Monday, February 25, 2013

Sermon for 24 February 2013, Second Sunday in Lent C

Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
Jeremiah 26:8-15
Thus Says the Lord
Second Sunday in Lent, 24 February 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

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

About the Cover: “You shall die!” they thundered at Jeremiah. They thought the prophet had spoken blasphemy, but he had spoken only the truth God put in his mouth. Jesus, too, is threatened with death (by Herod, “that fox” [Luke 13:31–32]), but our Lord is undismayed. He still has work to do, and He knows He will not die until the appointed time and at the appointed place: Jerusalem, when the lambs are slain.
We should set the stage for the death threat against Jeremiah. This text has something to say to us here and now.
In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the Lord: “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds. You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.’ ”
The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord.
It sounds pretty straight forward doesn’t it? The Lord told His prophet to proclaim His word. The Lord wanted His people to repent, listen to His prophets, and repent. It sounds straight forward enough, right? If they choose not to listen or choose not to obey, then, the Lord says, “I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.” “A curse” we at least understand. What does the Lord mean about Shiloh? Shiloh was destroyed. It had once hosted the Ark of the Covenant. When the people there began to think of it superstitiously, as only a “good luck charm,” the Ark was temporarily lost to the Philistines and the city itself was destroyed.
And here is where today’s Old Testament text picks up the account:
And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
Let’s pause and understand what is going on. Jeremiah did what the Lord told him to do. The priests and other prophets and all the people did not believe what Jeremiah said from the Lord. They didn’t want to hear it. They didn’t want to do it. Their solution was to get rid of the person, Jeremiah, who had offended them. Now the government gets involved.
10 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”
Where is the king in all of this? He sent his officials. The priests and prophets appealed to the officials to put Jeremiah to death, not because he spoke unfaithfully, but because Jeremiah proclaimed the Lord’s own judgment against them and their city. There’s a big difference between the two, of course. What would Jeremiah say?
12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. 13 Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. 14 But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. 15 Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”
Jeremiah proclaimed the Lord’s Word. The Lord wanted His people to repent, listen to His prophets, and repent. Instead, the people call for Jeremiah’s death. That is where the reading on the back of your bulletin ends. It is our point of connection with the text. What do you do with God’s Word? You have heard it today. You are hearing it explained, proclaimed, and applied to you here and now. What will you do with it the rest of this day? What will you do with it the rest of this week? This month? This year? The Lord calls for you to repent so that you may benefit from the delivery of His life, salvation, and forgiveness. His Word is good seed that can remain hidden or dead, or it can be planted and bear fruit. Which will it be for you?
World magazine, 23 February 2013, p. 4: How far and how quickly [our nation has moved on social issues, away from what God’s Word says,] from [declaring something] “taboo/criminal à toleration à acceptance à approval à normalization à protection à preferential treatment.” Indeed, what’s to keep the same pattern from repeating itself with reference to a variety of moral issues? [This is the pattern our old evil foe uses to introduce false teaching to a pastor, a Christian, a congregation, and even a church body. Pray for steadfastness, for faithfulness, for courage to stand firm, for bold, faithful, and winsome proclamation of God’s Word in all of its truth and purity.
This sermon, like any sermon, is unfinished. Faith responds to God’s Word with its “Amen,” looking to Christ alone, breathing forth with good works, good works that are faith’s “thank you” to the Lord, not good works misunderstood as bribes to the Lord. Salvation is in Christ Jesus alone. Period.
Jeremiah proclaimed the Lord’s Word. That is what you and the Lord has called me to do. The Lord still wanted His people that He gathers to Himself and His Word to repent, listen to His Word, and repent. Instead, apathy reigns. So many people don’t want to take even an hour of their time on a Sunday morning to pay attention. Ignorance of the Bible is to be expected in America. It is common for me to meet adults who have never been baptized. It is common for me to meet children who have rarely, if ever, set foot in a church. It is common for me to meet nursing home residents who haven’t been near a preacher in thirty years. It is easy to be distracted even while in the pews. Once the service ends, we all leave this place and go forth into our vocations. What will you do with God’s Word? How will you respond in faith?
I can tell you the rest of the story for the people in Jeremiah 26.
16 Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.” 17 And certain of the elders of the land arose and spoke to all the assembled people, saying, 18 “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and said to all the people of Judah: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts,          “ ‘Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.’
19 Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the Lord and entreat the favor of the Lord, and did not the Lord relent of the disaster that he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great disaster upon ourselves.”
This is another good time to pause. The government officials, representatives of the king affirmed Jeremiah’s ministry and message. And elders of the land spoke to the people from the scriptures. Proclaiming the Law of the Lord, they said, is not a cause to call for the prophet’s death. No. It is time to repent and believe. And the Lord relented on the disaster He had proclaimed as a judgment on unfaithfulness. Finally, these elders said: “But we are about to bring great disaster upon ourselves” [if we do not repent and believe].
These elders knew what they were talking about. They also knew the account of a counter-example: 20 There was another man who prophesied in the name of the Lord, Uriah the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim. He prophesied against this city and against this land in words like those of Jeremiah. 21 And when King Jehoiakim, with all his warriors and all the officials, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death. But when Uriah heard of it, he was afraid and fled and escaped to Egypt. 22 Then King Jehoiakim sent to Egypt certain men, Elnathan the son of Achbor and others with him, 23 and they took Uriah from Egypt and brought him to King Jehoiakim, who struck him down with the sword and dumped his dead body into the burial place of the common people.
So what happened in this counter-example? Uriah the prophet faithfully proclaimed the Lord’s Word like Jeremiah is doing. He fled to Egypt to escape a death sentence like the people want against Jeremiah. Egypt extradited him back to Jehoiakim who killed him and dishonored his remains. So much for the Lord’s prophet.
What is to become of Jeremiah?
24 But the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah so that he was not given over to the people to be put to death.
Jeremiah is rescued. As I mentioned before, Jesus, too, is threatened with death (by Herod, “that fox” [Luke 13:31–32]), but our Lord is undismayed. He still has work to do, and He knows He will not die until the appointed time and at the appointed place: Jerusalem, when the lambs are slain.
TLSB: Faithful proclamation of God’s Word often brings serious, even fatal opposition by the worldly powers. Despite this, [we Christians] faithfully defend those wrongly accused, and pray for fellow Christians who face persecution. God often rescues His people from physical harm, but the greater blessing is that He rescues you from eternal condemnation through Jesus Christ.

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

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Midweek Lenten Sermon for 20 February 2013 before Compline

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ Drawn from the Four Gospels (LSB/ESV)
Wednesday of Lent I, 20 February 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ Drawn from the Four Gospels:

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, also called the Passover, drew near, and Jesus said to his disciples: “You know that after two days is the Feast of the Passover, and the Son of Man will be given over to be crucified.”
Then the chief priests and scribes assembled with the elders of the people in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted how they might take Jesus craftily and put him to death. But they said, “Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people,” for they feared the people.
Then Satan entered into Judas, surnamed Iscariot, one of the Twelve. He went his way to the chief priests and captains and spoke together with them how he might betray Jesus to them. They were glad to hear him. He said to them, “What will you give me to betray him to you?” They promised to give him money and agreed with him for thirty pieces of silver. He accepted, and from that time he sought opportunity to betray him in the absence of the multitude.
Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread when they sacrificed the Passover lamb. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where do you want us to prepare it?”
He said to them, “Go into the city and, when you have entered the city, watch for a man bearing a pitcher of water. When he meets you, follow him into the house where he enters. You shall say to the man who lives there, ‘The Master says to you, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house. Where is room for me to eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘ And he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us.” The disciples did as Jesus had directed them. They came into the city and found it as he had told them; and they made ready the Passover.
When the hour was come, Jesus sat down and the apostles with him. As they were eating, he said, “I have longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I say to you I shall not eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. “Truly I say to you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father.”
There was also a strife among them as to which of them should be accounted the greatest. He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ It shall not be so among you. He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that serves. For who is greater, he that sits at the table or he that serves? Is it not he that sits at the table? But I am among you as a servant. You are they who have continued with me in my temptations. I appoint you to a kingdom, as my Father has appointed me. You shall eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Jesus knew that his hour was come to depart from the world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who are in the world, he loved them to the end. Already Satan had put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God. He rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.
When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but after these things you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, “He who has been bathed does not need to wash more than his feet, for he is clean altogether. You are clean, but not all of you.” He knew who was to betray him; that was why he said not every one was clean.
So after he had washed their feet and taken his garments and sat down again, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me the Master and the Lord, and it is good that you say this, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. I have done this to show you the way to do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his lord; neither is he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them. “I do not speak of you all; I know whom I have chosen. The Scripture must be fulfilled, ‘He that eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me.’ Already now I tell you of this, before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe that I am he. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives anyone whom I shall send, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives him who sent me.”
When Jesus had said these things, his spirit was in turmoil. He bore witness and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you that one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another dumbfounded about whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was leaning on Jesus’ bosom. Simon Peter said to him, “Ask who it is of whom he is speaking.” That disciple who was reclining on Jesus’ chest said to him, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus then answered, “It is the one to whom I shall give the piece of bread after I have dipped it.” He dipped the piece of bread he had in his hand and gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. After the piece of bread had been dipped, Satan entered into that one. Jesus said to him, “What you are doing, do quickly.”
No one at the table knew what the purpose was of what Jesus had said to him. Because Judas kept the money bag, some thought Jesus had told him to buy what was needed for the feast or to give something to the poor. When that man had received the piece of bread, he went out immediately, and it was night.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify him in himself, and at once he will glorify him.
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you. For this I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but afterwards you will follow me.”
Here ends the Reading.

Peter would not be crucified next to Jesus—that was reserved for the two thieves. Peter would deny Jesus-this we know-but Peter’s outcome would be different than that of Judas. Peter would remember Jesus’ words. After the Resurrection, Peter would again follow Jesus. He would say that he loved Jesus and would feed Jesus’ lambs and sheep beginning at Jerusalem. The message spread to the ends of the earth—even Rome. And Peter would follow our Lord to a cross. Scripture is silent on this point, but reliable ancient historians say that Peter would follow his Lord in a martyr’s death at Rome—crucified upside-down. He allegedly requested this—to differentiate his suffering from that of Jesus.
In the Words of Institution of Holy Communion Jesus speaks about His suffering to come. “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.” “Drink of it, all of you; this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Christians remember the Lord’s death when we partake of His Body and Blood. You know that a sacrifice has taken place when Body and Blood are separated. We remember His death when we see a cross or crucifix.
But even more important is how Jesus remembers us. “This do in remembrance of Me,” He said. That could also be translated in this way: “Do this in My Remembrance.” Who is doing the remembering? Most importantly, it is Christ who does the remembering. He remembers His Passion, crucifixion, and death for you. He remembers His Resurrection—for you, too will rise. Jesus remembers His promises to you, His people, to be gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. No, Jesus is no longer in the manger, on the cross, or in the tomb, but He was—for you and your salvation. That’s why they are important to see and remember. He shows His love with His arms open wide on the cross.
That is why He suffered betrayal. That is why He came to wash the disciples’ feet. He came as a servant, not to be served. We serve others best only when He fills us with Himself.
Each Lenten Midweek service this year we will focus upon Jesus and His Passion, suffered for us. The Passion Narrative, provided by Lutheran Service Book, draws out all of the rich detail of all four Gospel accounts: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Following the Procession on Palm Sunday, the focus of the day turns to the reading of the Passion according to St. Luke, the Gospel account featured this year most Sundays. On Good Friday, we will hear the Passion according to St. John.
Lent is a time for personal examination, repentance, and faith, but the focus is not on ourselves. It is always on Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus.
Next week, we follow our Lord to GETHSEMANE. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sermon for 17 February 2013, First Sunday in Lent C

Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
St. Luke 4:1-13
Lead Us Not Into Temptation
First Sunday in Lent, 17 February 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

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

About the Cover: Temptation—the devil is its author. Its aim is to destroy your trust in the heavenly Father and bind you in the shackles of sin, leaving you in despair. But for you, the Lord Jesus is led by the Spirit to the wilderness to know temptation and then to conquer it by the Word of God. He is your champion, your shield, your advocate, your Savior. His Word is your mighty weapon too.

            Jesus was fasting. He ate nothing for forty days and forty nights. This was no ordinary fast—this was the kind of Spiritual fast that one can survive only by divine intervention. Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit, poured out upon Him in bodily form at Jesus’ Baptism.
            Luke also states the obvious. Jesus was hungry. Jesus’ hunger was likely the greatest at this point of his desert fast. His resistance was likely the lowest as well. The Devil comes to tempt Him, taking advantage of the situation.

Jesus was hungry. Jesus was weak at this point. The Devil tried to get Jesus to doubt Himself, doubt His identity as the very Son of God, the Beloved Son, with Whom God is well pleased. Satan attempted to use Jesus’ weakness against Him.
Satan uses our weaknesses against us. He uses anything he can to try to get us away from God. Jesus was hungry after forty days and forty nights, so the devil used hunger to get at Jesus. How is he going after you? What is your weakness? Do you want to be popular? Do you want to be loved, respected, admired? Do you want to get ahead at work? Do you want to hang out with the cool kids? Do you just want to take life easy and not worry about your spiritual life? Would you just rather golf, hunt, fish, sleep in, or watch TV on Sunday morning? Does brunch sound more appealing than Bible Class or Sunday School? What weakness is the Devil using to drive a wedge between you and God? Men, is the bulletin cover all too true for you? What weakness is the Devil using to cause you to doubt God and His promises for you?
            Jesus resists temptation by speaking the Word, specifically Deuteronomy 8:3. This verse came from a time when the children of Israel, after the Exodus from Egypt, were unfaithful to God. They spent forty years in the wilderness. Jesus, a faithful descendant of Israel, Judah, and David, resists temptation and is faithful during His forty days in the wilderness. He is able to resist and be faithful where Israel gave in and was unfaithful. Jesus is the faithful Israel.
Man does not live on bread alone. We may have desires for food, fun, companionship, or possessions. Even if we acquire all of these things, it will be for naught if we lose our right relationship with God. We need God. We need His Word. We cannot resist temptation with the Word if we do not know what the Word has to say. We need to be in the Bible daily. We need to take the time for group Bible Study and Sunday School. We also need to have the Word at home. Nurturing your faith at worship is wonderful, but that cannot be whole extent of your life as a Christian! Live your faith outside of these walls.
            By His obedience and faithfulness, Our Lord accomplished what we could not. He willingly gives us the benefits of His faithfulness when He forgives our sins. He takes our rap sheet, our unfaithfulness, and exchanges it with His unblemished record. He can forgive us for our neglect of His Word. He calls to us, I have good Gifts for you! Let us not neglect them.

            Did the Devil really possess the authority and splendor of all the kingdoms of the world? No. Of course not. God is the Lord of the nations, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Devil was promising something he couldn’t deliver. We shouldn’t be surprised. He has been a liar and deceiver from the beginning.
The Devil can also tempt us by promising something he can’t deliver.
What are you deceived into believing the Devil can give you? Does abusing drugs or alcohol really make your problems go away? Do inappropriate images really fill a void or just make you feel more empty and guilty inside? Does hanging out with the right people at work or school or going to the best parties really make you a better person?
            There are those who would love to destroy our relationship with God as well. Other religions may look good on the outside and may promise many things. Any religious group that openly teaches things contrary to the Bible and invents new teachings is not Christian. We know Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It’s not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:14-15.) It doesn’t matter what they have in the name of their church or on their buildings if they don’t believe in the Jesus of the Bible and the teachings Jesus gives us in the Bible.
Satan didn’t possess the authority and splendor of all of the kingdoms of the world. So there’s no way he could give it to Jesus. Adam and Eve were deceived into thinking they could become like God. We rejoice that God became like us in Jesus Christ. He promises us salvation as a gift, not something earned. He calls us to live in the forgiveness of sins, bringing vitality to our lives individually, and corporately as a family and as a congregation. He heals our brokenness and fills all our needs to support this body and life, physically, and spiritually. He cares for your whole person—body and soul!

The most insidious temptation Satan targets our way is misuse of God’s Word. Jesus responded to the first temptation with the Word. Jesus responded to the second temptation with the Word. Now, Satan thinks he’s getting smart. He uses the Word, but in an evil way. He takes this passage from (Psalm 91:11-12) out of context and twists its meaning. He misuses the Word.
            Many groups twist the meaning of God’s Word today. The Mormons are only one example. The Jehovah’s Witnesses turn Jesus into a god. Some groups that call themselves Christian doubt the Virgin Birth of Jesus and even His Resurrection! Some also say that truth doesn’t matter! A very popular error among conservative Christians has to do with the end of the world. Their false teaching is also contained in a series of fiction books. They complicate what the Bible says about the last things with an idea derived from a fifteen year old Scottish girl who was a member of a cult group from less than 200 years ago.
            God’s Word gives us the forgiveness of sins and it also gives us what we need to stand up under temptation and under fire from the flaming arrows of the evil one. Our Lord cares for us so much that He provides for us what we need to stand firm.
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left [Jesus] until an opportune time.
That’s what Satan looks for—opportune times. He looks for when we’re the weakest. He watches for when we’ve been neglecting the Word, worship, and fellowship and encouragement from other Christians. Then he strikes. He uses our weaknesses as sinful human beings against us. He promises us things he can’t deliver—just to get us to sin and lead us away from God. And most dangerous of all, He intentionally skews Scripture to lead us astray—away from Christ and His forgiveness and protection.
In The Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer we pray, And lead us not into temptation. What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.
The Devil works overtime to tempt and lead astray Christians. He has time to spend on us because he already has the rest of the world deceived. The World thinks we’re weird. We live in a culture where peer pressure tries to force us off Christ’s narrow path. With all of these unholy pressures already attempting to force us away from God, why should we let ourselves, our family members, our friends, be led into temptation?
            Let me speak first to those of you still in school. Remain faithful. Don’t give into the temptations of the evil one or his servants. Many may pretend to be servants of righteousness, but there is often nothing but spiritual death and eternal separation from God as the end result.
2 Corinthians 6:14–15 is relevant to you. Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
            When we have contact with unbelievers, non-Christians, we are to witness to them, not give in to them and become like them! We have the truth. We have life. We have salvation. We have the blessings of the Gospel—all because of Christ. Do not be deceived by a false Christianity, or a false Jesus.

            Dear parents, grandparents, and friends of our young people: Encourage the kids and young adults that you know to study their Bible. Put them in mind of their Baptism. Encourage them when you know they’re down, discouraged, or tempted to leave the Christian church. Pray for them. Pray with them. Be there for them. It may take being firm. What does a Christian need with a non Christian group’s activities?  They can be spiritually deadly. Parents, please protect your children. Don’t encourage their neglect of the Bible, devotions, or Sunday School and church. You are their example in the faith.

            The most important thing to remember from this text, the temptation of Jesus, is that Jesus resisted temptation. Granted, that is an excellent example to follow. We are taught to resist with God’s Word. In the past, we know that we have given in. We have neglected the Word. Know this: Jesus resisted temptation for you, in your place. Just as He was the faithful Israel, His faithfulness in your place gives you the forgiveness of sins. Repent. Believe the Gospel. And rejoice that your sins are forgiven. Amen.

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

Sermon for 13 February 2013, Ash Wednesday

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Joel 2:12-19
Ash Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

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

A month and a half ago we were celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas, the Gift of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the gifts given and received under the Christmas tree. [There’s still snow on the ground, but] Other words fill our ears this evening.
Return. Fast. Mourn. Repent. Call a solemn assembly. Gather the people from infants to the aged. It sure sounds like Ash Wednesday. The prophet Joel wrote about it. The Church doesn’t hear the prophet Joel much. This Old Testament text is the only one in the Three-Year Lectionary. And it shows up only on a Day of Supplication and Prayer, like many congregations observed after 9/11 and for Ash Wednesday.
One of the many jokes about Lutherans is that we tend to act as if every day was Lent. There’s some fact behind the humor. Maybe it is because Lutherans take seriously the Lord’s call to return to Him, to make that 180 degree turn of repentance every day. What does such baptizing with water indicate? Luther asks. Answer: It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday, is our annual reminder of the discipline and benefit of daily contrition and daily repentance along with the gifts of daily bread for which we pray.
Return. Fast. Mourn. Repent. Call a solemn assembly. Gather the people from infants to the aged. Yes. This text sounds like Ash Wednesday and Lent.
It is too often forgotten that repentance is a part of the Christian life. What need do people have for a Savior when they refuse to admit they have sin? A pig wallowing in the mud doesn’t wish to be saved from it. A sinner wallowing in sin is having just as much fun. The Lord’s job is not to spoil your fun, but to preserve you from earthly and eternal harm. Sin leads to ruin in this world and the flames of hell after this life. God has the big picture in mind. Repentance is part of the life of a Christian.
It is also too often forgotten that repentance is a work of the Lord, God the Holy Spirit, within each Christian. If repentance were our work, would we not then be contributing to our own salvation? It is not our own doing—that’s what Paul says about salvation. Not by works. Neither earned nor deserved. So it is with repentance.
Repentance is a gift the Lord gives to a Christian. We’ve all been to the doctor’s office. We’ve all heard the unpleasant and uncomfortable news about a diagnosis. Whether it was for us or for a loved one, we know how bad news sounds and feels. But then treatment begins. And improvement can usually be seen as long as the prescription is filled and taken, the exercises are faithfully done, and we watch our blood sugar, salt intake, or the levels of carbs, calories, and fat in our food. Because of the treatment we then see the diagnosis as good news, although it was a shock at first.
What would happen if you didn’t go to the doctor? You would miss out on the treatment. What if you went to the doctor but didn’t follow the medical advice? Again, you would miss out on the treatment.
When you confess that you are a sinner, you identify yourself as one of the people Jesus came to save. It is not a pleasant admission, but when you confess, you agree with the assessment the Lord has already made in His word. You are a sinner. Repentance is a gift of God. It is a turn from the bad to the good. And we know why repentance is to be daily. We sin daily.
The Lord has other gifts in store for His people. You are His people because He has placed His Name upon you in Holy Baptism. You invoke His Name at the beginning of the Divine Service and He blesses you threefold at the end with the words of the Aaronic Benediction. You call upon Him to open your lips at the beginning of Matins and Vespers and the grace of Christ, love of God and fellowship of the Spirit is with you.
The gifts of the Lord continue. His Word is life. The Bible is not merely a “manual” for the Christian life. God does provide divine direction in times of difficult decisions, yet His primary purpose is to invite and prepare you for eternal life.
One of these means is Holy Communion. As I finished preaching a very different sermon on this same text from this very pulpit last Ash Wednesday, I realized something important. It had to do with verse 19. Please look at it again with me.
19The Lord answered and said to his people, "Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.
Grain, wine and oil. Grain, wine and oil. These words ran through my mind. And then we received the Lord’s Supper together. You had the “light bulb” moment, too, perhaps? Even this Old Testament text from Joel points us to the Sacrament of the Altar.
Return. Fast. Mourn. Repent. Call a solemn assembly. Gather the people… The Lord has again gathered His people around His Gifts: invoking His name in the remembrance of His Baptism, confessing our sins for the purpose of hearing His Absolution, reading, preaching, and truly listening to His Word, and receiving His Body and His Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. "Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied…” Amen and amen. But what about the oil?
Psalm 23:5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Oil was used for anointing. Oil was used to mark prophets, priests and kings. Christians used it in connection with prayer for healing. Oil reminds us of the Holy Spirit, of ancient rites of Baptism and Confirmation. Then there is the phrase “The Anointed One. Translate it into Greek and you get “Christ.” Jesus Christ is the one anointed with heavenly oil, the water of John’s Baptism and the perfume of the woman to be the One who would save His people from their sins. Grain, wine, and oil. The Body and Blood of the Christ given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
Some gathered here may remember the days of announcing for Holy Communion well in advance. It may have been the month, week, or even day before, visiting with the pastor in his study after waiting in line. With the intention of regaining some of the benefits of that earlier practice, we encourage you to use and bring the communion cards that came in your offering box. And don’t worry if you forget—we have extra here as you arrive in the entry way. Just ask an usher or an elder. These cards serve you as you prepare heart and mind for the Lord’s Supper. St. Paul calls upon us to examine ourselves. They serve the congregation by helping us in record-keeping for the sake of better pastoral care.
A month and a half from now we will be celebrating the Resurrection of Christ on Easter, the Gift of our Lord Jesus Christ, the gifts given because of the Good Friday Tree, and the Gifts received here and now under bread, wine, water, and words. God has good Gifts for you in Christ Jesus. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

12"Yet even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. 14Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? 15Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. 17Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, "Spare your people, O Lord, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?' " 18Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. 19The Lord answered and said to his people, "Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.