Sermon summaries and audio files
To know first of all that you are lost, that is, truly sinful and unclean, is the first part of repentance. Self-examination, and private confession, are laudable routines whereby we identify and enumerate our sins, such as pride and even fear. For then, knowing yourself to be a lost sheep, you shall be glad to know that, being found by the Good Shepherd, you cause angels to rejoice. And then fear departs, for why should you fear if you know that you are hanging about the neck of the shepherd? To fear is to think yourself still lost in the thicket. Rather, let us, in faith and confidence that we have been brought home, rejoice that this man, our Lord Jesus, receives sinners and eats with them. Sermon for Trinity 3.
Those invited to the great feast had no interest in it because of what was tangible in front of their eyes: a plot of ground, five yoke of oxen, a wife. They did not see the great benefit of this supper. Let us repent of our like blindness, that we may not miss it, for here is the feast of heaven. This is Christ himself, the Creator and Redeemer of us all. Here is his Body and his Blood, the very elements of our atonement, which forgives our sins a thousand times over. Here angels bend the knee and worship, even though he was not given for them. He was given for you! Come, for all things are now ready. Sermon for the Second Sunday after Trinity.
The rich fool of Jesus' sermon to the multitude (St. Luke 12:16-21) had so many things that lured him away from his God. Be warned! This man was like Solomon, the king who had everything: exotic animals, horses, riches, purple and fine linen. But Solomon fell away from the true faith and into idolatry. By the grace of God he was brought back in his late years, and wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, in which he uttered the warning: "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth." So let us be on guard against the riches and cares of this life, and not suppose that our life consists in those things which we possess. For this is folly, as God said to the rich man, who ended up destitute; and Jesus warns here: So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Sermon for Midweek after Trinity Octave.
The rich man cared nothing for Lazarus laid at his very gate, for he had no love. He despised him for his heart was set on other things. So too, he cared nothing for Moses and the Prophets, that is, for the Word of God. Contrast Lazarus, whose name Jesus knows. Lazarus did not desire the rich man's riches, but the crumbs the rich man despised. So Jesus knows the names of those who have been baptized and live by this faith. Emblazoned on your Baptismal certificate is you name. Jesus knows it because you were baptized in his name. And so by this faith let us live, mindful of the love of God for us in Christ and learning then to love him and to love our neighbors. And this faith cares little for the riches of this life, but looks for the kingdom of heaven, and for the angels who carried Lazarus to Abraham's bosom. Sermon for the Octave of Trinity.
This is a Pentecost we shall remember a long time. For two fires are burning. The one is evil, the other good; the one is in darkness, the other is light. The one rages out of control, the other is in peace. The one shall die out, the other is eternal. The first fire is kindled by hatred, and disobedience to parents and authorities; it is wicked and riotous: across cities in our country it burns. Literally fires are set in the city streets and angry mobs descend everywhere. Be warned about this, for its beginnings are in all human hearts; it is sin. And beware of losing your self-control, losing your temper, rejecting authority, sinning wantonly. Repent of all these tendencies. Repent, I repeat! For the end of this fire is death and eternal hellfire. But now consider the second fire, the fire of Pentecost. It was kindled by Jesus himself, who said shortly before his passion, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I wish that it were already kindled." He was referring of course to his own crucifixion for the sin of the world. He wanted this, for he knew it was needed to reconcile the world to God. And so he kindled this fire on Good Friday. Now consider Easter, when he met two disciples on the Emmaus Road who were sad and had lost hope. And he began to speak with them before they recognized him. And when they arrived at Emmaus and he was finally recognized by them, they arose at once and hurried back to Jerusalem. And they said to one another as they arose, "Did not our heart burn within us?" For the fire kindled by Jesus now began to burn in their hearts. And now on Pentecost the tongues as of fire sat on the apostles and they began to preach the Gospel.
Notice, the fire of the Spirit is always tied to the word of God. So many people misunderstand this, supposing that God is with them without the preaching of the word. But in the beginning, when the Spirit hovered over the waters without the word, there was only darkness. But then God spoke. He said, Let there be light, and there was light. See: the Spirit's light and the word are bound together. And so also on Pentecost, a sound like as of a rushing mighty wind causes confusion, until they began to speak, to preach.
Now at Pentecost the fire raged as the Gospel began to spread, first to the regions all around the Mediterranean Sea, and next to India, and Spain, and England, and then to all over Europe, and to Asia, and all around Africa; and finally to the New World, and to this place. The Gospel is here, and it is preached in this place. This is a great day, for we at last are able to meet together again on this day! And we hear the Gospel again, and it now burns in our hearts. But it is a fire of self-control, and peace, and forgiveness, and kindness, and gentleness. Let us invite others to this place, to come and hear.
Two fires burn, but only one of them is light, and good, and eternal. Thanks be to God that this good fire is here, and let us ever sing alleluias in our hearts. Sermon for Pentecost Sunday; and here is a video of the entire Divine Service, which includes a reading of the first verse of the Gospel in several languages.
At Pentecost we note the beginnings of a great reversal, a correction, a recapitulation, a renewal of the heavens and the earth. For Pentecost marks the beginnings of tongues again being understood by all, a reversal of what happened at the Tower of Babel, when God confused their languages and scattered them across the face of the earth. Now all begin to hear and understand, on Pentecost, what will in the end be a united people of God, all speaking and understanding the same words, the fulfillment of reuniting of all men, at the Last Day. And so too, as death and horrors once entered the world, and men's blood was shed, and they died, and were buried and became dry bones in the graves, now at the spreading of Easter's resurrection joys to all men, the vision of Ezekiel begins to be fulfilled, and bone hinges back to bone, and sinews are formed, and flesh, and the breath of God is breathed on them, and this mortal begins to put on immortality; Christ rises from the grave, and at the end we all shall rise from the grave, and life shall forever overshadow death and be death's destruction. And as through our lives in a fallen world there are so many dark and sinful and regrettable and sorrowful and wrenching realities we must endure, now the reversal begins, and renewal begins: the beginnings of our vindication come to pass, and in the end, he shall wipe every tear from our eyes. This reversal shall be complete, and permanent, and eternal. Let us ever sing alleluias in our hearts. Sermon for the Vigil of Pentecost.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! And he who gave his life into death for us, and rose from the grave for us, and appeared openly to his disciples for us, and ascended into heaven for us, on the very day of his ascension also commanded Baptism, declaring that by this disciples would be made. And so this day Jane Carol was brought unto him.
For centuries there has been a debate about whether infants ought to be baptized. Some say no, because there is no specific command to do so, and others, like us, say yes, for they are included in all nations. But there is more than this. For he specifically declared, Suffer the little children to come onto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. See in these words: little children are not only permitted; they are the very standard. We must become like them.
For when the word of God comes to them, they believe it. There is no handle for the devil to take, to snatch the word away from their hearts; for the word of God is the power of God, piercing to the division of joints and marrow. Behold, it came to Jane Carol, and she believed it herself, and so she confessed the Christian faith, even before her Baptism. For we will not withhold from her the opportunity here, simply because she is as yet unable to speak. Rather, we will speak for her the words she wanted to say: I believe. And behold also her words: I will be baptized. I want it. See how good it was for you to have brought her to the font today: she wanted it. She demanded it. She is here because she wanted to be here. You have done well.
And so too, you will do well to continue to bring her to this place, to the house of God, that she may continue to hear and confess the Christian faith. This is what she wants. And when the time comes that she begins to use her reason, that dreadful time when she will have to contend for the faith against her own sinful heart and reason, she will already have been surrounded with the word and help of God against herself. For from this day at her glorious Baptism she has a multitude of angels attending her, angels whom Christ sent down through the same channel through which he ascended, angels guarding and defending her, protecting her, until she at last attains to everlasting life by the same faith by which she confessed today, and into which she was baptized today. The faith by which she cries with all of us, Alleluia! Christ is risen!
How do we know that the Lord is risen? We examine the eyewitness testimony of the apostles, in the same way as a judge examines eyewitness testimony; and we say, the Lord is risen indeed, repeating what the returning pair from Emmaus said on Easter Day to disciples who could not yet believe the women, The Lord is risen indeed! So we, on receiving all this eyewitness testimony, which is the testimony of the Spirit himself, now make this also our glad confession. Sermon for Exaudi, the Sunday after the Ascension.
The eyes of the Apostles feasted upon an event so spectacular that they would never forget it. They had already seen marvelous things, for they had been with the Lord three years, and then they beheld him risen from the dead on Easter Day, and on several days after that they beheld him again, until this day, when he commissioned them to go forth everywhere and preach; and he ascended into heaven, through endless ranks of angels, to the right hand of the Father. Imagine this scene, and let it inform you in all earth's darkness and trial, for it is the capstone on all he has done for you. And behold, these same heavens, which had opened for Jacob who beheld the ladder from heaven, and for Moses who was on Mount Sinai, and for Elijah who beheld Elijah's chariot, and for Lazarus whom the angels carried to Abraham's bosom, and for Stephen who saw Jesus stand at the right hand of God, open yet again for faith to behold, whenever a child is baptized, and also this very day, when we receive the same Christ at the altar with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. Sermon for the Ascension of Our Lord.
Jesus' words to his disciples in the upper room make it clear that in becoming his Apostles they shall be given full understanding of the things they must preach and write: "In that day ye shall ask me nothing." So it is a great gift to have received their Gospel in the Sacred Scriptures. These are the words of the Holy Apostles whom Jesus appointed and to whom he gave this marvelous understanding. And thus all pastors must adhere strictly to their words when they preach: we preach not ourselves; and all the people of God must also hold these words dear, not only in worship and praise, but also in personal prayer. There is no need to craft your own messages to God by stammering and stuttering in your own prayers, though he will surely hear those as well. You may use the very words he gave you: the Our Father first, and then use it as a basis for your personal needs, and also the prayers of Scripture, especially the Psalter. And even so, you need not feel constrained to craft your own prayers, for the hymnal is a great resource full of prayers you may use. And the risen Christ shall always be with us through these words, until he comes again in glory. Sermon for Rogate, the Fifth Sunday after Easter.