Sermon summaries and audio files
Jesus' words against the Pharisees in St. Matthew 22 are not a discourse on the importance of paying taxes. After all, everyone already knows the importance of paying taxes. Rather, they are a warning against hypocrisy. How can you challenge with words him who is the Word? He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know? And so it is also hypocritical to challenge God at all, or to blame him for your troubles, or to cast aspersions on him as though he were not God. He is so good that he gives to us in spite of our miserable sinfulness. Moreover, we are to render unto him the things that are his. As Caesar's inscription is on his coins, so God's image is stamped on mankind. But how can we give him ourselves, seeing that we are so sinful? How can we give an acceptable sacrifice? See how good he is, that he sends his Son, his other Self, to bear his image on earth perfectly, and so to offer a perfect sacrifice in our stead. So we, receiving him by faith, now are confident that our living sacrificial lives are acceptable, only through him who loved us. Sermon for All Saints I (Trinity XXIII).
When great multitudes followed Jesus, they were poor, weak, sick, troubled, downcast, depressed; so he sat on the mountain and blessed them. Blessed are the poor in spirit, he began. For it is not the self-helped that he helps, but those who are sick. Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God. For the saints of old did this, even unto death. And we remember and seek to imitate them, especially all the martyrs who were faithful unto death. They received the crown of life; and so shall we, with the same faith. Sermon for All Saints.
From the days of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, because the devil knows his enemy, and hell's darkest power does its worst. But the devil knew this was coming for generations, and sought to prevent it. He sought to kill David by lions and bears, by Goliath, and by Saul; and he failed. He sought to destroy David's kingdom by warfare and bloodshed; and he failed. He sought through Athaliah to kill all the seed royal, but failed, for Josiah was kept safe in his infancy by Jehoiada. He sought most especially when the Kingdom of David became the Kingdom of Heaven by John's proclamation: the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. So John was imprisoned and beheaded, but still our Christ arose; then the devil sourged him, beat him, crucified him, killed him, buried him. And the Kingdom of Heaven died. But on the third day the Kingdom was revived as Christ was raised from the dead. Yet the Kingdom still suffers violence, as the apostles are killed, and martyrs after them; and through history the Kingdom suffers. But the violence of faith has always responded with a stubborn resolve to persist. This is what the Reformation is about: Martin Luther declaring to the emperor: here I stand. The Lutheran reformers refused to submit. And in the nineteenth century the King of Prussia sought to force them to compromise their most holy faith, and they refused, instead leaving all and coming to America. And in the late 20th century their own teachers sought to teach them that the Bible was a myth, and they refused them as well. And even today, here in this place, this little congregation is in peril, but continues and soldiers on by this faith. For faith will not yield, but is stubborn and unmoving and stalwart, being worked by the Holy Ghost himself. Faith knows that only the Gospel and the Sacraments will bring Christ's saving strength, so faith will not yield: the violent take the kingdom by force. Sermon for Reformation.
Jesus reveals his glory here not by doing a miraculous act, but by demonstrating that he knows all things. So he knows this sinful woman's life, and yet presents himself as the Christ, the Savior of the world and her Savior. So also we may be confident that though he knows our hearts, he also presents himself as our Savior. Sermon for Midweek of Michaelmas III.
The nobleman begged Jesus to heal his son; Jesus did more, for the Good Physician healed both the man and his son. His diagnosis was that the man's faith was weak: "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." So when the man begged him again, he commanded, "Go thy way; thy son liveth," and now the man believes without seeing; he goes his way believing the word. And Jesus also heals his son, and grants faith to his whole household. Sermon for Michaelmas III.
God has made us for himself, and our hearts are therefore restless until they find their rest in him. This is true of everyone, even the most hardened of sinners. Even Zacchaeus. But Jesus looked up and saw him, and his eye penetrated to the depths of his soul, even as it had done when he saw others, like Nathaniel at his call, or Peter at his denial of his Lord. Yet then came his unexpected and wondrous words: I must stay at your house today. So does he also see you: he sees everything about you, he knows all, even those most embarrassing things that you would be mortified if anyone else know. And yet he calls you as well: I must stay at your house! His mercy is new every morning, and now he enters your house when you receive him in the Blessed Supper. Sermon for Midweek of Trinity XX.
Jesus' continual preaching concerning the kingdom of heaven is complemented by his clear assertion that he is its king. His kingdom, he said to Pilate, is not of this world; and Pilate's inscription is therefore correct: he is King. He is our gracious Monarch, and we, as citizens in his kingdom, are blessed with eternal beatitude. Sermon for Tuesday morning at Oktoberfest.
St. Paul in Romans 11 looks at salvation from the heavenly perspective: a hardening has come over part of Israel, that the Gentiles might be grafted in. This suggests that there is a perfect number of the elect to be filled up, in Christ. And this ought not trouble us but comfort us; for it means that our salvation in Christ, who is himself the only true Israelite, is secure. It is a mathematical certainty. Sermon for Monday Vespers at Oktoberfest.
When the foundation of the second temple was laid, there was great rejoicing, but the older priests wept as loud as the sounds of joy, for they remembered the first temple, how much more grand it was. Yet Haggai comforted them with the promise that the temple would yet be greater; for the greater temple, we now know, is the Body of Christ, whose incarnation fulfilled what the temple stood for. So our church is not the temple; rather, it houses the temple. For the Body of Christ is given from this altar. This is why we do what we can to make our place of worship beautiful. From the altar the Body of Christ is distributed, and we enter by receiving him into the true Temple of God. Sermon for the Dedication.
Little children, do not be fools. Do not think your farm or merchandise has more value than this wondrous invitation; do not despise this offer. And do not think you can attend this wedding in your own garments, falling into the folly of Adam and his wife who made themselves coverings of fig leaves. For such folly ends with weeping and gnashing of teeth. Rather, let this invitation sink into your ears and hearts; I, says the king, I have prepared my dinner. All things are now ready. Even the garment of baptismal regeneration. Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Live your life by this faith, from this feast. For your invitation is not merely to be a guest at the heavenly wedding, but the Bride herself, clothed in white, by the blood and righteousness of Christ. Sermon for Michaelmas II.