Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hanging on His Words

Dear Saints of God,

If you would like to hear the sermon preached at Trinity Lutheran Church in Layton, Utah for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, "Hanging on His Words," click on this MP3 audio link. The audio includes the Hymn of the Day, LSB #644, "The Church's One Foundation." The sermon begins at the 3:45 mark.

Have a great week in Christ as you are hanging on his words for eternal life.

A servant of the Word and His folk,
Pastor Hering

Here the preaching manuscript if you prefer to read along or read instead.

TEXT: 41When [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation."

45And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46saying to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer,' but you have made it a den of robbers."

47And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, 48but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words. Luke 19:41-48

Dear Saints of God,

You too are hanging on His words today.

The Holy Spirit has brought you to where you can find Jesus so you can live now and forever by "hanging on His words. "

In our Gospel today He is to be found in Jerusalem—the city founded by God to be a city of peace and safety. That city of peace and safety is where the people were "hanging on His words," thus preventing the chief priests and scribes from destroying Jesus—at least that day, for His time had not yet come.

However, by the end of the week it would be Jesus, the very Son of God, who would be hanging on His own words for all the people, pouring His blood out and dying on the cross for them so that by hanging on His words they, and you, would not be destroyed eternally.

Yes, Jesus comes for that very reason, to bring with Him righteousness and peace--and the safety that goes with it--on this day in history recorded for us by Luke, who wrote as an historian as well as an evangelist--it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, Luke 1:3.

But that peace and safety comes at great cost. For the price is His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death—suffering and death that every one of His followers including His disciples then, you now, and every baptized child of God until He comes again must indeed share. So, When [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

He has come to bring peace to His people in the heavenly realm, that is, in the presence of God there is safety because He has come to forgive the sins that separate us from Him and earned His wrath. But the way He does it is just not easy to take—in fact, impossible for men apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. Hanging on His words with Him is simply not something our flesh is inclined to do by choice.

So to those who live the life of the flesh Jesus gives warning:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34

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. Hebrews 4:12

As awful as that sounds, it is just what we need, in order that you may continue to hang on His words, which is nothing other than faith. God sends and keeps sending messengers to bring that sword, that Word of God to His people who have such a hard time receiving and believing it that they often fall prey to the wolves in sheep clothing who bring another Gospel, another Jesus than the One who goes to the cross--hanging on His own words for us--and baptizes us into His death and resurrection in which He is hanging onto us by His words.

4"You shall say to them, Thus says the LORD:

When men fall, do they not rise again? If one turns away, does he not return? 5Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding?They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return. . . . Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle. 7Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the just decrees of the LORD. . . . "How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us'? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. 9The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them? . . . from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. 11They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace. [Jeremiah 8:4-11]

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Luke 13:34

So because of all of this

• Because of all of the rejection and unbelief His Word and messengers will meet in Jerusalem and wherever they go

• Because of all the suffering and death He knows His followers, He knows YOU will have to endure

• Because He knows the devil has you targeted as an individual since both Christ and His church are safe and at peace with God [Revelation 12:17]

"When [Jesus] drew near and saw the city of God," Jesus wept for Jerusalem,"--and all her citizens past, present, and future-- just as He had also wept for Lazarus before calling him out of the tomb back into the world of trial and tribulation. And just as He wept for Jerusalem that day He wept also for you and the trials, tribulations, and death you must face like every one of His dearly beloved and baptized saints.

But there is something else for us to learn from our Gospel today and never forget. It is something that every Lutheran pastor is taught, something with which he and his congregation must agree , and something which is to form everything we do in our Lutheran churches.

". . . in those things which concern the spoken, outward Word, we must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one, except through or with the preceding outward Word, in order that we may [thus] be protected against the enthusiasts, i.e., spirits who boast that they have the Spirit without and before the Word, and accordingly judge Scripture or the spoken Word, and explain and stretch it at their pleasure, . . .

All this is the old devil and old serpent, who also converted Adam and Eve into enthusiasts, and led them from the outward Word of God to spiritualizing and self-conceit, and nevertheless he accomplished this through other outward words. 6] Just as also our enthusiasts [at the present day] condemn the outward Word, and nevertheless they themselves are not silent, but they fill the world with their pratings and writings, . . . " [SMALCALD ARTICLES: PART III ARTICLE VIII.3, OF CONFESSION]

So to protect us from the false prophets, from our own enthusiastic feelings, and even from the very devil himself, Luther explains this Gospel lesson preaching that, "Christ drove out the merchants that pandered to base appetites, and made room for his Word." Why? Because "The things that make for peace" are never to be found in the visions, feelings, or works of men—no matter how pious and well-intentioned. They are only to be found in the express will of God as revealed in His Holy Word, and confessed in the teaching and practice of His Holy Christian Church. And they are certainly never up for sale.

After hanging on His own word—by which He suffered, died, was buried, rose from the dead—He has now ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, from whence Jesus now sends the Holy Spirit to point you and even bring you to where He is to be found.

• Always through the cross.

• Always to have us live in the Baptism that makes us one with Him

• Always preaching repentance and the kingdom of heaven

• Always to have us confess and be absolved

• Always to draw us to the table of His very body and blood.

• Always by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in His body here on earth, The Holy Christian Church.

• Always forgiving your sins and giving you the name of the One Who Is Faithful so you can always be hanging on His words for eternal life-- the name of the Father ,and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Sunday, August 21, 2011

How Much Do You Owe?

Dear People of God,

If you would like to hear the sermon preached at Trinity Lutheran Church in Layton, Utah for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, "How Much Do You Owe?," click on this MP3 audio link. The audio includes the Hymn of the Day, LSB #730, "What Is the World to Me?" The sermon begins at the 3:05 mark.

Have a great week knowing as one Baptized into Christ, though you owe everything to the Lord, He has wiped your debt clean and will never call you to account again.

A servant of the Word and His folk,
Pastor Hering

Here the preaching manuscript if you prefer to read along or read instead.

TEXT: "1[Jesus] also said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2And he called him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.' 3And the manager said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.' 5So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'" Luke 16:1-5

Dear people of God,

How Much Do You Owe?

• Mortgage-- the average homeowner owes $95,000

• Car loan-- the average new car loan is over $27600

• College-- The average college senior graduated this year with more than $19000 in debt.

• Credit Cards— The average American household with at least one credit card has nearly $10700 in credit-card debt.

• Total household debt--The average household has $117951 in debt.

• Share of Federal Debt-- $109,792 per household

Now *that's* a lot of debt!

But if you think about it, it isn't even a drop in the bucket compared to what we owe our master, God the Father of us all. After all, what do you have that has not been given to you? Do you think you have earned and deserve all that you have in this world? Think again.

The parable Jesus presents in our Gospel text today is all about debt. On the face of it, commends a hired hand for acting dishonestly to save his own hide when he realizes how unmanageable his debt has become. Unless we understand what is going on around this parable we walk away from it thinking it is a lesson on dealing with our finances and investments in this world in order to win friends and influence people, because in doing so we somehow are feathering a heavenly retirement nest. But as always, in reading the Scripture and hearing the Word of God, if all we get out of it is what we have to do to pay off our debt and gain access to our heavenly home, we leave ourselves on the outside of the window looking in.

The very first words of our Gospel text that introduce this parable of the "steward of unrighteousness." are very important. They tell us Jesus has turned from addressing the Pharisees and is speaking to His disciples. However, we also must remember that the Pharisees are still present. They are listening in as Jesus teaches, i.e. catechizes His disciples. But they are not listening in to gain wisdom and understanding, they are listening in to gather testimony against Jesus because He is nothing but trouble for them and they seek His death. So Jesus teaches His disciples in a parable that makes for one of those difficult and cloudy texts, impossible to understand apart from other parts of Scripture that clear the clouds.

As Jesus himself warns the Pharisees on another occasion, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness of me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. John 5:39 40

Furthermore, let us remember that earlier in chapter 9 of His Gospel Luke indicates a point in Jesus ministry where He clearly is heading to Calvary and needs to prepare His disciples for that day:

Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face . . . to prepare for Him. "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." Luke 9:51- 56

So, here in today's parable we have Jesus catechizing His disciples, preparing them for His death on the cross and His subsequent departure, which will leave them in charge of proclaiming and spreading the message of the kingdom of heaven. This He does with a parable so that hearing, the Pharisees will not understand, because they do not recognize Him as the Christ, who by His crucifixion is THE key to understanding all of Scripture -- and therefore, also this parable.

Now that we have an idea of what is going on here, let us take a closer look at the story Jesus tells. For today, rather than getting all caught up in the details in the middle, let's focus on the beginning and the end of the story. It is at the beginning and the end that we see what is truly happening and why.

The parable begins: ""There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions."

The word "charges," i.e. accusation, is very important here for two reasons.

1. Nowhere in the parable do the charges become fact born out by evidence.

2. The person or persons making the charges are never revealed.

The Greek word for "accusation" here is "diabollo," the same word from which we get the devil's name. Satan was our accuser before the throne of God until Jesus ascended victorious to cast Him out of heaven, and throughout His ministry the Pharisees were Christ's accusers. Keep this thought in mind, we will come back to it shortly.

But now, let us take a quick look at how Jesus closes the parable: "The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness."

Here the Greek word so often translated "shrewd" is perhaps better understood by us as "prudent" or even "wise."

What was so prudent and wise about the steward's actions toward the debtors? It could only be the forgiving of their debts. Here is the nugget of the story that prepares the disciples for what is to come, that journey to Jerusalem to which Jesus had steadfastly set His face that He might be received up on the cross to forgive the debts of a sinful world that owes the Master, the Lord their very lives. It is the same nugget that leaves the Pharisees shaking their heads and leads to their being the agents for Christ's death.

These Pharisees were continually trying to trap Jesus, accusing Him of sinning against the Scriptures and blaspheming God and His name. Eventually they succeeded in making their accusations stick--at least in the realm of this unrighteous world. The result was that the only righteous one among us was slain on a cursed tree to bear the unrighteousness of those He came to serve. Jesus, the very Son of God who knew no sin and was falsely accused, became sin for us so that He could pay the price and wipe out all our debt before His father, the rich man and Lord of Heaven to whom we all owe our very lives and all that we have.

On the cross, Jesus the Christ, the steward of unrighteousness--that is, the one who managed our sin and bore its consequences for us--begged His Father, the master of the estate, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

He paid our debts, delivering us from sin and bondage to the accuser. Having done so, He is received up into heaven where He has prepared a place for us to live with Him forever. And having completed His task of clearing away the slate of our debt, He sends us forth as His forgiven people to deliver that forgiveness to others that they may know all accusations the evil one brings against them have been wiped clean as well.

This is what we pray in The Fifth Petition of the Lord's Prayer as recorded in Matthew 6:12: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." What does this mean? "We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that he would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us."

So, dear people of God, I ask you again, "How Much Do You Owe?"

And the answer is, "nothing!"

That is what Baptism is all about. The forgiveness for which Jesus begged His Father as He poured out His blood saying, "forgive them, for they know not what they do."; the forgiveness of which Jesus spoke when He cried out on the cross, "It is finished!" is poured over your head in Holy Baptism.

That is what the Sabbath Day preaching and teaching of the Word in the Divine Service is all about. Once again, after a week or more of having the world pile the weight of supposed debt upon you, our dear Lord proclaims to you that you owe Him nothing. Your debt has been paid by His dear Son. You are forgiven.

And, of course, that is also what the Sacrament of Holy Communion is all about as well. In the body and blood of Christ, the One Who bore and paid off your unbearable and unpayable debt for you, you are being given the very body and blood by which He made your payment so that you owe nothing to Father.

And in that body and blood of Christ, as well as in Holy Baptism and God's Word of absolution that forgive you all your sins, you are receiving what you could never earn or pay off—a forever home in heaven—in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beware of False Prophets

Dear Lambs of God,

If you would like to hear the sermon preached at Trinity Lutheran Church in Layton, Utah for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity, "Beware of False Prophets," click on this MP3 audio link. The audio includes the Hymn of the Day, LSB #716, "I Walk in Danger All the Way." The sermon begins at the 3:50 mark.

Have a great week as sheep of the Lord's pasture, where you are fed the food of eternal life and protected from the wolves in sheep's clothing who would devour you with the pleasing but poison fruit of their false teaching.

A servant of the Word and His folk,
Pastor Hering

P.S. Here the preaching manuscript if you prefer to read along or read instead.

TEXT: 15[Jesus said:] “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15

Dear Lambs of God,

Why does Jesus tell us to “Beware of false prophets?” Answer: Because these “ravenous wolves,” regardless of their pious appearance and stated intent, are destructive to souls and enemies of salvation.
Most of you have probably heard the phrase coined by “Pogo” cartoonist, Walt Kelly, as the caption for a two panel Earth Day poster in 1970 that shows Pogo and Porky in a trash filled swamp. It reads: "We have met the enemy, and he Is us."

The same is true for God’s people, those He has called, gathered enlightened and continues to sanctify by the Gospel to keep them with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
He protects us from without and within by that most Holy institution of His, the Church.

Jesus specifically points out that these ravenous wolves “come to you in sheep’s clothing” because the devil “masquerades as an angel of light,” and it is “the abomination in the temple” which is most destructive to the Church and the souls gathered in her sanctuary.

God devoted much of Scripture to warning us about false prophets, O.T. and new because the sad and sobering truth is that the students of the false teachers are doomed to share the same eternal destruction as their teachers.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23

In order that we might identify these false teachers, who by all outward appearances look to be ministers of Christ, Jesus switches to another metaphor.
16You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Matthew 7:16-20

There are 2 basic types of diseased fruit, that is, 2 types of false teaching about the works of God’s people.

1. Works righteousness to keep you from looking to Christ
2. Freedom to do whatever I please

Works righteousness to keep you from looking to Christ

For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,... Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

This works righteousness is not always obvious to spot. it often dresses itself up as faith in Christ. The problem is it offers qualifiers to God’s grace – ifs, ands or buts that nullify the sufficiency of what God has done in Christ to save us and what He continues to do to keep us in faith unto eternal life.

Freedom to do whatever I please
Rom 3:31 goes on to say, Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

Rom 6:1 2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

It is most certainly true there will be none in heaven who have gotten there by their own good works or righteous living. But neither will there be any in heaven who use the blood bought forgiveness of Christ as a license to continue to revel in sin.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor 6:9 10

1. Works righteousness to keep you from looking to Christ
2. Freedom to do whatever I please

These are the things that attack us from within and threaten our very salvation.

But God gives us a very sure and certain way to test the prophets. Do they testify of Christ and the “it is finished” of His Gospel?

No, not all "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “ The will of the Father is that we look to His Son and live in the blessings he bestows freely and abundantly upon us.

Beware of false prophets because they offer false hope. They lack the authority of God and give no certainty – only possibilities and unfulfilled conditions like the father of lies who tempted Adam and Eve with the original false hope:
“Did God really say . . . ? You will not surely die.”

Beware of false prophets who give you conditions like, “If you do this, then . . . ,” leaving you to wonder if and when the conditions might be fulfilled. Beware of false prophets because they give you nothing certain and always leave you with something to do, or something to complete, or something to decide.

God’s prophets however, come with His authority to call a thing what it is: to call sin, sin; to call sinners, sinners; call that which is forgiven, forgiven; to call that which is not forgiven, not forgiven.

So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." (John 20:21 23 NKJ)

That which He has given, He guards and protects, for you are valuable to Him. Just as Jesus came and taught with authority, He sends His servants of the Word, starting with the Apostles and continuing through those they trained and appointed in the churches and on through the Church today so you can tell what and who it is that comes from Him.

"He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me." (Luke 10:16 NKJ)

Christ says, He who believes and is baptized *shall* be saved (Mark 16:16 NKJ), so His Apostle tells you Baptism now saves you (1 Peter 3:21). Beware of false prophets today who, though they speak every other word about Jesus and what He once did, fail to tell you where Christ still works today.

Christ says, “Take eat, this *is* my body, given for you”, so His Apostle tells you the Lord’s Supper is a participation in the body of Christ. Beware of false prophets today who, though they speak every other word about Jesus and what He once did, fail to tell you where Christ still comes in the flesh today (1 John 4:2).

Christ commands His disciples to go forth and forgive sins and deliver the kingdom of heaven. So the Apostles did. Beware of false prophets today who, though they speak every other word about Jesus and what He once did, fail to actually forgive your sins as Christ commands His servants to do, but instead leaves you to claim that forgiveness by your own work.

In all of these things--Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Absolution--God means to give you the finished work of forgiveness and eternal life. Beware of false prophets who stop short of giving you the whole thing and make each of these things a holy work the person is to do, and thus offer you false hope. For a hope that neither knows nor confesses that salvation is won, and done, and received in its entirety is no hope at all.

On Calvary, our Savior said “it is finished.” And in Baptism he says “you are God’s beloved child.” There is nothing left for you to do to get in good with God or to enter the kingdom of heaven. It has all been done for you by and in Christ Jesus. It has all been completely given to you by the Holy Spirit in Your Baptism. God’s decision has been rendered and His kingdom has been opened to you – you are forgiven all your sins to live forever in heaven – in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Miracle of Daily Bread

Dear creatures of God,

If you would like to hear the sermon preached at Trinity Lutheran Church in Layton, Utah for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, "The Miracle of Daily Bread," click on this MP3 audio link.

Have a great week in the Lord as you go forth fed with His Bread of Life knowing by faith the miracle of daily bread for your body will also be granted you as a beloved and forgiven child of God.