Sermon: John 6:1-15 Laetare

One of man’s many temptations is to separate what God has joined together. I’m not talking about marriage, but of trying to separate the union of body and soul. Pitting them against each other or thinking that one has nothing to do with the other. As if, what you do with the body has no effect on the soul and what you do to or with your soul has no physical consequences.

You have heard the commercial, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Meaning that whatever you do in Vegas will have no consequences whatsoever. So then, going to a brothel in Vegas will have no consequences to either body or soul. C’mon, to believe this is to be a fool.

But being the fools we are we insist on trying divide ourselves; to split our body and soul. This is the heresy called Gnosticism, which teaches that body and soul are not joined. It teaches that the physical, the bodily things are evil. The things of the soul like knowledge and spirit are good. They pit the body against the soul so much so that the desire is to rid oneself of the body and attain a spiritual form only. In other words, it is pretty much what most Mainline Protestants believe. That when we leave this body, good riddance. We go to heaven freed from the body and will be bopping around in the clouds like Casper the Friendly Ghost.  

Look, to show you how dangerous this kind of thinking is, think in terms of Jesus. According to gnostic reckoning, the physical, human nature of Jesus is by definition evil and corrupt. It was only His spirit that was divine and good. In other words, it denies the Incarnation. It denies the communication of His human and divine natures. In their eagerness to deny the flesh, they state that Christ only suffered and died physically. His spirit was somehow detached and removed from all suffering and death. So much for Psalm 22.

This would mean that Christ did not suffer and die like us. He was something different than us. If that is the case then we are not redeemed. Jesus only saved Himself by shedding Himself of His body and attaining true, pure spirit. So much for His bodily resurrection and ours.

In our Gospel, Jesus feeds thousands of people. He uses physical elements of bread and fish from a boy’s basket to fill and satisfy the entire crowd. Not only that, there is more than enough. There are leftovers. Twelve baskets of leftovers are gathered from the crowd. Jesus uses physical, earthly means to satisfy physical, earthy people, and their physical, earthly hunger. God in the flesh provides for the care of the body.

Christ also provides care for the soul. He tests Philip in order to strengthen Philip’s faith. Jesus later goes on to feed the souls by teaching the meaning of this miracle that it points to the Lord’s Supper. That in eating His flesh and drinking His blood we will receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life in body and soul. It is here in John 6 that Jesus teaches us about the interconnectedness of body and soul. Our Lord created body and soul together and sustains them and redeems them together.

So, don’t think that your body is yours to do with as you see fit. It is not. It does not belong to you. It belongs to the one who created you and re-created you in Baptism. You belong to the one whose name you bear, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Neither your body nor the bodies of others are to be treated with disdain. You do not say, “When I die throw my body in the woods or in the dumpster. I don’t care,” because our Lord cares. He cares for the body in life and death. He will resurrect that very body on the Last Day.

Also, you would do well to care for the soul as for the body. Often you are MORE careful with your bodies than your souls. You feed your bodies, exercise them, and look for the best doctors available to care for them. But do you take such great care with your souls? Often the answer is no.

It seems that you will believe, listen to, and follow any crackpot that talks about God or Jesus. You listen to so called preachers on the radio and are sucked in and fascinated with their false teaching of prophesy and the end times. You listen to the Law-oriented cowboy preacher on TV or the kindly, old preacher from South Dakota and could care less that their false teachings would enslave you to the Law again. Enslave you to working out your own salvation. Stop it! Repent! This is not what you learned in Christ. The care of your soul is just as important as care for the body. Quit feeding the soul such garbage!

Jesus withdrew from the crowd when they sought to seize Him. They were only concerned with their physical needs. Jesus withdrew until the time was right when He would allow Himself to be seized and declared King of the Jews and reign from His cross. For in so doing, He provides for you. Physically and spiritually.

Jesus also allowed this crowd to find Him again on the other side of the sea and He fed them spiritually as well. Teaching them that in the physical eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood, they would receive eternal life. That He would abide in them bodily and spiritually and they would abide in Him, bodily and spiritually.

Physically listen to Jesus through His Word and feed your soul. Listen to Him who provides everything that you need, both physically and spiritually. Physically hear of God becoming man and take it to heart. For this God-man, Christ, suffered in body and soul, as you have suffered in body and soul. Hear and believe upon Christ who died so that you might live eternally with Him in body and soul. Hear and believe that you are forgiven and are joined to His death and resurrection by Baptism. Physically eat His very body and drink His very blood so that you are resurrected in body and soul to eternal life.    

Do not seek to divide what God has joined. Christ has joined Himself to you in body and soul. You can no more divide body and soul than you can divide His love and care of body and soul. Rejoice rather that every part of you is redeemed and cared by your Lord. You are baptized. You are recreated in body and soul. So now come and partake of the body and blood of Christ to strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting.

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Sermon: Matthew 4:1-11 Invocabit

Mankind’s greatest desire is to be god. To rule over our lives and rule over the lives of those around us, both friends and enemies. The first commandment tells us that we should have no other gods and we think that refers only to ancient nonsense like bowing down to statues or carved idols. Or we may stretch that out to mean more abstract idols like money, power, and fame. But honestly, I don’t think that really applies to any of you here. As Christians, perhaps the sin you commit against the first commandment is to shape God into what you think He should be. You confess Christ as your true prophet, priest, and king but you have your own ideas about how Christ should fulfill those roles, thereby conforming Christ to your image.

The Office of Prophet is carried out by proclaiming the Word of the Lord, calling people to repentance, and pointing them to their salvation. The one tool that the prophets depend on is the Word of God.

You often think of prophets as charismatic miracle workers, and the temptation can be to focus upon the man himself and the miracles he performs instead of upon the Word he proclaims. To focus on the miracle of manna in the desert or raining down fire from heaven upon Baal’s prophets. Likewise, you expect the pastor to grow the church because he is young, energetic, and charismatic, or because he is older, wiser, and soft spoken. People have all kinds of crazy expectations of those who are called to proclaim God’s Word.

 Another crazy notion is held when you rely upon yourself when sharing God’s Word with others. You rely on your eloquence, your methodology, or your personal testimony to win people for the Lord. In short, you rely upon the miracle of you, instead of upon the Word.

This is Jesus’ first temptation, as the true prophet. Like the prophets, Moses and Elijah, Jesus has fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. But now, Satan approaches Jesus, and desires that Jesus would forget the Word and focus on the miracle too. Jesus as the perfect prophet though fulfills that office by pointing the deceiver to God’s Word, “Man will not live by bread alone, but upon every word that comes out of God’s mouth.”

Well, that’s great for Jesus, but about me? The job of a prophet is rarely honored. Speaking God’s Word to folks can get all kinds of reactions, from rejection, to rage, and even to violence. And I know you know this because you have proclaimed God’s Word to those you love and they ignore it, reject it, or mock you. But Jesus tells you they are not rejecting you, but rejecting Him. Well that’s not very comforting, especially when you are talking about those closest to you.

But we are called to be faithful to the confession of God’s Word even if it get us killed, for that is the reward of the prophet. And while a faithful confession might get you killed our Lord calls you blessed in your persecution. He has promised that by losing your lives you save them, which was done already at your baptism; so fear not the one who can harm you.

The other way you seek to conform God into your own image is through the office of priest. A priest is called to intercede between God and man. A priest offers up prayers and sacrifices to God on behalf of the people and the priest in turn gives God’s grace to the people. The temptation is to belittle the sacrifices made because they seem insufficient, incomplete, not enough. The sacrifice of Christ, once and for all, is too good to be true. Surely there is something you need to contribute to your own salvation. Surely there is some sacrifice you must make in order to find favor with God and be comforted.

This was Jesus’ second temptation. He was led by Satan to the heights of the Temple. The place where sacrifices were offered. Satan tempts Jesus to find comfort from God by sacrificing Himself by jumping off the roof. But Jesus didn’t come to serve Himself, He came to serve.

 As priest and sacrifice, His death and offering would be for all mankind. Jesus’ will is the Father’s will and that will is that all be saved. This salvation would come by Jesus’ death on a cross. It is finished by the shed blood Calvary, not upon Jezebel’s blood which was shed by jumping from the heights.

 Quit trying to receive comfort and salvation by sacrificing yourself. Jesus is your perfect sacrifice and He is the perfect High Priest who intercedes for you. You receive nothing from your own efforts at salvation, even though it is tempting to think so. In reality, your efforts at saving yourself are devoured by the dogs as Jezebel was. Rather, your comfort and salvation are in the body and blood of Jesus. This is your ministration from the Father.

Lastly, the temptation to conform God to your own image is seen in the office of King. To be honest, you are horrible subjects. You know what you want and desire and the king better cough it up. You tell the king what he should do and if you don’t get it you rebel or go looking for a more suitable king. But a house divided cannot stand. There is no glory when the king bows to the desires of others, or others bow to themselves, or to another king.

 This is the third temptation of Jesus. To bow to a false king and false glory. Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms and their glory and gives them to Jesus if Jesus bow down and worship him. Perhaps this is your temptation too.

The church is only kingly and glorious when the numbers are up and the people are giving generously. In order to achieve that you may have to bow to what is considered glorious in the world’s eyes; soften the Word of God, hide the light of the liturgy, reject the simplicity of the sacraments for the pomp of altar call and the circumstance of miracles. You would seek to build your own kingdom by shoving the king out of the way and showing Him how to crack down on those other poor miserable sinners.

Repent! Depart from such temptation and sin. The glory of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is more than sufficient. Plus that glory is given to you. To you, that glory may seem foolish and insignificant, but that glory, earned by Christ, makes you the apple of the Father’s eye, for it is His own glory. In the cross of Christ you glory, for that glory includes forgiveness and peace that surpasses all understanding.

People subject themselves to authorities that will protect and care for them. As brothers and sisters of the King, you have protection against Satan’s attacks and attacks from the Old Adam within. Your Lord cares for you and provides for you all you need. He gives you water so that you may be washed clean and shine gloriously. He gives you food and drink from His table and His Word of Absolution which resurrects you when you fall and nourishes you and gives you strength and grace sufficient for the day.

There is no need to conform Christ to what your image of a prophet, priest, and king should be. He out does you. He out glories you. In victory He proclaims, intercedes, and rules on your behalf with love and mercy as His watchword and with the cross as His standard. So now brothers and sisters of the King, take refuge. Come and eat the prophetly, priestly, kingly feast spread before you.

Ash Wednesday: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

There is no good and gracious gift from God that we can’t screw up and get our dirty sinful fingerprints all over. Our Lord redeems us from sin and death and He gives us gifts of forgiveness, eternal life, and works to perform which He has prepared beforehand. Works like showing mercy to our neighbor and praying and fasting for friend and enemy alike. These works are all about providing for the needs of our neighbor and time after time we turn it into a showcase for ourselves.

Our Lord calls us to have pure, unselfish intent when showing mercy, praying, and fasting……How’s that going for you? Let me answer for you, not well. There has never been a time when you have done anything with the purest of intentions. Even if you have done these things in secret, somehow, someway, you desired acknowledgement and recognition from men or from God for the works you have performed. There are no bounds to the self-serving behavior you engage in, in order to have your ego stroked. Here are just a few examples:

You perform acts of mercy, or pray, or fast in order to receive praise and pats on the back from your fellow man, you go around trumpeting your so-called goodness.  You perform acts of mercy for or pray for or fast for someone when someone else asks you to do so, but you won’t lift a finger or do a darn thing unless someone asks you to do it. Or you show mercy to, pray for, and fast for someone and expect reciprocation, that is, the person give you something in return for your service. You may even use prayer and fasting to trumpet gossip about others, so that the spotlight of the Law be taken off of you. “I am praying for so and so who are having marital problems.” Or “I am fasting and praying so that so and so would give up their evil ways.” And even if you do pray in secret so that you not receive the praise of men, I guarantee you that you are looking for God’s approval. “See Lord how humble and faithful I am!”

You have no pure intent when you do things in public and you have no pure intent when you do things in private. You look for approval from men and you look for approval from God. “Behold how I am working for your Kingdom O Lord!” And you get giddy with the thought of all those treasures that are piling up in heaven for you. For even if you claim to not care about treasures and praise here in this life, you are salivating at the thought of how much merit & reward you will receive in heaven. Then…then people will know how good a Christian you were and how much better than them you were, when you all get to heaven and see the treasures you have collected!

O you foolish sons and daughters of Adam. You actually think you can curry God’s favor by following what is written here in Matthew 6. You actually think that doing mercy, praying and fasting in private will earn you some merit before God. Repent of your self-reliance and your self-righteousness. Isn’t your arm getting sore from stretching to pat yourself on the back? Repent of trumpeting your own goodness and pure intent and desiring that God and everyone else know how good you are and what good you have done.

For you see, the treasure given you is not accolades or praise; it is not a good reputation or extra stuff when you go to be with our Lord. Christ, out of perfect love and intent mercied you. Christ perfectly prayed for you. Christ perfectly fasted for you. The treasure, our recompense, the wage given us is Christ. It is His grace. It is His forgiveness. It is His eternal life. Christ and His work on our behalf cannot be destroyed by moth or rust.

As your Lord declares in the Gospel before you, in each act of mercy, prayer, and fasting your Lord is the one who will reward you, or pay you the wage. So, not only are you bought and paid for by His precious blood, you are also rewarded in your good works because it is Christ’s pureness and goodness that fulfills the work on your behalf. He gives you the good works to perform and He completes them and makes them good and pure. If that is the case, where is there room for boasting?

There is no room for boasting in yourself. Christ has rewarded you with Himself. He gives Himself through the word from His mouth that speaks in love that you are forgiven all of your sins. He gives Himself to you through the water from His side so that you would be washed clean. He gives Himself to you through the blood from His side in order that that you would be forgiven, resurrected, restored, and refreshed. He gives you grace upon grace, treasure upon treasure!

You, who have received fully from Christ, have the honor and privilege of sharing this grace upon grace and treasure upon treasure with your fellow man. By showing mercy to them, and praying for them, and pointing them to the treasure of Christ crucified and risen. And during these times, like during Lent, you may also fast from the things of this world so that once again your own hearts are not drawn inward but rather look outward, to the need of your neighbor and to Christ. For your glory is given you by Christ. You are lights to the world; to reflect His glory to the dead and dying world around you so that they too might be comforted and saved.

Seek not your own glory which is destroyed by moth and rust. Return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Love that forgives you all of your sins. To God be all praise, honor, and glory. Amen.