Sermon summaries and audio files
It is easy to compare oneself to others and to find cause to think of them as less pious; for this is the fallen nature of man. And this is the Pharisee's flaw. Indeed he not only did so, but he made of it a religious exercise! But he did not go to his house justified, nor shall anyone who trusts in himself. It is the publican, who despaired of himself and loathed himself who was justified. He called himself the sinner, comparing himself to no one but only casting his eyes downward in shamed and self-disgust. Yet his cry for mercy was full of confidence in the sacrificial blood of another, as must also be the cry of every Christian. We plead only Jesus' blood, and find confidence only in him to approach the throne of grace. Thus we kneel at the altar, in token of our awareness that we are shameful, and there we receive the very sacrificial blood that we need, Christ's blood, given and shed for us. And thus, and only thus, do we go to our house justified. Sermon for Trinity XI.
Who was imprisoned, and who was free? Herod the King was bound and enslaved by his own lust, while John in the dungeon could not be controlled or silenced. Herod had married his brother's wife; their mutual lust had brought her to divorce her husband and had brought Herod to take her to be his own wife, in direct opposition to the Levitical code against marrying one's brother's wife, and against all decency. But still this lust was not satisfied, for now we see Herod turning his desire's eye to his wife's dancing daughter! Now he wants her instead, and now, encouraged by the drunken stupor of the wine of his own birthday party, offers her anything, up to the half of his kingdom, if only he can have her. See how halved his kingdom and his loyalties already are! for he cannot serve God and mammon; he cannot gladly hear the preaching of John and at the same time desire the wanton pleasures of this life. So the dancing daughter asks her wicked mother what she shall require, and the head of John becomes the necessary payment. Herod is trapped, ensnared by his own lustful heart, and must order the execution. And Herod's birthday celebration is ruined by the serving of a gruesome platter delivering John's head and and overflowing with his blood. O beware the desires and lusts of the heart! For when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. But behold John in prison: he speaks freely; he will speak of God's testimonies before kings, and will not be ashamed. He is faithful unto death, and shows that he will not be moved from his willing loyalty to his true King and Lord. And so he gains life eternal by this unshakable faith. And so shall we, renouncing and confessing the folly of our own hearts, and holding fast in faith the One who alone can free us eternally. Sermon for the Beheading of John the Baptist.
Two weeks ago we heard Jesus warn of false prophets; today we see where they are: right in the midst of the temple, engaged in the commerce of this life rather than in prayer. So Jesus drives them out, a precursor of the fall of Jerusalem, which is a precursor of the Day of Judgment. So let us hold fast to him alone, and to his words of grace and life. And so shall we know the things that belong unto our peace, and the day of his visitation. Sermon for Trinity X.
What do the servants do when their lord delays his return? How do we behave when no one is watching? It all depends on whether we believe someone actually is watching, and will return. It all depends on faith. Sermon for Midweek of Trinity IX.
The unjust steward is just like us: unjust, having squandered his master's goods, called to account, told that he is being put out of the stewardship. So let us learn from him, and say, "I cannot dig," that is, I cannot work my way out of this mess, and "to beg I am ashamed," that is, even my own plea for mercy is in itself useless and will not avail me; but consider: he depended upon another transaction. So let us depend upon the transaction whereby Christ offered himself to the Father for atonement. And so shall we, like him, have our Lord's approbation and commendation. For in receiving Christ we receive a gracious God. Cleave to Christ and you gain all good things eternally by this heavenly commerce. Sermon for Trinity IX.
Jesus said beware of false prophets. Therefore the first of them are easy to recognize, who say all prophets are good, that the religion you hold is good, no matter what it is. False! For if that were true, then Jesus would be a liar. Second are those within the walls of true religion, like the Pharisees and Sadducees: on the inside! So too on the inside we find those who say that there's a little part of our nature that is able to reach out and choose Jesus by our own reason and strength, or that Baptism is a dedicatory sign and nothing more, or that the Supper is not really Christ's Body and Blood, or that the Sacred Scriptures must have deficiencies because they are so old. All false! Let us hold fast to Jesus' own words, for he is the good tree. He says he gives his life a ransom for many; he says his Body and his Blood are here given for you and to you for the remission of sins, life, and salvation. He says that whoever believes in him has eternal life. He says you must be born again by water and the word. He will not lie to you. Sermon for Trinity VIII.
Jesus told his 12 disciples, who were being sent into the teeth of the enemy to preach the Gospel, not to fear men. And so they went forth, ultimately to martyrdom. Each of the 12 shields of the apostles in the great arch of this church has the instrument of that apostle's death emblazoned on it. Even John, who was not martyred, was poisoned and barely survived. Yet Jesus' words rang true, for they were armed with the death and resurrection of Jesus, and so now they have received the crown of glory. So also must we learn to step into life without fear, for these words are also for us Christians to take to heart: fear not! the very hairs of your head are numbered. He not only knows all things, he knows every particular thing about you and your life, and his wise providence orders them all for your benefit, for he cares for you, who are of great value to him. Although we enter the kingdom of heaven through much tribulation, we do enter therein at last, through the mercies of God in Christ. Sermon for midweek of Trinity VII.
Like the 4000 who embraced Jesus' teaching and followed him wherever he led, so have we embraced him and followed him. And we, also like them, find ourselves in the wilderness of life's woes and pains and sorrows. (Just now we learned, for instance, of mass killings in El Paso and in Dayton, wilderness events). But it is in the wilderness that he feeds us, against all reason and rationality; he commands us to sit here (it is the Third Commandment), and he gives us a morsel of bread, his own Body. And hereby he gives us forgiveness, life, and salvation, and teaches us not to fear. Sermon for Trinity VII.
The rich young man went away sorrowful, because the commitment Jesus asked of him was too much. But it is no more than the first commandment, to love the Lord your God with all, and that is who he is. He promises that this utter faith in him (such as renounces your own self, for this is the nature of true Christian faith) will receive eternal life, for he is good. This is the faith you were given in Baptism; it is of a piece with the new man in you, which arises from the font, while the old man in you continues to die. Sermon for Trinity VI midweek: St Matthew 19
Jesus says that your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. Theirs is an outward kind, like the shine of a whitewashed tomb, which on the inside is full of dead men's bones. The only righteousness that avails before God is that of Christ, who, when you agree with him, turns from your adversary into your eternal Friend. Sermon for Trinity VI.