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Sermons

Here is a list of Pastor Wagner's sermons. Most of them have been preached at Christ Our Savior; however, some of the earlier ones were preached at other locations.

You might notice that some of of the sermons do not have an audio player. These sermons were not recorded. However, all of the sermons do have a link to the manuscript.




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Septuagesima

This prompted the parable you heard as today’s text, but not before Jesus first answered,

Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:28-30)

So that might help to give a little context for the parable—the parable where a master goes to the marketplace several times to find workers for his vineyard. It might also give you pause to how you have most often heard the parable explained—that God is equally but unfairly gracious to all whom He has placed in His vineyard, regardless of how early or late in the day that was, and in this case, the day being the lifetime of a person, so how early or late in life one came to faith.

Now, I don’t mean to dissuade you from such an understanding. It is an obvious understanding of the parable since the master goes to the marketplace throughout the day to hire workers. Then, at the end of the work day, he pays them all the same, no matter when they were hired. It is, therefore, a good sense to have of your heavenly Father, who is a most gracious Master, equally and unfairly so.

So, if you’ve been a Christian since infancy or have only very recently come into the Church Militant, you are a Christian, one claimed by Christ the crucified in those Holy Waters and made a son of His Father and Yours, and co-heir with Him of heavenly riches. Those heavenly riches—forgiveness, life, and salvation—He gives equally to all of His beloved children, though unfairly, because all have need of them, no matter when in life they have come to faith. You are all equally forgiven of your sins, given eternal life, and saved from this valley of tears, for the sake of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul described oneness in Christ regardless of heritage, station in life, and gender, but you could add age and longevity in the faith to that as well. You are all one in Christ; that should be cause for great rejoicing!

But think also of the master paying the hired hands each the same thing regardless of how much they have worked and how hard they have toiled under the heat of the day or didn’t. The parable now sounds like a warning against expecting more of what is promised for more labor, as if the work that you have been hired to do somehow earns you more than what is promised.

What is promised is forgiveness, life, and salvation. How much you’ve left behind to follow Jesus, how much good that you’ve done in the name of Jesus, how much you’ve given for the sake of Jesus…all of this has no bearing on the promise that God has made to you—forgiveness, life, and salvation. To expect something else or something more is to turn an evil eye toward God; or, to put it more precisely, to turn one’s eye evil by taking one’s eyes off of God. Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs explains it thus:

The master’s actions are stunningly unexpected. However, they are only insulting or hard to swallow…if one takes one’s eyes off of the owner. One can imagine the scene as the parable sets it up. Wages are paid out, beginning with the last group and ending with the first. As the first group stands in line and waits their turn, their gaze falters, leaving the master who has hired them, given them meaningful work, and promised them a fair wage. They stop looking at the master, and they start looking at their fellow workers. That’s when they get into trouble. Their eye actually becomes evil because the master is good to others.

It would seem that the most at risk for obtaining this evil eye would be pastors and those in offices with similar work as the apostles. Most simply put, it is to the disciples that Jesus told this parable, because Peter boasted on behalf of all of them that they had given up more than anyone else to be a follower of Jesus. And, being apostles, they could easily have thought that they have done more work for the Church than an ordinary Christian—church history would agree with them in this regard. Pastors, missionaries, and teachers in the church might say that they do more work in and for the church than anyone else. Who else spends as much time in study and preparation and delivery and administration in order that you might hear and receive the salvation wrought by Christ? While there are certainly laymen who spend as much time, if not more, doing “church work,” by-and-large, the bulk of this “church work” is done by church workers.

That is not meant to sound as a boast on my part, though it certainly can become one. And in the event it does, then my eye has become evil toward God, especially if in that boast I expect more or something other than what has been promised to all who have been made a part of God’s vineyard, the Church. God guard me and all pastors and workers in the Church from this arrogance.

Still, there are degrees of difficulty in the work that God gives to all of His children. To this one He says go there and do that work which will take you the better part of the day; to another He says go here and do this work which will take you only an hour. Some have a harder task in the Church than others, but in every case, God provides the means to see to the task that He has given you. So, perhaps you were hired at the third hour, or sixth hour, or eleventh hour—to you each God has given a task and the means to accomplish it. And while in the parable the promise isn’t repeated, it is still the same for being brought into the vineyard—forgiveness, life, and salvation.

It is as St. Paul wrote, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Recall Jesus’ parable of the talents, wherein the master, going on a trip, gives to three of his servants a different amount of talents, “each according to his ability,” Jesus said. (cf. Matthew 25:14-15) So it is with each of you. The work you have been given to do is according to the ability that God has given you. Some do more than others, who in turn are doing less than the some, but each are doing what it is that God has given them to do.

To then look at what your brother and sister have done in comparison to your work and see that they receive the same forgiveness, life, and salvation which God has promised to you is to take your eye off of Him who promised this to you and turn your eye evil toward Him. The promise that God has made to you to forgive your sins, give you eternal life, and save you is not dependent on the work He has given you to do—you cannot get more of any of this promise for having done more than your brother or sister in Christ. Likewise, you do not receive any less of this promise because you have been given less to do than a brother or sister in Christ.

So, what does doing the work with eyes fixed on the master look like? Well, simply put, if you’re not looking at anyone else around you, then you are not comparing what it is you do, how hard it is that you’re working, or how long you have been working to that of anyone else. With your eyes fixed on Jesus, your work becomes a joyful task in which there is no boasting, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, as St. Paul put it. (cf. Philippians 3:14)

Then, the end of the day will come—the end of days will come—and the Master will call all to account for what they have done. Like sheep and goats, recall, is how the King will separate mankind. The sheep—you, dear baptized believers—will be ushered into the everlasting life that was promised to them, their good deeds recounted for them, unawares of having done so much. That’s because joyfully doing the work that God has given you to do with your eyes fixed on Jesus involves no score keeping; there is no evil eye involved here.

But St. Peter wanted to keep score. James and John wanted to keep score, according to the request of their mother. (cf. Matthew 20:20-21)(cf. Philippians 3:4-10) It’s inevitable that score keeping will happen; it’s part and parcel of life in this Vale of Tears. Fixing your eyes on Jesus is an impossible task for you. Only Jesus can fix your eyes on Him, and when He does, He draws them to His cross and empty grave—to His death and resurrection, the means by which He makes the promise to you—forgiveness, life, and salvation. There, see the greatest work done to earn the promise; after all, who among you could give your life and take it up again?

There, at the cross, Jesus took all your sin upon Himself and died with it. His death destroyed the score. His death destroyed the boasting of working longer and harder in the vineyard. His death took all of that and more away from you—all your sin and death and guilt and evil desire—and destroyed it once and for all. His resurrection brought to light immortality and life. These all Jesus gives to you freely, without any worth or merit in you, all for His sake. Therefore, “On the Last Day, the reign of God in Jesus will come in all its fullness. All who have been called as workers in the vineyard—all disciples of Jesus, without distinction—will receive from the Master what he deems just, in accordance with his pledge when they were first called,” Dr. Gibbs wrote.

Do you believe this? Then let it be done to you as you believe. You are saved. You have eternal life. You may not feel it now, even as you struggle with your Old Man, but these are all yours because you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Download media: 20200209.septuagesima.mp3 (6.76 MiB)
audio recorded on my digital recorder
preached on 09 Feb 2020

The Baptism of Our Lord

The story was told again and again. Children would point to the stones at Gilgal and ask, “What does this mean?” Parents would tell their children the story of how the waters were parted, how the Children of Israel passed through the Jordan, how they finally made it into the land that God had promised to give them—how they had left behind the wilderness and all of it’s hardships and killings and that land of sin and slavery and entered into the land of life and bread and iron and copper. (cf. Deuteronomy 8:9) In short, they Children of Israel passed through the waters from death to life!

So, when I say that the crossing of the Jordan is a type of Baptism, you can see how that works. For you, yourselves has passed over from death to life by way of the waters of the font. Now, this font, and many like it, may never have or may never in the future contain Jordan water, but for your sake, the source of the water isn’t important, and that’s because your Baptism is connected to that of your Savior, Jesus Christ.

It was to the Jordan that Christ the Lord went in order to be Baptized by John. Here’s where things really get interesting. According to John the Evangelist, the location that John was baptizing as Jesus arrived was “in Bethany across the Jordan.” (cf. John 1:28) Where is this? Well, the name has changed slightly, but it’s all there in that phrase from St. John’s Gospel. The place where John was baptizing was at Bethabara, the place of crossing.

It was no coincidence that John was baptizing there with a baptism of repentance, but was chosen deliberately. Remember the stones in and across the river? They served as a reminder of the people of the work of God to bring the people out of bondage. The bondage then was slavery, but as John was baptizing with a baptism of repentance, the bondage he had in mind was to sin.

So, as it happened, before Jesus arrived, John spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees who were coming to his baptism.

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father,” for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:7-10)

God’s wrath is coming, and it is inescapable. If there would be anyone guilty of not repenting of sin, it would be the Pharisees and Sadducees, who thought themselves sinless, though I’m sure at times you might include yourself in that group. Remember, it was of them that Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 15:31-32) So, John’s message was as much for them as it was for everyone who came to him at Bethany across the Jordan. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. What greater place than this, where the bonds of slavery were removed from the Children of Israel and they crossed from death into life?”

And what about “these stones.” It’s fascinating that that phrase is used both in Joshua and Matthew—these stones. That might be an indication that John was using either the monument at Gilgal or the twelve stones in the Jordan to make his point to the Pharisees and Sadducees. “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” The prospect of that is exciting, if you ask me. John points to a set of twelve stones, a reminder of God’s providence and mightiness, and tells them God can make from them His own children.

Anyway, to this spot—this spot from Joshua 3 and 4—Jesus, whose name in Hebrew is Joshua, arrives to be baptized, in order for He and John to fulfill all righteousness. Down into this spot in the River Jordan the two men descend, the place where the Children of Israel passed through on dry land, and place where, for all rights, had they done so without divine providence, they should have all drowned and died, and Jesus takes that death for them, and comes out of the water as their very life. But, He comes out of the water as your very life, too.

Remember that I said that your baptism is connected to His. In every step of Jesus’ life, He was fulfilling the Law and all righteousness for you, and that includes His baptism. He and John go down into the River Jordan at the place of crossing for you. He did it with you in mind and carrying you in His own flesh and blood, only to come out of the water to the words thundering from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” So, if you are there with Him, by way of your own baptism into His death and resurrection, then those words are as much speaking of you as they are of Him.

So, while you may have been baptized in this font or one quite like it, with water poured from this or another tap, with Christ you have been baptized in the River Jordan at the place of crossing. Your baptism is connected to His by way of His word and command—for it is the Word of God which makes this washing the sacred thing that it is—Jesus entered the Jordan for and with you, and tells you to be baptized in His name for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. And it is because of the command and Word of Christ that Luther included this sentence in his flood prayer: “Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood, and a lavish washing away of sin.”

Because Jesus was baptized for you, your baptism now grants you everything that His perfect life, death, and resurrection earned. So, by way of your baptism, God reached down and turned your dead heart of stone into a living heart of faith and life and the Voice from heaven declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” At this font or one like it, you passed through the River Jordan on dry ground, passing from your bondage to sin the freedom in Christ, from the death of the wrath of God to life everlasting for the sake of Christ. For, just as with the Children of Israel, without divine providence, you should be drowned and die yourself with your sin and all evil desire, but God has instituted baptism for a saving flood for you for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Once you were enemies of God, but in Christ you have been reconciled. Once, you lived on the east side of the Jordan, lost in sin and death, but in Christ, you have been crossed over to freedom and life. And while it is so easy to plunge back into death and enmity—to succumb to one sin or another, to lose yourself in one vice or another—remember this, you are still covered in the blood of the Lamb, the one that John pointed to at Bethany across the Jordan, and proclaimed him to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

You are one of those stones that John pointed to and said, “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” The Sunday School kids get it right: “Father Abraham had many sons; many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord!” So, if you ever find yourself at Gilgal or Bethany across the Jordan, find that pile of stones, and see in them the Lord’s promise to you. Remember that you were brought through water to the Promised Land of peace with God and salvation. You have been taken out of death to life for the sake of Jesus Christ. The Father has said of you, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus Christ was baptized there at Bethany across the Jordan for you and with you—into this you have been baptized, and you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Download media: 20200112.baptismofourlord.mp3 (5.82 MiB)
audio recorded on my digital recorder
preached on 12 Jan 2020

The Nativity of Our Lord

First, the flesh and blood of the Word of God is the same flesh and blood as yours. Assumed in the womb of the virgin Mary, the Word became flesh and dwelt among man. God gave Himself as His own creation to mankind in order to walk with them, talk to them and teach them, eat with them—kind of like what He did long ago, at many times and in various ways. But Jesus also healed them and forgave them. And He charged His church to continue giving Him to His people in Word and Sacrament.

So, the people continue to hear and receive the Word of God as He is proclaimed to them—without the visions and the wrestling matches and the burning bushes and dinners. None of those other things happen with any regularity or as a matter of new revelation—so, if they happen, they cannot be discounted out of hand, but must always be measured against the Scripture. Well, maybe the dinners still count with some regularity, in a manner of speaking.

You see, in the second place, the Word of God is still become flesh for you. In the simple means of bread and wine, the Word of God comes to you in flesh and blood, giving Himself for you for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. Up there on the altar, the Word of God makes these means what they are for you, because He still dwells among you in order to walk with you, talk to you and teach you, and, yes, even eat with you. He gives Himself to you to make you His own. That is His glory, which He reveals to you.

It was revealed on the cross, a most inglorious death, but by His death on the cross, He shed His blood and gave His body over to death in order that you would be forgiven for all of your sins, won back from death to life, and saved from this body of sin. In that, the Father and Son glory, for it is their victory over sin, death, and the devil—their enemies, and yours.

So, that you may continue in this, the Word of God, He continues to come to you in Word and Sacrament. There is no need to look for the visions, burning bushes, wrestling matches, dinners, or any other such thing for God to interact with you. He doesn’t promise to come to you that way. But He does promise to come to you in His Word proclaimed to you—flesh and blood comes to you in order to teach and heal and forgive and renew and restore. He does promise to come to you in Sacrament, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—flesh and blood comes to you in order to teach and heal and forgive and renew and restore.

He gives to you all that you need for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. The Word became flesh and dwells among you. God lived and died for you. God rose again and ascended for you. God continues to give Himself to you and be with you, flesh-and-blood, so that when He returns, He will take you to be where He is for eternity. The Word became flesh, and you have seen His glory, full of grace and truth, and the truth is that you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Download media: 20191225.christmas.mp3 (3.27 MiB)
audio recorded on my digital recorder
preached on 25 Dec 2019

Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord

Tutankhamun—affectionately known today as King Tut—was a boy king. He became Pharaoh at eight or nine years of age and ruled until his death at the young age of 18.

Mary Stuart was six days old when she assumed the throne of her father, James V, to become Mary I of Scotland. You might know her better as Mary, Queen of Scots. Regents ruled Scotland in her stead while she was young and lived in France. Interestingly, her father was 17 months old when he became king, and her son was 13 months old when he became king. Ruling young seems to run in the Stuart family.

Henry VI became king of England when he was eight months old. On top of that, he became king of France when he was 10 months old. His reign over France didn’t last long, though, as Joan of Arc was a force in taking the country back from England.

Ivan VI became Tsar of Russian at two months old. His rule lasted all of a year before he was deposed and kept in solitary confinement in one fortress after another for over 20 years. When he was 23, he was murdered by one of his prison guards.

John I became king of France on the day he was born! He died five days later, though. It is thought that his regent, Philip, who was also his uncle, poisoned him. It was Philip who assumed the throne on the death of John.

Not to be outdone, according to legend, Shapur II became Shah of the Sassanid Empire (think modern-day Iran) while still in utero! The legend states that Persian nobles put a crown on the belly of King Hormizd’s widow, and so was the first (and only, as far as I know), coronation of a fetal king. How they knew he was a he is beyond me, so I wonder if they would have called him something other than Shah had he been born a girl or if the coronation would have been declared illegitimate. I’m sure you could work some pro-life argument into this legend, too. Nevertheless, Shapur II is considered a successful ruler, having done so for 70 years!

More recently, Oyo was crowned king of the Toro Kingdom in Uganda. That happened 24 years ago, and he was three years old at the time. At 27, he still rules the Toro Kingdom, though his reign is more as a cultural icon than an actual head of state.

So, it’s not unusual that a child would be made king or queen. Such a monarch was surrounded by regents who would perform the duties of the king or queen in his or her name until such a time that the monarch was old enough to assume those duties him- or herself. Their age and vulnerability would also have made them easy targets of those who sought to usurp the throne, such as (possibly) in the case of John I of France. History is filled with young kings and queens, some of whom were even crowned as infants.

That said, there is only one case in history where a King became an infant. In all of those cases where an infant became a king, it was done so in order to rule and reign, either as the puppet of another or to preserve the dynastic line. There really is no other reason to crown an infant. But, in the case of the King who became an infant, that was done in order to save.

The angel said to Joseph,

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

The Son of God left His throne in heaven and took on the flesh of His creation. He was conceived in a virgin’s womb and born. Wrapped in swaddling cloths, nestled in the arms of Mary was the King of the Universe. Joseph would do as the angel commanded him; eight days after He was born, this Infant gets a foretaste of another coronation that He would undergo as He is circumcised and given the name Jesus, “[F]or he will save his people from their sins.”

Mind you, dear hearers, that this is no simple or ordinary abdication, though. In fact, this is no abdication at all. When you hear that Jesus left His throne in heaven, even as you might sing in some Christmas songs, an abdication is not at all what is meant. What is meant is what St. Paul described in his letter to the Philippians: “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

And so you have that wonderful hymn, found in Lutheran Service Book, number 539—Christ is the World’s Redeemer. The third stanza in very brief fashion describes the work that Jesus did from His crucifixion on: “Down through the realm of darkness / He strode in victory, / And at the hour appointed / He rose triumphantly / And now, to heav’n ascended, / He sits upon the throne / Whence He had ne’er departed, / His Father’s and His own.” (emphasis mine) From there, He lives and reigns to all eternity; His kingdom is everlasting—very much unlike the reign of any and all of those infants who became monarch.

It is well that He didn’t leave His throne in the sense that He abdicated it. Had that been the case, then He wouldn’t have been the fulfillment of the prophecy, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” Immanuel—“God with us”—would be a lie. When a king abdicates his throne, he is no longer king; if the Son of God would have abdicated His throne to become Man, He would no longer be God, so He would not have been “God with us.”

Were He not “God with us,” then He wouldn’t be your Redeemer. Only God can redeem you from your sin. Only man can shed his blood as propitiation. Only “God with us” could do both! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is your Propitiation, for He took on flesh and blood like yours in order to shed that blood on the cross and give that flesh over to death in order to save you from death; He is, therefore, your Redeemer, who bought you back from death to life with His own precious, holy blood the price.

But the Son of God did leave His throne, in the sense that St. Paul wrote. He did not come as Infant in order to rule with a mighty arm. The rod of iron is in His hand for those who reject Him, as the Psalmist wrote. (cf. Psalm 2:9) But this King sets aside His throne to come in grace and with favor for man, to serve man with Salvation, and to do so by way of His death, resurrection, and ascension.

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! (Luke 2:10-11, 14)

He now rules from that throne as your most gracious King, ordering all things for your benefit, edification, and salvation.

And this King has regents, too. This is not in the sense of the regents of those infant kings, but in the sense that He has given authority to certain men on earth to forgive sins in His stead, proclaim salvation on His order, and distribute His treasure, His recompense, His reward, the great mysteries of the Sacraments, as He has directed. These regents, then, are stewards of the promises of God, pastors as you know it.

Therefore, in the stead and by the command of the King who became Infant, I joyfully proclaim to you that the Son of God is your Redeemer. The infant in Mary’s arms, Jesus is your Salvation. He is your Propitiation. He has come for you, and so you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Download media: 20191224.christmaseve.mp3 (5.18 MiB)
audio recorded on my digital recorder
preached on 24 Dec 2019

Mid-week Advent III

What you heard from the Apocalypse this evening is the epilogue of the book. After granting the Apostle the beatific vision of the end of creation, with the signs in the sun and moon and stars and trees, the creatures with multiple eyes and heads and wings and horns—enough to drive any man mad—the angel tells him, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

Then Jesus tells him, “And behold, I am coming soon.” μαράνα θά!

What John was privileged to see and relate to the church was enough to drive men mad. To see creation being burned up, the sun and moon destroyed, the various beasts and creatures, and to hear the martyrs under the throne would be quite frightening. But not so for one such as John; not so for those who bear the image of Christ as John did.

Even today, to see what goes on beyond these walls, out in this world where the devil is allowed to reign for a time, it can be a frighteningly maddening sight—even more so when that which is perpetrated is directed squarely at the Bride of Christ or the individual Christian. Mockery and hatred and persecution and death—these are your lot in this Vale of Tears for bearing the image of Christ. What does the angel say about this? “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy…”

This can be your mantra, too, dear hearers. While you face evil and hardship from all sides outside of this refuge (and perhaps even in it, as this place is still a location in this fallen world), you, too, can say, “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy.” Dear Dr. Luther wrote as much in his quintessential Reformation hymn: “And take they our life, / Goods, fame, child and wife, / Let these all be gone, / They yet have nothing won; / The Kingdom our remaineth.” Let the evildoers do their worst, they cannot rob you of your salvation!

Scripture is full of such exhortation for you. Jesus said, “[D]o not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” (Matthew 10:28a) Both Peter and Jude warn of the coming scoffers in the last day, but that they are nothing to fear. Even Paul lets his listeners know that there will be evildoers to watch out for. Watch and be warned, they all say, because they are out to get you. But, do not fear them for what they can do to your body, but do not let them steal you of your salvation—do not let them drag out of the Church, do not let them cause you to doubt the faith that you have been given in Christ. Let them do their worst, but watch out for their schemes and games.

Knowing that they’re out there, knowing that they mean to cause you harm, spiritual harm, at the devil’s guidance, you should all the more desire the imminent return of Christ. After all, when He returns, those who do this evil will meet their end, and you will no longer have to concern yourself with them. So, the prayer becomes urgent as a result of the terror and evil all around. Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Come now, O Lord! μαράνα θά!

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and the murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” There it is! Those who have washed their robes have a right to the tree of life. The evildoers and filthy are on the outside; they do not have that access that those who are clean do. You know it from another passage from Revelation. Upon seeing a great, white host, an elder asked John, “Who are these?” “Sir, you know,” he replied. “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14) It’s nothing other than the blood of Jesus which makes them pure, which grants them access to the tree of life. Those who are not purified by Christ are on the outside. The difference? Well, Jesus shed his blood on the cross for all; those on the outside refused the offer. In other words, if you’re saved, it’s all Jesus’ doing, but if your damned, it’s all your doing.

So, Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” As Dr. Louis Brighton wrote,

Christ calls it my reward, not their reward; it is the reward which Christ himself earned, and which he freely gives to all believers by grace. The “reward” itself is the gift of eternal life in God’s holy presence, earned for God’s people by the death and resurrection of the Lamb of God. This “reward” is represented by the tree of life.

The reward is Christ’s, not yours. He’s the one who earned it. He’s the one who merited it. He’s the one who has done all the work in order to be rewarded—in order to be given a recompense. It is His! And what does He do with it? He gives it freely to you. To you, whom He has purified by His blood, given faith to believe and trust in Him for salvation, who take Him at His Word, He gives His reward: eternal life with Him in paradise, a place at His victory banquet, to be one among that great, white host who have come out of the tribulation.

μαράνα θά! Jesus said, “And behold, I am coming soon.” He gives you a picture of what His coming again is going to look like. It’s a frightening picture, but the outcome is a glorious one for the one who bears the image of Christ. “Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book,” Jesus said. The one who keeps these words are the one who is kept in the Word, who bears the image of Christ. Therefore, the one who keeps the words of this prophecy is you, dear Baptized, one who is forgiven for all of your sins. Therefore, the one who keeps the words of this prophecy is the one who hears Jesus say, “Behold, I am coming soon,” and replies, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” “Come now, O Lord!

μαράνα θά!

In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Download media: 20191218.midweekadvent3.mp3 (4.02 MiB)
audio recorded on my digital recorder
preached on 18 Dec 2019
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