Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sermon for Lent 1 February 26, 2012

“A Mighty Fortress”
Text: Luke 4:1-13 (Romans 10:8b-13)

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

The First Sunday in Lent is traditionally set aside to remember the temptation of Jesus. When fresh off His baptism in the Jordan River, and the voice from Heaven that said, “You are my beloved Son,” (Luke 3:22) the Spirit leads Jesus out into the wilderness to fast and pray for forty days and forty nights. Not as punishment, but as a time of preparation for his public ministry; for the work He was about to begin. And while Jesus is out there, alone and hungry, Satan decides to take advantage of this opportunity. And so comes to Jesus and tempts Him to sin.

Now, whenever I’ve read this story (and maybe you’re like me) – I’ve always pictured the devil coming to Jesus in a very confrontational way. If . . . you are the Son of God, Satan says. Challenging the assertion. Trying to get Jesus to prove it. Trying to get Jesus to doubt it. If you are the Son of God, your Father wouldn’t be treating you this way. It can’t possibly be true.

And I guess I’ve always thought of it that way for Satan confronts us that way too, doesn’t he? Especially when difficulties come. When struggles and suffering come. When trial and uncertainty and darkness is all that seems ahead for us. Sometimes we get that little, nagging, doubting voice in our heads, don’t we? You think you’re a child of God? Really! Would a heavenly Father treat His child this way? Wouldn’t He make sure this stuff doesn’t happen to you? Really, isn’t this proof that you’re not who you think you are? Don’t believe it! You’ve been deceived.

So I think that’s part of it. And I think those thoughts have caused a lot of people to doubt and fall away. But I also think there’s more to it than that. For Jesus in this story, and for us. For I don’t think Satan puts all his eggs in one basket. And there’s another way he comes to us and tempts us. Another way he gets under our skin and into our minds. Another way he gets us to listen and lead us astray. And if he does it to us, then he also did it to Jesus, who (we are told) was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) And that other way is not by coming to us and confronting us, by coming to us and looking like our best friend.

And so imagine it like that, that day in the wilderness. . . . Jesus, listen – I’m not the enemy at all! I’m your friend. And (as it looks now) your only friend! I’m here to help. To make thing easier. For you’re the Son of God, right? And if you’re the Son of God, why are you hungry? Just make some food for yourself. That’s not hard for you! What’s the harm in that? You’re Father would understand. . . .

And if you’ve come for the kingdoms of the world – look, let’s stop this! I’ll just give them to you. If you just acknowledge that they’re mine, I’ll let you have them! We don’t have to be on opposite sides, you know. Why can’t we just get along? . . .

And speaking of that, why are you out here all by yourself? This is no place and no way to get people to follow you! Look, I know these people. Let me help you out. I’ve got a plan! Show the people who you are – you know, your power and glory! Throw yourself off the Temple. You won’t get hurt. For you’re the Son of God, right? And if you’re the Son of God, then you got angels all around to help you. Hey, they’ll add to the show! . . . Won’t that be better than this?

A better way than God’s way. Isn’t that how Satan convinced Adam and Eve? Isn’t that how he got to the children of Israel? And isn’t that how he gets us too? . . . Look, I’m here to help! Really! There’s more than one wisdom. There’s more than one truth. There’s more than one way. Your Father will understand. It’s not that bad. If it feels good it can’t be wrong. Can’t we just get along? Just do what comes naturally. Everyone’s doing it. Times have changed. . . .

And we fall for it, don’t we? I know I do! I wish I could say I was like Jesus. Who resisted the confrontation. Who resisted the “best friend” act. Who put down the lies and false promises of Satan with the Word of God. Seeing through his tricks and sending him packing. And trusting His Father. No matter what. Even when it didn’t look good. Even in the wilderness. Even on the cross!

Sometimes I do that. Mostly I don’t. I know I should, but I find that I can’t. (Romans 7) I am too weak. I am too sinful. I want to be like Jesus. I do! You too, I know. Fresh off our baptisms, fresh out of Church and absolution . . . But we are not.

And so it’s important today to see Jesus here not as our example – in how to do battle against the devil and win! To buck us up and get us to try harder next time. No! But to see Him here as our Savior – the One who did do battle against the devil, for us who are weak and sinful; for us in our place – and won! Jesus is not showing us how to fight, but fighting for us! One on one. A new Adam, against the same old enemy. Or as Luther wrote, and as we just sang: “But for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected.” (LSB #656 v 2)

And He took it all. Luke slipped that in there at the end: When the devil had ended every temptation. Not just these three, but every temptation. A much greater weight than we will ever feel! For we usually cave long before we feel even half the devil’s force and weight of craft and temptation. But Jesus felt it all – its full and cumulative weight pressing down hard. Here in the wilderness, and on the cross – when “the opportune time” came for Satan again. When on the cross not just one sin, or one person’s sin, or one nation’s sin, or all believers’ sins, but every sin from the beginning of the world already committed, and every sin unto the end of the world yet to be committed – were laid upon Him. And that familiar voice returned: if you are the Son of God . . . Challenging Him. Befriending Him. There’s a better way . . . an easier way . . . I’m here to help, Jesus!

But Jesus stayed, in the wilderness, and on the cross. To atone for your sin. And what looked like defeat in His death, turned out to be triumph in His resurrection.

And that victory is our victory too! The victory we could never accomplish on our own, but now ours by grace through faith. Now ours as we are baptized into Jesus’ triumphant death and resurrection. Now ours as we eat His body and drink His blood. Ours, for we are not on our own, but now we live in Him and He is us. And so His life is my life. And yours. For all He did He did for you. His birth, His circumcision, His life. His temptation, His obedience, his faith. His suffering, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension. All yours. All given to you when you hear those wonderful words: I forgive you all your sins.

For forgiveness is not getting off the hook. Forgiveness is getting a new life. The life of Christ, given to you. The life of Christ that will never end. Because, as St. Paul wrote, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. You will be saved from the devil, from your sin, from yourself. You will be saved, not because of what you did, because you said the right words – but because of what Jesus did for you. You will be saved, for you have a Savior. Who fought for you, and won!

 Satan will make you try to forget that, and rely on yourself. He’ll make you try to doubt it, and think yourself unworthy. He’ll try to make you think he’s your best friend and has a better way. And he will not give up. And so Jesus taught us to pray: And lead us not into temptation. And what do we mean when we pray this? Father, rescue me, for only you can. Don’t leave me on my own! Send Your Spirit to guard and keep me. Your Spirit, to lead me to Christ and keep me in Christ. In Christ, where I am safe. In Christ, where is my life and victory. In His flesh and blood – in the wilderness, on the cross, and on the altar. That I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. (Small Catechism, explanation to the Second Article)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, do not underestimate the enemy. But also remember who won. For that is the message this day. That against the devil and all his works and all his ways, we have A Mighty Fortress. A Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11) In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Daily Readings for February 26-March 3, 2012

Lent Midweek February 29 – Pastor Stuenkel - Sherman
Psalm 38    “Make Haste to Help Me”
Catechism: What do you believe according to these words?

In this first temptation, and first sin, we see the importance of God's Word. God's Word was spoken to Adam when God gave him freedom to enjoy all that was in the Garden of Eden. To eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not good for it was not given them by God. Man fell into sin when he turned away from that Word that gave Him life.
In today’s wonderful epistle of encouragement, St. Paul teaches that Jesus is the Second Adam who, by His faithful and obedient suffering unto death, did what Adam failed to do. He trusted in the Father for us. He died in our place. He fulfilled the whole will and Law of God for us. It is called the “blessed exchange” that just as the disobedience of Adam brought sin and death “to the many” so the obedience of Christ brings righteousness, life, and salvation “to the many” through faith in Him. The First Sunday in Lent celebrates our Lord’s victory over Satan in His temptation in the wilderness. Man fell into sin when he turned away from that Word that gave Him life. The season of Lent is a time to return to our Baptism in which our "Old Adam" is drowned in repentance and the “New Man” is made alive through the Word of our Savior. Jesus used God's Word to defeat Satan's attacks. God's Word is our defense too. We especially need to rely on God's promises of forgiveness through Christ. Jesus’ ministry began with His temptation in the wilderness, not simply to give us an example of how we can overcome temptations, nor to show Jesus as our coach, who says, “See, I did it, so can you!” Rather, it is to show Jesus as the faithful Man for us, our Savior, who says, “See, I did it for you!” This is why He is our faithful high priest from whom we can receive grace to help us in every time of need.

LUTHERAN HOUR   February 26
"Repent" Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour: Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus
Is repentance important? Is repentance necessary? The answer is an unqualified "yes." True, Jesus loves us as we are-but He never leaves us as we were. (Mark 1:14-15)
WSMI              Carlinville, IL              1540    AM      Sun      9:30 am
WLUJ              Springfield, IL             89.7     FM       Sun      3:00 pm
WLLM             Lincoln, IL                   1370    AM      Sun      7:00 am
WLLM             Lincoln, IL                   1370    AM      Sun      7:00 pm
Daily Lectionary February 26 – March 3, 2012
February 26                                 Psalm 77, Job 4:1-21, Ephesians 2:1-10
February 27                                    Psalm 77, Job 5:8-27, 1 Peter 3:8-18a
February 28                          Psalm 77, Proverbs 30:1-9, Matthew 4:1-11
March 1                          Psalm 22:23-31, Genesis 16:1-6, Romans 4:1-12
March 2                          Psalm 22:23-31, Genesis 16:7-15, Mark 8:27-30
March 3                                                             Looking ahead to Lent 2
                   Genesis 32:22–32, 1 Thessalonians 4:1–7, Matthew 15:21–28

Look forward to Second Sunday in LenT (Reminiscere)
Genesis 32:22–32; 1 Thessalonians 4:1–7 or Romans 5:1–5; Matthew 15:21–28
Holding God to His Word
Jacob wrestled with God; he would not let Him go until he received a blessing from Him (Genesis 32:2232). So it was with the Canaanite woman. Though Jesus seemed to ignore and reject her, she continued to call upon His name and look to Him for help (Matthew 15:2128). Even when the Lord called her a little dog, she held on to Him in faith and would not let Him wriggle out of His words: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” This Gentile woman shows herself to be a true Israelite, who struggles with God and man in Christ and prevails. “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Matthew 15:27–28). This is the sanctifying will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:17)—to test your faith in order that it may be refined and strengthened. For tribulation produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. And hope in Christ does not disappoint (Romans 5:15).

Saturday   February 25                 5:30 pm                            Divine Service
Sunday     February 26                 9:00 am       Bible Class / Sunday School
                                                   10:00 am                            Divine Service
Wednesday February 29                5:00 pm                              Confirmation
                                          5:45 – 6:45 pm                        Lenten Luncheon
                                                     7:00 pm            Lenten Midweek Service
                                                     7:30 pm                                              AA
Thursday        March 1                 9:00 am                     LWML Bible Study
Friday             March 2                                                  Pastor’s Family Day
Saturday         March 3                 5:30 pm                            Divine Service

Ash Wednesday Sermon 2012

Ash Wednesday
God’s Gift of Forgiveness
Save Me Because of Your Unfailing Love (Psalm 6 )

In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 
Our text for tonight is the Psalm for Ash Wednesday, Psalm 6.

Lent in many ways is a journey. We journey with our Lord to the cross and deal with the forgiveness of our sins. Each week we will hear a portion of the reading of the Passion story of our Lord, and we will reflect upon our Lord’s death and what that means to sinners like you and me. That reflection is a familiar part of Lent.

It would be easy to make a journey like that as far as the journey goes. A trip down memory lane. A stroll through the story of Jesus’ death. But Lent in the Church really has two focuses: First, it is a time to reflect on Christ’s Passion and death. Second, it is a time of learning and spiritual renewal through the Word of God. In the Early Church it was during Lent that those preparing for Baptism received their final instructions in the faith before being baptized. So what we will be doing this Lent is hearing about Christ’s Passion and death, and about what that has to do with who we are as Christians who need Confession and Absolution.

Take a look once again at Psalm 6, which we prayed a few minutes ago. This is a psalm of David belonging to a group we call the penitential psalms. The word penitence or penitential is related to another very Lutheran word: repentance. What is repentance? Repentance is turning away from your sins and turning to Christ for forgiveness. Repentance, then, is ultimately a gift from God, because only God can turn the sinners heart toward Him. It reminds me of Luther’s words about Baptism in the Small Catechism:
What does such baptizing with water indicate?
It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

This process of contrition and repentance is daily, not once. Law and Gospel. Sin and forgiveness. This is the cycle of the Christian life. That is why we continue to repent and receive absolution. That is why we go to the Lord’s Supper week after week. It is about living the Christian life, not simply knowing right answers.
This is what God is going to teach us in the penitential psalms. In Psalm 6 David begins by lamenting that it seems like God has abandoned him. Law. God is angry with David, and so David prays that God will have mercy on him because he is weak and troubled.

Where does this start for you? What does this tell you about God? Well, it first of all tells you that God hates sin, and that when you sin, God hates you. Does that sound harsh? You bet! God’s Law is very harsh. As the psalmist writes in Psalm 5, “You hate all evildoers” (5:5). The Law doesn’t wink at sin. You and I try to wink at sin. Yes, our sin is bad, but let’s just ignore it. This is like saying, “My cancer isn’t that bad; it’s just on the top of my skin.” You can’t ignore sin. Sooner or later it will dig in and do it’s work of destruction.

But let’s go on to verse two of Psalm 6. David prays that the Lord will be gracious to him and heal him. Like blind Bartimaeus, or the Canaanite woman, David is not going to let God off the hook just like God won’t let David off the hook. You see, David knows God’s true character. He hates for a time but loves for eternity.

Now think again about the effect that this sin has on David. He is faint, his bones are in agony, his soul is in anguish. He even cries out, “No one remembers You when he is dead. Who praises You from the grave? (cf. v. 5). David is afraid for his very life. Worn out from groaning, flooded with tears, eyes, weak with sorrow, fail because of all his foes.

David’s picture in Psalm 6 of the effect of sin is profound and even painful. It’s a picture that makes you squirm. It makes me squirm. I don’t like to talk about my sinfulness or think about it. I would much rather think of myself as a basically nice person. I’m a Christian, and that means all this sin talk is for someone else. But remember, David was also a Christian. David grew up in a household that looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. Sin isn’t just something that unbelievers have to deal with and address. I think sometimes in the Church we can get the mistaken idea that sin and forgiveness is for the bad people, but that the Christians just praise God because He’s so great. Well, that’s a false comparison. The angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents. That means you.

There is hope. That is the message of Psalm 6. No matter how messed up your life has become. No matter how far down the path of sin you have trod. No matter what nightmares trouble you and pain you have caused to yourself and to others. God is merciful and forgiving. He hates the sinner for breaking the Law, BUT because of Jesus Christ, God loves the sinner even more. He loved you so much that His Son, Jesus, went to the cross and died for you. God hates the sinner, and He took all of that wrath out on the cross. God’s unfailing love will put you back together when nothing else can. Only God can scatter your enemies: sin, death, and the devil. Only the mercy of God in Jesus Christ can turn your life around and remake you in the waters of Baptism. Only God has given His Son in a Holy Meal to feed you and forgive you.

This Lent we are taking a journey together. We are taking a journey together to the cross of Jesus Christ. On this journey we are going to learn about God’s mercy for lost sinners like you and like me. We are going to hear about God’s gift of forgiveness that He gives in confession and absolution. For some of you, this will be a journey that you’ve taken before many times. But for most, this may be a new journey, or at least a new path on this same journey. Confessing your sins, not generically but specifically, is a hard thing. So hard, in fact, that many will never even try it. But I am here today to hold up God’s gift of forgiveness to you, and everything He has to give in His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer (cf. Psalm 6:9). In the name of Jesus. Amen.