Sermon summaries and audio files
The shepherds had good reason to fear the unmasked glory of God that shone round about them. But everyone has reason to fear the sheer glory of God, for all have sinned. The darkest recesses of the heart are all known to him. Yet the angel's message to the shepherds and to us is: Fear not. For the Christ-child is come in humility: see, he is Babe in arms. No reason to fear this; rather, let us receive him gladly and humbly, and, having received him, learn that there is nothing to fear. For his enemies could not dissuade him, nor the lack of room in the inn, nor the cold winter's night. He orders all things, even while in his mother's arms. Fear not! Sermon for Christmas Eve.
John was in the wilderness, calling for repentance, for the kingdom of heaven was near. So his voice was the voice of God, preparing for the Coming One. For the very existence of wilderness is due to the ruin in the Garden in the beginning, because of the sin of man. Because man became turned in on himself, interested in self-gratification. This is the root of sin: self-gratification. So John, the first prophet to be heard in some four hundred years, calls for repentance, for a return of the people who had gone astray, calls them back to their Creator. And so he calls you back, from the evil and darkness of this age, to his newness and rebirth of creation; he calls you back, by Baptism; he calls you to cross over from sin to righteousness, from debt to mercy, from darkness to light, and from death to life. He calls you back to your God. This is the true meaning of Advent's preparation, and is the heart of Christmas: the coming of Christ to rescue his fallen people. So John was baptizing at Bethabara, the place where Israel had crossed into the Promised Land, the place of crossing. And this was also the place where Elijah had ascended in a chariot to heaven. This is the crossing, then, and this the newness: a crossing to eternal bliss and Paradise. Cross over, all you who have been baptized: cross over. Sermon for Advent IV.
John the Baptist seems to have had a moment of doubt, though he shouldn't have. But in this he shows us, who likewise shouldn't doubt, what to do when we do: take our doubts to Jesus for reassurance. And from his holy word this reassurance comes. He is indeed the Coming One. Sermon for Advent III.
It had to be a virgin to whom Christ came, for if it were a normal conception, he would have been a normal man, begotten of a man; but he is eternally begotten of the Father, God of God, and therefore he is God; and he must be God, so that he would be able to save us (so Arius was wrong). And he did not merely borrow her womb, but took of her flesh to bind himself to our race; and he must be man, in order to be the Savior of men (so the docetists were wrong). And he is man in order truly to suffer, and that his suffering might be as man, for man; and he is God in order that he might raise himself from the dead on the third day and so bring us victory over the grave. There is no more wondrous and mysterious thing to ponder than the blessed reality of the incarnation. Sermon for Advent II midweek, on St. Luke 1:26-38.
Suicide rates have spiked, and despair can be found everywhere. But when Christ comes in glory, all the families of the earth shall mourn. Even those who loved their families, and their nostalgia, and the heart-warming things of this life, because they did not love Jesus, the Jesus who came to give his life and say, Take up your cross. Jesus is the only name whereby we must be saved, and all the rest shall be burned as stubble on that terrible Day. So John says Repent, and the preacher repeats it: repent. But lift up your heads, for Christ knows you, and you love him, for he loves you. And you see the buds of the trees, and know that summer is near; that is, you have a little of the eternal joy already now, and you receive him even now, in the Gospel and in the Blessed Sacrament. Receive him joyfully now, and you shall surely be ready for that Day, which shall surely come. Sermon for Advent II.
The Apostle's admonition to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13) suggests that he is a garment. This makes one think of the garments that the Lord made for Adam and Eve in the Garden, garments made of skins which replaced their inadequate self-made fig leaves. And a garment of skins must be the result of sacrifice. So it is that Christ is our Garment, who was also himself the sacrifice for our sins. This is our Holy Baptism, for we were clothed with Christ therein, and as a result, we stand purified before God in his perfect righteousness. Since this is so, it behooves us to behave as those who know it, and to seek to live piously and uprightly, following the example of him who so clothed us. Sermon for First Tuesday vespers.
The thrill of seeing King Solomon in his coach was magnified by the royal appearance and grandeur. But a greater than Solomon is here, for Christ our Lord is the Incarnate God. Yet his coming is in humility, which is a stunning change. He comes thus in order to redeem his people. Not only in Jerusalem but here, in the Blessed Sacrament. And the palm branches betoken the future of the saints in glory with palm branches in their hands. Hosanna! God save the King! Blessed is he that comes! Sermon for Advent I.
Thanksgiving is an official designated time to thank Almighty God, so designated by the United States government; and we are happy to oblige, for we know the importance of thanking him for all our benefits of body and soul; yet our feeble thank offerings are insufficient. So in his mercy he sent his Son, who as man, in our stead, gave thanks on the night when he was betrayed. His thank offering was not only in words but in the offering of his holy body into death for the sin of the world. And so in our stead he gave thanks to the eternal Father; and so when we give thanks, it must be in him, and we will do well to receive the very offering he gave, in partaking in the Holy Supper, and so to dedicate our lives to serving him, for his mercy endures forever. Sermon for Thanksgiving.
All ten virgins looked and acted alike; the impostors were good imitations. The only difference was the oil that no one could see. This is terrifying, for when we look inwardly we see our sin and unworthiness. Where is our own oil? We can't see it. So the wise cry out (they ever cry out), Go to them that sell, and buy. Where? Hear the Prophet who says, Come, buy without money and without price. Here in the holy place is an infinitely valuable Gift, purchased with the lifeblood of the Savior. Here in the preaching of the Gospel, at the altar, and at the font: here we receive this Gift freely, and the forgiveness of sins. When we look to Christ we have no doubt of the value in his blood; all doubts vanish when we behold him and not ourselves. And here is wisdom; here we gain the precious oil of everlasting salvation. Behold, the Bridegroom cometh! Sermon for the Last Sunday after Trinity.
We are living in the latter days, when perilous times have come, as the Apostle said they would. But when we consider the requirements David lists for the one who dwell in the tabernacle of the Lord, even we ourselves become uneasy, haunted by the notion that we do not have the requisite purity. Only Christ has this; that is why his invitation 'come unto me' is so sweet to our ears, for his meekness and purity of heart are sufficient, and he has given himself that we might access God through him. And since this is so, and since we find rest in him for our souls, since he has been so good to us, it falls to us to seek to be good as he is, and to follow his humility in heart and life. Sermon for Trinity XXVI Midweek.