Luther’s Small Catechism, 3rd and 4th Commandments

Luther’s Small Catechism

From 1526-1528, about ten years after the beginning of the Reformation and the posting of the 95 Theses, Luther and others visited churches throughout his area, called the Saxon Visitation. Luther found that both pastors and people alike lacked basic knowledge and understanding of many of the most foundational elements of this Christian faith, especially that of the Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. To help these churches, Luther wrote the Small Catechism as a guide for pastors and people alike to learn the very most basic elements of the faith and what they mean.

Luther’s intention for the Small Catechism was that it would be taught to all people, not just the young, and would be taught “year after year.” As it includes the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith in six chief parts: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession, and the Sacrament of the Altar, it is not something to be learned in our youth or at one time in our life and put down and left alone, but learned by heart so that it is continually on our heart, mind, and tongue. Much of this is included in Luther’s Preface to the Small Catechism as well as a very stern and harsh warning to those who would refuse to learn the catechism or who would not seek or desire the Sacrament at least four times a year.

In his preface, Luther also says, “Therefore, I beg you all for God’s sake, my dear sirs and brethren, who are pastors or preachers, to devote yourselves heartily to your office (1 Tim. 4:13). Have pity on the people who are entrusted to you (Acts 20:28) and help us teach the catechism to the people.” In an effort to fulfill Luther’s desperate plea, we will undertake to recite the whole Small Catechism every two years, focusing on different portions each month, in an effort to learn it by heart and always have it on our hearts, minds, and tongues.

The Third and Fourth Commandments

While the First and Second Commandments deal directly with our relationship to God, the Third and Fourth Commandments deal with our relationship to those things and people in our lives that God puts before us in His place.

The Third Commandment deals with our relationship with God’s Word as something we are to “hold sacred and gladly hear and learn.” God’s Word, the Bible, is not like any other book. It is an inspired book in which God speaks to us and reveals Himself and His will to us. His Word, along with His Sacraments, are the means, the way, God comes to us today. They stand in His place as His way of delivering the Gospel to us in a way that we can receive it for the assurance of our faith, eliminating doubt.

The Fourth Commandment deals with our relationship not just to our parents, but to all authorities. God gives us not only parents, but all authorities, including our government, for our good. They are to stand in the place of God as the greatest authority over us, protecting us and helping us to do God’s will, including preaching the Gospel. Since it is God who gives them this authority, we ought to treat and respect them the way we would treat and respect God, while also distinguishing where they are different and when we must obey God rather than men.

The Third Commandment

What is the Third Commandment?

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

The Fourth Commandment

What is the Fourth Commandment?

Honor your father and your mother.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.


The Epiphany that Jesus is God

The Epiphany that Jesus is God
“In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

-John 1:1, 14

The quote from above is from the Gospel reading for Christmas Day. During the Christmas season, the focus is on the birth of Jesus, that He “was made man” as the Nicene Creed puts it. In a sense, this emphasizes the humanity of Christ in much the same way Good Friday does. Humans are born and humans die. God is not born, nor does God die, but at Christmas and on Good Friday, He does. In Luther’s Small Catechism as he explains the second article of the Creed about the person of Jesus, he provides no more evidence than that Jesus was “born of the Virgin Mary” to prove that Jesus is “true man.” While other evidence can be offered, the birth of Jesus is the definitive proof of the humanity of Jesus. While His conception was certainly miraculous, His birth was just like ours. Christmas proves that Jesus was made man.

Epiphany, however, shows us the other nature of Christ, that He is God. That is what the season of Epiphany is for, to give you the epiphany, the realization and revelation that this man, born of Mary in the kingdom of Herod when Quirinius was governor of Syria, is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity. Though Jesus was made man, Jesus was not made. Jesus was “begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” Three times the Nicene Creed uses the word “begotten,” which is the word to describe the relationship between any father and son, just as I have begotten two sons. He is specifically described as “not made.” Jesus is the fullness of God. He is every bit of God and every bit of Him is God. This is the epiphany of Epiphany.

So throughout the Epiphany season, we will see Jesus doing things that only God can do such as the stars announcing His birth to the world, the Father proclaiming His Sonship at His Baptism, turning water into wine, fulfilling prophecies of Scripture, casting out demons and healing other various diseases, preaching by His own authority, and being transfigured on a mountain before His disciples so that His appearance is altered and His clothing becomes dazzling white.

As so as we finish oohing and aahing over tiny, sweet, little baby Jesus, we are given the Epiphany of the fullness of His divinity and it is this Jesus, true man and true God, that we have going into Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, where He shows us once again that He is true man, dead on the cross, and true God, risen from the dead, for our salvation.

In the epiphany of Christ,

Pastor Simek

Jesus, God and Man

Pastor Simek

Christmas Day at Hope, Jerseyville

12/25/18

“Jesus, God and Man”

Sermon Text: John 1:1-14

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

About a month or so ago, there was an interesting statistic making its way around Facebook put out by “The State of Theology” who takes a theological survey of Christians every two year. This survey revealed that 78% of Evangelical Christians (which doesn’t include the LCMS, but nevertheless) agree that “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.” This was up by 7% from the last time they took the survey just two years ago. 78% is nearly four out of five. That means that out of 75 people, about 15 believe that Jesus was not created, while 60 think He was created. Which leaves us with two questions. One, who is right: the huge majority who say Jesus was created, or the slim minority who believe Jesus was not created? And, two, what in the world does this have to do with Christmas?

Both of these questions are answered in our Gospel reading this morning, the reading for Christmas Day, which is only part of what this has to do with Christmas. John is very clear about whether or not Jesus was created. He begins his Gospel with “in the beginning…” the same way Genesis and the account of creation began, and says that then at the beginning of creation, the Word, Jesus, was there. At the beginning of creation, Christ was with God and was God. Jesus is God. And God is not made nor created. “He was in the beginning with God.

And if that isn’t enough, John goes another step further to say that, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” Everything that was made, was made through Christ and without Christ there is nothing that was made. So how could He be created if through Him all things were created? Did He create Himself? No. Jesus is not made nor created, but begotten.

This heresy actually has ancient roots and in the theological world is called Arianism, because this was the theology of Arius. His false teaching was denied and condemned in 325 A.D., about 1700 years ago at the Council of Nicea, where our Nicene Creed was first drafted. It was at this Church Council, where, as legend has it, Arius was punched in the face by the original St. Nicholas as he literally fought for the divinity of the Son of God, which is the second minor connection to Christmas. Nevertheless, it is clear, the Bible and the Church have been consistent in teaching that Jesus was not made nor created, but begotten of the Father. Jesus, the Word, is fully God, and is the fullness of God and His grace and truth.

But what this really has to do with Christmas is that that very same Jesus, the Word, who is fully God and is the fullness of God, “became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Son of God who was not created, who existed before creation and for all eternity outside of time and space gave Himself a beginning inside of time and space. God became man, became an infant, entered into and made Himself part of creation even though He was never created. God marked a moment in time and history, in space in Bethlehem to be born, that every year we might celebrate His birth, His becoming man, His bridging the gap between God and man by God coming to man.

Which is great. It is a true wonder and mystery that Jesus can be both completely and entirely God, uncreated and unmade, and also completely and entirely man, a part of that creation. It is more than a magical time of year, it is a time of year where we see one of the greatest works of God to come to us in a way that He had never been with His people before. It is worthy of a feast and celebration and the exchanging of gifts that God would come to man in such a way, but the fullness of this miracle and work, the really amazing thing about God visiting and dwelling with His people in this way is not just that He came to us, but that He did it in order to bring us to Him.

The Word becomes flesh and dwells with us that in our flesh we might dwell with God for all eternity. He became born of a woman, born of flesh and blood that we would be born of the will of God. That is the glory of God, that the infant, the God-child, that comes to us laying in the manger that we celebrate today, is the same God-man who hangs upon the cross to bring us to Him in heaven.

He dies upon on the cross to eliminate everything that separates you from God. He dies on the cross to forgive you of all of your sins and imperfections. He dies on the cross to return you to the image and likeness of God that was lost to sin. He dies on the cross to make you holy and righteous, like the Father and the Son are holy and righteous. He dies on the cross to bring you peace and unite you with God.

And He rises again from His grave, overcomes even death itself that tries to separate us from God and proves again, without a doubt, that Jesus is God; the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, not made, who for us men and for our salvation was made a man, was crucified, and rose again for you, to give you the right to become children of God by water, Word, and faith. And He rose to show you that He would raise you up on the Last Day, and you and all those justified by faith in Him would have eternal life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who lives and reign to all eternity. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Fourth Sunday in Advent

The Fourth Sunday in Advent at Hope, Jerseyville

12/23/18 Pastor Simek

“Our Little Salvation”

Sermon Text: Micah 5:2-5a

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

What does a drop of water, a crumb from a loaf of bread, and a town about the size of Hardin have to do with one another? They are all pretty seemingly insignificant things. A single drop of water isn’t going to be enough to do much of anything with. Even if we were to give a corn stalk or a bean shoot a drop of water a day all summer, that probably wouldn’t be enough to keep it alive much less for it to grow or produce anything. A crumb of bread isn’t going to be enough food for anything other than maybe an ant, but even then a small crumb may not be worth the effort.

Now Hardin, it is the biggest town in Calhoun with a little under 1,000 people and the county seat so it has a few things, but when I searched the internet for things in Hardin I got mention of a couple restaurants and a bar and that’s about it. No disrespect to Hardin, but there just simply isn’t a lot there. It’s hardly mentionable, and the same is true for Bethlehem. It was a notable city, the city of David and all, but with a population about 1,000 at best guess it still wasn’t really a city of mention. In fact, even the prophesy of Micah that says that it is in Bethlehem where the Christ will be born, it also says that it is a city “who (is) too little to be among the clans of Judah,” which is to say that it doesn’t even really count and it’s too small to be numbered among the cities of Judah.

And I supposed you could include Mary in this list of nothing. She is a nearly nameless, a completely un-notable girl. Well, she was in the line of David, but so were a lot of people by now. And her betrothed husband was from the line of David, but again that’s nothing special. He was just a carpenter after all. Now John the Baptist, he was something. His father, Zechariah was a priest, on who had been chosen by lot, which is by chance or by God depending upon what you believe in, to offer a sacrifice in the temple. That would have been a notable and honorable job to do even if it was only once in a lifetime. And both the mother and father of John had a reputation. Luke says they were righteous before God, blameless, yet barren even in their old age and so when Elizabeth became pregnant, well that was a miracle. But a younger girl pregnant outside of marriage, well that’s nothing special. If anything it was more of an embarrassment.

And isn’t that often how we see the work, the will, and the ways of God? They are maybe just routine at best. Church is hardly a mentionable thing. It’s something we have to squeeze into this Christmas season. We make plans with family and friends to have parties and exchange gifts which is great, but then we have to figure out if there are any services we can make it to with our busy schedule. Well maybe we can make it to one service because we are just too busy to go to all of them.

Or perhaps church is less than unmentionable, but is an embarrassment. You know, with all the family in town who have their own churches, maybe they are Lutheran or maybe they are not. But their church isn’t like ours. We are still stuck in our ways and our pastor wears that silly white collar and those long white dresses, and man, you should have seen him last week, he wore pink! And nothing really cool happens during the service. It’s just the same old stuff. There are no special effects, no fog machines or strobe lights to really wow anyone. There’s no big screen with a booming sound system, you know the kind where you can feel the boom in your gut, though pastor does yell sometimes. Let’s go to the movies instead.

And I think the same thing can be said of the Sacraments. What’s the big deal with a little drop of water with some magic words? A crumb of bread? A little cardboard tasting cracker and half a sip of wine? That’s no meal. And we certainly wouldn’t want to tell people about how we practice these things. How do we tell our Baptist family that we baptize infants? Well I better not bring my non-denominational family to church because I really don’t want to have to explain closed communion to them. It would be easier just not to go or not to talk about it, let it be an unmentionable.

But from the unmentionable comes our salvation. From nothing comes everything. From nothing God spoke into the darkness and created light. From nothing God made all that was made just by speaking. God created everything that was made through His Word and without the Word was not anything that was made. And in just a day and two we will celebrate that Word becoming flesh.

Today, we celebrate that Word become flesh in the womb of Mary. We celebrate the notable child of Zechariah and Elizabeth in her womb, jumping in praise. Today, we celebrate the faith of John the Baptist while he was still in his mother’s womb because of who was in the womb of Mary. Today, we celebrate Mary, an unmentionable woman who is pregnant outside of marriage, a humble, small, insignificant servant of God who is now called blessed by every generation because God exalted her to be the mother of our Lord: Mary, the mother of God.

And today, we celebrate that little town of Bethlehem, so small and insignificant it wasn’t even numbered among the cities of Judah, but it brought forth the ruler of Israel, the King of kings and Lord of lords whose origins are from old, ancient, pre-creation days who is now the peace of all creation. Today, we celebrate His cross, His unmentionable, undesirable, folly and stumbling block to Jews and Gentiles alike. We celebrate that Jesus was crucified and suffered a shameful, intolerably painful death for the sins of the whole world. And we celebrate that He rose up again from that death to speak to the world that word it had been waiting to hear since the fall of Adam and Eve: “Peace.”

And today, in this un-notable, ordinary, routine Sunday morning, in a church that is probably not even a quarter full, with voices that are more likely to be off key than on it, with a pastor who is stubborn and stuck in his ways still wearing that goofy robe, although at least it’s with blue this time, but in these things we celebrate and receive that glorious work of God for our salvation. None of this maybe any more special than Mary or Bethlehem, but in this unimportant nothing, God delivers to you that Word made flesh in the womb of Mary, dead on the cross, and risen from the dead.

With just a drop of water, poured upon you in your Baptism, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God washes you in the blood of the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world and makes you part of the flock of our Good Shepherd. With a tasteless piece of bread and a swallow of wine, what could be a crumb and a drop, God feeds you with the body and blood of Christ, forgives you all your sins, gives to you eternal life, and grants you salvation. From nothing, God gives to you your Savior. From nothing, God gives you peace. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Third Sunday of Advent

Pastor Simek

 The Third Sunday in Advent at Hope, Jerseyville

12/13/18

“Rejoice and Exult”

Sermon Text: Zephaniah 3:14-20

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Gaudete!Rejoice! Exult! “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by [Christ].” Blessed are you, dear brothers and sisters, for Christ, the Lord your God, the King of Israel is in your midst! The salvation of God which has been prepared for you from the foundation of the world is yours this very day! Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates, prepare to open for the King of glory waits, the Savior of the world is here, open wide and welcome Him in! Lift up your heads, ye mighty Christians, and look no farther for the one who was prophesied long ago is here. His body is here, His blood is here,His Word is here for you to make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth and to restore your fortunes before your eyes! So…

REJOICE IN THE LORD’S RESTORATION

 (I. The church and Christianity isn’t what it once was.)

(II. The Lord comes to restore His Church.)

I.

            We truly do have any and every reason for complete and utter rejoicing without restraint because of what God has done, continues to do, and promises for us in the future. Our future, the future of God’s Church, and what it can and will be should be one of the most exciting and joyful parts about being a Christian.

            Yet so often when we look at the present and future state of this church, we are not flooded with joy, excitement, and rejoicing, but doom, gloom, and despair.We remember the way the church used to be over thirty years ago that A-frame church with the pews packed full and needing to add more chairs in the aisles just to make sure everyone has a seat. Or maybe not thirty years ago, but even ten or so years ago, when we had closer to 115 people every Sunday rather than the 75 we have now. It seems as though the church has only and will only ever decline, and all we are doing now is kicking people out rather than bringing people in. And most of the people that we do have are nearer to the tomb than the womb, and we could be just one or two hard years away from having the attendance that we do have cut in half. This church just ain’t what it used to be.

            And the world ain’t what it used to be either. It used to be that the world stopped on Sunday. That people weren’t working and so busy, but that Sunday was the day for church. And even Wednesday nights were acknowledged as a sacred time by the world where nothing was scheduled so that kids and parents could go to midweek services or classes. Now, neither Wednesdays nor Sundays are sacred, but they are just like any other day of the week.

            And what’s worse than that, is where it used to be an acceptable, even a good thing to be a Christian, as though in order to live a moral life, and be a good person, a good employer, and a good employee, you had to be a Christian, now,we are mocked. Our morals and standards are condemned by the world as ancient and out-dated, even oppressive and hurtful turning us into the enemy.

            So in a world where we are the enemy, where no one is allowed to have a holy,Sabbath, day, but is only allowed to serve one master, and that is them, and as the church ages and seems to decline, how can we say that we are joyful and excited about the future of the Church? How do we rejoice in the Lord’s restoration and exult with happiness? How do we remain hopeful about a church when every influence and factor around us seems to point to continuing the downward spiral?

II.

            We rejoice not in the signs that the world gives to us, but in the ones that God gives to us. We exult not in the way the world treats us and looks at us, but in the way that God does. We do not fear and get anxious over the way things look like they are going and we do not trust in what the world and our sinful,pessimistic nature says is going to happen to us, but we fear, love and trust in God above all things.

            The book of Zephaniah records the Lord’s universal judgment and even the condemnation and downfall of Judah and Jerusalem, but it ends with the reading we have today. It ends with rejoicing and exultation. It ends with restoration.That is the final word for Zion, for the Lord’s Church: you have been and will be restored.

            So take heart, O sons and daughters of Zion. Rejoice and exult, O children of Jerusalem for the Lord your God, the King of Israel is in your midst. The Word is coming to become flesh and dwell among us. Christmas is coming and it is here and has already come. The Word is flesh for you today. Jesus is crucified and risen from the dead for you today. Today, you are forgiven.

            Your doubts, your fears, your pessimism, and believing that God cannot make this church great once more and restore it to what it once was are forgiven. Your time that you could not spare, your schedule that is filled with other commitments, and your calendar that is smothered by the demands of the world is wiped clean. You have been restored to a right standing with God and returned to His good graces. “The Lord has taken away the judgments against you… The Lord your God is in your midst.

            He is here. His body, His blood, and His Word are here. And that same Word, that same Promise, that same God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who has restored you will restore His Church. We have every reason to put our faith in the church as the place where God is, His Sacraments are administered, and His saving Word is preached. The gates of hell cannot prevail over these mighty works and wonders of God. God’s Church will be restored. She will be a place of renown and praise and her fortunes will be restored before your eyes. God’s Church does and will always live, no matter what the world says or looks like.

            Now,I cannot tell you if that restoration, renown, and praise will occur in this lifetime or the next, but I can assure you, because God assures us, that it will happen. His Word will remain forever. He will remain with us, in our midst to the very end of the age and it is in that fact and that sure and certain promise that we put our fear, love and trust. So, “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, OIsrael! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!”You have been restored and God’s Church will be raised up once again. Gaudete!In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Second Wednesday in Advent

Pastor Simek

 The Second Wednesday of Advent at Hope, Jerseyville

12/12/18

“My Neighbor and I”

Sermon Text: Deuteronomy 5:1-21 and the Fourth through Tenth Commandments

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Honor your father and your mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery.You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

These remaining six commandments deal with our relationship with God in that these things are His will for us and anything that is against His will is sinful and disobedient, like a child disobeying their parent. However, these commandments also focus especially on our relationship with our neighbor.

And we are not just talking about your parents, your husband or wife, your children, and the rest of your family. Nor are we just talking about the people you like or the people who live next to you, but your neighbor is every person you come in contact with. Whether they are above you, below you, or beside you in the pecking order, God gives us a detailed description of what our relationships are supposed to be like.

Yet not one of our relationships are anything like what they ought to be. We have disobeyed our parents, been angry with our neighbor, unfaithful to our spouse, selfish with our possessions, deceitful with our words, and desirous with our thoughts. We have sinned against and broken at least one of these commandments with every person and neighbor we have ever had, and we have had them sin against us and break every one of these commandments against us. Whether in thought, word or deed, or by a sin of omission, leaving undone that which should be done, or commission, doing that which should not be done. We sin against our neighbor and as a result our relationships, much like these commandments, are broken.

So what can we and should we do about it? How should we respond when we sin against our neighbor or they sin against us? What is the answer to broken relationships and broken commandments? Is it an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth that they sin against us so we sin against them to get back at them and get even? No, the answer is the same answer that God has for us when we break the first three commandments and sin against Him, the answer is Christ and His cross.

When our relationships with our neighbor are broken, we respond in the same way as we do when our relationship with God was broken, through confession and absolution.Confess your sins that you have committed against your neighbor to them and seek their forgiveness as you seek God’s forgiveness. And when your neighbor has sinned against you, do not hold it against them or even wait for them to confess, but forgive them just as when you were still a sinner, God sent forth His only Son to die for you.

That forgiveness, that undeserved complete and utter absolution and wiping away of all sins and transgressions is what mends broken relationships. That is the example we have been given, that we ought to forgive our neighbor as God has forgiven us through Christ. That is how He has healed His relationship with you. God has forgiven you and continues to forgive you of all of your sins.

He has blotted out and wiped away all the wrong you have done against Him with the blood of the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. By His sacrifice for you, your relationships are healed. By His sacrifice for you shining through you as you forgive your neighbor no matter the wrong they have done to you, your relationships with them can be healed. And by His sacrifice for you, He forgives you for any and every wrong you have done to Him, and your relationship with Him is healed. You are at peace with God. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Second Sunday in Advent

Pastor Simek

 The Second Sunday in Advent at Hope, Jerseyville

12/9/18

“The Lord and His Messenger”

Sermon Text: Malachi 3:1-7b

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

What sort of pastor do you think Jesus would have been? I think we should be able to agree that He would have been a good pastor, the perfect and best pastor, but would you want Him as your pastor? Would you like Him as a pastor? What about John the Baptist? I don’t think we would be quite so eager to have John the Baptist as we would be to have Jesus, although I think having Jesus as a pastor would be harder than most would think, but we’ll get to that.

            When thinking about what kind of pastor and preacher John the Baptist would be, I think we can draw from both the Old Testament and the Gospel readings. The Old Testament reading talks about a messenger that will be sent to prepare the way before the Lord, and the Gospel reading identifies John the Baptist as that messenger, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’

This is the job of a pastor. Really, the work of John the Baptist is more like the work of a pastor than the work of Jesus. Jesus is the Lord and Savior. Your pastor is not here to save you. I can’t do that. What I can do is to point you to Jesus,prepare His way to come to you, to do the work that John the Baptist does. So what and how does he do this work?

Well the first words we hear from John are not, “grace, mercy, and peace,” but “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance… Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” A real cheery, feel good preacher isn’t he?

He calls the people he has been sent to preach to a “brood of vipers.” He calls them the offspring and children of a venomous, deadly serpent. Their lineage is not of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Promise as they would claim, but of that snake, the devil, who deceived Adam and Eve and led them into sin and death.

Their roots and origins, and ours, are not from a fruitful tree, but a deadly one. We are born and sprout and grow, not from the tree of life, but of sin and death. Our heritage, our blood, and our ways must change. We must repent, turn from our evil ways, and bear fruit in keeping with repentance. We must break off and break away from our self-righteousness, be cut off and cut away from our greed and selfishness, and be grafted into the vine and the tree that gives life. A total change of who we are to the very core. That is what John the Baptist calls for and the kind of pastor and preacher that John the Baptist shows himself to be.

And before you go off dismissing him as just the messenger, consider what the Old Testament reading and what John says about Jesus. The Old Testament says that the Lord who is to come “is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”John describes him with “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” The message and preaching of John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus is really not that different from the message and preaching of Jesus.

So often what we see of Jesus is nothing more than a caricature of him. You know those almost cartoony looking pictures that someone might draw of you at an amusement park where certain features or aspects are emphasized or exaggerated. The final product resembles the real thing enough to be identifiable, but the real thing is much different. Sure, Jesus is love and has care and concern for those who are in need, but He is also a just judge and harvester only keeping the grain that is good and throwing the weeds and the chaff into a fire that is never burned up.

Yes, Jesus is merciful and forgiving, but it is not without sacrifice and blood and gore. He is not a ghost or a spirit who passes through you removing your sin and your impurity without you so much as feeling a thing. He is a refiner’s fire and fullers’ soap. As the refiner’s fire, He is not afraid to turn up the heat and put you to the fire to bring your sinful impurities to light. As the fullers’soap, He is not afraid to put on the pressure, to push and press the soap into a garment in order to draw the dirt and filth to the surface.

And when Jesus turns up the heat and puts on the pressure, “who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” No one stands before the Lord and endures. No one is able to even stand before His messenger as John the Baptist puts the screws to those who come to hear him. These men come and preach to fill every valley, make every mountain and hill low, straighten out the crooked, and smooth out the rough.They do not come to make God’s Word softer or easier to handle and less harsh for you, but to change you that you are able to hear it and believe it. They sound like great pastors don’t they?

And yet, they are. A refiner does not purify silver to throw it away, and a fuller does not clean a garment in order to roll it into a ball and set it on fire. The messenger does not come to remove all the people and get them out of the way so that the Lord doesn’t have to deal with them. They preach to prepare you not to stand before the Lord when He appears, but in Him.

You may not have a righteous bone in your body, a holy thought in your head, or even one sanctified blood cell in your veins, yet “you,O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” The impurity and the filth and the sin in you is drawn out, refined, pushed out, and washed by the refiner and purifier.

Jesus does not turn up the heat, put on the pressure, and preach the Law in order to kill you,but in order to separate you from your sin leaving you pure, holy, and righteous. And He does not leave you to endure the heat and the weight alone,but when the heat is the highest and the pressure is the greatest, He is endures it on your behalf, that you would be found in Him.

When the full weight of the world and the wrath and punishment of God for your sin squeezed the life out of the sinner, Jesus was the one who was condemned, pronounced guilty, and lost His life as the just and right sentence for your crime. And when the heat of the unquenchable fires of hell burned at their hottest, it was Jesus who had descended into hell for He could endure their heat, overcome their torturous flames, and walk away alive with nothing more than a few scars on His hands, feet, and side.

And enduring the punishment of the cross, of death, and of hell for you, He comes to you again,wipes and washes away all of the impurity and filth of your sin by the water and His Word put upon you in your Baptism so that you would not stand before Him, but in Him as forgiven, pure, and righteous. By cutting Himself off from His Father, He cuts you from your tree of sin and plants you in Himself. He separates you from that brood of vipers, crushes the head of that mother, and makes you a child of God who is fed and nourished in body and soul by the body and blood of Christ given for you. From your stone cold, sinful heart, He raises up a child of Abraham, a child of Promise, a child of everlasting life. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Advent Wednesday 1

12/5/18

“God and I”

Sermon Text: Exodus 20:1-7 and the first three Commandments

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

You shall have no other gods. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. The first three commandments deal with our relationship with God, His name, and His Word. They are not so simple that they can be kept by going to church and not saying bad words, but are kept by what we think of God, the way we use His name, and what we do to keep His Word holy.These commandments help us to understand and shape our relationship with God in every aspect of our life.

It is not just about making sure you are a Christian, but about fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things. God is not meant to be a part of our life, an hour or two of our time on Sunday, but He is to be the prime and most important factor,person, and relationship that we have when we consider what we do, say, and think. God and His will should always come first.

In the same way,the second commandment is not about saying bad words, but using God’s name and using it appropriately. It is not about using or not using those four letter words we try to keep our children from learning. It specifically relates to using God’s name, which assumes that we do use it. Use God’s name. Not carelessly or thoughtlessly, or with any evil intention or purpose, but use it and all of its power for good: for God’s good, for your good, and for the good of your neighbor.

And the third commandment isn’t just about being in church, but it is about the gift of God’s Word to us. It is about our relationship with His Word on Sunday, and Monday,and Tuesday, and every day of the week. Use God’s name and use God’s Word. Make it a part of who you are and what you do. Make it a habit that you read God’s Word and call upon His name every day so that He influences you in what you think, say, and do. Let your God, His Name, and His Word change your heart,kill your Old Adam, and create in you a new man who has a right relationship with God.

That is the gift of the first three commandments. You shall have no other gods. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Did you hear that beautiful Gospel? You have a God who has made Himself known to you. He has shown Himself and revealed Himself not just in creation and the laws of nature, but in His mercy.

He has revealed Himself to you in a way that no other God has or ever can. He has revealed Himself to you in His Son who points to the Father, your Father, who for the sake of the death and resurrection of His Son has made His relationship with you right. And He wants you to know that. He wants you to know Him and all the right He has done for you to wipe away your wrong. You have a God that you can fear, love, and trust above all things because He has shown that He will take care of all things for you through His Son.

So talk to Him,know Him as He has made Himself known, in His name and in His Word. He has given you His Son, made His relationship with you right, made you His own child that you can call upon His name in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks. The name of the Almighty God, the maker of heaven and earth wants you to talk to Him, to make your requests be known to Him and has promised to hear you and answer you to give you the best thing for you for the sake of His Son.

The fact that we know all this and can say all this is proof of just how good our God is. That He has revealed this all to us through the Scriptures. He has given us an ever living Word that continues to talk to us, to give to us an eternal truth that holds meaning for us yesterday, today, and every day. And He continues to come to us on the Sabbath day, in His Word every day, and in His Sacraments, to bear witness that He has made our relationship right.

He has done it and continues to do it. He has forgiven you and continues to forgive you for the sake of the crucified and risen Son. He continues to be you God, to be here for you and to hear you when you use His name, and speak back to you in His Word even when you have neglected Him, His name, and His Word. Still, He meets us here and says, “I forgive you. I love you. You are mine.” In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The First and Second Commandments

The First and Second Commandments

The first and second commandments begin the first table of God’s Law and focus on our relationship to God. Jesus summarizes them both, as well as the third commandment, as loving the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matt. 22:37).  The first commandment is also the beginning and basis for all of the other commandments. This is easiest to see when we look at how the meaning of each commandment begins with “We should fear and love God so that…” which is intended it remind us of the first commandment and its meaning.

The second commandment continues to bring us back to the first as it is a command to not “misuse” the Lord’s name. This implies that we are to use it, for that is the reason God gave it to us in the first place and because Jesus encourages us to use it as we pray “in his name.” While misusing God’s name is prohibited by the commandment, it does encourage us to use it properly by “calling upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.” God encourages us to pray to him and to trust that our prayers are heard and answered for the sake of the Son and his sacrifice, reminding us always that even if our prayer is not answered the way we would like, we can always praise and give thanks to him for our salvation.

The First Commandment

What is the First Commandment?

You shall have no other gods.

What does this mean?

We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

The Second Commandment

What is the Second Commandment?

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord you God.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble,pray, praise, and give thanks.

Luther’s Small Catechism

Luther’s Small Catechism

From 1526-1528, about ten years after the beginning of the Reformation and the posting of the 95 Theses, Luther and others visited churches throughout his area, called the Saxon Visitation. Luther found that both pastors and people alike lacked basic knowledge and understanding of many of the most foundational elements of this Christian faith, especially that of the Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. To help these churches, Luther wrote the Small Catechism as a guide for pastors and people alike to learn the very most basic elements of the faith and what they mean.

Luther’s intention for the Small Catechism was that it would be taught to all people, not just the young, and would be taught “year after year.” As it includes the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith in six chief parts: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer,Baptism, Confession, and the Sacrament of the Altar, it is not something to be learned in our youth or at one time in our life and put down and left alone,but learned by heart so that it is continually on our heart, mind, and tongue.Much of this is included in Luther’s Preface to the Small Catechism as well as a  very stern and harsh warning to those who would refuse to learn the catechism or who would not seek or desire the Sacrament at least four times a year.

In his preface, Luther also says, “Therefore, I beg you all for God’s sake, my dear sirs and brethren, who are pastors or preachers, to devote yourselves heartily to your office (1 Tim. 4:13). Have pity on the people who are entrusted to you (Acts 20:28) and help us teach the catechism to the people.” In an effort to fulfill Luther’s desperate plea, we will undertake to recite the whole Small Catechism every two years, focusing on different portions each month, in an effort to learn it by heart and always have it on our hearts, minds, and tongues.