Sunday, January 6, 2013

“Doing His Heavenly Work” (Isaiah 60:1-3)

S-1357-Epiphany/C 1/06/2013 Hymns: O) #126; (S) #498; C) #343 vv 1-3, 7

Texts: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

Theme: “Doing His Heavenly Work” (Isaiah 60:1-3)

Question: “Do you enjoy your work?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Epiphany is from the O.T. lesson: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3).

In Nomine Iesu


O most precious children of the heavenly Father arise, shine! Do you not know that your Light (Jesus, see John 1:5) has risen upon you. You walk in His light. You reflect His light and you glow with His light. You receive His light. You are the object of His love! When I address you as “Most precious” it is simply the realization that you truly are His precious possession. In Hebrew we call that “Segula.” Why, though? Simply, because, you belong to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Shortly, after the infamous day of 9/11, we were a nation united by our fear, but more importantly... by His faithfulness. The folks who came to Jesus’ infant house probably shared the same bloodline as those who flew the jets into the Twin Towers. How could He receive them? How can He receive us? Why does He indeed go to the Cross? Simply stated: “to draw all men unto Myself” (John 12:32). He, the Author of Life draws “all men.” Not merely those with Jewish blood lines, but every child of Abraham - that is, every man, woman, and child who has received His faithfulness in His Word and Sacraments. The Magi are about as far from being Jews as anyone could be - but the Word drew them to the Christ - even as He does for you and me. He loves sinners! And He LOVES YOU TOO. Don’t you forget it or listen to someone who teaches you otherwise.

So arise and shine, most precious. The Magi rose and they shined as well. For the Christ Child not only drew them unto Himself - He shined through them. This He does through you as well. Isn’t He so gracious! He not only saves you... He uses you to save others. Think about how people want to find their “purpose” in life! To be His own and live under Him in His peace and through His Word is enough and more than enough!

He uses you, as His most precious, in love, and He even used the greed of Caesar Augustus to bring Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to fulfill all righteousness. He used the greed and stupidity, the avarice of Herod to speak to the Magi and the grand wealth of heaven in diapers to bless not only those Magi, but each of us who have also been drawn to God (like bugs to a bright light), not as to a King’s closed drawbridge but a Child’s welcoming smile! These Magi were fulfilling the Word of the Lord written some 700 years earlier by Isaiah here in our Old Testament lesson, who said that, the gold and Frankincense would be offered to the Savior, but also that they would bear back home, the Good News of Jesus!

If the good news isn’t for all, then it isn’t for any. If the love and salvation of God can be limited then it is not the love of God! Now watch this: For you, the Light has shined – but much, much more, it shines through you! Heaven went back to Sheba with the Magi. That is no small point. God changed them. He shone upon them. He is shining upon you and has changed you! His love is that big. It is also that small. It fits your life and uses you to touch others—even here at Redeemer! The Word and presence of God changed Moses on Sinai, so that he shone (Exodus 34:35) - and God has not changed! He has changed your look as well!

Look how the Jew’s Jew, the great Rabbi named Saul, from Tarsus, was changed to be the one who was to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

This same Paul, centuries later, still brings the light to everyone, preaching to the Gentiles that sweet unsearchable richness of Christ! You are like Paul - one who has been re-purposed, reclaimed, redeemed. Jesus being visited by these Magi means that God changes lives, across all nationalities! He uses all nationalities - all souls - because all souls matter and they are precious in His sight. Christ loves all for He came for all people. He is Lord of Creation and Lord of each soul and life! He is a personal God who clothes Himself in the foreign garb of Magi. He touches these lives to touch others. That is why Epiphany matters. This is a short season, and it is not Christmas. The Magi were not at the stable, but at the house. Because that is so, Christ reveals what the Incarnation truly means: Life, all life, is redeemed and cherished!

Because of this visit by the Magi, Jesus will leave for Egypt, so that again Hosea could declare, “Out of Egypt, I called My Son!” (Hosea 11:1) He is the Lord of every nation and race and peoples! He came for you, and... and this is huge... He is using you to do His heavenly work. I have made that point several times this morning because you mustn’t miss it - heavenly Work is being done today, to you and through you. God is here - He shines and calls you to arise and shine!

But we must never forget what the Child of Christmas came to do for us His precious ones. Look at His life from infancy on; He shined with the brightness of the Eternal LIGHT. This Child who once was a carpenter-turned-teacher-turned-wonder-worker was in Galilee. And as the word got out, the people came. They came from every hole and hovel in Israel. They came like soldiers returning from battle—bandaged, crippled, and sightless: The old with prune faces and toothless mouths. The young with deaf babies and broken hearts. Fathers with sons who couldn’t speak. Wives with wombs that wouldn’t bear fruit. The world, it seemed, had come to see if He was real or right or both. And in Him they found a rich and bright light that illumines the soul. In Him they found hope and help and knew that He is the One who calls them “Segula” precious.

You who are precious in His sight, know that He has done His Divine Work well. The greatest work He has done is not to heal the wounded, to fill the wombs, and raise dead people from the tomb, but to die for you on Calvary’s cross. He did it because He considered you “Segula” precious in His sight and wanted you to know that He loves you to the end.

Today, as we spend time in His sight and receive from Him the bright light of the Gospel, may we leave with this light burning in our hearts and hands and share it with others. As I have shared with the children that they are “God’s Star” (show the star) and so are you. Be God’s STAR and lead others to Bethlehem. My prayers are, as He worked to save many, may the Holy Spirit continue to bless our efforts to reach out to those who are still walking in darkness? For indeed the light has come, therefore, arise, shine and let the brightness of His light reach out to others. Amen!

Now the peace…

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

“Not a Plastic Jesus” (Luke 2:21)

S-1356-1SAC/C 12/30/2012 Hymns: O) #123; S) #114 L.S. #124; #125; C #47

Texts: Isaiah 9:2-93, 11-15; Acts 4:1-12; Luke 2:21

Theme: “Not a Plastic Jesus” (Luke 2:21)

Question: “Have you seen the blow up nativities?” Armour, SD

Blessed New Year faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our New Year’s Eve is from the Gospel lesson: “And at the end of eight days, when He was cir­cumcised, He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21).


Saints in Christ, outside in front of our church we have a manger scene that we set up during the Advent and Christmas season. They are brightly colored, illuminated at night and early morning, and all with the lifelike joy of a department store mannequin. The set includes sheep, a cow, the shepherds, three Wise Men, Mary and Joseph, all staring past the lifeless baby Jesus with dead plastic eyes. There are also around our town nativity scenes that blow up—the kind that have to be anchored with wire to the ground. These plastic figures are made in a country that doesn’t even believe in Jesus and are so light that a strong wind can blow them in every direction. Some of these figurine have actually blown away that the owners had to chase after the plastic baby Jesus rolling down the street.

Unfortunately, the Christ of modern imagination is no more substantial than the lifeless Jesus of the plas­tic manger scene. As soon as any hardship, difficulties, crisis or challenges of the soul, the imaginary Jesus just blows away before the winds of trouble, scud­ding down the street in need of our rescue. The plastic Jesus of popular imagination neither suffers nor shares life’s experiences with us poor sinners. The plastic Jesus has no feeling or concern about us poor miserable sinners. The plastic Jesus can’t touch, feel, comfort, console or help.

However the Jesus Born of Mary is NOT a hollow plastic saint who comes to make a good scene or fine appearances. Instead, this Jesus is real, takes our flesh and chooses to bear all its bur­dens for our sakes. This real Jesus comes to our rescue and deliverance. This real Jesus has eyes to see our hurts, hands to heal our wounds, soul to show He cares and a heart that demonstrates God’s love.

This real Jesus doesn’t wait for someone to run after Him to be rescued because He has blown away by the strong wind of life’s challenges. No, this Jesus—the Real One, comes to our rescue and deliverance. He doesn’t come to make a good scene or fine appearances. Instead, He takes our flesh and chooses to bear all our bur­dens upon Him. By this act of taking our burdens, He frees our humanity from the corruption caused by sin.

This Jesus is real and true and He came to earth to be one with us. In order to earn our rescue, He was willing to be cir­cumcised on the eighth day for us. He places Himself under the Law for us. He is real enough so as to undergo a bloody circumcision as a sign of His further shedding of
blood. The cross is not far from the temple. But He, the Real Jesus, bears the burden of the temple and carries it all the way to the cross.

He is circumcised so that we don’t have to be. We now live without being compelled to be circumcised. We Gentiles are latecomers—and yet no less grafted in through what Jesus, the Incarnate One, undergoes, including circumcision for us and on our behalf. PAUSE.

You and I, have no real Jewish blood in us. Yet, we are invited to the banquet of salva­tion. For God had chosen the people of ancient Israel, giving to them the divine promises and the perfect seal of His Word given to Moses and the prophets (Rom 1-2). God promised that He would bless Israel through the off­spring given to Abraham. The Messianic line was given to the patriarchs and fulfilled in these last days by the incarnation of God’s Son (Heb 1:1-2). Unfortunately, those who ought to have depended on the promise begin to depend on themselves instead. They act as if the sign of God’s grace in circumcision is their own work. Their own works of righteousness became substitutes for the work of that offspring of Abraham, who would be their perfect substitute and ultimate sacrifice.

Likewise, we too, act at times like our Jewish counter parts saying to ourselves, “I am baptized now and I can live the way I want to. I can come to church or not. I can come to the Lord’s Supper or not. I can give my offerings or not. I can do what I desire and God still loves me.” We fool ourselves by thinking we have it all, when we don’t have the Real Jesus growing in our hearts. We think God owes me and He needs to bless me by His grace just because I have my name in the church’s roster.

How foolish we are, when we make Jesus just as shallow and hallow as the plastic Jesus made in China or other countries. How foolish we are, when we think Jesus will do anything that we desire, if we only blow Him up, He will waive His magic wand and bring about our hearts desires. How foolish we are when we think our piety earns us points with God and His grace will follow.

And we are foolish enough to listen to the world’s ways of teaching instead of the Real teaching of the Messiah—Jesus by thinking “Jesus has done His work, and now it is up to me to prove myself worthy of receiving His benefits.” If that is how we think, we shall fail miserably, just as Israel did when she relied on circumcision.

Let me assure you precious saints on this final day of the year of our Lord 2012 and as you listen to the last sermon of this year, our efforts are worthless, and our works avail us none, as Isaiah reminds us, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Is. 64:6). PAUSE.

Tonight call upon the Holy Spirit to help you see into the manger and behold the REAL Jesus. For the Word of God stoops to take on human flesh of the Virgin Mary that He might become an object of human experience and sense. He does all of this since we could not climb up to the Throne of Grace and see Him in heaven. We could have never opened the gates of heaven by ourselves or by our works. But He chose to deign to come and be with us and for us.

The incarnate Word of God has come so that He may reveal to us the love of God. He has come to show us that only in Him and through Him are we able to know the true God—not the one made in a Chinese factory, but the One who created heaven and earth and everything that is in it. You and I can’t mount up to find Him; He stoops down to find us in the midst of His bloodied weakness, which begins at His cir­cumcision.

He does this by taking on our human flesh of the Virgin Mary. He becomes visible, touchable, reachable and audible. He becomes the One upon whom we looked when He was pierced for our transgressions. He becomes the One who stops the twelve-year flow of blood when touched. He becomes the One who is subjected to brutal treatment under rough hands. He becomes the One who for us was nailed to the accursed tree.

In the flesh He also becomes a son of Abraham and is subject to the responsibilities and debts that came upon Abraham and his children. He Himself fulfills the whole Law, undergoing circumcision, and in that shedding of blood foreshadows yet more blood being shed from His own veins. That profusion of blood clears us of the Law’s debt both by perfectly fulfilling the Law and by bearing its full penalties under the wrath of God. Jesus is not a plas­tic saint, for His blood is REAL, RED AND RUNS to YOU to SAVE YOU from sin and hell.

Thank God that our Jesus is not a plastic but REAL. AMEN.

Now the peace…


“That Is What It Is!” (Luke 22:25-32)

S-1355-1SAC/C 12/30/2012 Hymns: #LSB 590; #50; L.S. #LSB 594; #310; #105; #136

Texts: Exodus 13:1-3, 11-15; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:22-40

Theme: “That Is What It Is!” (Luke 22:25-32)

Question: “Are you ready to die?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our First Sunday After Christmas is from the Gospel lesson: “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now you are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel’” (Luke 22:25-32).


Happy six days after Christmas precious saints! Legendary broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite who anchored the CBS network news from 1962 to 1981, was known for signing off by saying, “And that’s the way it is!” Many people who listened to the broadcast on daily basis were used to hearing him say the sentence and analyzed that’s the way it is in the world—our world.

And so today, as we gather in the Lord’s house on the first Sunday after Christmas we hear Luke say, “That’s the way it is of the coming Savior into the world. That’s the way it is for Christ to make His entrance to Bethlehem. That’s the way it is for the story of salvation. That’s the way it is as told to him by Mary and the other witnesses, and that’s the way it is for Him to make our hearts His home.”

Indeed, that’s the way it is for Luke to convey the Christmas story and the salvation that He came to bring. “For the GRACE of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” You should know beloved that’s the way it is because grace is both the theme and the entire content of the Christmas message, and it is precisely what you and I and every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve need to hear.

Luke emphasizes in this discourse the true Grace of God that has come in the Baby of Bethlehem—that He came to bring about salvation. Christ has appeared to pay man’s debt of sin, and for that reason, man is indeed blessed. The Lord of all lords has become the Servant of all servants. God had to humble Himself so deeply to pay our debt. He began to pay it while lying in the deepest misery in the manger, and He didn’t stop paying it until, forsaken by God. He was about to breathe His last upon the cross. Then and only then, after having paid the very last cent of our debt, could He cry out with the shout of victory, “IT IS FINISHED!” (John 19:30). By that act of love, Christ brought about our reconciliation with God, who opened the gates of heaven to those who believe in Him as Lord and God.

That’s the way it for us even today, as we gather as His followers to hear the message of Luke describing the characters in the Christmas story. Luke informs us of another fact—the fact of one man who said “That is what it is!” PAUSE.

This man was none other than Simeon. When Simeon saw the poor young couple coming into the temple to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (v 24), his eyes saw the glory and his eyes saw the sacrifice. He knew it was not Mary and Joseph who would redeem their Son with the humble sacrifice of pigeons. Simeon knew that their Son would redeem them, because He was the sacrifice! Simeon’s eyes saw the Ark of the Covenant for real in the Jerusalem temple for the first time ever. He held the Mercy Seat in his arms, not the one built out of gold by Moses and Aaron weighing some 300 pounds, but the 12 pounds of God in the flesh, the Lord, who would grow in stature and liter­ally bare His holy arm bloody before the eyes of all the nations! Indeed, that’s the way it is.

Simeon heard the Word of promise and held it in his hands that day in the temple. He didn’t act in the process, he just passively received. Today, the same kind of miracle happened. Maddyn Nicole Blom also received that same Word. She was bathed with the Grace of God and the Mercy of God. Now, like Simeon and Anna, her name is written in the Lamb’s book of life!

Simeon, the man of God held the salvation in his hands and heart. Maddyn, too, as tiny as she is now has the salvation in her heart and it will not be long, and she will hold Him in both heart and hands. We rejoice with the Blom family at the Grace given their daughter and the salvation she has now received.

In like measure, we give thanks that Simeon had seen that salvation too. Having seen and held the heavenly Child, Simeon is ready to die. There was nothing else he needed to see in this world. The Lord of heaven and earth has fulfilled His promise to this man who had waited patiently for the arrival of the salvation of mankind. And therefore with joy he lifts his eyes towards heaven and happy to let go of this earth and its troubles. PAUSE.

How about us? Are we ready to die? Are we ready to let go of the things that tangle and drag us down? Are we ready to meet our Maker? Are we ready to depart in peace? At times we’re not ready to die because we’re just barely com­ing alive, and our eyes are barely opening. We’re still too distracted, playing in our stagnant mud puddles, to look for earthly things to satisfy our longing. We seek every avenue to hold on to life, rather than hold on to the Author of LIFE.

When we are sick we seek the best doctors and spend the most amount of money because we are not ready to let go and let God take care of us. Rather than seeking out the Divine Physician, we seek others whom we think can help us. It is not wrong to seek doctors who have the gifts to make our lives better. But what is wrong when we do everything in our power not to face the truth that life in this world is nothing but full of troubles and eventually death will come.

On the other hand, Simeon is sure and certain that in his own hands he held the long expected Messiah that is what it is. Simeon is now ready to die because all of Scripture has come to fulfillment. Both with his physical and spiritual eyes He sees the true temple, Mercy Seat, and the blessed Savior offered up once for all on the cross to make complete atonement for all human sin! His eyes had seen the real thing, he had bathed in the GRACE of God and he is now ready to go home!

For this reason, Simeon is moved by the Holy Spirit to sing the wonderful song that you and I sing after we see with our own eyes and hold in our hands the same GIFT that he saw: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel” (Luke 2:39-32).

Having seen the True Temple, Mercy Seat, and the blessed Savior who gives us His body and blood; we are moved by the power of the Holy Spirit to join Simeon and sing the song of our salvation. Not just as a nice tune, but because that is what it is—the Savior who comes to us in this precious gift; just as it came to our precious little princes—Maddyn Nicole Blom in the waters of baptism.

This is more than just a catchy tune, but a proclamation and confession of our faith. Because we have tasted and seen the Savior we are able to leave not only the Altar and the Divine Service but even the world to be with Him forever.

Therefore, today may we go back to Bethlehem and fall on our knees in worship before the manger. For here the most beautiful drama in heaven and on earth presents itself to us. Here lies the GRACE of God, the One who brings us salvation and blessedness. Hallelujah! And that’s the Way it IS!” Amen.

Now the peace of God…