Saturday, March 28, 2020

Judica - The Fifth Sunday in Lent / Sunday of the Passion (Lent 5)

John 8:42-59; Hebrews 9:11-15; Genesis 22:1-14

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Judica Sunday receives its name from the first words of the historic Latin antiphon to the Introit for this day, “Judge me, O God.” Now, invoking God’s judgment upon one’s self is not something a poor, miserable sinner would want to do; that is, unless that poor, miserable sinner knew already that the judgment was going to be in his or her favor. Thankfully, this is the case with you today, for God has already judged in your favor by condemning His Son in your place; He has declared Jesus guilty, and you, you He has declared innocent. Our translation of today’s antiphon to the Introit captures this subtle difference and translates the word for “judge me” as “vindicate me.” – “Vindicate me, O God.”
God judges you righteous. He vindicates you of your sin-guilt on account of His Son. This means, of course, that you had absolutely nothing to do with your vindication. Let’s face it, you were guilty; even still you sin and you merit only guilt and death. But God has vindicated you on account of Jesus’ condemnation and death for your sins, past, present, and future. You did not pay off your debt to God by your good works. You did not impress Him with your faith and piety. You did not even choose to believe in Him. But He chose you. He sacrificed Himself for you. He satisfied the blood-guilt debt of your sin and He forgave you it. He judged you innocent, paying the debt Himself, thus you are vindicated.
Do you believe this? If you do, then God is your Father. If you do not, then your father is the devil, the father of lies. For, even in this age of test-tubes, fertility drugs, surrogates, and implants, the truth remains that everyone has a father. And you did not choose your father. You were begotten, wholly apart from your will and choosing. You did not choose how tall you would be. You did not choose the color of your eyes or of your skin. You did not choose any of those fleshly things. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the flesh is guilty and condemned. That is why you must be born again of water and the Spirit. For that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. And you did not choose your Spiritual Father in your spiritual re-birth any more than you chose your fleshly father in your fleshly birth.
If God is your Father, then you will love Jesus, for Jesus was sent from the Father to be judged in your place. And Jesus has been judged, sentenced, and killed for your sin-guilt. He, who knew no sin, was made to be sin for us, that, through Him, we might become the righteousness of God. But before the words of Psalm 43 are ours, those words are Jesus’ words. “Vindicate Me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!” cries Jesus. And Jesus was vindicated by the Father through His death on the cross, because He was innocent and blameless. The guilt for which He died was not His own, nevertheless, that guilt died with Him and it is gone, dead, and buried. Thus, your vindication from sin-guilt and death is because of, and in, Jesus’ vindication. Therefore, if God is your Father, then you will love Jesus, for Jesus was sent from the Father to be judged in your place. Jesus has been judged; Jesus has been vindicated – and the whole world in Him.
Some scribes and Pharisees of the Jews claimed to have God as their Father. Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.” But the scribes and the Pharisees did not love Jesus and they did not believe that He came from God but thought that He was a demon-possessed liar. Jesus said to them, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” What you believe about Jesus is living proof of who your father is. Only those born of the Holy Spirit of God believe Jesus, love Jesus, and are therefore vindicated in Jesus. It’s not a matter of choice, but a matter of birth. Jesus asks, “If I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?” and then He explains, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
Mercifully, not being of God is a reversible condition. Repent, that is, be turned by the Holy Spirit of God. Stop obeying the lies and the will of your father the devil and listen to the truth of God. If you are not baptized, be born again of water and Spirit. If you are baptized, be restored to your baptismal purity. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
For God is a Father unlike Abraham, sacrificing His only begotten Son, not under compulsion, but out of love for you. And Jesus is a Son unlike Isaac whose life was spared, but who willingly laid Himself down upon the cross for you. And Jesus is a High Priest unlike any other high priest, offering up the atoning sacrifice, not of the blood of goats and calves, but of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. And the Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of true life, sent forth by the Father and the Son to create faith and to draw back in repentance those who have been turned by the devil on the road that leads to death and hell that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.
Again today we get to receive this promise of an eternal inheritance. Our Great High Priest Christ Jesus delivers it to us at this Table. Here the sacrifice our Lord freely and willingly once made upon the cross is given to us as our life. These holy gifts free us from seeking our own glory and unite us to our Lord that, with and in Him, we may always seek only the honor of the Father, who with the Son and the All-Holy Spirit lives and reigns forever and ever!
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Lenten Vespers in the Week of Laetare (Lent 4)

John 9:1-38; Ezekiel 36:23-28

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The disciples asked Jesus, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” It wasn’t because of any one’s sin in particular that the man was stricken blind, but the LORD permitted him to be stricken blind so that He might display His glorious work in him. The blind man was a type pointing to Jesus Himself, who knew no sin Himself but was made to be sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. The blind man was Jesus. Just as the blind man was not blind because of his or his parent’s or anyone’s sin, so Jesus took all men’s sins upon Himself, became all men’s sins for us, that the works of God might be displayed in Him and we might be made righteous in Him.
Indeed, this is what Ezekiel prophesied saying, “I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.” God’s holiness and name are something that I don’t think we appreciate today as we should. That God is holy means, not merely that He is sinless and perfect, but that He is other and transcendent. God’s holiness is what sets Him apart from everything else so that you are either with God in a right relationship with Him or you are other, that is, you are not with Him and in a right relationship with Him. The Original Sin was more than a fall from grace, it was a fall from holiness. By their sin, our First Parents plunged all humanity and all of creation into otherness. Yet, God’s holiness demands our holiness as the LORD Himself has proclaimed, “You must be holy, as I, the LORD your God, am holy.” Thus, the LORD’s holy name, which we have defiled by sin, would be vindicated when He put forward His Son Jesus to become sin for us, so that in Him we might become holy again and the righteousness of God.
Just as the man born blind was blind, not because of any particular sin, but so that God’s mighty work might be displayed in Him, so the Son of God would become a man, taken from the nations. Though Jesus knew no sin, the LORD made Him to become all sin for us. Through His bitter suffering and death, the LORD cleansed Him from all sinful uncleanness and removed the sinful heart of stone. And, in His resurrection, the LORD gave Jesus a heart of flesh and put His Spirit within Him. And, finally, the LORD received Jesus back to Himself and to His holy and righteous presence, the firstfruits of those who believe and are baptized into Him. God’s mighty work through Jesus has vindicated the holiness of His great name and has made us His people once again.
Isaiah prophesied the same saying, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” This is what the holiness and righteousness of God demanded, and He has fulfilled it Himself before the eyes of His people.
Thus, as much as we must acknowledge and confess the seriousness of what it means that our God is holy and righteous, and also the consequent seriousness of our sin which separates us from God and makes us other than Him, so must we also acknowledge and confess what our LORD has done for us in sending His Son and making Him to be sin for us, suffering humiliation, affliction, crucifixion, and death to make us clean, holy, and righteous in Him once again.
After Jesus restored the blind man His sight, the Pharisees accosted the man and questioned him concerning his healing and Jesus who had healed him. The healing work was the LORD’s, and it was accomplished in the sight of the people, just as Ezekiel and Isaiah prophesied. The LORD has done all that was necessary to make us holy, to restore us to a right relationship with Him once again. The question now is, will you trust Him, believe Him, and receive this salvific gift of grace, or will you refuse and reject it and insist there must be some other way? The Pharisees appealed to Sabbath law and considered Jesus a sinner for healing on the Sabbath, saying Jesus could not be from God. They could not see, they refused to believe that Jesus had fulfilled the Law and was taking the sin of all upon Himself to the cross. The Pharisees claimed to be disciples of Moses, that is disciples of the Law which only condemns. The LORD was making His Son to become the sin of all and to suffer and die under the Law of Moses so that it could no longer condemn those who trust in Him.
Who sinned? In truth, I did. You did. We all do. But, Christ has borne our sin – all our sin – in His suffering, crucifixion, and death for all the world. He became the blind man. He became our sin, so that in Him we are now the righteousness of God. Believe this, trust this, for Jesus’ sake.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Christian Funeral for Edna Ruth Hoffman

John 14:1-6; Romans 8:31-39; Job 19:21-27

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Your beloved Edna was an eternal optimist, to a fault, says Brian. Berdene’s husband Jim used to say that she was a stubborn, hard-headed Kraut, just like her sister. I suppose that one can choose to be optimistic, and in that regard, it may be helpful to be stubborn as well, but I also have experienced how firm Christian faith and conviction can create optimism as well, perhaps even better than stubbornness alone.
Edna was born at the tail-end of the Great Depression. Such folks typically understand the value of things better than most, and they take nothing for granted. Undoubtedly, Edna’s early childhood was shaped by frugality, perseverance, hard work, and faith born of getting by with little and gratitude for what she had. After high school, Edna worked for over thirty years in offset printing, first for Shield Bantam in Waverly and then for Matt Parrott and Sons in Waterloo. We were created for work, lest the devil find work for our idle hands to do. Those were the days in which the American dream was born, the conviction that, if you work hard and manage your finances well, you will succeed. And, by all counts, Edna did succeed. Edna succeeded in having a family: Married to her beloved LeRoy forty-five years. Two beloved children, Lynn and Brian. A successful career. And five grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren whom she loved to spoil with sweets, making divinity and homemade bread.
Edna had a notorious sweet tooth. She was a good-enough cook, but sweets and desserts were her specialty. In her later years, the only way she’d take her medicine was if it was mixed with something sweet. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. I’m sure that a piece of candy or a slice of pie or cake was a real treat in her childhood, and something that she could enjoy more freely and frequently in her adult years and lavish upon her family with joy. In addition to being an eternal optimist, Edna was full of good humor, good manners, and simple grace, which are all evidence of her faith and trust in the Lord and her Savior Jesus Christ, along with her God-given peaceable nature.
It was around the turn of the century, about the time that LeRoy died, that Edna first began to develop symptoms that would later be diagnosed as Parkinson’s Disease, which would challenge her optimism and her faith. Edna persevered through great suffering. Brian aptly compared the disease to a giant snake squeezing the life out of its victim; but the snake was more merciful, he surmised, for in the end it would kill and devour its victim. Not so Parkinson’s, which slowly steals everything but life itself, until there’s nothing left. Still, through over a decade and more Edna kept her good humor, manners, and grace. She did not complain, but she continued to think more of others than herself. Then, to add insult to injury, Lynn died four years ago to the day that Edna died in the Lord. Edna’s condition had deteriorated such at that time that it wasn’t clear that she understood that Lynn had died. Edna seemed in a dream state much of the time, a state in which she could still see and talk to Lynn. Edna’s dream state had become her reality, and perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing for her.
The Lord never promised that things would be easy. We have to understand and accept the fact that suffering, disease, and death are not part of God’s original creation but they are the result of sin – Adam’s sin, your sin, my sin, and Edna’s sin. God did not create Edna to suffer and die but to live and to flourish in His kingdom. And that is what she will do when Christ returns and her body is raised, glorified, and reunited with her immortal soul born in baptism and faith. Indeed, what gives us great comfort and hope right now in the face of grief and loss is not merely that Edna’s soul is with Jesus in heaven – for it surely is! – but that her body too will be raised glorified and reunited with her immortal soul so that you will see and know Edna again as you knew her in life – flesh and blood and soul and mind – and you will see her with your own flesh and blood eyes, hear her with your own flesh and blood ears, and hold her with your own flesh and blood arms. And, that joy no one will ever take from you!
That is what Job confessed nearly two thousand years before the birth of Jesus, “I know that my Redeemer lives,” “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” And, even though we must face tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and sword, St. Paul assures us that, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And, our Lord Jesus Himself says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. […] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Jesus is the Way to the Father and to the Father’s house, and Edna believed and trusted in Him who prepared a place for her there, who has also prepared a place there for you.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! That is the resurrection cry of Easter Sunday. The tomb is empty. The stone is rolled away. Christ is risen, and we are no longer in our sins. Because death could not hold Jesus, it cannot hold us who are baptized into Him and trust Him. Today we are in Lent, a penitential season, and we are struggling with uncertainty and fear at a worldwide viral pandemic. But, Lent is just a human construct, and the pandemic will eventually pass. Easter is forever, and those who die in the Lord shall live forever. That is our great comfort and hope. That is our peace and joy even in the midst of grief and sorrow. Our Good Shepherd Jesus has shepherded His faithful lamb Edna through this valley of the shadow of death into His Father’s house forevermore. Blessed are those who die in the Lord, for they are with Him. Edna is with Him. LeRoy is with Him. Lynn is with Him. And, if we trust in Him and His Word, we would not wish them back, but our wish and our hope is to be with them in the presence of Jesus. We will be with them if we trust in Him. That is His promise.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Laetare - The Fourth Sunday in Lent (Lent 4)

John 6:1-15; Galatians 4:21-31; Exodus 16:2-21

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
As Providence would have it, today’s propers are uniquely appropriate for our present situation. Most likely you are reading or listening to this homily, perhaps even watching it, from someplace other than the sanctuary at St. John, and not on Sunday morning at approximately 9:30am, and not with your family of faith, but with your family at home, or alone, because things are not as they should be today, nor are they likely to be anytime soon.
The children of Israel faced similar circumstances following their Exodus from Egypt. Suddenly they were in a wilderness where they coudn’t be certain where their next meal could come from or where they obtain water to drink. Have you been to the grocery store lately or tried to dine-in at a restaurant? Further, one of the chief reasons they fled Egypt was so they could worship their LORD together freely and appropriately. So far, they weren’t doing any of that. They began to long for their “salad days” back in Egypt – yes, in slavery! – where at least they could be assured of their three-squares a day, including meat, of course along with the slavery, the hard labor, the cruel taskmasters, being forbidden from worshipping their God, etc. And so, they began to grumble. Though the LORD had performed mighty miracles through Moses and Aaron, though He had promised them deliverance by His unfailing Word, and though He had lead them through the Red Sea on dry ground, destroying the pursuing Egyptians in the very same waters (which corresponds with Holy Baptism), the children of Israel began to grumble. They failed to trust in their LORD and they began to assign blame to Moses and Aaron, even to the LORD Himself – just like their, and our, first parents in the Garden.
But, the LORD kept His Word. The LORD kept His promise. He always does. He gave the people bread from heaven to eat and water from the rock to drink. St. Paul tells us that the Rock was Christ, and Jesus Himself proclaims Himself to be the Bread that came down from heaven, even the Bread of Life of which a man may eat and never die. The LORD provides, always. If you are reading or listening to this homily right now, the LORD has indeed provided it. In times like these, when we are forced to forego some of the conveniences and blessings we take for granted – things like gathering together to worship our LORD freely and appropriately and to receive Absolution and eat the Lord’s Supper – we can take account of the many and various ways our LORD provides for us.
For example, this is the first Sunday in over two years that the LORD’s Supper has not been available at St. John for those desiring to eat and drink. Just as the children of Israel grumbled at the manna the LORD provided them saying, “there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food,” some of us grumbled that receiving the Lord’s Supper too often would somehow make it less special. But, the Lord’s Supper is not special like a Thanksgiving turkey or a Christmas ham, but it is common and essential like daily bread. Bread may not be savory and tantalizing of the tastebuds, but it will keep you alive and sustain you through difficult times. In the Lord’s Supper the LORD gives us daily manna, even the Bread of Life Jesus Christ, our Daily Bread and the Medicine of Immortality. I hope that you will take this time to reflect upon the rich and multitudinous blessings the LORD provides you at St. John, healing, refreshing, nourishing, equipping, protecting, and sending you along with your family of faith on your pilgrim way through the wilderness of this world into the Promised Land of His kingdom.
The crowd had followed Jesus out into the wilderness because they had heard His teaching and witnessed His miracles. They believed because they had seen; now Jesus would see if they would believe without seeing. Jesus tested His disciples by asking Philip, “Where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” Philip answered according to worldly means, despairing, saying, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” Jesus took the sack lunch of a young boy, five loaves of bread and two small fish, and demonstrated what the LORD could provide from such meager means if we only trust Him and His Word of promise. The people sat down and the disciples began to distribute the bread and fish. Surely they believed they would run out before the first table had been served. But, all the people ate and were satisfied, and the disciples collected twelve baskets of leftovers. There is always more than enough when the LORD gives His gifts, for those having eyes to see and ears to hear.
Just as the LORD provided Moses to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt across the Red Sea, through the wilderness, ultimately into the promised land of Canaan, providing them bread from heaven to eat and water from the rock to drink, so the LORD provided Jesus to lead His people out of slavery to sin, death, and the devil through His death on the cross and glorious resurrection, ultimately into the Promised Land of heaven, giving us His body to eat and His blood to drink to heal, refresh, nourish, equip, protect, and send you bearing His gifts in your lives, words, and deeds toward others to the glory of His Name.
In today’s Collect we pray, “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, Your mercies are new every morning; and though we deserve only punishment, You receive us as Your children and provide for all our needs of body and soul. Grant that we may heartily acknowledge Your merciful goodness, give thanks for all Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience.” In these days of inconvenience and deprivation, may we reflect and take stock of the LORD’s providence, heartily acknowledging His merciful goodness and giving thanks for all His benefits which we receive daily and continually through feast or famine, health or sickness, peace or war, until He comes and takes us Home. And, when He has delivered us through this present affliction, may we rejoice when, once again, we are able to go to the House of the Lord and receive His gifts together as His people, a family of faith, freely and appropriately. Until then, let us feed on His Word in the many and varied ways He provides for us, acknowledging His merciful goodness, giving thanks for all His benefits, and serving Him by serving others to the glory of His Name.
I leave you with the words of today’s Tract from Psalm 125: “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore. Peace be upon Israel!” Peace be upon you.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Oculi - The Third Sunday in Lent (Lent 3)

Luke 11:14-28; Ephesians 5:1-9; Exodus 8:16-24

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today is one of those days in which some of you may be tempted to believe that this pastor, this congregation, this church body is simply out of touch, stuck in some medieval mire, and irrelevant in our enlightened, modern, and post-modern world. For, today I’m going to preach to you about the devil, Satan, and his minions of fallen angels that we call demons. In fact, today you have heard Jesus’ own teaching about demons as He cast a demon out of a man and then taught the crowd that had gathered about the danger of more demons returning if a man is not filled with the Holy Spirit of God.
Today, scientific materialists hold that all things that exist can be explained in terms of matter, stuff, that can be seen and measured, leaving no place for the spiritual or the supernatural. They scoff and wag their heads and, increasingly, shake their fists at those who believe in angels, demons, and God and consider them unenlightened at best, but more typically, ignorant and backward, and more recently, dangerous. It’s difficult to tell, however, if they represent the majority, or if they are simply the loudest voice in the world today. Either way, they have been successful in making shipwreck of the faith of many a soul who have come to regard religion as mythology or fantasy, and the Bible as merely a collection of men’s writings serving their purposes of suppressing knowledge and keeping people in ignorance and fear that they may more easily be controlled.
However, even if you have resisted the siren’s call of scientific materialism, and you still believe in the devil and his demons, you may be tempted to simply blame them for all the evil and suffering in the world, even for your own sinful failings, and deny your own culpability and need to repent of your sins and be absolved and forgiven. You may be quick to recognize the demons in your brother and neighbor, but deny those who cohabitate with you in your own house. Jesus’ teaching today informs you that, not only is Satan’s kingdom not divided against itself, but that if you wrongly believe that you can live with your demons and keep them locked in their bedrooms and live happily ever after, you are dead wrong. Jesus taught that the spirit cast out of a man will return, and if he finds the house of a soul unoccupied – that is, by the Holy Spirit of God – he will move back in, this time with seven other spirits more evil than itself, and the state of that person will be worse than the first. Likewise, if you believe that you can dance with the devil and remain in control of your faith and your life, you are dead wrong – sooner or later, he’s going to take the lead.
Ya can’t have it both ways. There is no fence-straddling when it comes to faith in the Lord. If you are not with Jesus, then you are against Him. And, if Jesus is not the Lord of your life and the God of your salvation, then the devil is. “But, Pastor, how can you say that? That’s so absolute. That’s so black and white. Surely God is not so rigid and inflexible as that.” I didn’t say it, the Word of the Lord did, Jesus did. And, His Word is true, for there is God, and there is everything else; there are those who put their fear, love, and trust in God above all things, and there is everyone else, for God says “You shall have no other gods,” and He isn’t kidding. If the house of your soul is divided against itself, divided between the Lord and the devil, it cannot, it will not stand.
We are all born, we are all conceived in sin and iniquity, as David confessed in Psalm 51, as spiritual children of the devil. I know that is hard to hear, but it is the Word of the Lord and it is true, for all inherit our First Father’s sin, which is truly ours, and we quickly and perpetually add to it our own actual sins. However, in Holy Baptism and faith, we are literally born again. That is to say, the old evil spirit in us is cast out, and a new and holy spirit from God is raised up within us. In Holy Baptism, Jesus casts out the evil spirit within us by the Finger of God, that is, by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of a new and holy spirit within us. Though we receive this one baptism for the forgiveness of our sins and it need never be repeated, the gift of Holy Baptism must be received in faith. Without faith, both baptism and its gifts remain, but the baptized cannot benefit from them.
However, be sure of this, when you were baptized, the evil spirit which possessed you was driven out. Your sin-corrupted and fallen man was drowned and died and a new man, a holy spirit was raised up within you and took up residence in the house of your body. While the Holy Spirit will bear with your letting the demons back in for a while as He fights with you and for you to keep them out, He will not bear with them forever. If your faith becomes weak because you have danced with the devil and permitted him to take the lead, your heart will harden and your faith will die – the Holy Spirit will leave. And, when He has left, who will there be to prevent any number of demons from claiming you as their home – and your last state will be worse than your first? Repent.
For, when you repent, when you confess your sins and are absolved of them by God’s Word and Jesus’ blood, you need not be baptized again, but you return to the one baptism you have received, the baptism which was always there, the baptism you rejected is still efficacious to you when you receive it in faith – and the Holy Spirit will return to you with all His gifts, blessings, and benefits. But, the Holy Spirit will not cohabitate with demons. Your Jesus will not abide with you if you are against Him. And your God will not share you with any other god, if there truly were any other god but Him.
What demons do you show hospitality to thinking that you can harbor them and that the Holy Spirit will remain with you? What neutral position do you attempt to claim between good and evil, right and wrong, what God has commanded or forbidden and what your flesh, culture, and world tell you are good and right and true. How often do you believe that what God’s Word says is sin, what Jesus’ shed His blood and died to forgive, is no sin at all? How often do you call God a liar and accuse your Lord of doing evil, casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons? Repent, and return to your baptism, that the Holy Spirit may fill the house of your soul and guard it.
As Jesus was teaching these things, a woman in the crowd cried out “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” That is most certainly true as Mary herself confessed “all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.” Though her confession was true, she was, unfortunately, missing the point. The flesh can neither bestow nor preserve and protect blessedness. Only the Word of God can do that. In fact, it was the Word of God spoken to Mary by God’s messenger Gabriel that blessed her womb as she conceived the Word become flesh Jesus, who, after His birth, nursed at her blessed breasts. So also are you blessed, so also are all men blessed, not by the flesh, but by the Word of God. “Blessed are those,” Jesus says, “who hear the Word of God and keep it.”
In truth, it is in hearing the Word of God that faith is created and forgiveness and life are bestowed. It is the Word of God that exorcises the demons and sends them fleeing. And, it is the Word of God the preserves, keeps, and protects you in the true faith that you may resist temptation and the assaults of the devil. In truth, you were born again from the blessed womb of your Mother the Church in the font of Holy Baptism. In truth, you are suckled and nourished at the blessed breasts of your Mother the Church as you hear and eat and drink and keep the Word of God in the proclaimed Word, the incarnate Word in bread and wine, body and blood, and the cleansing Word in Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, that you may walk in love as imitators of God, beloved children, children of light to the glory of the Father.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Lenten Vespers in the Week of Reminiscere (Lent 2)

Matthew 20:17-28; Esther 13:8-11, 15-17

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“O Lord, almighty king, all things are in your power, and the is none that can resist your will, if you determine to save Israel,” Mordechai confessed. And, he was right. If the Lord was determined to save Israel, no force in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, whether man, beast, or spirit could stop him. And that was exactly what Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem to do – to save Israel by being delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, condemned to death, delivered over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and to rise from death on the third day. This is how the Lord, the almighty king would save his people. This is how King Jesus would reign.
Shortly before this Jesus had taught his disciples saying, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Thus, perhaps it’s understandable that his disciples were confused. James and John must have told their mother this teaching prompting her to implore Jesus that her two sons should sit at his right and his left in his kingdom. But, that’s being charitable, for at the very least, the sons of Zebedee and their mother were thinking of themselves and not the others who were understandably a bit put out when they heard about it later. They had their hearts and minds set on human ideas of power and glory and not the ways of God and their servant Savior Jesus.
“You do not know what you are asking,” Jesus answered, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” The cup to which Jesus referred was the cup of God’s wrath against human sin. Jeremiah prophesied of this cup saying, “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.” “Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.’ And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: You must drink! For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the Lord of hosts.’” Truly they deserved that cup. The cup was their cup, filled with God’s wrath against their sinful uncleanness. If they were to drink it, it would consume them and they would be no more. No, they could not drink it, but Jesus would drink the cup of the wine of God’s wrath to the bitter dregs, until there was no more, until it was finished. Jesus would be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes who would condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and on the third day he would be raised from death.
And yet, James and John, and all the apostles, and you too, will drink it. For, baptized into Jesus, you share in Jesus’ suffering just as you share in His resurrection and life and reign in His kingdom. St. Paul speaks of this truth in his Epistle to the Romans saying, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” And again St. Paul says in his Epistle to the Philippians saying, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Yet, though all these things, says Paul, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, but His kingdom and reign is not like the kingdoms of men. Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of mercy, and His reign is a reign of mercy and forgiveness. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. James’ and John’s and their mother’s request was the very opposite of Jesus’ kingdom, and yet they would drink the cup of Jesus, share in His suffering and death, and witness to their faith by shedding their own blood in martyrdom. In Holy Baptism you were united with Jesus in His death and resurrection; you have died to your sins and former way of living and you have been raised to a new life of obedience and love for God and neighbor. No longer will you live and think and act like the Gentiles who lord their power and exercise authority over one another, but you reign with Jesus by loving one another and by serving one another.
Those who wish to be first in this world will be last. Those who love their life and worldly wealth and possessions will lose them, but those who show their love for both God and man by sharing their wealth and possessions and by giving them away will keep them for eternal life. Jesus teaches, “in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” In His humble life and ministry, by His loving and faithful obedience, and by His agonizing suffering and death, our King Jesus has saved His people. Now our King Jesus reigns through you, His body, His Church. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Reminiscere - The Second Sunday in Lent (Lent 2)

Matthew 15:21-28; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7; Genesis 32:22-32

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Your Lord Jesus teaches you a hard lesson in the Sermon on the Mount: “I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” And, then, He continues saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is a hard saying, indeed, particularly in these days when “your enemies” drive you out of your home and your village, enslave your wives and daughters, and relish to make a spectacle of cutting off your head, crucifying you, or burning you alive. Truly, it is very hard to love your enemies and to do good to those who hate you.
But, what if it is the LORD who is your enemy? What if it is the LORD who permits cancer to wrack your body, unemployment or underemployment to reduce you to dependence upon the charity of others, or who takes your child, or your husband, or anyone you love from you in sudden and violent death? The LORD would never do such a thing, you say? No? Well, just ask Job, or Jacob, or St. Paul, or, how about Jesus Himself. The LORD may not directly cause the suffering and tribulation that befall you and those you love, but He, nevertheless, does permit them to befall you. Indeed, Satan had to ask God’s permission in order to afflict Job. The LORD permitted Satan to take everything from Job, even his own physical health, just shy of killing him. And, it was none other than the LORD Himself, or, the Angel of the LORD, who wrestled all night with Jacob, finally putting his hip out of socket. Yes, Jacob got his blessing, but he limped away permanently wounded. Likewise, St. Paul pleaded three times with the LORD that He would remove the “thorn in his flesh” which afflicted him as a “messenger of Satan to harass” him. The LORD refused, saying, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And, it is. It truly is.
Perhaps the Canaanite woman understood and believed this best. She didn’t ask for a blessing. She didn’t ask for healing. She didn’t ask for relief. But, what did she ask the Lord for? She asked the Lord for mercy. Above all else, she believed that the Lord was merciful. However, she also believed and knew that He owed her nothing. That is why she asked for mercy. If the Lord would only show her mercy, it would be enough. His grace would, indeed, be sufficient for her. But, the Lord didn’t answer her a word. He ignored her. Are there not times when the LORD seems to ignore your prayers? Indeed, there are. Mine too. Still, she persisted in crying out to Him and to His disciples. Finally, He did answer her saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” How’s that for an answer? It was better when He said nothing, right? Yet, even this rebuke did not deter her, but she came and she knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, help me.” Now, it’s important to note that the Greek word that is translated here as “knelt” is the same word that is translated “worshipped” in other places. So, the Canaanite woman knelt down and worshipped Jesus. Like the tax collector in the temple, the thankful leper, and a myriad of others suffering from various diseases, conditions, and demon possession, she asked for nothing more or other than mercy. However, once again, Jesus rebuked her saying, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Ouch! That one had to cut to the heart! A little study of first century Jewish culture reveals that the Jews hated the Canaanites, and that “dog” was a common derogatory term the Jews used to call the Canaanites.
But, here’s where the Canaanite woman’s faith truly shines. She doesn’t care. She doesn’t care what Jesus calls her. She knows He’s right. She is a dog, an unworthy dog, a dog sinner. And, moreover, Jesus knew that she freely confessed this of herself from the beginning. That’s why she only asked for mercy, for mercy is when God does not give us the bad things that we deserve for our sins. She knew that she was a poor, miserable sinner and that all that she deserved was temporal and eternal punishment, therefore, she pleaded for mercy, she prayed for mercy, in her worship of the Lord. “Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” She had great faith in Jesus, that He was merciful. Her desire was for His mercy. Therefore, she received mercy – the Lord did not give her what she deserved, but He gave her what she did not deserve. That is grace, when God gives us the good things that we do not deserve. “Return to the LORD your God,” whether He ignores you, rejects you, or insults you, “for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”
Jesus was for her, even when He was against her. And, Jesus is for you, even when He may seem to be against you. Paul Gerhardt expresses this concept so perfectly in his hymn “Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me” saying, “When life’s troubles rise to meet me, though their weight may be great, they will not defeat me. God, my loving Savior, sends them; He who knows all my woes knows how best to end them.” Yes, you must accept the fact that, when you suffer trials and tribulations, “God, your loving Savior, sends them,” but, you must also trust that, because He sends them, they are also good for you in some way in which, perhaps, only God will ever know. Why is that? Because God is good. God is the very standard and measure of goodness. If anything is good, it is only good in relation to God. And, so, as blessed Luther has taught you, you must not call good evil, and evil good, but you must call a thing, simply and plainly, what it is. This is the Theology of the Cross, and this is the theology of Jesus. Suffering is, simply and plainly, that, suffering. God is not the cause of suffering, but He is the God and Master of suffering. That is to say that, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” But, let’s face it, the way of escape the LORD provides is sometimes death. But, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, that is precisely what death has become, a “way of escape.” For, if even death cannot hold you, then what have you to fear? And so, you face your trials and your tribulations, you face suffering, you even face death, in faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, that you may endure it. Moreover, you face these enemies in the sure and certain knowledge that God is the Master of them, and that He uses them for your good, and for the good of His children, often in ways we cannot imagine or know, in and through His Son, your Savior, Jesus Christ.
That is why St. Peter exhorts you saying, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, […] For, if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that Name. […] Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” The point is that the LORD will enable you to persevere, to hold on, through suffering, and to not let go of Him – just like Jacob while the LORD wrestled with him all through the night, even putting his hip out of socket causing him lifelong disability and pain; and, just like the Canaanite woman who, even though Jesus ignored her, rebuked her, and insulted her, refused to let go, but cried out saying, “Yes, Lord, You’re right! I am a dog sinner. But, Lord, even the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their Master’s table.”
Truly, a crumb from the Master’s table is all that you need to persevere in this life, and to live forever thereafter. His grace is sufficient for you. Yet, your merciful and gracious LORD gives you so much more than that! He gives you His own body as bread to eat, and His own blood as wine to drink, not crumbs, but all of Himself, the very Bread of Life Himself, whose flesh and blood bestow the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to all who eat and drink and believe. Apart from Him, you can do nothing, but with Him, you are “able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Moreover, when you suffer, you participate in Christ’s sufferings, who suffered for you. Even more still, He is with you now to strengthen you and to be your strength. You can bear all things through Him who strengthens you. You can endure all things through Jesus who is your strength.
To be a Christian is not to have all things go easily for you. You know that the Lord never promised such a thing, but He promised the complete opposite saying, “If you would be my disciple, you must take up your cross and follow me.” But, to be a Christian is to bear all things, to bear your God-appointed cross, in patient hope and trust in the LORD who has promised to be with you always, to preserve and keep you through life and death, and to bestow upon you life that never ends. He, who has borne the cross for you, will strengthen you to bear your God-appointed cross through the valley of the shadow of death, which He has already traversed, through death, which He has already defeated, into life forever in His Father’s house. It’s not about success. It’s not about prosperity. It’s not about piety. But, it’s about faith and trust in the LORD and in His Word, even when He seems to be against you. He is never against you, but He is always for you. Even when He sends trial, tribulation, and suffering, He is for you. Don’t let go, but cling to Him always. He will bless you. Even if it sometimes hurts, He will bless you. He loves you, and He loves you so much that He will do whatever is necessary to have you as His own, even permitting you to suffer pain and loss. Christ be your strength through life and death. Christ be your sustenance along the way. Christ be your one thing needful, even your life.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Lenten Vespers in the Week of Invocabit (Lent 1)

Matthew 12:38-50; 1 Kings 19:3b-8; Exodus 24:12-18

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The number forty in the Bible typically represents a period of trial or testing, or even probation. In the Old Testament, the LORD caused it to rain for forty days and forty nights when He destroyed all living things by the flood. After Moses killed an Egyptian, he fled to the land of Midian where he tended flocks for forty years. Moses met with the LORD forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai when the LORD presented him with the Ten Commandments. The Israelite spies took forty days to spy out Canaan. The Israelites wandered forty years in the wilderness. Goliath taunted Saul’s army for 40 days before David arrived to slay him. When Elijah fled from Jezebel, he traveled 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb sustained by food provided by the Angel of the LORD. Jonah warned the Ninevites that the LORD had given them forty days to repent lest the city and its inhabitants face utter destruction. In the New Testament, Jesus was tempted for forty days and forty nights, and there were forty days between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension. And, there are numerous other examples.
There is a saying that “faith that is not tested cannot be trusted.” When Moses was on Mount Sinai with the LORD forty days and forty nights, the faith of the Israelites below was being tested. Would they trust in the LORD and His word and promise, or would they turn to themselves or to false gods and idols. As you surely remember, when Moses came down the mountain forty days later with the Ten Commandments in his hands, he found that the people had made a golden calf and were worshipping it saying, “We do not know what has become of this Moses.” Moses threw down the tablets of stone on which were written the Commandments of the LORD to the ground, shattering them in his anger. He burned the golden calf and mixed its ashes with water and made the people drink it.
Likewise, the LORD tested Elijah’s faith when he fled murderous Jezebel. In a moment of despair and hopelessness Elijah prayed that the LORD would take his life now. As Elijah rested and wept under a broom tree in the wilderness outside Beersheba, the Angel of the LORD visited him and provided him cakes to eat and fresh water to drink. Later, the Angel of the LORD visited Elijah again and he ate and drank. Then Elijah was refreshed and in the strength of that food traveled forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.
Does the LORD test your faith today? Surely, He does. The LORD tests your faith to see if you will still seek and praise Him even through the storms of your life. Often through such testing you will discover just how strong your Spirit-given faith is or can be. For the LORD disciplines those He loves and chastises every son whom He receives. When you experience a trial or test, do not grow weary or faint and do not give up, but call upon the LORD even more and place your trust in Him and His word and promise.
We are now a week into the forty days of Lent. Traditionally, Lent is a penitential season and a season of testing of our faith as we fast and pray and give alms, disciplines largely lost on most Christians today. The forty days of Lent are patterned after Jesus’ forty days fasting in the wilderness where His faith was tested as He faced temptation from Satan. In contrast to Adam and Eve who were tested and tempted in a lush paradise of a garden where they were well-provided for and satisfied, Jesus was tested and tempted in a barren wilderness after fasting for forty days. Tempted to satisfy his fleshly desires by using His divine power as the Son of God to turn stones into bread, Jesus instead trusted in the Word of the LORD, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Repeatedly, in place of Adam, in your place, Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations and afflictions by standing firm on the Word of God. Thus does St. Paul exhort you in Ephesians chapter six to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Armor is defensive, not offensive. It is meant to protect you from the assaults of the evil one. The Word of God, which Paul describes as the “sword of the Spirit” is defensive; you can stand firm and unmovable upon it through testing, trial, tribulation, and temptation.
Moreover, there is no neutral ground upon which you can stand. As Jesus Himself teaches, you are either with Him or against Him. You are either filled with the Holy Spirit of God, or you will be possessed by Satan and his demons. In Holy Baptism the devil was exorcised from you and the house of your body was filled and occupied by the Holy Spirit of God. Your new man is sustained, nourished, and protected through the frequent and regular hearing of God’s Word and the reception of the Holy Sacraments. In this way the LORD provides for you and strengthens you to persevere through testing, trial, tribulation, and temptation.
Yet even more, when you were baptized, you were born again into a new family, those who do the will of God the Father. In Holy Baptism, Jesus’ Father has become your Father, the Church your Mother, and the faithful your brothers and sisters in Christ. You are your brother’s keeper, and vice-versa. Indeed, the Church is a family and a great support as we together make our pilgrim way through the valley of the shadow of death into the Father’s house forevermore.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Invocabit - The First Sunday in Lent ( Lent 1)

Matthew 4:1-11; 2 Corinthians 6:1-10; Genesis 3:1-21

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Both St. Matthew and St. Luke say that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. St. Mark, less gently, says that the Spirit drove Him or cast Him into the wilderness. Regardless, on this the three Evangelists agree: Jesus did not just wander into his confrontation with the devil.
Immediately after His baptism by John in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit cast Jesus out into the wilderness for the express purpose of being tempted by the devil. Jesus was chrismated, was anointed by the Holy Spirit for that very purpose: As the new Adam, to resist and overcome the temptation of the devil by the Word of God; as the new David, to slay that demonic Goliath with the five smooth stones of the Word.
But, whereas Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden because of their sin, Jesus, who knew no sin of His own, was made to be sin for us. He was baptized in the sewer of man’s sin, but instead of emerging cleansed in Holy Absolution, He was made to be a curse for us. Nevertheless, His Father loved Him and was pleased with Him, because, though He was innocent, He laid down His life in sacrificial love for you. And, whereas David, a man after God’s own heart, abandoned the Ark of the Covenant on the battlefield, committed adultery with his commander’s wife, and then murdered Uriah the Hittite by sending him to the frontlines of the battle, Jesus is the express image of the heart of God and His glory.
In Adam, we see a man who was holy, free, and without sin deceived by the devil, trusting and fearing him more than God, and submitting himself to enslavement to sin and death. And, in David, we see a man, we see all men, conceived and born in sin, whose every inclination is to sin always. We have battled with the devil and have lost. We battle with the devil every day and succumb often. Thanks be to God that He drove His holy and sinless Son into battle with the tempter for us, carrying the burden of our sin, fasting from worldly sustenance, but finding His strength and placing His trust solely upon the Word of God to resist temptation and to overcome the devil for us and to seal the victory in His death upon the cross.
I think that we are tempted to downplay the humanity of Jesus, to think that resisting the devil’s temptations was easy, child’s play for Him. But, that’s not what the Scriptures teach about Jesus, and that’s not what we confess with the whole Church about Jesus in the Creeds. Jesus is at the same time both God and man. He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother. He has a rational soul and human flesh just like you. But the key thing that we must understand and confess today is that our Lord is not a mishmash of divinity and humanity, that is, Jesus’ divine and human natures are not confused or comingled in His person; this is to say that there is not a scrap of human nature in His Godhead, and there is not a smitch of deity in His manhood, any more than there is in yours or mine. Jesus came to save us, in our nature, not to put on some flashy, theandric, superhuman performance that would be fundamentally irrelevant to our condition. Jesus faced the tempter, the devil, in hunger and thirst and in physical weakness, as a man, just like Adam, even more just like David, and even more still just like you.
Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations, not by summoning up His divine power and glory – that’s exactly what the devil wanted Him to do! – but by finding strength and counsel, and by placing His trust in the Word of God, just like you do. The devil tempted Jesus to use His divine power and turn stones into bread that He might eat and satisfy the desires of His flesh. But, Jesus refused, trusting that the LORD would provide all that He needed to sustain His body and life. Then the devil tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, quoting the Scripture saying that angels would bear Him up, lest He strike His foot against a stone. Again, Jesus resisted the devil’s temptation and put His trust in the LORD and in His Word. Then, a third time, the devil tempted Jesus to take for Himself earthly power and glory, and Jesus resisted Him again by putting His trust in the LORD and in His Word.
If Jesus would have used His divine power, He would have blown it for us all. But, because He suffered the devil’s temptations as a man, as one of us, and resisted, placing perfect fear, perfect love, and perfect trust in God alone, he remained innocent, sinless, and holy and He could take His innocence to the cross, bearing your sins, bearing my sins and the sins of the world, and die, the sinless for the sinful, thus breaking the curse of death that hanged over us. And, on the third day, He was raised from the dead, the firstfruits of all who have fallen asleep.
The devil began his tempting by challenging Jesus’ divinity saying, “If you are the Son of God….” The devil knew full well who Jesus was, but he wanted Jesus to act like Superman rather than like Clark Kent. But, if Jesus were to have used His divine power to resist the devil’s temptation, then that would have done nothing for all us Clark Kents who do not have such power. Jesus is not Superman, but He is the perfect Man, the fullness of what God created Man to be, for you. Though He demonstrated that Adam could have withstood the temptations of the devil if he had placed his fear, love, and trust in God and His Word, He also demonstrated that sinful David, and sinful you as well, can face Goliath-like temptation and overcome by fear, love, and trust in God and His Word. But, more than either of these, Jesus has resisted and overcome the devil for you and has died for you to set you free from his tyranny. So, now, there is nothing to fear from that liar and deceiver. The emperor of this world has no clothes, and his kingdom is slipping through his fingers. The gates of hell are overcome by the Church of Christ in water, word, body, and blood. For, though He would not use His divine power to do what the devil tempted, Jesus uses it now to provide the bread of His body to feed and strengthen you, to call upon all the angelic host to guard and protect you in all your ways, and to exercise His divine power and authority over heaven and earth by forgiving your sins and giving you eternal life.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.