A myHT Fortress

Monday, January 25, 2010

You Will Never Run Out of Jesus: A Homily on John 2:1-11

John 2:1-11

Preached at St. John's Lutheran Church, Chicago, IL on 17 January 2010.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

You will never run out of Jesus. That’s the bottom line of today’s Gospel. You will never run out of Jesus. But how do we get to that point?

It’s the third day. Now, some say John is using the days of Creation as a backdrop and outline to describe the true events of Jesus’ ministry. The third day of creation is when God divided up the waters, and land appeared. Here, the Lord divides up the waters, and wine appears.

Perhaps even more importantly, what do you normally think of when you hear the phrase, “the third day?” “On the third day He rose again from the dead,” we confess in the Creed. The third day there was Sunday – Easter Sunday, in particular, but Sunday. No, the day of Christ’s sign at the wedding at Cana may not have been a Sunday, but He does want those sorts of echoes and images in our minds as we hear Christ at work.

You will never run out of Jesus.
The bride and groom had run out of wine. The Virgin Mary tells Jesus. But He has an unusual reply, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." Does He say He can’t help, or won’t help? No. But His help will not involve the Messiah-King ideas that even the Blessed Virgin might have had. His help will be in showing His mercy, bolstering faith, that others may see the glory of God and come to faith in their Savior.
“My hour has not yet come.”

Jesus’ hour – the time when He would purchase and win salvation – was still a few years away. But then, “His hour” continues. “His hour” comes with each and every baptism, as He forgives, rescues, and brings eternal salvation to us. “His hour” comes as we hear the releasing words of Holy Absolution. “His hour” continues as we gather at His Altar, feasting on the Body and Blood given and shed at the cross. “His hour” will be complete when He comes again to usher our redeemed and resurrected flesh into His eternal paradise. And while His hour comes through each of these Holy Gifts, due to the miraculous sign, we focus today on the Gift of the Eucharist.

Dear friends in Christ, what an amazing joy when His hour comes that delivers the forgiveness and life He won, once and for all, on Calvary! What a tremendous Gift that even as the wedding guests received wine from heaven, when the earthly supply failed them, so also we receive the Blood of Jesus, spilled from His wounds at the cross, shed for you. Water became wine, at Christ’s bidding. Now wine becomes not only wine, but also the precious Blood of God the Son!

But wait. You do not always want His hour to come. You can’t stop the initial fulfillment at the cross, but you don’t want His hour to come after you have had a late Saturday night with a few friends and some beverages. You don’t want His hour to come when it interferes with the park district’s sports schedule, or dance lessons, or other extra-curricular activities.

The hour initiated at the cross intersects with your life right now! Praise the Lord – you are experiencing His hour at this very moment!

Last week we heard the Father in heaven proclaim: “Listen to Him!” Today we hear the Virgin Mary tell the servants at the wedding, “Do whatever He tells you!” And now, as His hour continues to come, the Church continues to tell you: “Do whatever He tells you.” Hear His Word, and keep it. Mary heard His Word and kept it. The servants heard His Word and kept it. Now you hear His Word and keep it.

You can’t do that on your own. You can’t even do that cooperating with God. But the Holy Spirit opens your ears and your hearts to hear His Word and keep it.

Yet you do not always do whatever He tells you. What about all those times His Word goes in
one ear and out the other? How often do you hear His Word taught and proclaimed, and say, “Yes. That was a nice interpretation,” as if the pastor or even parochial teacher or principal had a nice opinion, but that is different from what the Word of God says. If the pastor is faithful, he is not preaching opinion, he is proclaiming Jesus and His Word! “Do whatever He tells you,” still applies. We are to hear the Word of God and keep it! Failing to do so is a rebellious sin.

Each week you gather and hear our dear Lord Jesus speak His Word to you. Each week His Word of Law convicts you of your sin, telling you that you deserve only punishment. And each week His Word of Gospel tells you that He releases you from that sin, and has saved you, and is delivering that forgiveness and life to you right now!

That Gospel does not merely talk about Christ. That Gospel brings Christ to you. God uses those words to place Christ into you. And that Gospel keeps coming to you.

And what does that mean? You will never run out of Jesus!

When the Lord spreads His table before you, and forgives your sins as He places Jesus in you – when you feast on the Lamb of God at His wedding banquet, He assures you today: you will never run out of Jesus!

Through His Holy Gifts of Baptism, Absolution, Gospel and His Holy Supper, Jesus Christ is given to us again and again. At those moments, He speaks His Word and tells His servants to fill you with His Sacraments. He delivers only the best, and we rejoice at His eternal wedding celebration, of which we have a little taste here and now. And week after week, you can rejoice and be glad, for you will never run out of Jesus!

Rejoice and be glad, as we continue this wedding feast of the Lamb of God and the Bride of Christ, His Church. Now, the feast does not end after seve
n days, and on the third day, no one will lament, “They have no wine.” No. Be of good cheer, there is plenty of wine. There is plenty of Jesus to go around. You will never run out of Jesus!

But Jesus!: A Homily on the Baptism of Our Lord

Preached at St. John's Lutheran Church, Chicago, IL, on the Sunday after Epiphany, 10 January 2010.

Luke 3:15-22

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

What is Baptism? Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God's command and combined with God's word. But sometimes people do think it is plain water. Many who profess to be Christians will belittle this miracle, calling it “water baptism,” and then talk about a better or higher “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” as if it is something different.

Do you believe in God’s work during Baptism? Do you trust His saving action in that miraculous washing? Or are you falling prey to those who say it is merely an action to commemorate what God has done, to signify His forgiveness and celebrate that you chose Jesus as your Savior.

Dear friends in Christ, do not join those who deny the work of God! Mark and beware of those who engage in the sin of denying Baptism! Repent of the times when you belittle the Gifts given in these Sacred waters.

Jesus is baptized, and the heavens are opened. Saint John the Baptizer points to Christ and declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus has come to be baptized, and John protests. It’s like he has read the catechism. What benefits does Baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

“But Jesus,” John thinks, “You don’t have any sins to forgive! You are forgiveness enfleshed. But Jesus, You don’t need to be rescued from death and the devil! You are the One who does the rescuing. But Jesus, You don’t need eternal salvation! You are salvation – it is even Your Name: Jesus – ‘the Lord saves.’”

John knows that he is not worthy even to untie Jesus’ sandals, but when our Lord says the word, John baptizes Him. And here Jesus comes, wading into the Jordan River, with water up to His knees. He pours water over Jesus, speaking God’s Word of forgiveness and life.

Still, John must have been perplexed as he gave Jesus this washing of rebirth and renewal. He did not need it. So why did Jesus undergo this baptism? To be an example? Many will say that, but it comes up short. Because His human flesh needed it? No, Jesus human nature was holy and pure, just like His divine nature. So what is going on?

Blessed Martin Luther calls it the “Blessed Exchange.” Our dear Lord receives from us all of our flaws, our imperfections, our wickedness, our sickness and death. In exchange, He gives us His perfection, His holiness, His strength and life. While this is an aspect of Christ’s entire earthly life and ministry, it is especially in the forefront at His Baptism.

As Jesus receives Baptism, He dives into a sort of solidarity with us. He is like a sponge that enters horribly muddy and disgustingly filthy water. He then soaks up all the filth in Himself, leaving pure, clean water. This baptismal water then is what washes us clean and removes all filth and wretchedness from us when we are baptized.

“We’re going to die!” was the likely thought running through many heads on US Airways flight 1549 last year, as the jet dove toward the Hudson River. By the grace of God, every passenger and crew member survived and was rescued. They got a second chance at life on earth.

You are baptized, and the heavens are opened. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4.)

In all likelihood, you were too young to have the thought: “We’re going to die!” as you were plunged into the waters of the Font. But you and I have died through Baptism, and through that miracle, have been rescued. Death is the just punishment for our sin, yet Jesus Christ has suffered that death, and in Baptism, you and I were united to that death. Since you only die once, we need not fear our last moments on this earth. We have already died. No dreadful judgment to fear. Christ endured that judgment. Now we have been raised with Christ, up out of the saving waters of Holy Baptism, and walk in newness of life.

Of course, there are those who feel that once they are baptized, they have it made, and they are guaranteed eternal life. They think they can do whatever they want and God will forgive them. They rely on a mistaken Protestant teaching that some call: “Once saved; always saved.”

Baptism does give the guarantee of eternal life, and no one can snatch that away from you. However, you yourself can end up rejecting it. You can turn your back on the gift, and starve your faith to death, losing faith and giving up salvation. The devil cannot steal it from you. Your neighbor cannot pry it away from you. But you can reject it yourself, rejecting God.

Dr. Harold Senkbeil wrote a book a number of years ago entitled: Dying to Live. He stressed this very point, that God has crucified your Old Adam with Christ, and raised you to new life. Now, as His new creature, we live in His Word, and flowing out of our Baptism. We daily die to our old selves, and live in Christ. And we are bound to His Resurrection through our Baptism, so we have the promise of a bodily, eternal life with Him!

This will be evidenced in our lives by our words and works. The baptized

Christian strives to lead a godly life. He fails all the time, but rejoicing in the lord’s forgiveness, he attempts to live the new life God has given, rejoicing in our Risen Christ, who is our light and life.

This ties into the whole point of the Paschal Candle, as well. Lit throughout the Easter season, it represents our Risen Lord. It is also lit for every Baptism, calling to mind that through this sacred washing, God physically binds us to Christ’s own Baptism and Resurrection. We light it again at the funerals of departed Christians, reminding us that through the Baptism, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have died and been buried with Him already, and are already raised. Now, at the Christian’s funeral, we celebrate that we await their bodily resurrection to enjoy eternity with our Lord.

Remember your Baptism! Together with Luther we see the importance of this phrase. We also know that it is an important thought and joy to remember Christ’s Baptism! For in His Baptism, our sins are soaked up by Jesus, and He cleanses us with fresh, holy, and cleansing water! Jesus is Baptized for you, that you may live your new life in Him. Amen!

The Messiah We Want?:A Homily on Lk. 4:16-30

Luke 4:16-30

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I know what you’ve been thinking this morning: “Pastor, are you serious?! Why in the world did we sing, ‘Hark the Glad Sound’?! Isn’t that an Advent hymn!?”

Yes, my friends, and yet sometimes we can get stuck in a rut of associating a hymn with a certain time or day that we forget its many words and phrases that apply it to other times. Don’t just go through the motions of singing it. Look at it. Listen to it. This hymn speaks the very portions of Isaiah that our Lord Jesus preaches in this morning’s Gospel. It reminds us of who our Messiah is and what He does.

For the synagogue congregation at Nazareth, the expectations were off. We’ve heard it many times: they looked for a Christ who would come as a leader, a warrior, a King! This liberty He would bring would remove foreign governments, and restore Israel to the glory days of David and Solomon. All sorts of miracles would be worked, for their own sake.

What does the Messiah come to do? We see the common theme: liberty. But this is not liberty as the founding fathers of our nation describe it. This is not flowing from the eloquent pen of Thomas Jefferson, or Alexander Hamilton. This is not the liberty of great speeches from Scott Brown or Nancy Pelosi. The liberty that you may be considering is what the Nazareth congregation was imagining. They heard of Jesus’ miracles in Capernaum and elsewhere; now they wanted the same for the home court crowd.

Our dear Savior, however, has something else in mind. The liberty that the Messiah brings has nothing to do with occupying governments. It is not dependant upon physical healings (although they can be a beautiful and blessed addition.) Miracles would not be worked for their own sakes, but only to support His teaching, to bolster faith, and to give glory to God.

No, dear Christian friends, this liberty is not about earthly liberty – it transcends earth. It is releasespiritual release! Release from sin; release from death; release from the power of the devil.

“He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” The liberation of the oppressed is not simply physical here. There is spiritual liberation – and the recovery of spiritual sight.

This past week, millions marked the anniversary of the unleashing of the holocaust of abortion. During the past 37 years, our land has been deceived into a spiritual blindness – a blindness that refuses to see the murder of innocents – a blindness that no longer recognizes the gift of life as something from God, not from our constitution.

Many times you and I are drawn into this blindness, being comfortable with the cataracts that the secular world places on our eyes – cataracts that dim our vision and blur the issue, so that we no longer see it as a biblical and moral issue, not a political one.

At times, the devil even darkens vision further. He works hard at convincing us that the Lord’s Word is merely opinion, or someone’s interpretation. A smug and stubborn blindness can result. But do not decide to be blind, my friends. Our Great Physician, who at your baptism removed your blindness and gave you sight, constantly wants to give you a divine cataract surgery.

Jesus has come to proclaim liberty, and give recovery of sight to the blind. Our revealed Savior this morning causes you to recover your sight! He sets you at spiritual liberty, which in turn, makes you His instrument in restoring the sight of others.

Our Epiphany Lord has come to you and, through faith, blesses you in receiving and understanding Him as the Messiah. He comforts you and forgives you and builds you up, week after week, with His Holy Gifts. As He does this, you become reflections of His Epiphany light, and lighten the darkness of the world around you! You are His instruments in restoring sight to the world, one neighbor at a time.

As He preached, the folks of Nazareth realized that they did not want to listen to Jesus. They had been confused as they marveled when He began his sermon. Now, “No longer confused, they are filled with anger—anger that He will not be the Messiah they want.” (Just, Luke 1:1-9:50) They wanted great miracles because they were cool. They wanted these signs because the whole region was talking about them. Forget the teaching. Forget that this is supposed to support Jesus’ claim as Christ. Forget that the Messiah actually needs to be God in the flesh. Just give us the Messiah we want!

We too fall into this train of thought. But often when He is not the Messiah we want, we simply try to give Jesus a makeover. Take away the hard teachings about Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. Tone down on the emphasis of how He does all the work in our conversion. Soften what He teaches regarding the apostolic ministry and the absolution of sin through these men. Place heavier emphasis on His sayings and less on His suffering, death, and resurrection.

When this is done, Jesus has had the ultimate in Extreme Makeovers. He is no longer the Messiah of the Bible. He becomes a good teacher, joining the ranks of Mohammed, Buddha, Ghandi, and the like.

Dear friends in Christ: do not give Jesus an extreme makeover. Do not transform Him into what you want.

And do not be citizens of Nazareth, ready to push Jesus off the cliff, and watch Him fall like Wile E. Coyote from the Warner Bros. cartoons. No. Receive the message with joy of the One who comes to restore your sight and give you liberty.

Beloved in the Lord, Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal! He reveals Himself as the true Messiah through these very signs that Isaiah spoke. He reveals Himself as the true Messiah in His shedding of His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. He reveals Himself as the true Messiah in His bodily rising to new and glorious life. He reveals Himself as the true Messiah in coming to us and delivering this forgiving release and liberty through His holy sacraments.

Through the wondrous miracle of the Holy Spirit’s work, you and I are converted, transformed into God’s children, and made His own. We are given the precious gift of faith, and as God’s faithful, we want the Messiah He sent!

We want Jesus the true Messiah, who declares:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Yes! The Spirit of the Lord leads you to want this Messiah, Jesus! The Spirit of the Lord delivers this Good News – this Gospel – to you, and proclaims spiritual liberty to you. The Spirit of the Lord recovers your sight! Thanks be to God who sends this Spirit to gift you with His spiritual liberty, and with true sight! Amen.