Sermon summaries and audio files
'Mammon' and 'money' are not the same thing; it's informative that in the centuries following the days of Jesus, 'mammon' began to be sometimes used to describe a demon. And well it should, because here Jesus does not speak of mammon as something that would serve you somehow--as money might--but that you serve. And we know that the devil prowls like a lion to devour Christians. So mammon is his instrument, and if we understand that we'll be better off. Moreover, the way to resist mammon is by considering the birds of the air and the lilies of the field: birds do not sow or reap, but receive their food as God provides. And see: they eat worms from the ground. So also, as Jesus said, I am a worm and no man, and in this humility was crucified, dead, and buried; but he rose from the dead, that is, came out of the ground; and in the Sacrament we feast on Christ himself, for our salvation. And the lilies: they do no work of any kind at all, but are clothed. So also Baptism clothes us Christians in the righteousness of Christ. Jesus says in this Gospel that we should seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Here is where we find it: in the Sacraments of the Church; so let us live by faith in Christ and in his gifts. Sermon for Trinity XV.
When in 335 Constantine ordered the erection of a basilica in Jerusalem on the site of the crucifixion, the excavations uncovered three crosses, one of which, tradition tells us, was the cross of Jesus, and from that point people made pilgrimages to see it. But in the early seventh century, the Persians ransacked Jerusalem, taking the cross’s remains with them. Then the emperor Heraclitus became convinced he must go to battle to recover the holy relic. This he did, and when he in a great ceremony tried to carry it up the hill to its holy place, he found that he could not, until he removed the royal robes and pomp, removed his shoes, and began again in humility to ascend the hill. This time he easily did so. Whether that legend is true or not, it illustrates the importance of Christian humility in the face of the cross. Let us all approach life itself with humility and a faithful desire to honor the Crucified. Sermon for Holy Cross Day.
The ten lepers were outsiders, castaways from society, yet they were united in their plight, and no doubt found encouragement in one another’s company. In the same way we congregate in church to encourage one another by a common confession and faith. Yet more than this we require the pure word of Christ. Note how nine of the lepers did not return, which, as Luther pointed out, is likely due to a strong sermon from the priests to whom Jesus sent them. His enemies abound even today, and thus we need vigilance about returning to him for our own strengthening by his Word and Sacrament. Let us, like the returning leper, find ourselves overwhelmed to be recipients of his mercy, and rejoice evermore in his presence. Sermon for Trinity XIV.
David said, Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; neither have I exercised myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. I am as a child that is weaned of his mother; my soul is as a weaned child. And in Jesus’ parable we likewise find the publican whose eyes are not lofty, but downcast. This was a man who was ashamed of himself. And yet, remarkably, this is the man who went home justified. Why? Because he was, in spite of his shame, also confident. He said, Lord be merciful to me a sinner. The term for mercy here is one that implies propitiation, sacrifice, atonement. It’s the same as the mercy meant by the mercy seat in the ark of the covenant. That was the seat that was covering the tables of the commandments, the seat on which the blood of the sacrifices was sprinkled. And that is what the publican sees, the blood of the sacrifice of the savior. The blood of Christ is our atoning sacrifice is also for us the basis of our confidence. So while being ashamed of ourselves, let us also be confident in Him; unlike the Pharisee whose confidence was in himself. He recounted his deeds, thinking they were what would justify him. Let us have the confidence of David, whose eyes were not lofty, but whose hope was confident, like a child weaned of his mother. Sermon for Trinity XI.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the highest exemplar of the Christian faith, for she was an utterly small, insignificant peasant girl from a despised people of Israel. One the nation was great, but no more. Now it had become a virtual laughing-stock of washed-up people far removed from the glory they once had in the great days of Solomon. Why would anyone cleave to this faith? A waste of time, a vanity, a wind. But she believed still, and she became the Mother of God. For God exalts the lowly and abases the mighty. So she exulted, knowing now in a way she could not deny that she carried and contained within the tiny space of her virginal womb the Son of God whom heaven and earth cannot contain. Indeed he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. So take heart when you are brought low, when disappointment or pain or grief or sorrow or any other trouble threatens to consume you, in knowing this, that he regards them of low degree. And like her, you cannot deny this either, for we are persuaded that Christ himself became utterly low, crucified, dead, and buried, but rose again the third day and ascended into heaven, and all he ever said is utterly true, including these words: this is my body. So in your lowliness receive him by kneeling here and opening your mouth to receive him on your tongue and exult and rejoice with Blessed Mary. Sermon for the Dormition BVM.
Jesus said to his disciples that he has compassion on the multitude. This is an attribute of God: of course he has compassion; he made them. Moreover, this multitude is with him. They followed him three days into the wilderness. Doubly does he have compassion on them, even as he does on all his own people. But why was there a wilderness in the first place? And why did he lead them there? Surely, this is because of the sin of man; for this is why the world is fallen. It is undeniable that for all its beauty, there is something wrong with the world. And what is wrong with it is us, for we have sinned. And yet in compassion he came to us to help us in the wilderness and to feed us. For we, like them, are also in the wilderness of this life, where there is pain and sorrow and trouble and loss and death. But see how those who stayed with him were helped. So stay with him! Even in the wilderness, stay with him, for he feeds you in an even better way than he did the 4,000. They could have opted to stay home and have relief for a short while, but they did not. And on the third day he fed them. So also on our third day (this celebration of Easter, as is every Sunday), He feeds you with himself, who is the Bread of Life. You belong here. He has given his body into death and shed his sacred blood to redeem you and rescue you out of this wilderness; and so while in the wilderness he feeds you on his very body and blood, and so promises ultimate deliverance from all wilderness for all eternity. Stay with him! Sermon for Trinity VII.
If God is just, he cannot forgive without atonement; and since he himself made the atonement for sin, therefore he justly forgives sinners. This is how he is merciful; and this is how you are to be merciful as well: by considering the atonement he made. See, your neighbor’s sins were atoned; therefore be merciful to him and forgive him, just as you were forgiven. Sermon for Trinity IV.
The Gospel of the rich man and Lazarus teaches us to live by faith and not by sight. For by faith we learn that Lazarus’ poverty and sores were not indicative of who he truly was: a very rich and important person indeed, for at his death he was escorted by a multitude of angels to the bosom of Abraham; but the rich man’s purple and fine linen were useless and unable to help him when his soul went to hell. So also, Jesus knows Lazarus’ name, but not the name of the rich man (he has no name at all in hell); the names of all the faithful are known to Jesus because of Baptism in His holy name. And the fact that Lazarus was comforted in the bosom of Abraham means that this was a great feast, and the host of the feast has as his most favored guest the one who reclines at his breast. Such a great feast Lazarus eternally attends—the same feast to which we attend at the Supper ahead of time, for it is Christ’s Body and Blood—whose greatness is unseen by the eyes. Let us live by faith and not by sight. Sermon for the Octave of Trinity.
The lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness foreshowed Christ, who was lifted up for us on the cross; so also, the people who had been guilty of turning from their God were bitten by venomous serpents and began to die, unless they looked upon that serpent and lived. So also, in our day the venomous serpents of idolatrous religions and practices abound among us, and snare many with their poison, leading them to eternal death. But Christ the Serpent of God, who by his cross defeated the serpent of old and all his minions, was lifted up so that we, looking on him, that is believing on him, shall be saved. So let us live by our Baptism into him, in which is our life and salvation. Here is the only true God, who is triune: the Father who gave his Son into death and the Son who sent the Spirit into the world by the preaching of the Gospel and by Baptism into him. Let us look on him, live in him, and be saved. Sermon for Trinity Sunday.
When Jesus rose from the dead, He breathed on His disciples. Now behold this breath: the sound like as of a mighty wind that filled the house where they were sitting, and the flaming tongues appeared on their heads and they began to preach. This is the breath, or Spirit, of Jesus, and it now sounds forth in their preaching, and goes into all the world. For this is Pentecost, when the newborn Life that came out of the ground on Easter now blossoms and grows (like the yeast of the Pentecost loaves), and goes into all the world proclaiming Christ our Passover, sacrificed for us. Sermon for Pentecost