to this marriage, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” He offers them all the blessings of the wedding. The fruits of this union between God and Man in Christ Jesus are everlasting righteousness, the forgiveness of all one’s sins, and eternal innocence and bliss. Yet the Jews despise the invitation. “They made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm another to his business.” We see this rejection of the gospel of Christ in every age of the world, Jesus day was no different from ours. Today we see countless people put all sorts of work into their earthly homes but who give no thought whatsoever to their heavenly home. Today we see many who diligently work for a comfortable life in this world, all the while neglecting their eternal comfort which comes through the regular hearing and studying the Word.

3)         While many neglect the invitation to this blessed union of God and man in Christ, others take a more violent approach. Jesus says, “The rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.” So the Jews treated the prophets and apostles spitefully, shamefully, ending their lives, just as they did the Lord Himself. Today preachers aren’t generally murdered, but many are treated spitefully, deprived of their living from the Word, or ignored or passed by thoughtlessly. The heavenly Father has but one response to both kinds of people who reject the invitation of the gospel, whether through neglect or violence, and that is punishment. Jesus says, “When the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” We see that this happened quite literally to the Jews in 70 AD when the Romans razed Jerusalem and her temple to the ground, just as Jesus has said it would happen. So God’s wrath today remains on all who reject the Gospel and all who despise it, think little of it, and treat it with disdain and disregard.

4)         But again God shows His graciousness. After being rejected, after having his servants seized, mistreated, even killed, the king does not retract his invitation. He will have a full banquet hall in spite of the rejection of so many. He commands his servants again, “Go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.” He could have easily retracted his invitation but he does not let the unworthy, those who refuse the invitation, ruin in for all mankind. We see this in the book of Acts, that when the Jews reject the gospel and Paul, he turns to the gentiles because the banquet hall must be filled! God the Father wants all men to experience the blessings of the incarnation. This much is true because He says through St. Paul that He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He does not desire the death of sinners but that they turn from their sins and have live through faith in the Gospel. Paul tells us this in Acts 17:30 when he says that God “now commands all men everywhere to repent,” that is, to put off their sins, to sorrow over their sins, and seek to be rid of them. The gospel invitation still goes out today, to those who are considered by the world to be both good and bad, for the gospel is not simply for those who have religious inclinations or upbringings, it is for all mankind, since Christ has died for the sins of the entire world. In the parable, the servants gather many in to the banquet hall to enjoy the blessings of the union of the king’s Son. So it is in every age of the world. It is true that many, most in fact, reject the gospel and consider themselves unworthy of everlasting life and the forgiveness of all their sins. But in every age there are many who, by the power of the Holy Spirt, repent of their sins and believe the gospel and enjoy all the blessings the enfleshed Son of God earned for us in His sinless life and by His innocent death.

5)         At the conclusion of the parable something odd happens. The king sees a man in the banquet hall who is not wearing a wedding garment. We might be tempted to look at this through our modern experience and scratch our heads at the king’s unwillingness to tolerate someone who isn’t dressed appropriately. But it is important to remember that the king would have furnished his guests each with a wedding garment. That was ancient near eastern custom. It also makes sense from the text. The king asks the man, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” If it were simply that the man didn’t own a wedding garment wouldn’t he have said so? Also, since the king commanded his servants to fill up his banquet hall with anyone off the street, it makes sense that he would provide such people with a garment since they were not prepared for the wedding. This shows the king’s graciousness yet again, in that what God requires of us He provides for us. The wedding garment is Christ Himself, and faith is how we “wear” Christ. St. Paul tells us in Romans 13:14 to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” In Galatians 3:27 he writes, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” meaning that in baptism you have been clothed with Christ so that you possess all that He has and wear Him like a garment. Paul also says in Colossians 3:10 that we are to “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” The garment required for entry into the wedding in Christ, and we wear Christ, we put Him on, by faith, that is, by believing His gospel and trusting His Word.

6)         Christ is the wedding union and all the blessings of that union. Christ is the garment of righteousness we wear which covers all our sins. Christ is the one who graciously gives us this garment since we poor sinners cannot provide it for ourselves. Christ the wedding. Christ the garment. Christ the giver of everything that is needed for our salvation. Let not, as thethose unworthy men in the parable, forsake the Lord’s invitation because of farm and business, that is, the things of this life and its pleasures. Let us not, as the Jews, close our ears to even the slightest bit to the invitation God sends out in the promise of the Gospel. What He says to His guests He says to you each day, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” He lays before you again today all the blessings of the wedding. He covers you His righteousness. He gives you His blessedness. He offers you His innocence from every sin. This is the fruit of that blessed union between God and Man, that our Lord Jesus Christ has won for you and gives you today once again. Amen

May the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hears and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

September 29, 2016

18th Sunday after Trinity + Matthew 22:34-46 + September 25, 2016

Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15
Hymn #545 The Morning Sun is Brightly Beaming
Hymn #343 How Lovely Shines the Morning Star
Hymn #247 God the Father, Be Our Stay
Introit - pg. 80

Deuteronomy 10:12-21
1 Corinthians 1:4-9
Matthew 22:34-46

Collect for Trinity XVIII
O God, forasmuch as without Thee we are not able to please Thee, mercifully grant that Thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever One God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         The Pharisees hear that Jesus has silenced the Sadducees. The Sadducees were your Jewish elites of the time. They had money and prestige. Their piety was entirely wrapped up in the temple ritual. They were also quite Greek in their thinking. They didn’t believe in any sort of bodily resurrection from the dead. They didn’t believe in angels or demons. They were your most rationalistic, metropolitan Jews of Jesus’ day. They had approached Jesus with a ridiculous scenario in order to trap in Him, trying to prove the resurrection of the dead was an absurd idea. Using the book of Exodus, Jesus puts the Sadducees in their place and silences their absurd ideas with the words of Scripture. The Pharisees could not stand the Sadducees. The Pharisees were your common religious man. They sought to bring the holiness of the temple into their daily lives, often in absurd ways. Pharisees thought they were experts in the Mosaic Law. So when they heard Jesus had silence the Sadducees they conspire to take down the one who has taken down their enemies. They gather together and one asks a question to test Jesus. His question seems like it would be quite the conundrum. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Can you imagine if someone asked this question today of civil law? Of all the laws and statutes on the books, which is the great one, which is the law of laws? It would be impossible to answer, so they think, and any answer Jesus would give they could use to philosophically flay Him. Their question though shows a deep misunderstanding of the Law and the expectation of the Lord who gave the Law.

2)         Jesus answers easily, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” From all the legislation given to Moses in his five books, Jesus distills the entire Law into one word: love. This is why He’s not cheating when He immediately adds, “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The two greatest commandments are really the same commandment, just pointing in two different directions. The entire Law is summarized in the word “love.” Love for God and love for your neighbor. But it’s more than simply love. It is a perfect love that the Law demands. This is evident from way Jesus describes this love you are to have for God. You are to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. God does not want part of your heart or most of your soul. He does not want a thoughtless love, but one that engages the entire mind, all one’s thoughts, waking and sleeping. For mankind this is utterly impossible, for “every intent of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually” Moses writes in Genesis 6:5. Paul says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Among the Pharisees there was no one who loved God with all his heart, soul, and mind. The descendants of Adam and Eve bear their guilt and their sin. They fall short of the second commandment, which is like the first, for not a single one of them loved their neighbors as they love themselves, carrying for their neighbors needs just as much as they cared for their own. Jesus not only answers their question, but answers it in such a way that shows they don’t understand the nature of the Law which they claim they can follow.

3)         Jesus seizes the momentum of the argument and asks them a question. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” This may seem like mere academic tit for tat. They ask a seemingly difficult question. Jesus answers and then asks them a question which is deceivingly simply. But it is far more than just argumentative back and forth. The Pharisee’s question was about the Law, that is, what God requires of man. Jesus’ question is not about the Law but about the Gospel. Jesus has already demonstrated that these men do not understand the Law they claim to uphold so He moves on to the Gospel, a topic which, like the Law, they assume they understand but really don’t. Jesus says, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He? They said to Him, “The Son of David.” They know their Scriptures and that the Christ was to come from the house and line of David. But they are ignorant about the Messiah’s true nature. Jesus asks, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, ‘sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?’ If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” Jesus is quoting Psalm 110, which the Pharisees would have known well. They just didn’t understand it. Jesus presents them with a real conundrum, not an imagined one. A king never calls his son “Lord.” Even if a King makes his son co-regent with him, the king is not made inferior to his son. King David, once the crown is removed from his head and placed upon Solomon’s, does not at that moment become inferior to Solomon. Jesus, using the Scripture, demonstrates that not only do they not understand the Law, they have no understanding about the promised Messiah either. “No one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare question Him anymore.”

4)         Christ was willing to teach the Pharisees about the Messiah, about Himself, but they wouldn’t have any of that, which is why they left him without answering Him. They had exalted themselves in Jesus’ presence and Jesus had brought them down. If they had humbled themselves before Jesus and earnestly sought to be taught, Christ would have gladly and gently taught them about His person, who He was, and His work. They could not answer them because human reason cannot understand Christ unless Christ reveals Himself and teaches about Himself. The Messiah is the Son of David, of the house and line of David, as the Pharisees knew from the Scriptures. David’s son was also David’s Lord because the Messiah would be fully man and fully God, for that is the only way in which David would bow before one of his own offspring, if that offspring was greater than he. Human reason cannot fathom how God could take on flesh and become fully man, neither can human reason understand how this incarnation can happen so that the Christ remains fully God AND fully man at the same time. This is why this doctrine must be taught by Christ Himself. This is why faith is not the rational decision to believe something, but the gift of God the Holy Spirit, for the Christian faith is beyond the powers of reason and decision. The Pharisees, like men of every age, cannot be reasoned into the faith, nor can they make a decision to accept the faith, they must be taught the Faith so that the Holy Spirit, working through the teaching of the Gospel, creates faith in the hearts of men. The faith that Holy Spirit creates in our hearts through the Gospel accepts the Gospel, which is more than just the identity of the Messiah, but His work as well, that Christ has died on the cross to atone for the sins of the world, so that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

5)         These two teachings of God, the Law and the Gospel, go together, though they are never to be confused or fused together into one. The Law shows us that we do not love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. The Gospel teaches us about Jesus’ perfect life lived in our place and His bitter, innocent sufferings and death which atone for our sins. The Law shows us God’s will for us and our behavior and how we don’t live up to that. The Gospel shows us our Savior and that He has lived our life perfectly and righteously. Christ loved God the Father with all His heart, soul, and mind. Christ loves His neighbor as He loved Himself, so much so that He became man and died for the sins of His neighbors in the flesh, the entire human race. Faith in the Gospel forgives our sins and cleanses us from all our unrighteousness. That faith is what moves Christians to begin to love God in this life because faith is how we are pleasing to God. Through faith we begin to fulfill the Law. We begin to love God, still not with all our heart, soul, and mind, but what we lack is not counted against us because our trust is in Christ for the remission of all our sins. Faith is the love and trust of God in our hearts because faith believes all His gracious promises in Christ Jesus. Through this faith we also begin to love our neighbors as ourselves. We do not love our neighbors perfectly in this life, for sin still sticks to us in everything we do. But where our love for our neighbor is lacking, that is forgiven through faith in the Gospel. That is why we come back to this place week after week, to hear the Gospel, to have our sins forgiven in Word and in the Sacrament, so that through these means Christ strengthens our faith which believes all His promises.

6)         In the end we see that in this disputation with the Pharisees, Christ is simply teaching us faith and love. He teaches us faith by teaching us that David’s Son is David’s Lord, that Christ is fully God as well as fully man so that He might atone for the sins of the entire word. He teaches us love for God and neighbor as the Christian lives a live not under the Law of Moses but under the Law of love. The Pharisees understood none of these things, nor did they care to. But your Lord Jesus teaches you these things once again so that your faith might be strengthened for the week to come and so that your love for your neighbor might not grow cold. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.