“A Gospel Without Honor”

Pastor Simek

 The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville

7/8/18

“A Gospel Without Honor”

Sermon Text: Mark 6:1-13

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

This past week was another great week at Higher Things. Every conference I go to is the same, but different. Every conference preaches the same Gospel, the same Good News, the same Jesus, but in a different way. One thing that was different this week especially was the worship space. Most of the people attending the conference probably didn’t realize how the worship space was different or special, but since I got there early to help set up, I got to be part of transforming the chapel into something that looked like a Lutheran church. When we got there, the chapel was not Lutheran. Actually, I would go so far as to say that when we got there the chapel was not Christian, but Unitarian. By that I mean it was a chapel that could be (and was) used by any religion. There were Muslim and Buddhist prayer rooms in the basement with signs requesting you take off your shoes before entering. They posted worship schedules around the chapel on bulletin boards listing the times of different worship services. Jews got their turn along with Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Unitarian Universalists, Christian Scientists, Scientology, Druids, Interfaith services, and Ecumenical services. You name it, everyone was welcome as though all paths and religions were the same, leading to the same place, and the same god. There were even posters around this chapel demanding religious pluralism. Christianity, whatever flavor you were, was just one among many seemingly equal options. It reminded me of our Gospel reading for this Sunday in that Christianity and Jesus was without honor. Christianity was viewed as just another version of the same thing, the same as every other religion.

It was bad. This was a chapel whose god was knowledge and wisdom even if it was without truth. There was no cross. There was not even an altar, only a pulpit, front and center as though the only thing that was valued was the knowledge that was spoken there. I have pictures I can show you later if you’d like. The Gospel, Jesus, was without honor in this chapel in much the same way that Jesus is without honor in his hometown, out in our world today, even out in our own community of Jerseyville.

A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” The people said to themselves and one another, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” The people knew Jesus and his family. Notice how they mention his mother, Mary, and his brothers and sisters, but not his father. They knew about his suspicious birth, that Joseph wasn’t his father. And they knew the way he grew up, his education, and all of his childhood, and every story about him and because of that, “They took offense at him.

They took offense at Jesus because they knew all about him, even though he was different from every other child in that even as a teenager he always honored his father and his mother. He never disrespected them or talked back to them, and was always obedient and perfect, yet still he was without honor. And if people are going to take offense against the perfect Jesus preaching God’s Word because they knew everything about him, people will certainly do the same to you.

Who are you to tell me what I should do and believe. I know what you were like when you were a kid. I know the trouble you got into. I know your little secrets, all those stories you hid from your parents. You’re no different than me. You’re no better than me, so why do you think you know better than I do? You are without honor here as you try to talk about Jesus and invite people to church and Bible class. Because of your sins, your mistakes, your background, and history, because people here in your hometown know who you really are or at least you who really used to be Jesus and the Gospel are without honor here and really everywhere.

So what are we left with? Why should people listen to us who have no honor when we speak of a Gospel and a Jesus without honor? What hope do we have in fulfilling the work God has given us to do as we are sent just as the disciples were sent to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them when there is no honor or respect in any of it? How must the disciples have felt when they were sent out to do the very thing that Jesus just failed at doing? What chance do we have as a prophet in our own town if Jesus failed as a prophet in his hometown?

Well, Jesus didn’t fail. Even where Jesus is without honor and people take offense at him, still he was able to heal the sick. Still his disciples were able to go into the surrounding region and cast out demons and heal the sick. In fact, when Jesus is without honor, when he is in the greatest dishonor, he is doing his greatest work. When Jesus is stripped naked and publicly hung up on a tree as an example of shame, dishonor, and disrespect, counted among the greatest of sinners and worst criminals, Jesus is doing his greatest work to save.

Even without honor, the Gospel will do what God sends it forth to do. Even stripped naked, Jesus is not stripped of his power to save you. Even if you doubt that the Gospel without honor can change anything, even if you dishonor Jesus, even if your history and your reputation are what stand in the way of others hearing the Gospel, Jesus and the Gospel will still do what Jesus and the Gospel does: forgive sins, rescue from death and the devil, and give eternal salvation to all who believe.

Even in a Unitarian chapel on the campus of a liberal college, plastered with signs of religious pluralism, environmental idolatry, and “Abolish ICE” propaganda, the Word of God impacted, and made a difference in the life and faith of our youth and the 600 others who were there. Even in a place so bad where the Gospel was in such dishonor that the pastors in charge of worship thought it was necessary to bless the space before using it for worship, Jesus, the Gospel, and the forgiveness of sins triumphed. Even if it took 3 or 4 men to physically lift the pulpit off the ground to move it in order to then lift the cross to its proper place, Jesus was right where he needed to be, doing what Jesus does. Even if it took hours to transform the blank generic, bordering on demonic, chapel into something distinctly Lutheran where the crucifix was ascended high in glory, the body and blood of our crucified and risen Lord was given for the forgiveness of sins. Even with a broken organ, sometimes with nothing more than a piano and actually quite often in acapella, hundreds of teenagers lifted their voices to sing of the salvation accomplished for them by Christ on the cross.

Even when the place, the world, and the people are reluctant to hear about Jesus and eager to dishonor him, even when you are reluctant to follow him and eager to satisfy the desires of your flesh and your old Adam, Christ reigns victorious, the Gospel does what the Gospel sets out to do, your sins are forgiven. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

“A Word of Growth”

Pastor Simek
The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville
6/17/18
“A Word of Growth”
Sermon Text: Mark 4:26-34

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I am not a farmer, not even close. And as far away as I am from being a farmer, I am equally far from being a gardener. If you want a plant to die, bring it to my house and let me take care of it for a little while and it will probably be dead before you would think it would have time to die. Now I know a little bit about farming and gardening and the way plants grow. I remember my grade school and high school classes well enough to talk about a seed germinating and growing and rotating crops to keep the soil healthy in order to make you think I know what I’m talking about, but when it comes to the actual care of a plant you can pretty much forget about it. Other than knowing it needs water and sunlight, I’m pretty much useless. And I do think there is a difference between having the intellectual knowledge about the planting and growing of something and having the actual practical ability to make something grow. However, even if you have both of these things, it is still a little bit of a mystery. How is it that a seed knows when and how to do what it has to do in order to survive? How does a tree or a corn or bean stalk draw up water and the nutrients it needs from the ground through its roots to make it grow? It can’t think or decide anything for itself, yet it grows. And if the soil is so important for growth, can someone please explain to me how a weed can grow in a crack in my driveway or between two slabs of concrete? As much as we study and know about plants and their growth, there is still an element of mystery that we just do not understand because…
GOD GIVES THE GROWTH
(I. We do not understand or doubt the way things grow.)
(II. God grows even the smallest seeds.)
I.
But this is not a sermon about planting, watering, growing, and harvesting a crop out in your field. It is a parable. “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.” “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?” The kingdom of God is like a seed.
We can study the seed and its growth. We can tell you the things that contribute to the healthy growth of the kingdom of God and faith in a person. This I’m quite a bit more familiar with. I can tell you that if you want to maximize your chances for a seed to produce fruit, for a person to remain a faithful Lutheran their entire life, then the key is leading by example and bombarding them, and yourself, with Lutheranism as much as you can. A faithful mother to see, yes, but especially a faithful father or, better yet, both parents to follow faithfully in worship, Bible class, and involved in church. Baptizing them, having regular, daily family devotions with them, teaching them the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, praying with them and having them pray with you so that prayer becomes comfortable, reciting with them Luther’s Small Catechism, singing hymns with them, being in church with them whenever the Church gathers, going to Bible Class or Sunday School with them (not just sending them on their way while you do something else, but being there with them or in class yourself), showing them that faith, church, and the distinctly Lutheran study of God’s Word is important in your life, increases the chances it will be important in theirs. And this goes not just for raising children in the church, but sustaining the faith of an adult as well.
And there is probably even more that could be added and said about that, raising Lutheran children and nurturing the faith of Lutheran adults as children of God, but I also suspect that our childhood and adulthood doesn’t look like that. I know mine didn’t, yet here I am and here you are. How did it happen if the seed wasn’t in good soil and provided proper water and sunlight? God gave the growth.
And as it was with a plant and was with you, it is also true of the entirety of the kingdom of God and his church. We know what aids in the growth of faith, the Word perfectly delivered, but much of the growth is a mystery. It is God working in mysterious ways that cannot and will not be understood. And not only do we not understand it, we also often times doubt it.
We doubt that a seed as small as a mustard seed, as small as a seemingly insignificant act of love or a simple invitation to come to church could possibly work. We downplay our role in planting the seed as insignificant or insufficient to bring faith. We think that we can’t possibly make a difference because we are not God or Jesus or a pastor. We convince ourselves we don’t know enough about the faith to be a faithful witness to it so it would be better if we didn’t say anything at all.
Or we have planted a seed there once and nothing grew. I invited them to church before and they never came so why would I invite them again. They know they are welcome any time, knocking on their door and inviting them again isn’t going to make any difference. My pathetic defense of the faith won’t make any difference in their life. Who am I to invite someone to church or proclaim the Gospel to them when I don’t even go that often?
II.
And you’re right. I have no idea how a half-hearted attempt or invitation to church can make any difference whatsoever. I have no idea how me living my life is going to bring my neighbor to faith. I have no idea how a sinner like me or you can be used to plant the seed of faith that it might take root and grow into a tree larger than all the garden plants. It seems impossible and makes no sense, yet here we are.
God gives the growth. God grows even a mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds on earth, into a tree larger than all the garden plants. We don’t know what that seed is going to do. It may grow it may not. The perfect seed raised in the perfect way under the best possible circumstances we can offer may not grow or may grow up and fall away, even while another weed might grow up between two slabs of concrete. I can’t explain it other than to say that God gives the growth.
We don’t know how an invitation to church or a life of loving our neighbor will be taken or perceived, but we don’t have to. God gives the growth. It is His seed to bring forth life from even as He planted the body of His crucified Son into the tomb and raised Him up again that through Him the kingdom of God would grow and bear fruit through the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation which he won.
No one expected the seed, the body of the dead Jesus to rise, yet the Word lives. We may not understand or expect the seeds of the Word which we plant to sprout forth and bear fruit, but that is the Holy Spirit’s job to worry about and not ours. We scatter and plant the seed, the Word, and trust the Holy Spirit to work through that strong Word to grow the kingdom of God and save all people no matter how small that seed might be and how frail and weak we, the ones scattering it may be. God gives the growth.
So when the grain is ripe and God puts in his sickle to harvest what is his, you shall be gathered to him, not because you planted so many seeds and this many grew and that many didn’t, but because the Word was planted in you, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the forgiveness of sins were given for you to you and God gave them the growth. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Whose Side Are You On?

Pastor Simek

The Third Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville

6/10/18

“Whose Side Are You On?”

Sermon Text: Mark 3:20-35

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

It’s about summer, which means its baseball season again and time for the Cards/Cubs rivalry to return, if it ever really went away. Whose side are you on? Are you a Cards fan or a Cubs fan? This close to St. Louis, most of us probably side with the Cardinals, but not all. You may have friends as I have brother pastors of mine even in Southern Illinois, even as near as Godfrey, who are, regrettably, Cubs fans. Whose side are you on? Or maybe it’s not baseball that you really get into, maybe its soccer and Arsenal against Man United or Barcelona against Real Madrid, or maybe it’s hockey and the Blues against the Blackhawks. Name your sport or your game and there is probably at least one rivalry that peaks your interest and makes you maybe just a little bit more competitive than usual. But have you ever considered that we are caught in the middle of another rivalry, another contest and battle, between God and Satan? Whose side are you on? Who do you support? Who do you cheer for or work for to bring them home a win? Whose house do you belong in? How do you know? How do you know you’re not actually in the other house and supporting the other team? Simply put, it is because…

JESUS CALLS US HIS BROTHERS AND SISTERS

(I. We struggle with the fear of not being on God’s side.)

(II. Jesus forgives the sins of all His brothers and sisters.)

I.

And this is a very good and important thing if we are considering whose side we are really on, especially because sometimes the sides and the lines get blurred. That is what we see in our Gospel reading for today. In Mark chapter 3, Jesus is out teaching and preaching, healing many and casting out demons. He is clearly doing the work of God, the work of the Christ, overcoming sin, sickness, and evil which is the work of His death and resurrection, yet credit and glory is not given to God.

Of course the scribes are going to try to discredit Him and we’ll get to that in a minute, but even His own family, those in His own home say that, “He is out of his mind.” Literally, according to the Greek, that are saying that He is changed, not Himself, not doing His normal work. He is out of His mind and of another mind, another opinion, and another work. He is not of the mind and work of God, but of another, which of course could only mean the devil. The family of Jesus, His own mother and brothers, believe Jesus is being driven to exhaustion and deprived of food and drink by the devil. That it is Satan’s work to overwhelm and overcome Jesus, rather than Christ’s work to heal and provided for all of these people. And then it is the scribes who jump on this and say Jesus is possessed by Beelzebul which is another name for Satan or the devil. They too attribute God’s work to Satan.

It takes Jesus and His word to set things straight and show how things really are. He speaks and makes it clear where the battle lines are and whose side He is on. But apart from His word, just looking at the events, the things happening and being said, it seems no clear distinction can be made.

This is definitely true for us as well. If someone were to watch us, what we do, what we say, and especially what we think, whose side would they say that you are on? Whose will do you do and word do you follow: God’s or Satan’s? We sin in thought, word, and deed and work against God and in favor of the devil. We criticize and tear down our neighbors, we look the other way when they are in need and offer them no help or support. We have higher priorities of our own than loving our neighbor and doing the work of God.

We criticize those we have been sent to serve, and we even criticize those who do serve. We may think something shouldn’t be done that way or that this or that is not a good idea or project or goal to try to do. We may tear down one idea after another of things we as individuals and we as a church could try to do to serve God and neighbor, all the while not offering any of our own ideas. Offering simply criticism rather than any sort of constructive support, criticizing those who do and are trying without doing or trying to do anything ourselves.

And as much as we criticize the way we reach out, we criticize what we do in the church. We criticize our brother and sister members in what they say and do. We judge and critique our liturgy and hymns, the preaching and teaching, even perhaps going somewhere else if the church or her pastor doesn’t suit our preferences. And all of a sudden we are causing divisions among the church and in the word and work of God, judging and criticizing the way God serves us, saying that God is out of His mind. Jesus and the Holy Spirit don’t know what they are doing. We credit the work of God to the devil or stand in opposition to His Word. Isn’t that what Jesus describes as the sin against the Holy Spirit?

Are you so sure you haven’t committed the unforgiveable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for saying that those trying to do the work of God have an unclean spirit or malicious intent? Are you so sure you have the forgiveness of any of your sins, especially when you keep doing them, keep criticizing, keep tearing down without building up? Whose side are you on?

II.

Well as it for the family of Jesus and for the scribes, if we want to clear this up, if we want to know for sure, we have to listen to what Jesus has to say. Who does Jesus says is in His house and on His side? What does Jesus say about you? Jesus describes His work for you as He describes His work against Satan.

Then hear what Christ has done for you. He has come into this house of doom and hall of death and bound up the strong man, bound up Satan, and plundered his house. Jesus was bound, nailed to a cross, crucified, died, and descended into hell to defeat Satan. Jesus has come into this kingdom of sin, bound up the devil, and stolen from him that which he owned, you. You have been stolen out of the house of Satan by Christ. He has made you His own and forgiven you all of your sins.

And if you are worried about that unforgiveable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then you have not done it. The very fact that you are worried about your forgiveness means that you can be forgiven and you have not committed this sin.

And not only can you be forgiven, but you are as Christ Himself calls you His brother or sister. Here are the brothers and sisters of Christ. “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” This is what Jesus says of the crowd sitting around Him hearing His word just as you sit here and hear the Word of God. That is His will. That you hear Him and receive His gifts and be forgiven.

So whose side are you on, what house do you belong to, and how do you know? We must hear what Jesus has to say and look to Him to clear things up. He says you are His baptized child. He says you are a member of His body even as you eat His body and drink His blood. He says you are His brothers and sisters who are forgiven all of their sins. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Sabbath

Pastor Simek

The Second Sunday after Pentecost at Hope, Jerseyville

6/3/18

“The Sabbath”

Sermon Text: Mark 2:23-3:6

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

The Third Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? Well if you asked that question to most people, I think they would probably tell you that it means we need to go to church on Sunday. However, that is entirely too simple of an understanding because the Sabbath has nothing to do with Sunday at all. The Sabbath day, the day Jesus is plucking heads of grain and healing this man’s withered hand, would have actually been Saturday. Sunday wasn’t the day of worship until after Jesus when we began to observe the resurrection of Jesus and celebrate mini-Easter Sundays in our worship, rather than the seventh day of creation when God rested. But even when the Sabbath was on Saturday, the Jewish observance of the Sabbath wasn’t to go and worship, but to rest. Sabbath means rest, not worship. The idea that remembering the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy meant go to church is much more modern than most of us probably realize. So if the Sabbath isn’t about us going to church, what is the Sabbath about? It is about this, that:

GOD KEEPS THE SABBATH FOR US

(I. Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.)

(II. The Sabbath is made for man.)

I.

But even that wasn’t understood by the Jews. For the Jews, the Sabbath was about rest. The Sabbath was about their work, or lack of it, for God, to remember His creation in six days and rest on the seventh. Resting on the Sabbath was how you kept it holy and was an absolute necessity. It was so much so that they defined exactly what they meant by rest and when you were no longer resting, but working. They limited the amount of work that you could do. You could only travel so far. A phrase that shows up in the Acts is “a Sabbath day’s journey,” which was probably less than a mile. There were restrictions on what you were allowed to do to prepare food. You weren’t allowed to butcher or harvest in virtually any way or any part of the process. This is one way Jesus gets in trouble in our reading, as He and his disciples pluck heads of grain to eat.

There is one exception, however. There is one case where you can actually do some form of work on the Sabbath: if you were saving a life. Yet even this exception, Jesus pushes farther than the Jews are comfortable with, and He knows it. He even asks them if He can do it, if He can heal this man’s withered hand, and they have no answer for Him. He finds the perfect opportunity to show them how they misunderstand the Sabbath. That even David ate the bread that was unlawful for him to eat when he was in need, and the hypocrisy of prohibiting good, saving works because they were trying to define “rest” and “work.”

But I don’t think our understanding of the Sabbath today is much if any better. I don’t think our understanding of the Third Commandment is more accurate than the understanding of the Pharisees. Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy does not mean go to church. It means that 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 word “church” is not used at all. The Third Commandment, instead, is about our relationship to the Word, and this relationship not just on Sunday, but every day.

Every day, we ought not despise the Word of God, but ought to hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Every day we ought to be in the Word, remaining in the Word, abiding in the Word that it might remain and abide in us. Every day we ought to read the Bible. Every day we ought to confess the faith. Every day we ought to pray. Every day we ought to set aside time for devotions, for the Word, for ourselves, and for our families, lest we despise the Word.

This is especially true on Sunday’s and whenever the church gathers for worship, whether it be a Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, or any other day. And it is sinful to despise the preaching of the Word done in worship and the forgiveness and Sacraments which are offered there. As a command of the Law, remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy, go to church every time we have church, read your Bible, confess the faith, and pray, or else.

 

II.

And while we can try to use the Law to motivate, curb, or guide behavior, it will ultimately be unsuccessful. Good works flow from the Gospel alone and God, and Jesus, know this. For “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Going to church, holding preaching and God’s Word sacred and gladly hearing and learning it is not just a command of the Law, but an invitation of the Gospel. God’s Word is of greatest benefit not to God, but to you. It is for your benefit, for your good that you hold preaching and God’s Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it. It is for your benefit and the benefit or your neighbor, your brother or sister in Christ, or the person that does not know and believe in Jesus that they come and hear God’s Word.

We can threaten with punishment all we want, but that will only get us very limited results. Instead, we show the benefit and invite them and remind ourselves that we come not to avoid hell, but to receive God’s good gifts. We remain and abide in God’s Word, in church, Bible class, and devotions because it is in these things where the gifts and benefits of Christ are given. The Word and Sacraments are the means of grace. They are the means, the tools and instruments, that God uses to give to us His grace.

Hearing the Word and receiving His Sacraments are the way in which we receive Christ. Jesus, our Savior, who was crucified to remove our guilt and sin of despising preaching and God’s Word, is given to you right here, right now. He feeds you with grain, with the bread of His presence that is His very body and gives you to drink wine which is His very blood for your forgiveness. He heals you, not your hand only, but the whole of your body and soul as you are made holy and righteous by His work to serve you and save your eternal life.

Here, the Sabbath, preaching and the Word are the works of God. The Sabbath is not about your rest or your work or your lack of work, but God’s work for you, God keeping the Sabbath for you, God keeping His promises for you, that just as Jesus was dead and risen, so too will you rise from death to live an eternal life. That is the benefit, the gift, of the Sabbath, of the Son of Man who is lord even of the Sabbath. He works on the Sabbath for you, for your good, to save your life and for the good and life of all who hold preaching and His Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it for it is there where the greatest benefit of eternal salvation is given. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Holy Trinity Sunday

Pastor Simek

Holy Trinity Sunday at Hope, Jerseyville

5/27/18

“Holy, Holy, Holy”

Sermon Text: Isaiah 6:1-8

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

So you’ve got it right? The one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance. One God is three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but the Father is not the Son is not the Holy Spirit. Not like God is bi- (or tri-) polar or has multiple personalities, but the Father is distinct, the Son distinct, and the Spirit distinct, but not three gods, but one God. Easy right? Obviously not. I could spend a whole sermon, or a whole Bible Class discussing the false teachings around the one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. God is not like an apple, an egg, a three leaf clover, or a fidget spinner, that’s partialism, that each is actually only part of God. God is not like water that can be a solid, liquid, or gas, or a man that can be a son, husband or father, that’s modalism or one God in different modes or appearances or manifestations. And God is not like the sun where there is the sun and the heat and the light, that’s Arianism, that the heat and the light are not the sun but creations of the sun. And I could go on, and maybe one day we will study this in Bible Class. What we do confess, is that God is one in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit nor dividing the substance of the one God. This is what the first half of the Athanasian Creed tries to explain, who God is. The second half then explains what God has done, especially in Christ, namely that…

THE HOLY GOD TAKES OUR GUILT AWAY

(I. The Lord God is holy.)

(II. We are an unclean people.)

(III. The Lord God makes us holy.)

I.

When talking about the one Holy God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, and what He has done, especially in Jesus, we might automatically assume we have to jump to the New Testament, but that isn’t quite true. Yes, the New Testament is full of passages about the persons and work of God for us, but so is the Old Testament. For some points and attributes of God, it is actually better to go back to the Old Testament than to the New. One of those attributes is exemplified in our Old Testament reading from Isaiah, and that is the holiness of God.

In Isaiah chapter 6, we get a unique look at God and His holiness. It is a perspective of the holiness of God not just from man, but from all of creation: from angels, and heaven itself, and from man. In this moment, this glimpse of God that we get, one attribute stands out and is proclaimed and exalted above the others: His holiness. “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” The holiness of God is truly something of wonder and amazement.

Heaven and the temple which God created in heaven is full of His glory. The train of His robe filled the temple. God Himself can barely create something so great as to house His holy glory. And the angels whom God created to serve Him, even they cover their faces and their feet before God, hiding themselves as they cannot look and behold His holy glory. The angels whom God created for this very purpose, even they are not worthy to look upon the holiness of God. Yet as they cover themselves, they testify that the earth is full of His glory. All of heaven and earth is full of the holy glory of God.

II.

Yet what may be most telling for us about the holiness of the glory of God is not God’s temple in heaven, or the angels and their testimony about God, but Isaiah’s reaction. As he stands before the holy, holy, holy one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, the thrice holy, three times over, triple holy, holy, holy one God of heaven and earth and all of creation, he is overcome with woe and fear. Isaiah does not stand in awe and wonder. He does not consider this holy glory of God something to behold, amaze, dwell, and glory in.

Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” He sees the glory of the holy, divine, majesty of God and is made abundantly, presently, and fearfully aware of his own uncleanness and un-holiness. In the presence of God, Isaiah knows and feels out of place, as though he doesn’t belong.

And if Isaiah, the author and prophet of the first and longest of the books of the Major Prophets of God, is out of place, unworthy, unholy, and unclean before the holy, holy, holy God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, you can be sure that we would be too. So as you enter God’s temple, as you come before Him in this house of worship where God has promised to meet you, as you come to this altar to see your God face to face and receive the very body and blood of the Son, the second person of the Trinity, you ought to feel strange, out of place, uncomfortable, and unworthy.

The Sacrament, even worship before the Triune God, should make you feel a little uneasy because not only are you a creature coming before your creator like the angels who deem it worthy to cover their faces, but you are a sinner. You are a person of unclean lips among people of an unclean lips. You are unholy and unrighteous, unworthy to come before the holy God. Woe are you! For you are a lost and condemned person, worthy only of hell and its torturous punishments.

III.

Yet Isaiah is not sent out of the throne room and temple of the holy God. Instead, God comes to him. “One of the seraphim flew to me… And he touched my mouth and said… ‘Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’” The holy, holy, holy God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity comes and touches Isaiah, taking away his guilt and atoning for his sin.

So the holy, holy, holy one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity comes and touches you to take away your guilt and atone for your sin. The Father, who created you, incarnates His Son, who gives His flesh and blood to pay for your sin, your guilt, your un-holiness, uncleanness, and unworthiness, and sends the Holy Spirit to you who uses those created things of God, the water, bread and wine, along with the Word, to touch you, your head, your lips, and your tongue, to make you holy, righteous, forgiven, and worthy.

You have been made worthy by the holy, holy, holy, one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to stand before God, justified, and to go before men speaking for God His Law and Gospel. That they are unworthy and unholy. They, like you, are unclean and deserving of the punishments of hell, but the Triune God, in all of His glory and majesty, power and might takes away guilt and atones for sin to make them clean and holy, worthy of heaven. This is what the thrice holy one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity does and works for as one God in three person. It is who He is and what He does. His work and His identity go hand in hand. Together the one God in three persons is and works your salvation and that of your neighbor. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Something New

Sermon Text: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

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

I need to warn you all as I begin this sermon that I will be using some language in this sermon that might make you feel uncomfortable. It is language that I use at home in front of my children who are likely to repeat everything you say, so it’s not that bad, but here, from the pulpit, in church, it might be controversial. And I’m not really one to sugarcoat things so here they are those words that may make you squirm: new; different. Is everyone ok? I hope so, because I am going to use those words several times today because…

TODAY BEGINS SOMETHING NEW

(I. Today marked something new for the apostles.)

(II. Today marks something new for our confirmands.)

(III. Today marks something new for us.)

I.

Jesus is maybe a little more subtle than I am as He uses these words without actually using them. He contrasts the before to the now: “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me… I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will…

There is those things that were then, before, but now, is something new. Today marks something new for the Church, certainly for the apostles. Now, today, on Pentecost, the Spirit of truth comes and descends upon them as tongues of fire. Now, in these last days, the prophecy of the prophet Joel has come, the prophecy of Jesus that the Spirit would come, that they would receive power from on high, has been fulfilled. Now they are to start something new and do something different and turn from locking themselves in a room in Jerusalem in fear and go out into the world proclaiming Christ and Him crucified and risen from the dead.

II.

And as today marks something new and different for the apostles, today marks something new and different for you, Matthew, for you, Owen, and for you, Luke. For three years, now, we have gathered together in a room and talked about and studied the things of God. For three years, you have been under my wing being taught the very basics of the Christian faith. You have served this church and followed in the footsteps of those greater than you. In similar fashion, for three years, the apostles followed Jesus: from His Baptism to His crucifixion, His resurrection, and His ascension. For three years the apostles were under the wing of the Good Teacher, talking about and studying with Him the things of God. For three years they followed in the footsteps of the One who is greater than they. But today marks something new.

Today, the apostles are released, sent out into the world to proclaim the Gospel. They are no longer merely students, but teachers and proclaimers of the faith and of salvation. Although, their Teacher was much greater than yours and even He spent every hour of every day of those three years teaching them, not just one hour on one day of the week. You are not quite there yet, you are not done learning yet. But now it is a different learning.

Now, today, you are no longer merely little children of the congregation (sorry moms and dads), but you are full communicant members. Today, for the first time, you receive something new and different. Not a new or different Spirit, or forgiveness, or faith, but a new means of grace. Today, the new and different thing is the very body and blood of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. The same Spirit, the same forgiveness, the same Savior, but in a new and different way.

Today, in the eyes of God, you have every right, benefit, and gift that He gives to His Church. You have received Baptism, you have received the Word and absolution, and now, today, you receive the Sacrament of the Altar. Every means of grace God has and gives to His Church is yours. Which means every responsibility which God gives to His Church is yours.

III.

Which brings us to what is new and different, not just for the apostles and for these three young men, but for all of us. The three of you along with all of us have every responsibility and grace which God gives to His Church. And for the last six months, during the Season of Our Lord, from Advent, through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter, we have heard and studied the person and work of Christ, the basics of the Christian faith.

Now, today, is something new and different. Now, we enter into the Season of the Church where we focus not just on God and Christ for me, but God and Christ for our neighbor. We turn from locking ourselves in a room or a building in fear, and walk out to all nations prophesying and proclaiming the mighty works of God for them.

So now, today, we are being sent out, with these confirmands to be fully-grown adults. To fulfill the responsibilities we have as adults to God and to our neighbor. Not that we, or you, are done learning, but that even more learning must be done to equip ourselves beyond the basics, beyond “just Christian,” and to defend the full richness of the faith.

Now, you, each one of you, do something new and different. Equip yourself with the Spirit, the truth of God’s word. This is my challenge to you, to us as Hope Lutheran Church: in the next six months, during this Season of the Church, between now and Thanksgiving, or really Advent, how many of us, and of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are not here today, and of our friends and neighbors who have never entered this church, can we get here for worship even if it is just one time? And how many of us, how many different individual members can we get in Bible Class, even if it is just once? Not because it is Christmas or Easter or some other high holy day of the Church Year, but because it is Sunday (or Wednesday). 100, 50, 25 percent of our members?

And while we are doing new and different things, we are starting another new and different thing, and yes, I know this is a lot in one Sunday, but this is a small one and wasn’t my idea but a members. Every Sunday, we will conclude the distribution of the Lord’s Supper by singing hymn 805, the doxology: a simple, memorable hymn of praise.

We will praise God for His gifts. Praise Him for His gift of the Lord’s Supper, that every time we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Praise God that He has died and risen for the forgiveness of our sins, my sins, your sins. Praise God that He has ascended and sent His Spirit to create and sustain faith “that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Praise God that He has given us His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, and entrusted them to us, who have been filled with the Holy Spirit in our Baptism just as the apostles were on Pentecost, to read, mark, learn, inwardly digest, and proclaim in all boldness and confidence the Gospel which is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.