Sermon summaries and audio files
The tower of Babel was man's rebellious answer to God, an insistence upon making his own way to heaven. Whether or not the tower was a hedge against another flood, one thing is clear. Man wanted nothing to do with God. And so God confused their tongues, preventing them from even trying. So let us all repent of our fallenness, our wicked hearts who have the same inclination. And let us turn to the word of the Gospel that sounded forth on Pentecost, in all the languages. God in his mercy reached out and preached to the dispersed nations, calling them back. Let us embrace this Gospel, and leave off building our own towers to heaven. Sermon for the Vigil of Pentecost.
In today's Gospel, Jesus warns his disciples of things to come, so that they would not be offended, that is, scandalized. For they will be despised and killed, and might otherwise wonder. But Jesus gives them his Spirit and sends them forth, and keeps them in the faith. So does he also keep his little flock today, though Satan harass them in many ways. The Lord truly is risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and gives his Spirit to his people through apostolic preaching and sacraments. Sermon for Exaudi Sunday. The video is here.
On Ascension Day we do well to call to mind the heavenly conversation recorded in the 24th Psalm. The angels guarding the gates of glory see the approaching angels escorting the ascending Lord to the throne of God, and the escorting angels cry out "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and the King of Glory shall come in!" to which the guarding angels reply, "Who is this king of glory?" for they see a Man coming: a Man! And again the escorting angels insist: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates!" to which the guarding angels, still incredulous, reply, "Who is this King of Glory?" and the escorting angels proclaim, "This is the Lord of hosts! He is the King of Glory!" for the man Jesus is himself the Lord of hosts, having conquered death and hell in his flesh, and now takes his place, in our flesh, at the right hand of God. Sermon for Ascension Day. Video is here.
Jesus and his Spirit speak truth, in sharp contrast to the falsehoods of our culture, in our government, in the media, and even in the schools. All the lies! But the truth is hear, in the Gospel. Jesus' remarkable claims: that he is God, which is why sin is essentially failure to believe in him; for he alone is the true God, and the first commandment pertains to him; and all the other commandments are incased in the first. And he claims that all righteousness is in him, for the only way to receive it, now that he has gone to the Father, is to hear the preachers who proclaim him, and faith in him. And most remarkably of all, he contends that the ruler of this world, the devil, is judged, even before he finished his work of redemption. So sure a thing it was that he already knew it. And so does he know that you, too, through faith in him, shall receive utter victory over all your enemies, including sin and death. For he who died is risen from the dead. Sermon for Cantate Sunday. The video is here.
The disciples saw the wolf and fled like hirelings, but Jesus the Good Shepherd faced the wolf alone, and willingly laid down his life for the sheep. He was crucified dead and buried. But then he rose from the dead and appeared to them and declared peace to them, forgiving them for their failure and guilt; and they became his witnesses. Not only witnesses for him, but witnesses of him. They saw him, handled him, inspected him, and believed. He was truly risen from the dead. And this changed their lives, and they were also ordained and called by his breath and the Holy Spirit. Now no longer afraid they went forth and preached. And now you receive their witness in this Holy Gospel. So let your lives be changed, having gained the same confidence as they had, believing that he who died has arisen, and is forever the Good Shepherd for you. Sermon for Good Shepherd Sunday. The audio is here.
Simon Peter must have been wondering when his risen Lord was going to direct his attention to the egregious three denials to which Simon had fallen. He had appeared to them all, announcing peace, and he had shown them his hands and his side; but the terrible denials were still hanging over poor Simon's head. And then, after they had eaten, Jesus looks at him and asks him if he loves him more than these. The comparative is a bit unclear. Does it mean more than you love these, or, I suspect, more than these others love me? For it was Simon who had boasted, saying, Even if everyone should deny Thee, not I. How bitter, then, could this exchange had been, were it not for the fact that Jesus did not directly condemn Simon, or asked him if he respected Him, or was fearful of Him; rather, do you love Me? and more than these? So Simon affirmed that he did love Him, but did not add the comparison, for he had been humbled by his error. He had wept bitterly over it. And his affirmation indicated Jesus' own awareness: you know that I love you. But the second and the third time grieved Simon, for it was doubtless are grim reminder of his denials. Yet the third time he appealed to Jesus' omniscience: You know all things! But at none of these replies did he affirm agape love, or love of the highest kind, the love of God. He would not dare boast any longer. So he simply affirmed phileo: I love you dearly, brotherly. And at the third question, Jesus investigated that, as if to say, unlike the first two questions, Do you indeed love me dearly? phileis? And Simon's affirmation was also born of deep humility. So also must we learn this humility. We do not belong here, before God; we are not worthy to be here; but we are here by the loving invitation of grace. And yes, Jesus knows that we love Him, but we ought not dare lay claim to merit, or even to boast of our love for Him. Sermon for Easter II midweek. The video is here.
On Easter Sunday we learned of how difficult it was for the Eleven to believe that Jesus had truly risen from the dead. Today we hear of how difficult especially for Thomas it was. He was the lone holdout, who refused to believe it until he saw for himself the Sunday after Easter, inspecting the wounds, and then exulting, My Lord and My God. We might wonder why this was so difficult for them to believe, when we know they weren't like the Sadducees, who believed in no resurrection at all, of soul or body. But perhaps the strong influence of their culture was a factor, being infected with the teachings of Plato who was four hundred years earlier. Plato had taught a strong dualism which held that the spirit is good but the body is evil; death is the release of the soul at last from the bonds of the flesh which was discarded. And so also today, there is a strong cultural belief that at death we are released from the material world and fly off to heaven where we live forever, released from the body. This belief is so strong that it has lead countless theologians to hold that the reports of the resurrection were only the result of wishful thinking on the part of deeply grieving disciples. Not so! For the facts are that the disciples would not believe; their thinking, far from being wishful, was despondently stubborn in holding the resurrection in the body could not be so. But they soon learned, all of them, and so the fire of the faith was kindled in them and in the Christian Church for 2,000 years. This is our faith, to hold that Jesus rose in the flesh and so shall we. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. Therefore let us respect our flesh, and flee from sexual immorality, and from the lusts of the flesh; let us live according to our awareness that this body shall rise and live forever at the last. And let us make the response of the earliest church our own: Alleluia! Christ is risen!, said Mary to the disciples; and two, returning from Emmaus, and the disciples themselves, reporting to Thomas: it's true, what Mary said! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Sermon for the Easter Octave. The video is here.
It was not stubbornness which kept the disciples from believing; it was the overwhelming ascendency of reason; reason which knows and experiences that death and burial is final. Though Jesus had raised Lazarus and others, now Jesus himself was dead. Who can raise him? A dead man cannot raise himself; it is not possible. But when Jesus reveals himself to his disciples, he drives out the mastery of reason even as he had driven out demons, and replaces it with faith, by whose governance reason is sanctified and all things in life all under the sway of faith which has now learned first of all of the resurrection of Jesus. Sermon for Easter Wednesday. The video is here.
Jesus is Man, risen from the dead. Our flesh, our brother. And it is fitting that he eats fish to demonstrate it, for he was as a worm which the devil as a ferocious fish came to devour, heedless of the hook within the worm, the divine nature of Christ, who, in rising from the dead, destroyed the power of the devil. Sermon for Easter Tuesday.
The witnesses were at first incredulous. Mary Magdalene did not recognize him in the garden until he called her name. She told the others, but they could not believe. Then on the road to Emmaus, he makes himself known to two of them, and quickly report to the rest that Mary was right after all; but they cannot believe. Then Jesus appears to them all, and finally they believe it. Do you believe it? Let their eyes teach your eyes. And learn now to believe, and you who have not seen shall be blessed. Christ is risen from the dead. Sermon for Easter Day. The video is here.