Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sermon for 27 December 2009, First Sunday after Christmas

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Colossians 3:12-17

Repentance, Faith, & Hope

The First Sunday after Christmas, 27 December 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

During the Holidays, families spend a lot of time together. Sometimes, that has the potential to leads to conflict of one kind or another, usually minor, especially if everyone—spouses and children and extended family—are staying in the same house.

In Christian congregations, we spend a lot of time together, especially during the Holidays. Being in the Word at home, during Bible Class, and Sunday morning Divine Service are to ensure that we share the mind of Christ and remain united in the same Biblical confession of faith. At times, there are differences of opinion about other matters, anything from carpet color or what coffee to serve. Some of those topics are silly, others serious. What may be important to one may or may not be to another—and vice versa. When there are disagreements—notice I didn’t say “If there are disagreements…” what are we to do about it? It is best to know what to do before there is conflict—how to handle it as Christians

The reactions to conflict at church are as varied as they are in families. After over a century together as a congregation, Immanuel behaves like a family in good and also in less helpful ways. By being raised together and living together, you treat one another like brothers and sisters. There’s nothing quite like the positive, deep relationship siblings can develop. And, as you’ve seen in your own lives, family disagreements have the potential to be among the most devastating and bitter there are.

Congregations are like human families in other important ways. There are people from all ages. That’s an important component to remember. We need young and old, longtime members and new members, male and female, pastor and congregation—all together.

How can we be prepared when there are disagreements what are we to do about it?

12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…

In this morning’s reading from Colossians 3, St. Paul shares a Word of the Lord tailor-made for us. We are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. And we also know that we are sinners. We are at the same time saint and sinner—holy and sinful. And that’s a tension we have to live with in ourselves and others.

We hear verses twelve through sixteen and may think: “Well, I’d better not forget that God loves me and I had better not neglect compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bearing with one another is hard. Forgiving can be easy. It’s the forgetting that’s hard. And some people are so hard to love.”

What Paul shares with us is law. Depending on where we are spiritually at a given moment, the Holy Spirit may use this law as a curb in order to keep sin in bounds. God the Holy Spirit could remind you that sometimes we do the right thing just because it is the right thing to do—even when we don’t want to do it. We know that if we do the bad and/or don’t do the good, we’ll get in trouble with the Lord Upstairs, or somebody down here.

At other times, hearing Colossians chapter 3 is like getting hammered. The Law of God is a powerful hammer, sledgehammer, or jackhammer, depending on how hardened you may be when the Lord wants your attention focused upon Him and so that you would be brought to repentance and renewed faith in Christ.

When the Holy Spirit convicts you using what we call the Second Use of the Law, all your sins and failures are held up to you as your face is seen in a mirror. Often, we are all in need of a full-length mirror. We are tempted to hold on to some of our sins and not confess them—not give them up. That is not only spiritually dangerous, but spiritually deadly.

After hearing a passage like this, a person with repentant faith may confess their sins. For example, a person might say a prayer like this: “Lord, I thank you for choosing me in Christ. I know it has nothing to do with anything in me or anything I’ve done. I am beloved and holy only because your only-begotten Son declared me holy. I have failed to be compassionate to others. Sometimes I just didn’t care—I really didn’t. I had opportunities to be kind and I ignored them. Humility isn’t encouraged in a culture where resumes and those long, pre-printed Christmas letters encourage bragging to your hearts content. You alone, O Christ, should receive all glory, especially at Christmas. You have told us that the meek shall inherit the earth, but I haven’t been meek because it doesn’t look like that will get me ahead at work. That’s a sin, too. I haven’t been patient. I should have sat there listening to my family and friends, but I just had other things on my mind. Selfishness is the sin of our age and mine, too. I have not been patient at times, and bearing with one another was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to run away—I wanted them to run away—just so we didn’t have to deal with whatever it was. I was tempted to hold a grudge and I did. And it was like taking poison while waiting for the other person to drop over dead. It didn’t work. Forgive me my trespasses and help me to forgive from the heart those who have trespassed against me. Help me love others in thought, word, and deed so that I may not fail by inaction or selfishly insist on my own way. I saw my neighbor in need and I could have helped, but didn’t. For Jesus’ sake, forgive me. Grant me the peace only you can give. Amen.”

That’s just one example of how Scripture itself can teach you what sins you need to confess. There is no reason why the general confession on 184 or 151 has to be a boring, mindless recitation of words. The Lord can aid you in using these common, repeated forms so that you can focus upon self-examination, repentance, and worship.

12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…

Conflict is not a pleasant thing. There can be many responses to it. I pray that in your relationships at home, at school, at work, or at church, you would take the time to see how you contributed to the failure, disagreement, or situation before pointing the finger at others. Look for how you have sinned against the Ten Commandments, the vocations the Lord has given you, and how you have ignored the clear Word of Scripture.

Other reactions are possible, as Christians working with congregations in a peacemaking ministry describe. There are escape responses: suicide, flight, and denial. They only fake peace. There are attack responses: litigation, assault, and murder. Those three break the peace. And there are peace-making responses of conciliation: overlook [another’s fault and go on], discuss [the situation openly and honestly], negotiation, mediation [by a third-party], arbitration, and finally, church discipline. It can be a slippery slope from a helpful response to one that hurts.

Ken Sande, The Peacemaker

What can this mean for a Christian congregation? As the result of a conflict, some may be so hurt that they leave one way or another. They may come, but discontinue financial support, some may simply stay home on Sunday mornings, and others may start actively looking for another church home. Some may lose faith altogether. People are sometimes hurt by the church. That isn’t good for the future life of the congregation.

When we have offended someone and realize it in confession and repentance, we are given to reconcile with those we know we have offended. At other times, even when we are hurt, Matthew 18 urges us to talk to those who have offended us. It’s not easy, but the Lord wants reconciliation no matter who has to swallow their pride and make the first step. Forgiving one another is not optional. Paul uses the word, “Must.” If you want the Lord to forgive you, you must let go of your grudges and forgive everyone who has offended you.

We could bemoan the fact that some of the families in our forthcoming church directory aren’t here. Or, we could take steps toward visiting them as congregation members who care about one another. We could worry about the future, or we could take the Lord seriously when He says that He will bless those who hear His Word and respond to it in faith. Sitting on our hands won’t work. There are plenty of ways to be a stumbling block and prevent the Lord’s work in this place. There are plenty of ways to shoot ourselves in the foot, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Psychology, Sociology, and good old-fashioned common sense may help us understand and diagnose the problems and the sins and the possible reactions, but only Christ can give us a solution. The Gospel gives us something no worldly wisdom can.

You are forgiven in Christ. You are holy and beloved in the eyes of the Lord. The Prince of Peace has given you peace with God. As Christians, we are to be at peace with others as far as it is up to us. We are to be about peacemaking, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Christians care about one another and show it, even when it is difficult. We forgive because God in Christ has forgiven us. If the Lord has forgiven your sins—and you remember how bad they are—certainly you can forgive those God has already forgiven.

And we have hope for the future—not in our own actions—but in Christ. Our Lord has seen fit to bless parents with children who have them baptized. New members join our congregation and confess the common, Biblical, Christian faith with us in this place. Our building debt is steadily being paid off, thanks be to God! Look at our encouraging catechism classes this year—both youth and adult. Our Lord has blessed us with musicians, especially those new to us. God’s Word is still preached here in its truth, purity, and completeness. We have hope for the future because the Lord has blessed us, He blesses us now, and He promises to bless us in the future.

We are blessed with unity in the Word of Christ. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

If there is something you can’t do in the name of the Lord Jesus, don’t do it—simple as that! You are holy and beloved in Christ. The baptized are given to believe, teach, confess, and live differently than the world. If you find that you cannot serve in thankfulness, you don’t have to resign. Stop, let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, and be reminded of why you are to be thankful. Hymns teach. You don’t have to sing perfectly to make a joyful noise to the Lord. You don’t have to join the choir, but we’d love to have you.

Repentance. Faith. Hope. Christians are declared righteous—we are not perfect. Christians live lives of repentance. We are at the same time sinful, yet justified. We are saints because we are forgiven sinners. We have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and that prompts us to act in love for our fellow Christians and human beings, praying that all would come to faith in Christ. And we have hope for the future. We know that the Lord will bless those with faith in Him. He will bless faithful servants of the Word. He will be with even two or three gathered in His name. He will bless the baptizing and teaching of young and old. He will bless you as you repent and reconcile with one another. He will bless the preaching, teaching, and singing of His Word. He will bless you in Christ.

12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sermon for Christmas Day 2009

Rev. Paul J Cain

Isaiah 52:7-10

The Salvation of God

Christmas Day C, 25 December 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

Isaiah 52 is a perfect Word of the Lord to hear on Christmas morning, especially in Sheridan, Wyoming.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

The view of the Big Horn Mountains from Immanuel Lutheran Church and 5th Street is quite majestic. New snow adorns the mountaintops. And we have the eternally significant blessing of being gathered around the Lord’s gifts in celebration of His salvation. His kingdom has taken upon flesh this day.

The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion.

The Lord Himself has been born. It is Biblically true, yet sounds strange to the ear. He has returned to His people. Born in Bethlehem, Jesus will visit Jerusalem only to be mocked and flogged and crucified. But the empty tomb will be reason for celebration!

Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

This is most certainly true. Wyoming is on the other side of the world, at least from Jerusalem’s perspective, but the message of what happened there and in Bethlehem has spread to every corner of the earth.

It sounds odd to speak of corners on a globe, but it makes a lot of sense on a rectangular map. All the ends of the earth will, one day, even if only just before the Last Day—all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God in Christ Jesus

It spread to you. As Christians we naturally return thanks and praise to God for all he has done. As naturally as our body breathes we do good works as a thank you note to God. And we spread the Gospel to the world around us beginning with our families and children.

Do you remember the first time you heard the Gospel, the message of the good news of the forgiveness of sins because of what God accomplished on Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter? Do you remember your first time in a Christian church? Do you recall the days you learned in detail about the incarnation, atonement, and resurrection?

That is coming up next. Isaiah 52 is a famous Bible passage, but not usually for Christmas. Verses 7-10 are ideal for our meditation today on the enfleshment of God and His holy birth. Skip ahead to verse 13 and continue reading into Isaiah 53 and you will see how closely related all the works of the Lord are in Christ Jesus. The Suffering Servant of Good Friday comes into clear view. Our Lord Jesus was born for a purpose. He was born to die. He was born to die and rise again. He was born to die and rise again and give you forgiveness, life, and salvation. The gifts of the Lord are rich and varied. The Salvation of God in Christ is your Gift this day. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sermon for Christmas Eve 2009

Rev. Paul J Cain

1 John 4:7-16

Love of God Made Manifest

Christmas Eve C, 24 December 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

God is love. Who doesn’t know that? Yet, many within and outside the Christian Church are at least slightly confused as to how and why God is love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

These verses of 1 John 4 may be very familiar to you. Personally, I need more. Don’t you want to know how a holy God can love sinners like us? Aren’t you curious about the connection between God’s love for you and your love for other people? John has more.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

How does God make His love known to people like you? In words, yes, but He showed it and still shows it primarily in deeds. God sent His only Son into the world. That’s Christmas. Why? So that we might live through Him. Because of the sinful human nature we inherited from Adam and Eve, our first parents, we were spiritually dead inside. Ever wonder why non-Christians don’t “get it” or why you never understood Scripture before you came to faith? That’s why. And don’t you also feel “dead inside” because of guilt after you realize you have sinned? That is your conscience reacting to “actual sin.” The Word of God that you have committed to memory and to your heart is reminding you of God’s law. Seek forgiveness as soon as possible. You need Jesus. And it’s an emergency.

What is love? Scripture says, “not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Jesus, because God so loved the world, is the atoning sacrifice for your sins. He is your substitute.

“In simple terms, a substitute takes the place of another. Everything the substitute does has the same value as if the original person does it.” It’s basketball season, right? Daniel Preus explains the concept further in this way: “Consider, for example, that you are a starter for the Lutheran Lions, who are playing basketball against the Pagan Penguins. Within the first 30 seconds of the game, you foul out and the coach puts in a substitute. The substitute plays a stellar game, and the Lutheran Lions win. The substitute’s points are counted just as if you had scored them. You don’t go home and tell your family the other team won because you fouled out. No, you announce, ‘We won! I fouled out in the first 30 seconds, but we won!’ Imagine, however, that the coach of the Pagan Penguins approached your coach after the game to inform him that the Penguins had won because the points scored by your substitute didn’t count because he was a substitute. But that isn’t how the game is played. Everybody knows that whatever the substitute does is as valid as if the original person does it… Jesus was our substitute in every way.” End quote (Why I Am a Lutheran, CPH).

Love is indeed an emotion, but so much more than an emotion. Love is shared in words but demonstrated in deeds. The so-called “Christmas spirit” seems to generate lots of loving feelings. How heartfelt can they be if so many of them evaporate by December 26th? God’s love for you in Christ Jesus is seen in sending His Son into the world on Christmas, He who would suffer and die as your substitute on Good Friday and physically rise from the dead on Easter. God further shows His love by giving His Gifts in Word and Sacrament in a place like this every Sunday. That kind of love endures forever. And nobody would want to return or exchange it!

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

How can we possibly love other people in world that is so harsh and hard at times? Because God loved us first. We love because God first loved us. We could also say that in the proper order, too: God loved us first. Because of God’s love, we love others.

In fact, when you find it hard to love others, remember this: love them with God’s love. Recycling is a good thing to do. Recycle God’s love. Give it away again. You’ll find that you’ll never run out. The Holy Spirit abides in and with His Christians forever, just as the text says.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Tonight we thank the Lord for the Savior of the world, Jesus, born to be the Christ, anointed to save His people from their sins—and that includes you!

“Our Lord speaks and we listen…Saying back to Him what He has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure…The rhythm of our worship is from Him to us, and then from us back to Him…Finally His blessing moves us out into our calling, where His gifts have their fruition.” Dr. Norman Nagel, “Introduction,” Lutheran Worship, p.6. Christians respond to the love of God in Christ through prayer, gifts, service, and song.

There are eleven “hymns” tonight, not including the three played by the bell choir, but not all of the songs in a hymnal are strictly hymns. Consider the godly variety included this Christmas Eve: Plainsong chant, Anglican Chant, a Chorale, a German Folk Hymn, a Latin hymn, a sturdy Anglican hymn, and plenty of carols. We sang hymns from the United States, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France, Italy, and have one left from Austria. One modern hymn is less than 7 years old. Another Lutheran text is only sixteen years old. Four come from the 1800’s, one from the time of the Reformation. The oldest written by a man dates back to the 4th century. One was first sung by angels on the first Christmas night.

The love of God in Christ has gone out into the world and the world has sung a response of praise, thanksgiving, and proclamation.

You have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Continue the proclamation of the love of God all year: In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.


Reading from the Large Catechism for Advent 4 Midweek

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Large Catechism: Apostles’ Creed, Article II (CTLC)

Catechetical Instruction

Wednesday of Advent IV, 23 December 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

[In Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, the introduction to Article II of the Apostles Creed in Luther’s Large Catechism notes,] “God withholds nothing from us, but gives all that we need for our life on earth. Even more, He gives us all that we need for eternal life with Him in heaven. Luther focuses on the one phrase he believes is the very essence of this article: “in Jesus Christ, … our Lord.” Providing a sweeping description of Creation and the fall, Luther notes that the word we includes every single person in the horrible drama of the Garden of Eden. In that sin we all fell away from God and were doomed to everlasting damnation. Yet Christ, our Lord, came and snatched us from the jaws of hell. This description of Christ’s victory over Satan would have been very familiar to the people who first read the Large Catechism. Many paintings from that era depict hell with horrifying detail, showing men and women being led into the gaping mouth of a dragonlike creature. Luther uses the biblical motif of Christ as Victor to describe His work of salvation for us. Jesus offered His own precious blood as satisfaction for our sins. This article of the Creed is essential for proper understanding and confession of the Gospel.”

25 And [I believe] in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

26 Here we learn to know the Second Person of the Godhead. We see what we have from God over and above the temporal goods mentioned before. We see how He has completely poured forth Himself [Matthew 26:28] and withheld nothing from us [2 Corinthians 8:9]. Now, this article is very rich and broad. But in order to explain it briefly also and in a childlike way, we shall take up one phrase and sum up the entire article. As we have said, we may learn from this article how we have been redeemed. We shall base this on these words, “In Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

27 Now, if you are asked, “What do you believe in the Second Article about Jesus Christ?” answer briefly,

“I believe that Jesus Christ, God’s true Son, has become my Lord.”

“But what does it mean to become Lord?”

“It is this. He has redeemed me from sin, from the devil, from death, and from all evil. For before I did not have a Lord or King, but was captive under the devil’s power, condemned to death, stuck in sin and blindness” [see Ephesians 2:1–3].

28 For when we had been created by God the Father and had received from Him all kinds [Page 402] of good, the devil came and led us into disobedience, sin, death, and all evil [Genesis 3]. So we fell under God’s wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, just as we had merited and deserved. 29 There was no counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God—in His immeasurable goodness—had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness. He came from heaven to help us [John 1:9]. 30 So those tyrants and jailers are all expelled now. In their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation. He has delivered us poor, lost people from hell’s jaws, has won us, has made us free [Romans 8:1–2], and has brought us again into the Father’s favor and grace. He has taken us as His own property under His shelter and protection [Psalm 61:3–4] so that He may govern us by His righteousness, wisdom, power, life, and blessedness.

31 Let this, then, be the sum of this article: the little word Lord means simply the same as redeemer. It means the One who has brought us from Satan to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and who preserves us in the same. But all the points that follow in this article serve no other purpose than to explain and express this redemption. They explain how and by whom it was accomplished. They explain how much it cost Him and what He spent and risked so that He might win us and bring us under His dominion. It explains that He became man [John 1:14], was conceived and born without sin [Hebrews 4:15], from the Holy Spirit and from the virgin Mary [Luke 1:35], so that He might overcome sin. Further, it explains that He suffered, died, and was buried so that He might make satisfaction for me and pay what I owe [1 Corinthians 15:3–4], not with silver or gold, but with His own precious blood [1 Peter 1:18–19]. And He did all this in order to become my Lord. He did none of these things for Himself, nor did He have any need for redemption. After that He rose again from the dead, swallowed up and devoured death [1 Corinthians 15:54], and finally ascended into heaven and assumed the government at the Father’s right hand [1 Peter 3:22]. He did these things so that the devil and all powers must be subject to Him and lie at His feet [Hebrews 10:12–13] until finally, at the Last Day, He will completely divide and separate us from the wicked world, the devil, death, sin, and such [Matthew 25:31–46; 13:24–30, 47–50].

32 To explain all these individual points does not belong to brief sermons for children. That belongs to fuller sermons that extend throughout the entire year, especially at those times that are appointed for the purpose of treating each article at length—for Christ’s birth, sufferings, resurrection, ascension, and so on.

33 Yes, the entire Gospel that we preach is based on this point, that we properly understand this article as that upon which our salvation and all our happiness rests. It is so rich and complete that we can never learn it fully.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sermon for 20 December 2009, Advent 4C

The Rev. Paul J Cain

St. Luke 1: 39-56

Count Your Blessings (Including a Sheep)

Fourth Sunday in Advent, 20 December 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

In the popular Holiday movie White Christmas, Bing Crosby plays a song & dance man who puts on a show in a Vermont ski lodge run by his WW2 army general. In one scene, Bing serenades his future wife who is having trouble with worry preventing sleep. “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep and I fall asleep counting my blessings.”

In the Gospel lesson appointed for this morning, Mary the Mother of our Lord sings a psalm to God thanking Him for her blessings. As we await Christmas this week, we have many things for which we are thankful.


As soon as Thanksgiving comes and goes, Christmas movies and specials begin showing up on TV. Determined shoppers converge on malls, department stores, and computers with an internet connection. The sound of Jingle Bells and other holiday music fill the air and people make plans to spend Christmas and New Year’s with family and friends.

We are blessed to live in a country where many of us have time off to celebrate Christmas, some money to spend to purchase gifts for loved ones, and also blessed to have televisions to watch all those Christmas shows and New Year’s football games.

Time with family, feelings of goodwill, giving and getting gifts are all the world knows of Christmas. These things are all wonderful blessings, but sooner or later we must go back home—back to work or school. Feelings of goodwill fade (especially if our team loses the bowl game) and the pre-Christmas lines at checkout counters become longer lines at return counters.

I’m a big fan of classic movies like Holiday Inn, A Christmas Carol, and It’s a Wonderful Life, but they, like the world’s version of Christmas make no mention of Christ or His birth, or if they do mention something connected to God or Christianity, they get important details wrong. Christ is what makes our joy as Christians unique.

Our preparation for Christmas is heavily influenced by the commercial and secular Christmas rather than the one the Bible tells us about. We take for granted time off, a holiday bonus, time with family, money for presents, and our team in a bowl game. We are often frustrated by Christmas shopping—searching for that perfect gift. We are sometimes more concerned about what that person will think rather than just giving out of love. And when it comes to Christmas cards we sometimes wait to see who sends us cards before we send them one. We forget the reason we send cards in the first place! Our preparation is full of stress.


In the Gospel lesson for this Fourth Sunday in Advent, Mary prepares for the birth of Jesus by visiting her relative Elizabeth. An angel announced God’s plan to Mary about the child she would bear, and she responded in faith. God also gave her a sign to verify that His Word was true. He foretold the birth of a son by Elizabeth—John the Baptist. This was truly a miracle, for Elizabeth was barren.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42and she ex claimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."

As they greet one another, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy. The unborn John had faith!

Mary offers a song to God in praise and thanksgiving for all of His mighty deeds. Her song is much like the Psalms, the hymnal of the Old Testament. Her song is one of four songs by angels and New Testament people that are preserved for us in the beginning of Luke. This one is also part of our Lutheran liturgy in our services of Vespers and Evening Prayer. We call her song the Magnificat—after its first word in Latin.

46And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…

Mary focuses on God and the salvation He is bringing about. She rejoices in God her savior, and clearly confesses her need for a Savior. She shares the Gospel. Her son, Jesus, comes into the world to be her savior and our savior. As the epistle from Hebrews teaches us, Christ came into the world to become the sacrifice that makes us holy. We are made holy because this sacrifice forgives us for our sins.

We are even forgiven for forgetting Christ at Christmas. One would think this should be a hard thing to do since His title is the first part of the name of the holiday. God forgives you. God forgives us for taking for granted His many blessings.

God forgives us for being too concerned about what others think. That we’ll never know for sure. We do know what God thinks of us. Because of the Savior, God sees us as His forgiven children. God even forgives us for giving gifts or sending cards for the wrong motive—obligation—rather than being generous out of joy for God’s greatest gift, Jesus. As a joyful response to the gift of Christ we thank Him for the true Christmas message. Christ has come. You are forgiven! That is why our souls rejoice in the Lord.


As a response to the gift of forgiveness, we praise and thank God, as we are doing today in the Divine Service. Like Bing, we count our blessings. In Mary’s song, she counts hers.

47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior 48for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

Why does Mary rejoice? She rejoices in the coming salvation and because God looked with tender care upon the humble state of his servant, Mary.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; Why? We know it isn’t because of anything in her—anything she is responsible for.

48for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Mary will be blessed because of what God has done to and through and for her. The focus—Mary’s focus—is on God’s work.

Mary sees her life as continuation of God’s merciful action since the beginning of the world. God created all and it was good. When Adam and Eve sinned, God acted in a promise of mercy. He promised a Savior, One who would crush Satan. The pattern throughout the Old Testament is one of God acting first.

Mary takes the focus off herself and puts it on God and God made flesh, her son, Jesus. She is unique in that she sees God’s promise of redemption at hand, nearby, in her womb. But you don’t have to be the mother of the Savior in order to be a Christian. You don’t have to do great and amazing things in order to be saved—that’s not how God saves.

Our text teaches us that God saves by His action, stretching out His arm in mercy.

50And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.

It is all about God doing, God acting, God saving, God giving. It is all Gift, like the Gift of His Son. Our God is one of promise and fulfillment.

54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever." 56And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

Mary links the hope of the messiah with the promise God gives to Abraham in Genesis 22:17-18 (ESV). I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice." In faith, Abraham obeyed.

God’s chosen people were blessed for one simple reason, so that they would be a blessing. Time after time they fell away, and went after idols, but they could not thwart the Lord’s plan. God brought them back to Himself. God used the Israelites to bless the whole world, for Jesus the Messiah came from the line of King David. Christ came to bless all of the peoples of the world, the Jews and the non-Jews.

In the Magnificat, Mary counted her many blessings. We too humbly count the many blessings God has given. In Bing Crosby’s song he urges us, “If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.” Our friend Bing is close, but as Christians we can count our blessings including a sheep, Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, Mary’s Savior and ours. In Advent we celebrate the coming of Christ to take away our sins, yours, mine, and those of the whole world. And as we count our blessings we await the second coming, second advent, of Jesus. Come Lord Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God which [sur]passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Listen to Bing himself here:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sermon for 13 December 2003, Advent 3C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Luke 7:18-28 (29-35)

The One

Third Sunday in Advent, 13 December 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ How does Jesus answer this question? If He were as judgmental as many in this world are, He could have said, “What do you mean you don’t believe in me? Get out of my sight!” But no, our Lord has compassion upon those who are weak in faith so that their faith will be strengthened. As Isaiah 42:3 says, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”

Jesus does not answer with words first, but with deeds. He heals and preaches and then says, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

This is how Jesus handles weak faith. Lack of faith is another thing entirely. Some have said that a preacher’s work is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. That’s true as long as the Law and the Gospel from the Holy Scriptures are rightly distinguished and used for those important tasks. The Law of God is preached to those who are comfortable in their unfaith, sin, or lack of compassion and good works. The Holy Gospel is proclaimed to all who burdened by their sins, and flee for refuge to the Lord’s infinite mercy.

Those with weak faith are in danger of falling away from faith completely. In our day, many people have been raised in Christian homes. They have been taught that Jesus is The One to come, yet they search for another. You have seen it happen.

Work is good and salutary. But when providing for one’s family means a work schedule where one hardly sees that family? Is it really worth it? What about when work conflicts with weekly opportunities to hear the Word of the Lord, receive His gifts, and offer Him our offerings and sacrifice of praise? How can we as adults model this so that our young people can say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t work Sunday mornings.”

Sports and physical activity are good ways to train and discipline the body, as well as support your community. How many times do we just sit there and watch instead of engaging in physical activity ourselves? How many times do we forget that a game is just a game? When sporting events conflict with Divine Service, how many times does a ball become a Baal, an idol, a false god?

Name the person, place, or thing, and under the right circumstances, it can become a false god to someone, replacing the one, true God. ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ Many were taught that Jesus is The One, but now look for someone or something else.

In the Large Catechism, Luther writes, “You shall have no other gods. What this means: You shall have Me alone as your God. What is the meaning of this and how is it to be understood? What does it mean to have a god? Or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress. So, to have a God is nothing other than trusting and believing Him with the heart. I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust is right, then your god is also true. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God (Hebrews 11:6). Now, I say that whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god.”

Do you believe that Jesus is The One who is to come, or will you look for another?

24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written, “ ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’

The book of the prophet Malachi (3:1) is the source of this prophecy. John prepared the way for the Lord Jesus. What did the people go out to see? A prophet and more than a prophet. This has much to teach us about how to choose a church.

Look for good, faithful, Biblical preaching and teaching. Does the pastor use a lectionary, a system of readings? That can help prevent preachers from coming up with their own agendas. John prepared the Lord’s way by preaching the Word of God. Look for a pastor who takes his ordination vows seriously, and teaches in accord with the Lutheran confessions—not just what people tell him to say.

Any compromise of what God’s Word says is a reason to flee. On numerous occasions the confirmands have been taught to avoid false teachers: (Say it with me.) “Run. Away. As fast as you can. And never go back.”

Christians are not to choose a congregation based upon the personality of the pastor, the way he or the people dress, how friendly the congregation is, the style of music, the programs the church offers, a convenient location, the amount of parking, how good the coffee is, or what time the service is. We are to look for God’s truth and a faithful servant of the Word. To be sure, people may be turned off by a great number of things, so we must take care not to offend someone in an unnecessary way. We must always preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God.

John preached and administered a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus commends a hopeful, humble, repentant faith. He calls to repentance those like the Pharisees. The Pharisees rejected a baptism of repentance because they wrongly thought they had no sins to repent of. They went through the motions of piety without faith. It is the lack of faith that condemns.

31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, [Jesus continued,] and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’

Much of so-called “Contemporary Worship” is similarly childlike, with religious songs where the emotion that the music creates in the “audience” is, in practice, more important than what the words say. This is psychological manipulation at best, and unfaithfulness in the worst cases. People are subtly taught by their experience that emotion equals being spiritual, and being spiritual means you have to have an emotional response. If you don’t have an emotional response, they begin to believe, then they doubt if God can really be present.

We hold to God’s promises. We know that God is present where He has promised to be, even if we don’t feel it. Our emotions can lead us astray. God’s promises will not. He promises to be with us where two or three are gathered in His name. We don’t need to worry about any other numbers other than loving concern for those who neglect to receive the Lord’s Gifts on the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s House. God has promised to deliver the forgiveness Jesus won on the cross in Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion. He has given us the sacraments so that we would be forgiven.

If God said, “People of Immanuel Lutheran Church. Hear me! When you eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I will forgive your sins,” wouldn’t you run right out and eat that peanut butter and jelly sandwich? That some would argue about what kind of bread, crunchy or smooth peanut butter, and what fruit the jelly is made out of is missing the point.

To put it another way, some may say, “I already know my sins are forgiven ‘cause I asked for that in the Lord’s Prayer. Why do I need baptism or communion?” Remember grandma’s Christmas tree? Rejecting Holy Baptism and Holy Communion after being absolved of your sins is like saying, “Grandma, thanks for the underwear. But I don’t need those other gifts from you that are still under the tree.” Does that make sense to anyone of any age? God has good Gifts for you in Christ Jesus. It is to your benefit to receive them by faith. It is only to your detriment to reject them—that’s unfaith.

The people didn’t want to follow John or Jesus. They wanted to do whatever made them feel good. They didn’t want to follow John’s rules and they didn’t like it when Jesus freely associated with sinners in order to bring them to repentance and faith. People then were scandalized and offended by Jesus. It’s no different today. The clothing, food, and government have changed, but not the darkness of human hearts apart from faith in Christ.

CPR [Modified] An article in the September 5, 2005 issue of Newsweek magazine, entitled, “Spirituality in America,” reported that over one thousand Americans were asked the following question: “Can a good person who doesn’t share your religious beliefs attain salvation or go to heaven? Approximately 79 percent of the respondents answered yes [, showing how little they knew the Christian Scriptures]. One has to wonder how many of them are scandalized or offended by Jesus when He speaks so clearly in John’s Gospel: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (14;6). It should be noted that the margin of error for the Newsweek poll is 4 percent, give or take. Unfortunately, there is no margin of error when it comes to eternity and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ Jesus does not answer with words first, but with deeds. He heals and preaches and then says, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

We know Jesus to be The One. Blessed are you who are not offended by Him. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Advent II Midweek Sermon

The Rev. Paul J Cain

Malachi 3:1-14

My Messenger

Wednesday of Advent 2, 09 December 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Malachi, which means “my messenger,” is the last prophet of the grace of God until John the Baptist appears approximately 400 years later. And so it is fitting for Malachi to prophesy concerning the forerunner of Jesus, who will proclaim: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The prophet predicts the function of John: “ ‘See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty” (3:1). Jesus’ forerunner is referred to as one like Elijah in the concluding verses of Malachi: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (4:5–6; cf. Mt 11:13–14; 17:12–13; Mk 9:11–13; Lk 1:17).

In Jeremiah’s day, 600 years before Jesus, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. This we learned last week. The people were taken to exile in Babylon. Seventy years later, the exiles return. Spurred on by the prophetic activity of Haggai and Zechariah, the returned exiles (under the leadership of their governor Zerubbabel) finished the temple in 516 B.C. In 458 the community was strengthened by the coming of Ezra the priest and several thousand more Jews. [The] King (Artaxerxes) of Persia encouraged Ezra to develop the temple worship (Ezr 7:17) and to make sure the law of Moses was being obeyed (Ezr 7:25–26).

Although the Jews had been allowed to return from exile and rebuild the temple, they were discouraged. Their land remained but a small province in the backwaters of the Persian empire. The glorious future announced by the prophets (including the other postexilic prophets, Haggai and Zechariah) had not (yet) been realized. Their God had not (yet) come to his temple (3:1) with majesty and power (as celebrated in Ps 68) to exalt his kingdom in the sight of the nations. Doubting God’s covenant love (1:2) and no longer trusting his justice (2:17; 3:14–15), the Jews of the restored community began to lose hope. So their worship degenerated, and they no longer took the law seriously. This is the situation Malachi ministered to, about 400 years before Christ.

Malachi once more reassures and warns his readers that “the day [‘that great and dreadful day of the LORD,’ 4:5] is coming” and that “it will burn like a furnace” (4:1). In that day the righteous will rejoice, and “you will trample down the wicked” (4:1–3). So “remember the law of my servant Moses” (4:4). To prepare his people for that day the Lord will send “the prophet Elijah” to call them back to the godly ways of their forefathers (4:5–6).

In walks one like Elijah, that is, John the Baptist, whom we read about on Sunday. A portion of St. Luke chapter 3 is our Gospel lesson this week, but only the first six verses. The remainder of the chapter is relevant to what Malachi said about the coming Lord: But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.

St. Luke 3 shows that John does the work Malachi foresaw: John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 11 John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” 13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. 14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” 15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.

John certainly did exhort the people. But before he gets to the Good News, he proclaims the law. He shares about the coming judgment that the Messiah would bring. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire…His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

The refiners fire. Thrown into the fire, Burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Malachi and John are talking about the same things. The reference to the coming wrath is both a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in AD 70 and the final judgment, the Day of the Lord that Malachi speaks of in chapter 4, the same chapter where he prophesied about John being one like Elijah. “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.

Fire means judgment, coming wrath. The ax is at the root—a symbolic way of saying that judgment is near for those who give no evidence of repentance. His winnowing fork. The chaff represents the unrepentant and the wheat the righteous. Many Jews thought that only pagans would be judged and punished when the Messiah came, but John declared that judgment would come to all who did not repent—including Jews.

After His first Advent, the judgment, wrath, fire, ax, and winnowing fork were reserved for the unbelieving Jews. The Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed yet again in AD 70. John preached, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” But his words were not heeded by many. And destruction was the consequence. Both the preaching of Malachi and John the Baptist prepare us for what we know as the Second Advent, the Second Coming of the Messiah, the Christ as Judge. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance,” we are told. Our works do not earn our salvation, but our thoughts, words, and deeds can threaten our salvation, if they are not in keeping with repentance. Let us learn from the mistake of those who would not repent after hearing John’s preaching. Let us heed the words of our Lord’s messengers as we prepare for the Day of the Lord. It will be great and dreadful for those who do not repent. But for those who repent, the Judge is our advocate. Let us heed the words of our Lord’s messenger:

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

Our offerings are acceptable to the Lord, and we bring them in righteousness, only because the Lord Christ has purified and refined us like gold and silver. But He did not purify us using gold or silver, as we confess with Dr. Luther: I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. Amen.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sermon for 06 December 2009, Advent 2C

The Rev. Paul J Cain

St. Luke 3:1-6

Prepare the Way

Second Sunday in Advent, 06 December 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Once upon a time. It was a dark and stormy night. In the beginning. When the time had fully come. December 7th 1941. The Second Sunday in Advent. All these phrases accomplish a smiliar thing. They set the time for a story, a narrative, an historical account. Some are obviously fictional, whether fairy tales, or Snoopy & Charlie Brown. The opening verses of our Gospel lesson this Second Sunday in Advent do the same thing. But they are not mythical, fiction, or a joke. These verses lay out for us actual historical figures who lived and reigned at certain, specific, verifiable times in history. What we read here is a historical account—something that actually happened.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.

We hear the odd names. Let’s boil it down. Five rulers are listed. Two high priests. One obscure prophet in the desert. We use what we know of the first seven to teach us about the date of John the Baptist.

Although Tiberius was coregent from 11 B.C., his rule is usually dated from the death of Caesar Augustus in August of A.D. 14. That would make the fifteenth year of his reign A.D. 28-29. The famous Pontius Pilate, confessed in both the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds, was governor, or prefect, of Judea from A.D. 26-36. Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great---ruler when Jesus was born—ruled from 4 B.C to A.D. 39. His brother Philip was tetrarch from 4 B.C. to A.D. 33 or 34. A man named Lysanias, perhaps the second to have that name, lived at the same time. That leaves us with Annas and Caiaphas. Only one could be high priest at a time. Annas from A.D. 6-15 and his son-in-law from A.D. 18-36, and Annas had some influence over his son-in-law.

This is the real historical context (Herod the Tetrarch at the center) in which the word of God comes to John in the Wilderness. This is not just some made-up story that could have happened this year or that, or even once upon a time, but one rooted in history, for our God is a God who acts in human history. He dealt with real people in real places with real salvation and still does today.

[T]he word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Zechariah, the temple priest who was made unable to speak by the angel because of his unbelief, is mentioned again here. When John was born and named, his tongue was loosed. Zechariah sang these words about his son, John. (Luke 1) And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

John’s preaching was a preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The purpose and result of John’s baptism is the forgiveness of sins. It was a call to turn away from mere trust in one’s Jewish heritage, or from mere outward observance of the law. John’s baptism is to prepare the way…for Jesus.

The baptism John performed is different from the baptism Jesus instituted. We learn this in Acts 19. [At Ephesus] Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in languages and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

John’s baptism was not “in the name of Jesus,” nor was it given by the Lord Jesus “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It was, however, a preparatory baptism. Like John himself, it prepared the way for Jesus. The text teaches us that it had the power to bring those who were baptized “the forgiveness of sins.” Forgiveness of sins comes from Jesus. The Word of God came to John….in the desert. The authority for this preaching and the content of his message came from God. And who is the Word made flesh? Jesus Himself. And so John preached a baptism of repentance.

Repentance is important. It is not enough for us to trust in Christian heritage—that we are Christian just because our parents were or merely show up on Sunday and Wednesday and act differently the other days of the week. We may fool others by just going through the motions—but not God! We too preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The law is preached to show us our sin—right in front of our eyes—to prepare the way for Jesus’ Gospel. When God produces repentance inside us, a change occurs. The crookedness inside us wants to be straight. The valley that exists between us and God because of our sin needs to be filled in. And our mountainous piles of sins are made low. The Gospel of Jesus does all these things. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.

What baptism did you receive? Yours was “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” for the forgiveness of sins. The purpose and result of Holy Baptism, of Holy Absolution, of Holy Communion is the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins comes from Jesus. He accomplished it nearly 2000 years ago and He delivers the benefit now. Today! Salvation is yours. This one, John, crying in the desert prepared the way for Jesus, who brings you salvation.

4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’”

Isaiah, chapter 40. One can see the geography of Israel. Paths, valleys, mountains, hills, crooked roads, and rough ways. All must be prepared for the coming of the Messiah. And His work of salvation. Nothing can be permitted to get in the way, not even Peter, who once told Him, May this [the cross] never happen to you!

The Messiah, Jesus, was sinless. But He made His place with us, for us. In solidarity with us. He took a spot among sinners, baptized into a baptism of repentance by John, on His road to Jerusalem, the crooked road and rough way to the cross. John does well in teaching the people, giving the catechetical preparation for the way of the Lord to the place of salvation.

6 And all mankind will see God’s salvation. This brief verse of hope for all nations reminds us of what has gone on before. Consider the Nunc Dimittis, part of our Communion liturgy when we use the Divine Service on page 184 of Lutheran Service Book, what we used to know as page 15 in The Lutheran Hymnal. It is the song of Simeon from Luke 2: 28. Simeon took [Jesus] (him) in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

The eyes of Simeon saw God’s salvation in the child he was holding. John saw God’s salvation in the One for Whom he was preparing the way. We see God’s salvation in front of us. Our Lord calling to you, who are in the wilderness of the world, to take and eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. Behold the table our Lord has prepared for you, to make your paths straight in the true faith until life everlasting. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Advent I Midweek Sermon

The Rev. Paul J Cain

St. Luke 21:25-36

The Kingdom of God is Near

Wednesday of Advent I, 02 December 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Near. A word of Law. A Word of Gospel. Did you ever hear your mother say, “Just wait until your father gets home!” How you dreaded hearing his vehicle drive up! In that case, “being near” wasn’t a good thing from your perspective. And yet, when you were scared, stuck on a roof or in a tree, struggling to stay afloat in the water, or, as a teenager in some other kind of deep water, how comforting it was to see dad drive up, look at you with care and concern and say, “Don’t worry. I’m here.” In those situations, “being near” is a wonderful thing.

The message of our Lord in the alternate Holy Gospel according to St. Luke is that “the kingdom of God is near.” That could be a frightening or comforting word—that all depends upon your perspective. As you hear Jesus’ words, ask, “Who are those who are afraid? And, Who are those who are comforted?” Those answers will help us all understand the most difficult part of the text.

"And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Who are the ones afraid? Nations. Men. People. Anguish. Perplexity. Fainting, fear, and foreboding. Who are those comforted? You are. “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." What’s the difference? Unbelief and belief. Unfaith and faith. Trust in the things of this world versus trust in Christ. Christ’s coming means judgment for unbelievers. For you, it means redemption.

And he [Jesus] told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

Nahum and Habakkuk both use fig trees in conjunction with prophecies of judgment. We should sit up and pay attention. Look at the sign. You know what’s coming next. When trees in Wyoming turn from green to a rainbow of colors, you know that fall and winter are coming—not another summer. When the stores get in extra toys, gifts, and a large supply of artificial trees, you know what season is near. When the signs in heaven and on earth have been fulfilled and are being fulfilled before your eyes, know that the kingdom of God is near.

Sunday was the First Sunday in Advent, the first Sunday in a new Church Year. The Sunday closest to November 30th, St. Andrew’s Day, is the First Sunday in Advent. Advent means “Coming.” And the color of the paraments, blue, tells you about who is coming—a king. The Season of Advent is one of preparation. We prepare both for the first coming of Christ on Christmas, as we celebrate the anniversary of His birth, and prepare for His Second Coming on the Last Day—and that Day won’t be pre-announced on any of your calendars!

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

This is one of the most difficult passages in Luke. Good thing we have it on the very first Sunday of Lectionary Year C—the year where we focus upon St. Luke’s Gospel account. The words, “Truly, I say to you,” are words Jesus uses to get our attention. If all we had to work on were these two sentences about what will and will not pass away, we would be and remain quite puzzled. We would be tempted to engage in speculation about what “generation” meant.

In His Wisdom, the Holy Spirit gives us an entire Gospel account authored by St. Luke, not to mention the entire book of Acts. We have more to work with than just one word, one phrase, one pericope. The word “generation,” taken by itself has varied meanings throughout Luke. But, the specific phrase, “this generation,” three words in Greek, has a very specific meaning in all of its nine specific uses in Luke. Here is where reading Scripture in context again comes to our rescue. The phrase “this generation” in Luke always denotes an unbelieving portion of humanity. They rejected John the Baptizer, keep asking for a sign as an evil generation, and still will not repent after seeing the signs Jesus does provide. “This generation,” at least according to Lukan usage, refers to the continuing line of all unbelievers. Unbelievers will always be with us. And they have reason to fear the coming of the kingdom.

"But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

Unbelievers are known for dissipation—wasteful and excessive lifestyles, drunkenness, and being weighed down by anxiety. Don’t they have opportunity to drag us down with them? Sure! What Christian hasn’t been anxious or fallen into sin? Does it have to be just a one-way influence? If one parent is a believer, but the other is an unbeliever, the children often follow the path of least resistance—they’ll often acquire the habits and attitudes of the unbelieving parent. We can’t give up on our children or grandchildren without a fight! This holiday season, how can you reach out to those who are near to you? What invitations or gifts can you give that would help slow or stop the cycle of unbelief? How can you encourage your family and godchildren to remember their baptism into Christ? Christmas is not just for the children, but for all ages—all the children of our Heavenly Father. How can you snatch those you love out of the anxieties of life and the many addictions that threaten their life and spiritual life?

Near. Your redemption is drawing near. We will soon remember the incarnation—the enfleshment of Christ on Christmas. We are vigilant, always on the watch, expecting Christ’s return and pray that we who believe may escape all that is about to happen, according to Jesus’ promise. We abide in Him and in His love, where He has promised to be in Word and Sacrament, that we may be able to stand before the Son of Man. The Kingdom of God is near. Now is His time of salvation.

Will we sin? Unfortunately, yes. In Christ there is forgiveness for all repented sin! Will we, at times, be anxious? Of course! But our anxiety is not to be all-consuming as it is for those without Christ. Have you seen the difference? Do you see the difference? It is all over / this sermon text of the new Church Year. It all comes down to belief and unbelief.

Those without Christ have reason to be anxious. No wonder nations and people get so perplexed about problems in this world and natural disasters. They may think that this life is all that there is. No wonder they tremble at the thought of the Son of Man coming with power and great glory. They may be uncertain about whether they’ve done enough to merit God’s favor. They will, deep down, if they’re honest with themselves, doubt whether they’ll really go to heaven. There’s a lot to be anxious about. Outside of Christ and the certainty of forgiveness and heaven, there’s reason for drunkenness. In such a depressing life, no wonder they often live in dissipation, spending what they don’t have on things they don’t need which won’t make them any happier than before. Those kind of things are all that unbelief has to hold on to.

Unbelief is the sin that condemns. It condemns because it rejects Christ. Christ is redemption. Christ is the world’s redeemer. Christ is the kingdom. For one without Christ there is no kingdom of grace, no redeemer, no redemption. And there is reason for fear, fainting, and foreboding. Outside of Christianity there is no hope.

The Advent/Christmas/Epiphany season is one of hope. Blue reflects that Advent expectation of a coming King. The music of the season is filled with joyful, hopeful praise. And, until Christmas, we will refrain from singing the Gloria, the song of the Christmas angels announcing Jesus’ birth. Instead, we will rejoice in O Come, O Come Emmanuel at Divine Service. During the Service of Prayer and Preaching we will close with an Advent canticle, the song of Zechariah, his song of praise to God at the birth of his son, John the Baptizer.

On this First week in Advent and the beginning of a new church year, the Scripture readings point to the Lord, who comes to us and who promises to come again. Be always on the watch, pray, and remain in His love, His Word and Sacraments.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See, Your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The kingdom of God is near. And His “being near” is a wonderful thing. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent C, 29 November 2009

The Rev. Paul J Cain

Luke 19:28-40

Jesus Comes

First Sunday in Advent, 29 November 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

And as [Jesus] rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

That was the culmination of this Sunday’s Gospel reading. Jesus is coming as King on what we call Palm Sunday. Jesus’ Coming is what we celebrate each Advent. Advent means “Coming.” The Pharisees won’t acknowledge Jesus as King. Their hearts aren’t ready because they have ignored what the Scriptures said. Their hearts are hard as stones. Jesus knows this and rebukes them for it: “I tell you, if these [disciples] were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Sometimes, we too are as reluctant as stones to cry out. It’s hard to get out of a warm bed on a cold morning. We’re intimidated by the thought of talking to someone about our faith in Christ. We’re reluctant to invite people to Bible Class or Church. The worries of the outside world even distract us in our singing.

Our Lord has a way of bringing stones into His service. Saul was a Pharisee and persecutor of the Church. Paul was changed and cried out to all who would listen to him about Christ crucified, even to the point when Paul himself was persecuted for the sake of Jesus.

Sometimes, Jesus uses stones to proclaim the message to us. Isn’t that what a church building does? All of the seats point toward the altar and cross, representing God in Christ. The Lord is our audience. The cross adorns our hymnals where forgiveness was won for us, where Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews was enthroned. We see the Holy Scriptures, Holy Baptism, and Holy Communion also on the cover, where Jesus delivers that forgiveness to you in our day. Paraments show the royal color, blue, that a child is coming. It’s a Boy! It’s a King! Banners proclaim the mighty works God has done. Stained glass windows are Christians sermons, too—in a more permanent form.

Is your heart ready for a king? Not on your own. It isn’t and it can never be. ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ That’s what Jeremiah preaches in the Old Testament Reading. The Lord delivers the very righteousness He demands. He prepares your heart for His habitation.

Have you ever been silent as stones about Jesus? Here’s hope for you: LSB 333.1: Once He came in blessing, All our sins redressing; Came in likeness lowly, Son of God most holy; Bore the cross to save us; Hope and freedom gave us.

The Advent season isn’t to jump the gun on Christmas music, and these four weeks are about much more than shopping for family and friends. Jesus first came on Christmas. That’s what we prepare to celebrate each Advent. Repentance. Hope. Prayerful watching. Caring for one another. Sharing the Good News about Jesus. Jesus comes to forgive you.

LSB 333.2: Now He gently leads us; With Himself He feeds us Precious food from heaven, Pledge of peace here given, Manna that will nourish Souls that they may flourish.

Jesus comes today in His Word and Sacraments, especially His Holy Supper. Is your heart ready for a king? Then have faith in Jesus’ Words: “This is my Body.” “This is my Blood.” “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” That makes one worthy and well prepared to Commune. Jesus comes to forgive you.

LSB 333.3: Soon will come that hour When with mighty power Christ will come in splendor And will judgment render, With the faithful sharing Joy beyond comparing.

Jesus comes again on the Last Day—His Second Coming, Second Advent. Repentant, hopeful, watchful faith is how we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ First Coming on Christmas, when He comes to us in His Body and Blood for our forgiveness, and when He comes again in judgment.

Is your heart ready for a king? Our own piety, works, goodness, and preparations cannot prepare us. Jesus Himself prepares us even as we pray: (LSB 333.4) Come, then O Lord Jesus, From our sins release us. Keep our hearts believing, That we, grace receiving, Ever may confess You Till in heav’n we bless You. Jesus comes to forgive you.


In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Prayer of the Church for Thanksgiving

Prayer of the Church


November 26, 2009

P Gracious and merciful Lord, Your gift of all that we need to support body and life is new to us each day. Receive our thanks and praise for daily bread that comes from Your loving hand.

We are grateful for the gifts You give us from Your work of creation and Your continuing work to care for us and all You have made. Bless and prosper the harvest in our land at this time of the year and all year long. Suppress the spread of disease among animals, and provide health and strength to the crops, that weather, flooding, drought, and parasites may not hinder the bounty You give from being a blessing far beyond the farms and ranches where our food is grown and raised.

In this land of plenty, help us to remember those who are unable to provide for themselves. Teach us to use all of Your blessings to serve those You have entrusted to us according to our vocations. Remind us of the importance of sharing our material wealth, our time, our skills and talents, our possessions, and the wisdom of Your Holy Word. Grant us thankful hearts, observant minds, and generous action to care for our neighbors in need.

Protect and defend all those who protect and defend Your people. We ask Your blessing upon the leaders of the world that they may provide for the common good of all. We pray for peace among nations and within nations. Where there are wars and rumors of wars, grant understanding that leads to peace. Grant courage and resolve to leaders who reluctantly take up the sword in self-defense of their people or to liberate others. Send Your holy angels to protect Your Christian people according to Your promise. Watch over police, state troopers, those serving in our national guard, and all who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, both active duty and reserve.

Bless us with health and healing according to Your good and gracious will. We remember before You all who are sick, suffering, hospitalized, facing surgery, recovering, or struggling with chronic pain (especially __________). Grant comfort and peace in Christ to those who are near death. Give peace to all who mourn, that through the consolation of Your Word, they may hold fast to Your promise of the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

Your care for us, O Father, is more than just tending to our physical needs. You provide for all of our needs of both body and soul in the sacrificial death and victorious Resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. May we return to You our thanks and praise for Your Holy Word, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion, the fruits of Your Son's Holy and innocent suffering and death. We thank You for the gift of the holy Church and the Office of the Holy Ministry. For all Your blessings, grant us grateful hearts this day, this week, and our whole life long.

Bless all who commune this day with You by means of Your Son's Body and Blood given and shed for our forgiveness, that the unity we have in Him may be nourished and strengthened.

O Lord, You alone provide us daily bread, even without our prayers. Help us to remember this and thus receive our daily bread with prayerful thanksgiving; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C Amen.

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Sermon and Prayer of the Church for 22 November 2009

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

The Ancient of Days and the Son of Man

Proper [29] B, Last Sunday in the Church Year, 22 November 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

For a Lay Reader

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

This morning we celebrate the end of the world. We’re not picking a date for when it will happen—only our Father in heaven knows that—the Church did pick this Last Sunday after Pentecost to celebrate it. In Confirmation Class, we have called Judgment Day and the Last Day and also the “Don’t Know Day,” thanks to the creativity of a young Lutheran girl.

The End of the World is something to celebrate for us Christians. In Christ, we have nothing to fear, for the Judge of Judgment Day is our Savior every day. We are judged by the righteousness & holiness He gives us as the ultimate Christmas Gift. That is why He was born, lived, died, and rose again on the third day.

As they were planning her funeral service, Pastor’s Aunt Vonnie told him, “I may fear dying, but I don’t have to be afraid of death.” In Christ Jesus, the end of our life and the end of the world is a good thing—the end of this vale of tears, sorrow, mourning, pain, and death.

It is appropriate this Last Sunday in the Church year to watch Daniel’s vision of the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. Daniel says: 9As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.

The rich detail of the vision is evident. This is a courtroom and royal throne room setting. Court is in session. The Ancient of Days, our Father in heaven, is the king on the flaming throne with wheels. He is also the Royal Judge, Jury, and Executioner. The million and the hundred million are symbolic numbers of completeness, just like in Revelation. The stream of fire foreshadows the obvious: the court sits in judgment.

The books were opened. The Book of Revelation uses this phrase to talk about the books where all of humanity’s sins are recorded, yours, mine, and all who have lived and ever will live. The way the Lord has it set up, forgiven sins don’t count. And forgiven sinners, also known as saints, are listed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Just one to list all the believers. Libraries are needed to record all the sins that need to be judged and punished. The books were opened.

Who is being judged? On the Last Day, everyone will be judged. That is the consequence of sin. God is loving and merciful. He is also just and holy. The sin of Adam and Eve alienated humanity from God. We are all conceived and born with that Original Sin. That predisposes each of us to sin ourselves—that’s Actual sin. Even one sin is enough to eternally separate a person from God. We have a loving and merciful God who wants to save the people He created from themselves. His plan is to send a Savior, one born from the family line of Adam and Eve. His name is Jesus. In order to satisfy God’s justice and holiness, Jesus was set apart as a substitute to suffer the consequences of your sin and die in your place. His resurrection shows that the sacrifice was accepted, and also gives you a preview of your Resurrection. That’s also a part of Judgment Day.

On the Last Day, everyone will be judged, but the Lord revealed more about this judgment and human history to Daniel. The context of Daniel 7:1-9 (ESV) reveals the following: In the first year of Belshazzar [Bell Sha (like the a in Cabin) Zar] king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. 2Daniel declared, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. 5And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, 'Arise, devour much flesh.' 6After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. 9As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.

You’ve heard the rest through verse 10. What does this mean? To put is simply, Daniel is given a vision of the future from his perspective, leading up to Judgment Day. The animals stand for kingdoms that rule and will rule on earth. The first, the lion with eagle’s wings, is King Nebuchadnezzar’s [Neh Buh Kuh Nezar’s] dynasty. The second, a bear, represents the Medes [Meeds] & Persians. Alexander the Great of Macedonia [c has an seh sound] and Greece is the leopard with four wings. Finally, the fourth beast with iron teeth is the Roman Empire. During its time of rule an eternal kingdom, that of Christ, will be set up, one in the world, but not of this world. Daniel lived in an interesting time.

Exiled to Babylon in 605 B.C., Daniel was one of several young men chosen to serve in [King] Nebuchadnezzar’s court. When the Persians conquered Babylon in 539, Daniel was again given a position of power. He remained faithful to God in both of these hostile environments. From the interpretation of dreams, to the familiar stories of the fiery furnace, the lions’ den, and the handwriting on the wall, to the apocalyptic visions, the recurrent theme of the book is God’s [rule] over human affairs. In the historical sections (chapters 1–6) God supernaturally rescued Daniel and his friends. The rest of the book consists of visions of future judgment and deliverance by the Messiah. Some of Daniel’s prophetic themes are echoed in the book of Revelation.

A Final Judgment is one of those themes. The next verses show the judgment of the beast (#4). Dominion, that is, authority, is taken away from him and given to One like a Son of Man: 11I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

13I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

The Ancient of Days, our Father in Heaven, gives His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, all authority in heaven and on earth. Kingdoms and nations have ruled and will rule through all human history, but the kingdom of Christ is one that shall never pass away. It will never be destroyed. The gates of hell itself will never prevail against the kingdom of Christ.

At the end of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, [28:18-20 (ESV) ] Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Our Lord wants all peoples, nations, and languages to serve him. His Word, the Bible, and Holy Baptism are for them, that they would be made disciples. All will be judged, this is true, but those in Christ will not be condemned. The Lord desires that all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages, would receive the new birth of the Holy Spirit and be saved. He desires not the death of a sinner, but that they would turn from sinful thoughts, words, and deeds.

Repent. Watch. Pray. Serve your neighbor in every circumstance you have opportunity.

The Lord forgives repentant sinners. If you are a repentant sinner, then the Lord forgives you. You are part of a kingdom that will not be destroyed. Therefore, you will not be destroyed. You are part of a kingdom that endures forever. Therefore, you will endure forever.

Visions like this from Daniel are amazing, overpowering, even frightening. You have nothing to fear in Christ. For the Ancient of Days so loved the world that He sent the One like a Son of Man so that you would not face the fiery flames but dwell in His kingdom, one that shall never be destroyed. Amen.

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

Prayer of the Church

Last Sunday of the Church Year (Proper 29B)

November 22, 2009

P Jesus, until Your glorious return on the Last Day, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life, that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You sent it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P Almighty and most gracious God and Father, we implore You to turn the hearts of all who have forsaken the faith once delivered to Your Church, especially those who have wandered from it or are in doubt through the corruption of Your truth. Mercifully visit them and restore them that in gladness of heart they may take pleasure in Your Word and be made wise to salvation; through faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P Almighty and gracious God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, You have commanded us to pray that You would send forth laborers into Your harvest. Of Your infinite mercy give us true teachers and ministers of Your Word who truly fulfill Your command and preach nothing contrary to Your holy Word. May we, being warned, instructed, nurtured, comforted, and strengthened by Your holy Word, do those things which are well-pleasing to You and profitable for our salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P Eternal Lord, ruler of all, graciously regard those who have been set in positions of authority among us that, guided by Your Spirit, they may be high in purpose, wise in counsel, firm in good resolution, and unwavering in duty, that under them we may be governed quietly and peaceably; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P Lord of heaven and earth, as we know both from history and current events, there are and have been wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, droughts, and famines in various places. Grant us peaceful hearts in the midst of uncertain times knowing that these are but the beginning of birth pangs. Protect us from the teachings of those who would announce a date for the end of all things, comforted by Your Word that assures us that no one knows the day or the hour but only You, the Father; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P O Lord God, You create and sustain life as a good and precious gift from Your gracious hand. Provide clean water and nourishing food through relief and human care agencies around the world. Enable and embolden us to speak up to defend life from the womb to natural death. By the example of Your blessed Son, grant the sick (especially _______) grace to accept patiently the sufferings of the present time in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed to us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P Lord Jesus, You invite all who are burdened with sin to come to You for rest. We now come at Your invitation to the heavenly feast which You have provided for Your children on earth. Preserve us from impenitence and unbelief, cleanse us from our unrighteousness, and clothe us with the righteousness purchased with Your blood. Strengthen our faith, increase our love and hope, and assure us a place at Your heavenly table, where we will eat eternal manna and drink of the river of Your pleasure forever and ever; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P All these things and whatever else You know that we need, grant us, Father, for the sake of Him who died and rose again and now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever.

C Amen.