Monday, March 29, 2010

Audio Update: Success!

Sermon audio is now available for Lent 5 and Palm Sunday.

Peace in Christ

Pastor Cain

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sermon for 28 March, Palm Sunday C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Luke 22:1-23:56

Certainly this Man Was Innocent!

Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion, 28 March 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Who knew that a week could go by so fast? This morning you have followed our Lord from Palm Sunday to His Friday grave and His Sabbath rest. No wonder the Holy Gospel was longer than usual.

Long readings make us uncomfortable. Our culture has trained us to want to look at something, not just listen. Yet, faith comes by hearing. And, we have been given much to look at in this sanctuary. We see the Lenten banners. On one, a crown of thorns takes prominence in the center.

And then you see the furniture. Who can miss the crosses? The large wooden cross is lit from behind and dominates the front of the chancel. Crosses surround us from the paraments, baptismal font and windows to the lights and pews. In some congregations, a golden altar cross may have a small sculpture of Jesus’ body upon it, or His name—IHS is shorthand for JES…us—Jesus. The cross is always before our eyes in this place. The Gospel is before your eyes. This is how forgiveness of sins was won. That is why every seat in this sanctuary faces the altar and cross

The rest of the furniture shows you how forgiveness is delivered here and now for you. (LSB 645:4)”Here stands the font before our eyes, Telling how God has received us. The altar recalls Christ’s sacrifice And what His Supper here gives us. Here sound the Scriptures that proclaim Christ yesterday, today, the same, And evermore, our Redeemer.

Since the back of the bulletin only had the last half of the reading, we have a tendency to think about other things, don’t we? One of our favorite sins is thinking about ourselves. This is a place where you think about your sinfulness, but only in relation to Jesus. He was innocent. We are not.

Today’s Epistle paved the way for our listening of the Holy Gospel. Elsewhere Paul writes that faith comes by hearing. In Philippians He pointed to the name that is above every name, the name that was given to Christ Jesus, the servant, born in the likeness of men, humbling Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The text carried us from event to event during Holy Week and encouraged us to think about others. We heard about others in relation to Jesus.

Satan entered into Judas. The betrayal was planned.

The disciples found that Jesus had a place ready to prepare the Passover meal.

Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper and the disciples go from questioning one another about who was going to betray Him to arguing among themselves about who is the greatest. He was sitting right there, being ignored by them.

Simon Peter boasts and Jesus prophesies about His immediate future.

The disciples fell asleep while Jesus agonized in prayer. You can picture the scene—Jesus, kneeling by a rock at prayer with hands folded, sweating blood, praying three times. Yet this scene, immortalized in so much Christian art lasts only a moment.

Here comes Judas and the kiss of betrayal. Peter cuts off somebody’s ear. Jesus heals him. Jesus is seized. The disciples scatter.

Peter denies Him. The rooster crows. Peter remembers Jesus’ words and weeps bitterly.

Meanwhile, our focus returns to Jesus. The seventy-two elders of the people consider themselves witnesses to blasphemy: “You are the Son of God, then?” And He said to them, “You say that I am.” And the words “I Am” echo through salvation history. They refuse to believe Jesus’ earlier words: “Before Abraham was, I Am.”

The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, enters the picture. You see his Roman robes and his badge of office. He knows he doesn’t need another scandal. Two others have been quite enough for him, so at his first opportunity, the trial is transferred to Herod’s venue.

Herod only wanted dinner and a show. He wanted to live by sight and not by faith. Jesus is continually mocked, ridiculed, and treated with contempt.

By now the sun has risen on a new day. By the end of it Jesus would be dead and buried. It is too early for the regular Jewish crowds to be awake—those who cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Instead, those who are gathered by the chief priests and rulers are on the temple payroll, hired goons who call out for Barabbas’ release and Jesus’ crucifixion.

Pontius Pilate announces Jesus’ innocence three times. The crowd’s voices prevailed over justice. You see Barabbas walk away from his imprisonment gleefully. Jesus is delivered over to be crucified.

Simon of Cyrene, who came in from the country for the Passover, to offer his unblemished male lamb to the Lord comes face to face with the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He carries the cross to help Jesus.

The daughters of Jerusalem weep for Him. Two criminals are crucified beside Him. The mocking continues. Jesus pronounces forgiveness: “Father forgive them, for the know not what they do.”

The rulers called for Him to come down from the cross.

The soldiers called for Him to come down from the cross.

One of the criminals called for Him to come down from the cross. The other said, “This man has done nothing wrong.” Our Lord soon tells him: “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Noon. Darkness. Three hours of darkness. The curtain of the temple torn in two. “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” Death. And who speaks next but a Centurion, a Roman: “Certainly this man was innocent!”

Joseph of Arimathea asks Pilate for Jesus’ body. He is wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb. And all rest on the Sabbath.

The mysteries of the faith are before your eyes and in your ears. Faith comes by hearing. The disciples heard and scattered. The Lord would again gather them together. But think about this text. Who “got it?” Who heard and saw and responded in faith? Who shows their faith by word and deed?

The clearest confession comes from the second criminal: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” That is faith. Joseph of Arimathea finally comes out of the shadows in faith. The Romans, Pilate and the Centurion, both know about Jesus’ innocence. Mere knowledge is not yet faith, yet there is hope for faith.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus speaks about the Church in Laodicea, saying, “Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm…I will spit you out of my mouth.” Those who are “hot” live in repentant faith and rejoice to receive the Lord’s gifts, and to share them and the good news about Jesus. At least with those who are “cold” there is hope for conversion and future faith. The lukewarm are called to hear. They are called to faith.

Lent is a time to relearn repentance which goes hand-in-hand with faith. We examine ourselves and our sinful thoughts, words, actions, and inaction in the light of the 10 Commandments. But Lent is not about us. It is about Jesus. Always, always, always, Christians see themselves in relation to Jesus. Why? Because Jesus goes before His father and tells Him about you. He says: “Certainly this man is innocent!” Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Our Apologies

A sermon mp3 has been prepared for this week, but due to problems on MySpace, it cannot be posted at this time.

Peace in Christ

Sermon for 21 March 2010, Lent 5C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

St. Luke 20:9-20

It Is Marvelous In Our Eyes

Fifth Sunday in Lent, 21 March 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus was teaching the people in the temple. Some receptive people were there, but others were there too. The chief priests, scribes, and elders questioned His authority. That’s not so new.

God’s Old Testament people often had a problem with authority. That what led to the fall. That’s how one brother was not his brother’s keeper. Later, God’s authority as King was questioned. Exit Judges, enter Kings. And false gods. When Israel and Judah went after false gods in addition to or in replacement of the Lord, prophets of the Lord didn’t fare too well. Persecution was common. Prophets were beaten, treated scandalously, wounded, even killed. The Lord had made for Himself a people, and there was always a faithful remnant. But the people rejected their God and His servants. That is Our Lord’s point in today’s Gospel.

Isaiah 5, The Song of the Vineyard, like many other Scripture passages, calls Israel, the Lord’s people, a vineyard. What a vineyard! It appears to need some tending! Isaiah sings of the Lord and His people. And shares the Lord’s future plans for His vineyard.

Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!

The Lord gave His vineyard the best care. The Lord gave His people His best Gifts. But the Lord was rejected. His servants were rejected. His gifts were rejected. And so Jesus wanted to drive these points home.

And he [Jesus] began to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out.

End of story? Not quite. By this point in the parable, Jesus has only brought us up to His time. The verbs change to future tense now. What Jesus speaks about now will soon happen. It has already begun to happen.

Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.'

But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.' And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Yes, the tenants threw the Son out of the vineyard and killed Him. The chief priests, scribes, and elders called Jesus a heretic, a blasphemer, and rejected Him. Then, they called for Pilate to scourge and crucify Him. Golgotha, Calvary—it is outside the city gates of Jerusalem. Jesus here predicts His passion. And what would happen in the future. Listen for the word, “will.”

What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others." When they heard this, they said, "Surely not!"

Jesus answers His own question. He is met with the not-so-sincere response, “Surely not! May this never be!” The response reflects a Hebrew phrase spoken by people who are not completely sincere in their speaking. Jesus knows their thoughts. He presses further.

But he looked directly at them and said, "What then is this that is written: " 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him."

Difficult words which are prefaced by a verse from Psalm 118. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. The next verse of Psalm 118 is missing. The chief priests, scribes, and elders could hardly say of Jesus, The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes. No. They could not confess this joy with the Psalmist. And so, they are given law, crushing words.

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed. We must ask the Lutheran question, “What does this mean?” Jesus is certainly a stumbling block to the chief priests, scribes, and elders, who represent the Jewish people. He is not the kind of Christ they wanted or expected. Jesus is not only a stumbling block. For those who reject Him, He is a crushing meteor crashing down from above. This is difficult teaching.

Jesus is still a stumbling block for many today. Some try to remake the stone into something more palatable to the modern taste. A Jesus who is true God? We can’t have that. Let’s chip this corner off. A Jesus who calls homosexual acts sinful? No. That will not do. Let’s remove this portion of stone. A Jesus who takes away all sin? That can’t be possible. Let’s cut this stone down to size. Many still stumble at Christ and His Cross. They reject the kind of Christ Jesus is, just like the chief priests, scribes, and elders did. That is not a good position to be in. One will be crushed to pieces!

St. Paul relates to the Corinthians, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians 1:23) and to the Romans (9): They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

And we who believe in Him will not be put to shame. Believers build their house on the rock. Believers stand upon Peter’s rock-solid confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Built on the Rock, the Church Shall Stand. Disciples who follow Him are crushed, broken in repentance and contrition. Christians are raised up as living stones that proclaim, the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.

It was not marvelous to the eyes of those who were going to be crushed by the capstone in judgment.

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.

This delay would not keep them from arresting, trying, and crucifying Jesus. But it did give them time and opportunity to be crushed in repentance. For after the Resurrection and Ascension, after the Day of Pentecost, Peter (Acts 4) preached a sermon to the members of the Sanhedrin, the very group that convicted Jesus, using the same Psalm 118 verse, personalized: The stone you builders rejected has become the capstone. There was yet time to repent.

And there is still time for us to repent, though the time is short. Reject not the Son. We can learn from the experience of Israel what not to do. Often, that is the benefit in Christian reading of the Old Testament. What then did the owner of the vineyard do to them? He came and killed those tenants and gave the vineyard to others—Us—gentiles and Jews who believe in Jesus! In 70 AD, the city of Jerusalem was taken by Rome. The Temple was destroyed. Not one stone was left upon another. Many were killed, crushed. And the vineyard was given to others—faithful Jews and Gentiles like us who believe in Jesus, the Son, the Capstone.

We are not saved by being Lutheran. We are saved by Jesus. We pray that all Lutheran Christians and all Christians would have faith in Christ alone. In this, too, we can learn from others’ mistakes. In Romans 11 Paul reminds us,”But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.” We dare not become complacent and take Jesus and His gifts for granted.

Jesus is the stone at the head of the corner, described in antiquity as the stone used at a building’s corner to bear the weight or stress of the two walls. It would have functioned somewhat like a keystone, capstone, or cornerstone in an arch or other architectural form. This stone was essential, crucial to the whole structure. Hence, it is translated either cornerstone or capstone.

The Lord has built us into His new building, the Church, with Christ as the key to the whole structure. Built on the Rock of Christ, the Church Shall Stand. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. We are also the new tenants of the vineyard. The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sermon for 14 March 2010, Lent 4C

SPECIAL NOTE: This sermon is not intended to be autobiographical, but a re-telling of the Luke 15 Gospel account. I don't have a brother and I'm not Jewish. I have a younger sister and am of Scotch-Irish/Bohemian heritage.

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

St. Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Two Lost Sons

Fourth Sunday in Lent, 14 March 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

I was not an only child. At times I wish I were, but there were two of us. Both sons. And I was the younger of the two. There was always tension between my brother and I, and Dad and I, and my brother and Dad. It wasn’t a good situation at all. I’d had enough. I was ready to leave. I couldn’t stand my brother looking down upon me. I was tired of Dad’s rules. And so I did something unheard of. I asked for my inheritance early.

I even presented it as a formal request. ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ I never dreamed Dad would say yes. He did, to my amazement and the amazement of my brother—not to mention the whole community! I thought at the time that Dad was just happy to be rid of me. I was ready to be rid of him. My request showed my impatience. I was tired of waiting for him to die. Yeah. I guess that’s what I really wanted. Then I could go and do exactly what I wanted.

Brother wasn’t sad to see me go. Since my portion of inheritance was signed over to me, he benefited too. Everything else was his. One third for me, two thirds for him. Dad could still do anything he wanted with his possessions, even though they were officially Brother’s. Brother was to care for Dad. He sure didn’t care for me. Any other brother would have tried to get me and Dad to reconcile, but not Brother. He couldn’t care less. And he needed to reconcile with Dad himself.

Yep. Dad did the unthinkable, something that shocked the community. He allowed his estate to be divided while he was still living. The community was shocked. But not as shocked as they soon would be.

I was getting ready to leave town—and quickly. Just days later, I gathered everything together. That which I couldn’t carry, I sold for cold, hard cash. I was leaving in a hurry and I made deals with whomever I could. Most were so shocked at what had already happened, and what I was doing, they wouldn’t even consider shopping at my Moving Sale. They just got madder and madder. I was rejected from the beginning.

And so I went on a journey into a distant country. No, I didn’t want someplace like Cheers where everybody knew my name. I wanted a fresh start! I wanted friends. “Budget” was not in my vocabulary. I was definitely “prodigal,” which means “recklessly extravagant” according to your Mr. Webster. I’ll spare you the details on what went on. It was bad. When I ran out of cash, I sold the rest. Pawnshops knew me by name. They gave me as little as they could. They knew I still wouldn’t be able to buy anything back. I was far away from home and broke. Do I need to mention that my ‘friends’ conveniently disappeared? I thought nothing could get worse.

I thought wrong. Here comes a famine. It was bad enough that I was broke. Now food and water were scarce, too. What was a poor Jewish boy to do?

It turned out to be a not-so-Jewish job after all. I was desperate for work. Starvation does that to a guy. I got work from a citizen of that country. In times of famine, employers there really tested you—something they didn’t think you’d do—just to get you to leave the country. I was offered quite a job—feeding pigs! Think about the irony. A Jewish boy feeding pigs. Not only that, I would have gladly filled my stomach with the wild carob pods that the swine were eating. No one was giving anything to me.

Rock bottom. Finally, I came to my senses, thinking, “How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I’ll get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you, in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.'’” That was that. I quit and left for home. And dreaded what might soon happen to me.

The community remembered how I shamed my family by asking for my inheritance and how I unloaded it for cash. How would they treat me? And Brother! Going back penniless means that I would live on his inheritance. Yeah, Brother will be thrilled. And then there’s Dad. What will He do? I all but wished Him dead! My best hope was what I’d already decided upon. I’ll ask Dad to make me a servant. That way, I won’t lose my status in the community, I won’t have to deal with Brother, and I can earn back the money of Dad’s I’ve lost.

I thought Dad’s decision to divide the estate was amazing. Nothing could prepare me for my homecoming! While I was still a long way off, my Father saw me, felt compassion for me, and he ran and wrapped his arms around my neck, embracing me and kissing me. What a welcome from someone I had wished dead!

And so I said what I’d prepared, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' I was truly sorry for how I’d wasted my inheritance. I was supposed to care for Father in his old age, too—not just Brother. And where was I? I blew it all in a foreign country. His love for me pulled my confession right out of me. I repented of everything! I was ready to become a servant, even a slave. But it wasn’t to be. I didn’t get to finish my speech

Father said to his slaves, "Quickly bring out the best robe (Isaiah 61) and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And we began to celebrate.

And what a party it was. The fattened calf was enough for the whole community. Father had me dressed up in his best robe, the good one for festival occasions. You’d think we were living in Isaiah 61 land! The ring showed everyone that Father trusted me again. One lost son was home again. But that leaves the other lost son, my Brother, who never left home.

Brother was distant from Father, as I’ve already said. You can see that because Brother was out in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants, a young boy, and began to ask about what was going on. The boy told him, ’Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.'

Brother wasn’t pleased that I, the prodigal, his recklessly extravagant younger brother was home. The way that Father had welcomed me home told him that this party was coming out of Brother’s two-thirds of the inheritance.

Brother was angry. He didn’t feel like partying. This was the last thing he wanted to have happen. Father came out to reconcile with him. Brother wouldn’t have any of it.

‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never disobeyed or neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.'

So much for calling Father, ‘Father’. Brother begins with, Look! His tone here showed what my question did earlier—He wanted control over the property. He wanted Father dead, too.

Our Loving Father responded, "Son, you are always with me—you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’

That’s the tale—the story of my life. An amazing parable! And it gets to all of us.

Some of us are prodigals, running away from God and misusing the gifts He has given. We rejoice in the repentance God has brought about in us and the grace He has lavished upon us who are unworthy of it. It is all gift to us. The tax collectors and sinners Jesus told about me could relate.

Others of us can identify with the Brother, the other lost son, who Jesus calls to repentance. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were muttering, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Thanks be to God He does, for we are all sinners! This parable was Jesus’ response to them.

I, the prodigal, was brought to repentance. What about the Brother? We don’t hear what happens to the Brother and the Loving Father after their last conversation. Can you identify with the Brother? If so, in this season you have named Lent, heed Jesus’ call to repent!

So this story is not just about one lost son, but two. Both sons have a loving earthly Father, just as we all have a loving Heavenly Father, Our Father, because Jesus became our brother. This Brother, Christ, reconciled us to the Father unlike the older Brother in the parable. He has made His Father Our Father.

You Christians have been clothed in the best robe, the righteousness of Christ. It is a gift to you, in Holy Baptism where you are clothed with Christ.

Our heavenly Father runs to us. In compassion, He sent Jesus, His Son, so that we all could be His sons, children of the same Heavenly Father. He comes to us in Holy Baptism. It is His doing, not ours. He baptizes, placing His name on us. Where He places His Name, there He has promised to be. He cannot go back on His promises. You are His. You have a new identity in Christ. You can confess, I am Baptized. The Spirit works through the water and the Word, and cleansed you from all sin. And now you can live each day as a Baptized son of God, drowning the Old Adam by daily contrition and repentance.

God comes to us in His Word: read, heard, and preached. Jesus said, Remember, you did not choose me, but I have chosen you.

The Lord comes to us in His Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper. It is the Lord’s Supper, not ours to do with as we please. He gives the gifts. He remembers His promises to us, especially to forgive us our sins.

There is room for both kinds of lost sons in the Father’s family. He welcomes you with open arms as a Loving Father. Repent. Remember your Baptism daily. Fellowship with the Lord in His Word. And cherish His Holy Supper. This man, Jesus, welcomes sinners like us and eats with them. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sermon for the 30th Wedding Anniversary of Larry & Geraldine Roberts, 08 March 2010

Rev. Paul J Cain

2 Corinthians 12:9


30th Wedding Anniversary Sermon for Larry and Geraldine Roberts

Monday of Lent III, 08 March 2010 A. D.

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

I really like it when people think, especially when they are thinking about God’s Word. The three of us thought long and hard about an appropriate Word of the Lord for the sermon for this special day. And this Word stood out: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” These are words of strength and comfort for a husband and wife, especially Geraldine and Larry celebrating 30 years together as husband and wife. And yes, each one has told the other lately, “I love you.”

Those three simple words mean the world to people. Love that endures is heart-felt, but rekindled over the days, weeks, months, years, and decades living in holy matrimony. Commitment love endures when romantic love fades and serves, as the estate of marriage so often does, to reignite the earlier passion of romantic love. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “It is not your love which sustains the marriage, but from now on the marriage that sustains your love.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Yes, this is Paul’s famous passage from 2 Corinthians 12 that mentions a “thorn in the flesh.” No, I’m not making any accusations about either the bride or the groom this evening, though they did give me permission to poke a little fun in their direction. All joking aside, God’s grace has been sufficient to get the two of them over every hurdle and every challenge in their marriage thus far. God’s grace is sufficient—it is enough—that they are still ready to ride the river with one another as long as the Lord gives them breath.

In the end, St. Paul, like the couple standing before us, points to Christ and Christ alone. Forgiving as Christ has already forgiven them, they boast of their weaknesses to the glory of Christ.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The river may be rough. The weather may seem unbearable. We face tragedies, trials, temptations, and storms in life, but the Lord is there beside you. He only seems the most distant when we’re the ones running from Him. He is not an enemy, but a friend, riding that river right alongside you, giving you the grace, the strength, the patience, the endurance, the hope, and the faith to last until life everlasting.

He says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”


In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sermon for 07 March 2010, Lent 3C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Ezekiel 33:7-20

The Word from the Lord’s Watchman

Third Sunday in Lent, 07 March 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

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

It’s never easy to say “No” to someone else, but it gets easier when there’s danger involved. A hot stove. A busy street. Danger to those we love and have been given to care for brings out tough love. Good parents know that they are parents first, not their child’s buddy.

We probably know Ezekiel best for the story of the dry bones. This text should be just as important to us. The Word from the Lord’s Watchman is often warning, “No,” for the person’s own good. The Lord speaks to Ezekiel.

7"So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

This text teaches us about consequences. The people were unfaithful. They broke the First Commandment. They went after false gods and even tried to mix worship of the one, true God with pagan worship. As a consequence, 600 years before Christ they were exiled to Babylon, today, near Baghdad, Iraq.

There is a consequence for sin. Death. The wages of sin is death. The paycheck you earn for sinning in thought, word, and deed—not to mention what you neglect to do—is death.

God gives His Word for our benefit. Faithful preachers preach the whole counsel of God—everything He says. They do not add to God’s message, nor do they cut out parts they or their hearers have a problem with.

It’s not always pleasant work, but pastors today, just like Ezekiel, God’s prophet and priest, are to warn the wicked about their sin. Every one of us in this room is a sinner. Each one of us needs to hear that warning.

Warnings have consequences, too. Remember Jonah? God told him to go to Nineveh to preach repentance. Nineveh is near the Modern Iraqi city of Mosul, where the Kurds live. Jonah refused. Not only that, he got on a boat going in the opposite direction. Three days in a fish later, the Lord called him to go again. He did. He preached repentance to a large city full of gentiles and they repented. They responded to the warning with repentance. That’s a good consequence. The book of Jonah ends with the prophet Jonah upset that the people repented. He wanted to see them destroyed!

The Lord says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live…” That should be the desire of every Christian pastor. He sometimes has to practice ‘tough love.’ The law is proclaimed to the sinner so that the sinner would repent. The Gospel is proclaimed so that sinner would be forgiven and have faith in Christ. Repentance and faith go together.

But. Another word that’s as hard to hear as “no.” But if someone won’t repent after the preaching of the law, the preacher has still faithfully done his job. Unfaithful preachers face severe consequences when they neglect the preaching of the law and calling a spade a spade—calling sin what it is—sin.

10"And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: 'Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?' 11Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

The people felt hopeless. They called out to the Lord from their exile, 'Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?' Their hearts and mouths were full of lament over Jerusalem. They knew Jeremiah’s second book very well.

How does the Lord respond? “As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” God says, “Repent. Turn. Return to me for I am gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Spiritual U-turns are legal. Abandon forever evil ways. Sin no more.”

The old Lutheran theologians called the Law God’s alien work. This has nothing to do with creatures from other planets or immigration. The word ‘alien’ is used in contrast to God’s ‘proper’ work, the Gospel. God did not create humanity just to condemn it. John Calvin was wrong when He taught that God predestined some to hell. God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live…” God wants to give you good gifts, especially forgiveness.

What else does the Lord give Ezekiel to proclaim?

12"And you, son of man, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness, and the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins. 13Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. 14Again, though I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, 15if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.

Ezekiel covers some very familiar ground. Works don’t save. You are not saved by being good. You are saved by God in Christ because of what Christ suffered on the cross in your place.

The righteousness of the righteous will not deliver him when he sins. True. One sin is enough to condemn a person. He must saved by someone else’s righteousness. Jesus gives His as a gift. One’s own righteousness will never be enough.

In addition, there is hope for a sinner who repents. He has no righteousness of his own to claim. He, too, receives as gift Jesus’ own righteousness. Jesus is life. He will walk in the statutes of life.

Post Emergent: “In Jesus, we have the great exchange. Jesus imputed our sins on him[self] at the cross and Jesus imputes his righteousness to our account. This is the Gospel. When God see us, He does not see our sin, but Christ’s righteousness. Martin Luther called this an “alien righteousness” since it is not our own righteousness, but Christ’s righteousness. In 1 Peter 2:24 we that “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” At the Cross, Christ forgave all our sins. When He said, “Father forgive them”, it was for all people, for all time. This was not just for the Roman soldiers or the Jewish leaders or even the mob that yelled “Crucify him!” (end quote)

The Lord continues to tell Ezekiel about his own people.

17"Yet your people say, 'The way of the Lord is not just,' when it is their own way that is not just. 18When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. 19And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by them. 20Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways."

God chose them as His people and they promised to be faithful. He said, “You shall have no other gods,” and they said “Amen.” And they fell away again and again. Unfair? Hardly. Exile is what they deserved. The Lord was merciful by not pouring out all of His wrath against them. He was gracious in preserving a faithful remnant. That remnant would lead to Jesus, our substitute, who fulfilled God’s justice and fairness by suffering the punishment we deserved. Unfair?

It is a dangerous and fearful thing to tell the Lord that He isn’t fair. At one time or another, we all have, haven’t we? We whine and complain from the years, the mere decades of our experience. God acts from ageless eternity. He sees the big picture we can only imagine.

Instead, faith prays, “Thy will be done.” Faith prays for daily bread and daily repentance: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The Lord gave His word to His Watchman, His servant, His instrument on the scene. The Watchman is to speak only the Lord’s Words. To fail in that in any way would show the Watchman was unfaithful. He is not to say what itching ears want to hear, but often exactly the opposite. The Watchman faces us up to the Lord, His will, His ways, and His Word.

The Word from the Lord’s Watchman will often be a word of warning and judgment for our own good to wake us up to our own sinfulness and lead us to repent. Then the Word from the Lord’s Watchman will be one of hope, reassurance, and comfort.

“I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” says the Lord, “but that the wicked turn from his way and live…” Return to the Lord your God. “Wake, awake, for night is flying,” The Watchmen on the heights are crying; “Awake, Jerusalem, arise!” Amen.

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

Wedding Sermon for Gerald Messick and Maria Travis, 06 March 2010

Rev. Paul J Cain

Exodus 20:14

The Estate of Marriage

Wedding Sermon for Gerald Messick and Maria Travis

Saturday of Lent II, 06 March 2010 A.D.

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

Note from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions on The Sixth Commandment, You shall not commit adultery:

“Martin Luther had been married for almost four years when he wrote the Large Catechism. His former life as a monk makes his comments on the Sixth Commandment all the more interesting and powerful. Luther keenly discerns that chastity is not a matter of vowing to live a celibate life, but of honoring God and one’s spouse with one’s whole being: thoughts, words, and actions. Marriage should be cherished and honored as a divine estate. God created this institution before all others and blessed it above all the rest; and since He brings children into the world through it, He provides all other estates for its support and benefit. Luther condemns forced celibacy within the Roman Church, but recognizes that God does exempt some from married life, either because they are unsuited to it or because they possess the supernatural gift of chastity. The Sixth Commandment releases those who have taken a vow of chastity but who have not been given this supernatural gift. For Luther, God intended marriage not only to prevent sin, but also as a means by which husbands and wives love and cherish each other. Marriage is a precious good work far superior to the contrived spiritual estates of monks and nuns.”

Exodus 20:14, The Sixth Commandment, is probably not the most romantic text to be read at a wedding. But, for the rite of Holy Matrimony for two active, practicing Christians, it is a proper foundation for a couple to be united in Christ, yet living in a fallen world.

Adam and Eve were married before the Fall. We don’t have that blessing now. We sin and others sin against us. And we all have to live with the consequences. When a Christian pastor speaks of sin, he must also speak of grace, for Christ came to atone for the sin of the whole world. He richly forgives repentant sinners like us. He believes in new beginnings, like this marriage today.

In anticipation of this day, we have prepared you for a life together as husband and wife, living under the grace of God, forgiving each other as God has richly forgiven you in Christ. We have studied the Scriptures together in that regard, and also in preparation for a household united in a common confession of Christ and His Word.

Commenting upon the Word of God that is our text today, Luther wrote,

208 “Therefore, God has also most richly blessed this estate [holy matrimony] above all others. In addition, He has bestowed on it and wrapped up in it everything in the world, so that this estate might be well and richly provided for. Married life is, therefore, no joke or presumption. It is an excellent thing and a matter of divine seriousness. For marriage has the highest importance to God so that people are raised up who may serve the world and promote the knowledge of God, godly living, and all virtues, to fight against wickedness and the devil.”

Marriage is important to the Lord. You have reverently and deliberately planned for this day and all the days to come. You have come to adorn this relationship in purity and holiness. Luther continued,

209 “I have always taught that this estate should not be despised nor held in disrepute... Marriage should be regarded as it is in God’s Word, where it is adorned and sanctified. It is not only placed on an equality with other estates, but it comes first and surpasses them all...

211 “In the second place, you must know also that marriage is not only an honorable but also a necessary state. In general and in all conditions it is solemnly commanded by God that men and women, who were created for marriage, shall be found in this estate...”

With Luther, as in all of Scripture, you hear the common themes of command and promise, sin and grace, commonly spoken of as Law and Gospel in our congregation and church body. Both go together. Each pair is uniquely suited as a whole. So it is with husband and wife. Your lives thus far have made you the person you are. God in Christ is re-creating you to be whom He would have you be in this life and in preparation for eternity.

Five hundred years ago, marriage was attacked as a lesser estate than being a monk or a nun. Today, the assault on marriage comes from a secular culture wanting to change the very definition of the word. Scripture, as Dr. Luther asserts, calls us to lives of holiness and good works. Works do not earn us salvation, forgiveness, or life eternal, but serve as the fruit of faith born within us by the work of God’s Word and the work of God the Holy Spirit. And so we live in the estate of marriage as God ordained it.

219 “Let me now say in conclusion what this commandment demands: Everyone should live chaste in thought, word, and deed in his condition—that is, especially in the estate of marriage. But also everyone should love and value the spouse God gave to him [Ephesians 5:33]. For where marital chastity is to be maintained, man and wife must by all means live together in love and harmony. Then one may cherish the other from the heart and with complete faithfulness. For harmony is one of the principal points that enkindles love and desire for chastity, so that, where this is found, chastity will follow without any command. 220 Therefore, St. Paul diligently encourages husband and wife to love and honor one another. 221 Here you have again precious, indeed, many and great good works. You can joyfully boast about them, against all churchly estates chosen without God’s Word and commandment”.

Gerald and Maria, God bless this new beginning of yours as husband and wife to the end that you may love and honor each other in Christ as long as you both shall live.


In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sermon for 28 February, Lent 2C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Luke 13:31-35

Blessed Is He

Second Sunday in Lent, 28 February 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

For a Lay Reader

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

Jesus is present with us according to His promise. There are many more than two or three gathered in His Name. At other times a husband and wife—two friends—two siblings—these all count as two. Gathered in Jesus’ Name, we are confident in Jesus’ presence.

God is everywhere. This is true. But it is not yet a complete thought (or a Gospel one). God is good to a sinner only in Jesus Christ. Modern Judaism rejects Jesus as Messiah. Islam says that God cannot have a Son. Many say, “I am with God out in nature—hunting, fishing, etc.” Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” God is present everywhere, but He is not present everywhere in a way that is beneficial for you.

Where is God present for you, in the way of the Gospel, for your benefit? In a place like this where God delivers His forgiveness in Baptism, His Word, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. Forgiveness of sins was won on a rugged cross on a hill far away, but we don’t get that forgiveness by finding that hill, a bloody piece of old wood, or by making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The cross is where forgiveness was won. God the Holy Spirit delivers what Jesus won there and then / here and now at the font, pulpit, and altar. God’s Gospel Gifts enable us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. And then, in life everlasting, we will no longer carry that cross, but wear a crown instead.

Worship is all about the presence of Jesus—Jesus present for us in order to bless us. We dare not despise opportunities to receive Jesus’ gifts. That would be spiritually deadly.

In this morning’s Holy Gospel, Jesus has been threatened with death, and of all people, the Pharisees let Him know: 31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." 32And he said to them, "Go and tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.'

The plans of men and demons do not matter. Jesus has set His face toward Jerusalem. Jesus is doing His name—saving His people—and not even death will stand in His way. He preaches, teaches, heals, exorcises demons… And…

Did you hear the “and” in the text? “And the third day I finish my course.” We commonly say, “And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures…” Jesus does not fear death. The fact that people were threatening His life was no surprise. He knew that He was going to be given over into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and, on the third day, rise. “And the third day I finish my course.” Indeed. Jesus speaks here of His own Resurrection from the dead.

Recently the Resurrection has come under fire again. In recent years the attacks have come in the form of The DaVinci Code, and the so-called Gospel according to Judas and the so-called “Jesus Family Tomb.”

“It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” Jesus knows how His people of old treated the prophets of old. When the prophet preached something different than what their itching ears wanted to hear, they responded with ridicule, persecution, and murder of the prophets of the Lord. God’s own Word was proclaimed by God’s own men on the scene. They remained faithful even to death. Again, not a surprise to Jesus. So he laments for His people and their capital city: 34O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 35Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' "

“You would not.” St. Stephen, the first martyr, would say it similarly in Acts: “You are just like your fathers. You always resist the Holy Spirit.”

We look at the Jewish people in the time of Jesus and we feel so smug. “We wouldn’t have rejected Jesus!” Oh, really?

We’re all aware of the true emergencies that take us away from Sunday morning. What about the other 99% of your Sundays? Think back to that Sunday morning when you slept in and stayed home. You weren’t sick and you weren’t staying home to take care of an ill family member, either. It used to be that Wednesday evenings were kept free for church activities. No longer! Now even Sundays are fair game. Has a ball ever been a Baal, an idol, a false god to you?

Remember that vacation that wasn’t just a vacation from home, but a vacation from giving your offerings for the Lord’s work, and also a vacation from the Lord and His Word, even though there was a sister LCMS congregation in town?

Remember that time you were sitting in the sanctuary here, yet you let your mind wander away during the sermon?

There was also that time when the Lord’s Word was being studied while you decided to do something else in the very next room.

In Luke 10, Martha was distracted with pots and pans. Mary simply sat at the foot of Jesus. There is a time for everything under heaven, but God’s Word comes first.

In all these cases—and many more—there is a danger of rejecting Jesus. No, we don’t think of our other activities using those words, but they apply. Scaer: “Absence from church is a clear statement that what is happening elsewhere is more important that what is here.” And the uncomfortable truth is this: that something or somewhere else has become an idol, a false, substitute god for you. “often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”

Ouch. That’s the law getting to you. And suddenly, we’re a lot less smug. We’re sinners just like the people in Jesus’ day. Contrition and repentance should be kicking in. God forgives sin—even these. Forgiveness for the sin of rejecting God’s gifts comes by receiving forgiveness through God’s gifts.

Yet, some still resist the work of the Spirit. They simply will not let the Lord’s love have its way with them. There might even be anger toward a preacher for pointing out a favorite sin or even a loved one’s sin. Such a one may wish to hold onto a grudge, and even insist he or she is right. Hardening of the heart has begun. Danger! Danger! To such a one Jesus says, “Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

In Lent we pray for repentant faith with eyes always on Jesus, faith that sings, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Today’s Gospel is Luke 13. These words of Jesus are fulfilled in Luke 19:37-40 (ESV), where the Pharisees also make an appearance: 37As he [Jesus] 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."

The Pharisees understand what is going on. That’s why they’re upset! Jesus’ words have been fulfilled. That means judgment upon unbelief, unfaith—judgment upon all who “would not.” Jesus is coming to Jerusalem to die. “And the third day I finish my course.”

Faith confesses Jesus as Christ and Savior and says, “Blessed Is He.”

Last Sunday, Ash Wednesday, and every Divine Service, we sing an ancient canticle called the Sanctus. Sanctification teaches how the Holy Spirit delivers God’s gifts to make us holy. Sanctus is Latin for “Holy.” It comes from Isaiah’s vision of heaven in Isaiah chapter 6 and Matthew 21, the parallel Gospel text to Luke 19, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem—what we call Palm Sunday.

Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth; heav'n and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He, blessed is He, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.

We sing with angels to the thrice-holy Triune God, the Lord God of Sabaoth, God of heavenly hosts, God of angel armies. We sing “hosanna, a Hebrew word of praise meaning, “Save us now.” That is a prayer to a Savior, One who can and does save. Jesus saves His people. He has saved you. Blessed Is He.

And then we sing “Blessed Is He,” not just once but three times, to parallel the “Holy, holy, holy.”

This morning we pray Matins. Lent is a season of fasting, and that applies to the liturgy, too. In the Divine Service, we give up “Glory Be to God on High” and “Alleluia” for Lent. It is also appropriate that Matins adjusts to the season, too. We sang, “Praise to You, O Christ, Lamb of our salvation.” The Lenten Responsory after the readings was on page 222: “He was delivered up to death; He was delivered for the sins of the people.” The Te Deum we’re used to singing right after the sermon will be waiting for us at the Easter Sunrise service. This Lent, we turn to page 226 for the Benedictus, the Song of Zechariah from Luke 1:68-79.

The Benedictus is the appropriate canticle at Matins for Lent and Advent. John the Baptist prepares the way for the Lord, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Zechariah sings about the Lord’s work for His people through salvation history and in John the Baptist, his son, the forerunner of the Lord, and in Christ Himself.

We may not sing the Sanctus this morning, but we do sing of Jesus’ presence for us as our savior and redeemer. Here, Jesus is present with you to bless you. Blessed Is He!

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He has visited and redeemed His people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us

in the house of His servant David…” Amen.

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