Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sermon for Midweek Advent Service I (November 30, 2016)

Following Jesus with the Saints in Advent

“St. Andrew: Come and See the Savior of the Nations”

November 30, 2016


In the season of Advent, there are a number of saints that are commemorated. This year, some of the more significant celebrations fall on or near the Wednesdays when we have our Advent worship.  Therefore, our Advent theme this year is “Following Jesus with the Saints in Advent.”  We will learn a bit about their lives, how they followed Jesus, and why they are significant at this time of year.  By hearing from Holy Scripture and learning about these faithful followers, we can be guided in our own life of discipleship.

Each week, we will also be singing select stanzas from a hymn written by one of those saints, one we’ll hear about next week.  Ambrose – bishop of Milan, Italy in the 4th century – wrote many hymns, and in this one which we sang a few moments ago he sings of the Savior’s miraculous conception … of a virgin, not by human flesh and blood, but by the Holy Spirit.  “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14).  Ambrose tells us to “marvel” that the Lord chose such a birth.  Marvel that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God himself, made the Virgin’s womb his home for 9 months.  And when the time had come for Mary’s Son to be born, he entered into this world, the pure and fresh offspring of the woman, the only pure and fresh offspring since Adam and Eve fell into sin, the offspring that came into this world “where death had royal scope and room” to do battle with Satan … to endure temptation … to live perfectly under the Law … to offer up his holy flesh and blood as the sacrifice for the sins of the world … to give you forgiveness and life everlasting … to be the Savior of the Nations … to be YOUR Savior.

But first, we hear about Saint Andrew.  November 30 is St. Andrew’s Day.  Why November 30?  I’m not exactly sure.  I searched for the answer but couldn’t find it.  Some of the reasons for these traditions are simply lost in the past.  Many saints days are celebrated on the day the saint died or was born, but we don’t know those dates for Andrew.

The Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s day is always the first day of Advent.  It’s the start of a new church year.  And a new year is always a time for fresh starts, new anticipations, a renewal of your desire to follow Jesus and live as one of his disciples.  This is appropriate when you consider how dramatically Andrew’s life changed when he encountered Jesus.  Andrew was the first disciple to follow Jesus.  In fact, the Eastern Orthodox churches call him the Protokletos … “the first-called.”  We learn about this later in John chapter 1, the chapter from which we heard earlier (John 1:35-42).  It was the first day of his new life as a devoted follower of Jesus.  So perhaps that’s why he is the first of our saints in the Church Year.  As we begin to follow along with the life of Jesus in the Church Year, it’s appropriate that we begin with the first follower of Jesus … Saint Andrew.

Prior to this, Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist (another Advent character who we’ll hear about the next two Sundays).  Again, in John chapter 1, the Baptizer points his followers to Jesus.  “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), we hear him say as he stands on the banks of the Jordan River.  The next day, he is with two of his disciples, one of whom was Andrew.  Andrew goes after Jesus, and Jesus turns to him and says, “What are you seeking?”  Andrew asks, “Where are you staying?” Jesus says, “Come and you will see.”  Notably, the first thing Andrew does is to introduce someone else to Jesus.  He finds his brother Simon Peter and says, “We have found the Messiah!”  And then, the gospel writes adds, “He brought him to Jesus.”  Andrew, Peter, and all other followers of Jesus found that their lives were changed forever.

Some early Christian writings tell us that after the Ascension of Jesus, Andrew travelled to Scythia, which would be Ukraine and south western Russia today.  Upon his return south, it is said that he was arrested in Greece and was crucified on an X-shaped cross like the picture on the cover of our service folder.  One tradition says that this was at his own request, because he did not feel worthy to be crucified the same way his Lord died, similar to his brother Simon Peter who requested he be crucified upside down.  Followers of Jesus will follow in his footsteps of suffering, too.  In his first epistle, Peter writes, “For to this you have been called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter. 2:21).  Paul in Romans 3 says that “we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 3:17).  And Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you … If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18-19).

This may sound out of place in Advent.  Advent is supposed to be a season of anticipation and expectation.  A season of joy and hope, of light and peace.  But just when you expected to hear about angels and Joseph and Mary and Wise Men, you hear about the Triumphal Entry of Jesus, riding into Jerusalem on the way to his brutal suffering and death.  Then you hear about Andrew and his call to discipleship.  Then the next two Sundays are all about John the Baptist.  Both Andrew and John died martyr’s deaths.  Even after Christmas, after we have just heard the tender story of the Christ Child lying in a manger, we soon hear the story of King Herod slaughtering the innocents of Bethlehem.

All this to say that our life is shaped by the cross of Christ in more than one way.  Yes, we are shaped by the cross in the way that we are united to Christ’s death and resurrection in Holy Baptism.  But we are also shaped by the cross in the way that we will suffer as his followers.  We don’t do anyone any favors by telling them that their life will be so much happier and successful and free from trouble if they will only follow Jesus.  It could turn out to be just the opposite.

Andrew’s encounter with Jesus reminds us that when the time had fully come, Jesus arrived on the scene.  There was much anticipation and expectation associated with the promise first given to Adam and Eve, that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head.  The long-awaited Messiah was born in Bethlehem in Judea, born to be the Savior of the Nations.  But for about 30 years, he lived in obscurity in Nazareth in Galilee until it was time for his public ministry to begin, calling disciples to follow him all the way to the cross and the empty tomb.  And through his suffering and death, Jesus did crush the serpent’s head, earning forgiveness and everlasting life for all who would trust in him, and proved his victory over sin, death, and hell by rising to life again.

Jesus is the Savior of the Nations.  He is your Savior.  And because he is your Savior, you can bring people to the Savior and introduce them to the Savior, just like Andrew did with his brother Peter.  “He brought him to Jesus.”  How can you bring someone to Jesus?  Bring them to the place where Jesus has promised to be present.  Wherever two or three are gathered in his name, there he is among them.  Wherever bread and wine are offered with the Word of Christ, there Jesus is truly present with his body and blood.  And wherever Jesus is present, there he also offers his gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Evangelism at home and mission work abroad is as simple as that.  Bring people to the Word so they can meet the Word made flesh and come to know him as Savior of the Nations … as their Savior.  The Savior who forgives their sin.  The Savior who strengthens them in suffering.  The Savior who saves them for life everlasting.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent (November 27, 2016)

Advent 1 – Series A (November 27, 2016)
Wake Up!” (Romans 13:11-14)

One of life’s most unpleasant moments is in the morning when the alarm clock goes off, blaring the unhappy news that it’s time to wake up. There are some people who can just hop right out of bed. I think for most of us, though – especially when the weather begins to get colder and the skies get grayer and darker – it’s hard to get up in the morning after you are told by your alarm or your spouse or your kids or your dog that it’s time to wake up. You are groggy, tired, and weak. Wouldn’t you much rather stay in bed under the nice, warm, comfy pile of blankets and go back to sleep?
This is true spiritually speaking, too. Our souls become groggy, tired, and weak and we battle spiritual carelessness or indifference. We delay confessing our sins to God. You think to yourself, “What I’m doing is really no big deal.” But sin is sin, no matter how we try to spin it. Any and all sin equally condemns us.
That’s why, in today’s Epistle lesson, St. Paul says that it’s time to “Wake up!” He says, “you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”
Wake Up” and recognize the time. As we enter another Advent season, it’s good to take some time to recognize the time. The time in which we live is an evil time. There are temptations all around us. And the world tranquilizes us with its many pleasures. We get wrapped up in television, movies, sports, shopping, and travel. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with these things, unless they take our eyes off of God’s plan for our lives. (Thoughts here borrowed from Stephen Carter, My Daily Devotion, p 336.)
Therefore, the time in which we live is a time to be vigilant against temptation. The time in which we live is a God-given opportunity to repent of our sins, to “wake from [our] sleep” of carelessness and indifference to God and his Word. Carelessness and indifference is what the first-century church of Laodicea struggled with. In Revelation 3, Jesus calls them “lukewarm,” and therefore he warns, “I will spit you out of my mouth.” Even worse than spitting out a bland, dishwater-warm mocha, Jesus threatens to reject those who are spiritually asleep, those who rationalize disobedience to God’s will in their lives. So much for that sweet little baby in our Nativity scenes. He means business when it comes to unbelief. And so, we must never delay daily confession and repentance.
Paul also says that salvation is “nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Now, you may be saying to yourself, “I thought I was already saved. I’m baptized. I believe in Jesus as my Savior. He died on the cross for my forgiveness. I faithfully eat and drink his body and blood in the Holy Supper. Why then is salvation ‘nearer to us now’?”
You ARE saved now. You ARE forgiven. This is true. But “salvation” here refers to the day when our salvation is fully made public on the Last Day when Jesus visibly returns. It may seem to be a long way off. But with each passing day, it draws closer. Think about the Advent calendars you may have in your home. With each little door you open, you know that the celebration of our Lord’s First Advent is drawing near. Likewise, with every passing day throughout the year, you know that our Lord’s Second Advent is drawing near. That day is closer than the time when you were born. It’s closer than the time you were born AGAIN. It’s closer than last year, and last week, and even yesterday. Every passing moment brings us closer to that blessed day. As in those early morning hours of the dawning of a new day, between the hours of darkness and light, the same goes for the “hour” at hand: “The night is far gone; the day is at hand.” This present world age of darkness, sin, evil, and suffering is passing away. The future heavenly age awaits all believers in Christ … the age of light, holiness, purity, and bliss in the presence of God’s unhidden glory.
Because that time is so near, it is high time to “wake up.” It is time to live in constant expectation of the Second Advent of our Lord and Savior. And it’s time to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
What’s one of the first things you do in the morning when you wake up? You change your clothes. Like taking off pajamas after you get out of bed, pajamas that have been dirtied and soiled with the body’s perspiration and odors, we are urged in our text to “cast off the works of darkness.” Maybe a better analogy would be to say it’s more like taking off clothes that have been contaminated with an infectious disease … sexual sins, drunkenness, quarreling or causing strife, jealousy, unbridled excess. These are all acts that come from a heart that says, “I am going to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, no matter who gets hurt along the way.”
Even though we may not be outwardly engaged in all these sins mentioned in our text, we need to be reminded of these other words of St. Paul, “let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Satan loves to drag Christians into the most shameful of sins in order to disgrace the Church and her Lord.
On the other hand, quarreling and jealousy are not normally considered to be shameful sins. Yet Paul still lists them along with these other sins. Who among us has not been guilty of these, contributing to strife in our families or workplace, or being jealous of someone else? These, too, we need to “cast off.”
After we take off our soiled clothes, it’s time to put on fresh, clean clothes. “Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Paul talks about the armor of God available to Christians in Ephesians 6 and in a more abbreviated fashion in 1 Thessalonians 5. But he gets right down to business here and tells us that the armor that we wear is simply Jesus and his righteousness. Jesus is the embodiment of this armor of light. In the last verse of our text, Paul says to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires,” that is, the desires of our old sinful nature that are opposed to God and his will.
You are I were clothed with Jesus and his victorious death and resurrection in the waters of Baptism. We are Christ’s men and women from head to toe. Moreover, when we daily confess our sins to God, we daily clothe ourselves with Christ, reminding ourselves of God’s promises given to us in Baptism. Daily we take off our old, soiled, sinful garments in confession and we put on the fresh, clean, holy clothes of Christ through trusting in the Father’s promises of life and forgiveness through his Son.
Christmas is approaching, and you may be thinking about what gifts you will receive. Some of you may be getting new clothes for Christmas. Have you ever put on a new outfit and looked at yourself in the mirror, and felt like a new person? You have a new air of confidence about yourself, a new bounce in your step. You walk out of the house holding your head high with a new attitude.
Knowing that we have been clothed with Christ, we can walk with a renewed will to “walk properly as in the daytime.” And it’s much more than like having new clothes to wear and a new attitude because of one’s external appearance. The Holy Spirit works from the inside and remolds and reshapes us so that we are enabled to trust the Lord, serve him, and obey him.
Our Savior never thought about how to gratify himself. Everything he did was for the sake others … for the sake of you. He became flesh. He lived in humble circumstances. He endured temptation after temptation. When the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane the night Jesus was betrayed, Jesus remained awake and struggled in prayer, knowing where he was headed. While most of Jerusalem slept, Jesus endured an all-night trial, with accompanying beatings and mockings. By the time the city was waking up in the morning, Jesus had already been condemned to death and endured the pain and suffering of the cross. There he became the embodiment of our sin, so in him we might become the righteousness of God. There, Jesus endured God’s wrath so you and I might know and have God’s priceless love. And though His body “slept” in the tomb for three days, Jesus “woke up” again on Easter morning as victor over death and the devil.
That was the sole purpose of his first Advent. And the call goes out to “Wake Up,” to trust him and to walk in his light, to be ready for his second Advent.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sermon for the Last Sunday in the Church Year (November 20, 2016)

TEXT: Malachi 3:13-18


On this last Sunday of the Church Year, we hear from the last book of the Old Testament, written by the prophet Malachi. It’s about 400 years before the birth of Jesus. The 70-year exile in Babylon was behind the people of Israel. God brought a remnant back to Judea. The walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. The temple was rebuilt with worship and sacrifices restored.

But all was not well. Instead of offering proper sacrifices and offerings, the people did not bring their best. They withheld their tithes. They offered blind, lame, and sick sheep as opposed to unblemished ones. They offered animals that had been stolen from their neighbor. And the priests went right along with this. They accepted these sinful sacrifices and abdicated their duty to uphold God’s holiness. They did not rebuke the people and lead them to repentance. Moreover, the prophet also makes it clear that marriage was not being kept sacred. Contrary to God’s Word, people were marrying those who worshiped idols. Even proper marriages between Israelites were not healthy. People were not being faithful to their marriage vows. Divorce was rampant.

The Lord gave Malachi some hard words to speak to the people, and rightly so, as you can well understand. Yet our text today says that the people had some hard words for the Lord. “Your words have been hard against me,” says the Lord.

What “hard words” did the people have? Earlier in the book, they challenge God’s love for his people (1:2). A bit later, they claim that God favors those who do evil and therefore question if God is really a God of justice (2:17). And in our text today, they say that “It is vain to serve God.” Why bother having faith in God? Why bother obeying his Word? Why bother repenting of our so-called sins? Where has it gotten us? Those who do evil get away with it. Not only that, they even prosper!

Next, Malachi turns his attention to a remant within the remnant in Judea. He turns his attention to those who feared the Lord. Malachi says “they spoke with one another.” What did they say to each other? Perhaps they reminded themselves of their need to return to the Lord, to repent of their sins, to rely on the Lord’s mercy. The prophet says that the Lord paid attention and heard them. Their names are written in his book of remembrance … as if God needs a book to remind himself of those whose are his.

Think of it this way: you and I might like to keep a record of those things that are precious to us, important things we want to remember, items that are meaningful and irreplaceable. We write them down in a memo book. For those of us who are electronically inclined, we might use an “app.” But here’s the difference between our method’s and God’s. In God’s book, no records will ever be erased or deleted. God’s hard drive will never crash.

This is his Word towards those who fear the Lord: “They shall be mine … in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” The distinction between the righteous and the wicked is not about whether they are sinners or not. Neither are they without sin. Rather, the righteous are those who serve God because they have faith. The wicked are those who do not serve God because they do not have faith. And the Lord promises that a day of judgment is still to come when God’s justice over all injustice will finally be made public and visible to all.

For you and me today, we might be tempted to have similar “hard words” against the Lord. Is it vain to serve God? In these gray and latter days, it sure seems that way sometimes. It all seems so pointless. Better to eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. Serving the Lord may bring opposition … from friends, from family, from government.

In these gray and latter days, it often seems as though the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. Perhaps we, like the Israelites, also figure “What’s the point?” and we give up on being faithful to the Lord’s Word. And so, we do not give him our best. We withhold our offerings. We fail in our marriage vows. We let the world around us mold us and shape us rather than the Holy Spirit working in us. And like the faithless priests in Malachi’s day, pastors today fail to turn their congregations from their sin and call them to repentance. At times, Christians today don’t look any different from the unbelieving world around them. There is no apparent distinction between those who serve God and those who do not.

So often, it does appear that believers suffer and unbelievers prosper. Kind of like Jesus in our Gospel reading. There you see the Christ of God, his chosen One, carrying his cross on the way to his own execution. There you see the King of Kings at the place of the Skull, crucified between two criminals. The one who served God perfectly his entire life, flawless in every way, totally without sin, appears to be wicked … one who does not serve God. This is the way in which the sins of the world were laid upon Jesus. God’s judgment over your sin was “hard against” his own Son so that you could have freedom, release from your debt to God, forgiveness, and life everlasting. Through Christ’s saving death, he reconciled all things in heaven and on earth, “making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:20).

Another name for this Last Sunday in the Church Year is “Christ the King Sunday.” At the end of the Church Year, we think about the end of time, the return of the Lord, the culmination of all history. The theme of this day is repentance, hopeful joy, and confident anticipation, and this carries over into Advent next week and the weeks ahead. With our eyes on the Last Day, our eyes are on the Crucified One … our King. The inscription of above his head declares him King. Jesus is enthroned on his cross.

The righteous King speaks words of forgiveness from his throne. Even while hanging on the cross, he speaks words of love, words of forgiveness to the ones who were crucifying him. That includes you and me. Our sins grasped those hammers and drove those nails into his hands and feet. And still, he forgives.

The wicked criminal acknowledges his crime. He says to the other criminal, “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds.” He acknowledges that Jesus has a kingdom: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And the King says, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Trusting in Christ, the wicked one becomes righteous. He who is repentant has his name written in the Book of Life … and it will never be erased or deleted.

The Word of the Lord through the prophet Malachi is for you who are marked with the name of Christ in Holy Baptism and who trust in Christ for your salvation. Your name is written in his book of remembrance. You are his. You are his treasured possession. He spares you as a man spares his own son who serves him. Yet God did not spare his own Son. St. Paul said in Romans 8, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). “He has delivered [you] from the domain of darkness and transferred [you] to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom [you] have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13).

In these Last Days, the Lord will strengthen our resolve to live as his people, to live in repentance and faith, to serve him, to love our neighbor, to be a light in this dark and dying world until he returns and says to you, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sermon for the 26th Sunday after Pentecost (November 13, 2016)

Pentecost 26 – Proper 28/Series C (November 13, 2016)

TEXT: Luke 21:5-28


As we approach the end of the Church Year this week and next, we contemplate the End Times.  We look forward to the glorious, visible return of our Lord Jesus and the new heaven and new earth promised in eternity.  In today’s Gospel reading, our Lord tells about the signs of the times which should prepare us for the end of this present age and his return.  And when you hear some of the things that Jesus says, you may think to yourself, “The end really IS near.”

For some, you’d think the world is falling apart following our recent presidential election.  Even the cover of the latest issue of the German magazine Der Spiegel has a giant meteor in the shape of Donald Trump’s head on a collision course with earth and the words “Das Ende Der Welt” … “The End of the World.”  Other news reports sound very much like what Jesus said: “there will be … people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.”  Don’t get me wrong.  I understand the frustration of those who are upset about how things turned out.  You invest so much time and energy in a campaign.  You make a serious emotional investment in your candidate.  But if you respond with such despair and weeping and gnashing of teeth, you have the wrong god.  Politics is your god.  Government is your god.  No matter which candidate would have won, it probably won’t be as bad as you think it would have been.  This is not the end of our republic.  Life goes on.  And this is certainly not the end of the world as we know it.

Jesus gave us clear signs of the end.  Conflict between nations.  Calamities in nature.  Persecution from the government.  Christians will be betrayed by their own family members and hated by all for bearing the name of Christ.

Jesus compared these signs of the end to the destruction of Jerusalem that was soon to come upon that city.  It would be a picture of what is to come at the end of this present age.  Jesus weaves this in between his description of the final judgment.  And this is how the prophets of the Old Testament often spoke.  They had what Bible scholars call a “prophetic perspective,” that is to say, blending near events with far off ones.  They tend to speak not in a linear fashion, but in circles.  Remember our discussion of the Revelation to St. John last week and how the visions it contains are cyclical.  Or think of it this way.  It’s like a piece of film that is rolled over on itself, looking through two images superimposed upon one another.  The pictures are taken at different times, but when they overlap you see the images together as one.  This is a good way to understand how Jesus describes the end.  He begins by foretelling the destruction of the temple, that not one stone would be left upon another.  But that would not be the end.  False messiahs will come.  False predictions of the time of the end will come.  Don’t listen to them.  Then, in the very next paragraph of the text he seems to jump ahead describing the end times.  And then, in the third paragraph, he clearly jumps back again to the first century.  Jerusalem will be surrounded by enemy armies.  About 40 years later, four Roman legions under general and future emperor Titus laid siege to Jerusalem for several months, bringing horrible suffering and destruction.  First century historian Josephus described how the residents were driven to fighting with each other for food, breaking into each other’s homes, gnawing on pieces of leather from shoes and belts, along with other unspeakable wartime horrors.  No wonder Jesus told his hearers to “flee.”  And finally, in the last paragraph, Jesus seems to once again jump ahead into the future and speaks about his final return.

Throughout all these predictions, Jesus gives promises.  He gives you promises to strengthen you as the end draws near.  He says that the tribulation and trials that come in this fallen, dying world is an “opportunity.”  “This will be your opportunity to bear witness,” he says.  So, don’t be afraid of those who challenge you.  Don’t be afraid of those who may persecute you.  You have the God of the universe on your side.  And he promises, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to contradict.”  At the right time, the Lord will give you the words you need … and you already have his Word in your heart.  That is the only Word you need.

Jesus also promises you that no matter how much death threatens, yet not a head of your head shall perish.  That seems rather contradictory, doesn’t it?  But recall our Lord’s words at the tomb of Lazarus.  “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).  Though you die, yet shall you live.  You have eternal life now.  You will be with Jesus when you die.  You will rise again, just like Lazarus, just like Jesus.  Jesus said, “By your endurance you will gain your lives.”  And he is the one who will give you strength to stand up and confess and endure to the end.  Listen to this promise from the inspired pen of Paul: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

At any given time, as bad as things may look, don’t give up.  Abide in Christ’s Word.  Confess.  Endure.  Listen to the promises of Jesus.  Look at all the promises Jesus has given you.  Remember who you are and whose you are.  You belong to God.  You are baptized, forgiven, given faith to trust Christ’s promises and to endure.  Even if a Christian’s blood is shed, they have eternal life awaiting because of the blood of the Lamb shed for them.  In this way, you have already gained your life.

As bad as things may look, don’t give up.  Look up!  When you see the signs of the times, “straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  Jesus’ return is just around the corner.  All the suffering of this life is just about over.

Look again at the picture of the martyr on the cover of today’s service folder.  All around her, her world is falling apart.  The city crumbles.  An indifferent soldier piles sticks at her feet.  The wood feeds the flames meant to take her life.  Bound to a post, she cannot escape.  But her redemption draws near.  She clings to the cross.  And she lifts up her head.

In sports, you often hear the cry of “Heads up!”  It’s a warning to look out, something is coming your way.  Likewise, the cry in our text today to “raise your heads” is a cry to not only look up to the heavens, but to also be ready.  Be prepared.  Something’s coming.  The final judgment and the return of Jesus is near.  As God’s beloved children, there is no need keep your head down or keep a low profile.  Lift up your heads.  Be bold and courageous.  Take every opportunity to confess Christ as God and Savior of the world.  Do not be lazy and grow idle, as Paul warns in today’s Epistle, and “do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thess. 3:16).

Your redemption draws near to you today in the Words you hear, the Body and Blood you eat and drink.  Your redemption is near.  It is here.  You ARE redeemed.

And your final redemption is on the way, being delivered once and for all from this vale of tears.  For some of you, it will come in death.  You will be taken to be with Jesus and await the day of resurrection.  For others, it will come if we happen to be living when Christ returns, and our bodies will be changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Cor. 15:52).

None of us knows when our last hour will be.  None of us knows when Jesus will return.  But you can see the signs.  You can be ready.  When your world seems to be falling apart, both figuratively and literally, you know what to do.  Cling to the cross.  Lift up your head.  Your redemption is drawing near.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sermon for All Saints' Day (observed) (November 6, 2016)

All Saints’ Day (observed) (November 6, 2016)
The Promised Victory of the Saints” (Rev. 7:9-17)
The Revelation to St. John is a fascinating book, albeit a bizarre one. It has all kinds of weird images, including dragons and angels, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, gigantic flaming meteors, a beast with ten horns and seven heads, and so on and so forth. People love to study it. People get freaked out by it. People have come up with all kinds of crazy interpretations about it. Those interpretations usually come from overactive imaginations rather than a careful study of the book and understanding the symbolism within it.
St. John wrote it when he was in exile on the island of Patmos toward the end of his life. It begins with a series of seven letters to existing congregations in Asia Minor. Then follows a series of visions that all portray the same time period – from Christ’s ascension until his second coming – depicted in various ways and with varying imagery. As you read those visions, you have to imagine yourself as a time traveler, going back and forth in time and viewing things over and over again but from a different perspective each time. To quote a famous TV time traveller, the Doctor in Doctor Who, it’s all a bit “wibbly wobbly timey wimey.” All the Doctor Who fans will get that. But if you’ve ever watched any shows or movies about time travel, such as Back to the Future, you’ll understand that. The stories are full of paradoxes and events that are hard to connect. That’s a bit like the Book of Revelation. But everything finally comes together in the end when the end of all things portrayed … the glorious consummation of God’s eternal plan, all centered in the cross of Christ, “the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God.”
Throughout the book, in the midst of the visions, there are vignettes … interludes … brief evocative descriptions of something that John sees. Our text today from Revelation 7 is one of those vignettes, one of those snapshots, if you will. It comes toward the end of the first vision, the vision of the Seven Seals. Seven seals are broken to reveal various aspects of the time between Christ’s ascension and his second coming. It describes a fearful display of tribulation in this sin-sick world. The first six seals reveal that the world will face war and bloodshed, famine, plague, natural disasters, death, even martyrdom for those who hold fast to the Word of God and confess the name of Christ, and the coming wrath upon an unbelieving world.
But then, after the sixth seal, comes a break in the action. Here is a welcome rest. Here is the promising vision of the saints in eternity, in heaven, at the resurrection. It is a great multitude, a numberless crowd, gathered from every nation and tribe and people and language. Here you might compare the description of Abraham’s descendants. The Lord told Abraham, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of the heaven and as the sand is that on the seashore” (Gen. 22:17). And the Lord has kept that promise, in that all who are justified by faith are children of Abraham, both Jew and Gentile alike (Rom. 416-17) … just like this picture in our text.
This great multitude is clothed in white, a symbol of holiness and glory. Think back to Christ’s transfiguration. There the holy Son of God stood in glory, with his face shining like the sun and his clothes whiter than anyone could ever bleach them (Mark 9:2-3). Think of the angel at Christ’s empty tomb, whose “appearance was like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow” (Matt. 28:3). This glory and holiness is applied to those who trusted in Christ in this life. They are forgiven and cleansed. “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. Their status with God was not evident on this side of the veil. But standing in glory, they wear white signifying their forgiven, holy status with God.
They also hold palm branches in their hands, a symbol of victory, which should also remind us of Palm Sunday. There, the crowd welcomed Christ as he rode on the back of the donkey. There, they waved palm branches as Christ was on his way to the cross to shed his blood and be our Paschal Lamb, our once for all Passover sacrifice where God’s wrath rests on his Son and passes over us. It sure didn’t look like a victory. But it did three days later when Jesus rose from the dead, proving that his death counted for us and for that great multitude in heaven.
Note, also, how this great gathering gives all glory to God. They don’t take any credit at all for being there. “Salvation belongs to our God,” they loudly cry, “who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the heavenly creation described elsewhere in John’s vision replies, “Amen!” Yes! What you said is just true! “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen!” It’s all about God! It’s all about the Lamb! It’s all about Jesus! They fall on their faces before the throne and worship God. And here at this feast in this palace, our Lord is enthroned in the bread and wine. We kneel here, we bow, we give him honor and glory, and yes, if we had room, we should fall on our faces as well.
St. John’s snapshot is an image of a family gathering in which you will one day be included! But we don’t quite see our faces there yet. What we will be has not yet appeared (1 John 3:2). This is not how we see the Church today. A multitude? Far from it. The faithful will always appear to be a remnant. We want the church to grow, but sometimes she is small in size. Remember that growth is not always a sign of spiritual health. There were times that even great crowds walked away from Jesus as he stood right in front of them (John 6:66). But one day we will see that great multitude that John saw. We will be a part of that multitude.
            We don’t see white robes here. We see filthy rags. But in the waters of Holy Baptism you were washed in the blood of the Lamb. You are forgiven. You were given faith to trust in Christ as your Savior. There will come a day when the verdict of “not guilty” will be publicly declared of you. The white robe of your baptism, the white robe of Christ’s righteousness that you wear, will be visible to all.
The Christian life also does not often feel victorious. Rather than going “from vict’ry unto vict’ry, his army he shall lead” (LSB 660:1), it seems we go from defeat to defeat. But Jesus has already overcome sin, death, and hell for you. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And later, St. John wrote in 1 John 5, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). Jesus has overcome. And united to him by faith, you overcome.
In every war, there are often soldiers who refuse to admit defeat even after the generals have surrendered. They hide out and attempt to ambush a convoy. Snipers secretly stash themselves away and pick off soldiers one by one. That’s how it is for the devil and the forces of hell. They are defeated. The cross and the empty tomb was the decisive battle. Yet the devil’s forces refuse to surrender. They continue their subversive operations. But their efforts are the last gasp of a defeated enemy, while the Church moves in the world with the tools she has been given … God’s Word, water, bread and wine … and with those tools, the Holy Spirit calls people to faith and draws them out of darkness into the light of Christ.
God has given his love to you. Christ Jesus lived, died, and rose again for you. You are baptized into his death and resurrection. You are God’s child now. What you will be has not yet appeared, but when he appears you will be like him … risen from the dead, never to die again, without sin, whole and holy, blessed, inheriting the kingdom of God, with nothing keeping you from being in perfect fellowship with the Father forever. You will hunger no more. You will thirst no more. The sun shall not strike you nor any scorching heat … like pilgrims in the wilderness. But the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be your shepherd, and he will guide you to springs of living water … eternally refreshing you and slaking your thirst for righteousness, for holiness, for the love and presence of God … and God will wipe away every tear from your eyes.
Yes, there’s plenty to mourn about and cry about now in this present tribulation. But not there. Not in the resurrection. Not in the new heaven and the new earth. Only blessedness. Rejoice and be glad! Rejoice and be glad for the saints who are coming out of the great tribulation. Rejoice and be glad that you will one day sing with all the saints in glory.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sermon for Reformation Day (Observed) 2016

Reformation Day (Observed – October 30, 2016)
“Dusting Off the Relics of the Reformation” (John 8:31-36)
As you all know, I travelled to Germany for the first time in April.  It was evident that they were preparing for a celebration, especially in the regions of Saxony and Thuringia in the former East Germany.  Many monuments and buildings were receiving renovations, fresh coats of paint, new landscaping.  Some had scaffolding around them and were closed to the public.  The dusty old relics were getting a well-needed cleaning and face-lift.
Germany and Lutherans all over the world are getting ready to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation next year.  October 31, 1517 is the date that historians have designated as the start of the Reformation of the Church.  This was the day an obscure monk in the up and coming town of Wittenberg posted 95 Theses, or propositions for debate, on the door of the castle church.
The truth of the Gospel needed to be dusted off.  It had become buried under so much rubble.  The medieval church had seriously faltered in her task of heeding the Lord’s Word, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  There was corruption in the church, with the buying and selling of offices.  Church and state issues were mixed together, with bishops often holding government positions at the same time as serving in the Church.  You could be put on trial for heresy, and if convicted, you could be arrested, imprisoned, even executed.  Traditions that had no source in Scripture and the word of pope and council were on an equal footing with the words of the Bible.  The Bible and the liturgy of the church were in a language the people in the pew (or the nave, I should say, since there were no pews back then) could not understand.  And then there was the deceptive system of indulgences where you could earn merit before God by your pious actions … attending Mass, praying to Mary and other saints, venerating relics such as the bones of a dead saint or pieces of the cross on which Jesus was crucified.  Later, indulgences were bought and sold – in particular in Germany – in order to help raise money to rebuild St. Peter’s basilica in Rome.  Luther’s 95 Theses were written in response to this practice.  Luther didn’t expect to start such a firestorm.  He was loyal to the Pope and to Holy Mother Rome.  He simply wanted to discuss the matter.
            But this was only the beginning.  Luther continued to write on other matters.  His writings were published and became popular.  And by 1521 he was forced to appear before the Diet of the Empire (the gathering of nobles and clergy who elected the emperor) in the city of Worms.  There he was told to recant all that he had written.  He did not and was condemned to be punished, although he was first given safe passage back to Wittenberg.  On the way there, friends kidnapped him and hid him in the Wartburg Castle where he translated the New Testament into German.  Later came Luther’s Catechisms, both Small and Large.  Then came the Augsburg Confession and its Apology by Luther’s colleague at Wittenberg, Phillip Melanchthon, with particular emphasis on the centrality of the doctrine of justification by faith alone … the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls, as the Reformers taught.
So today, we celebrate.  But how do we celebrate?  In a spirit of triumphalism?  Far from it.  Luther never wanted to break with the Roman church.  He wanted to fix it.  But he got kicked out.  What’s more, the Reformation did not result in only two churches, Roman and Lutheran, but a myriad of divided denominations.  This is why we often pray “for the well-being of the church of God and for the unity of all.”  This is why Jesus prayed the night he was betrayed, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21).
So maybe our celebration should begin with repentance.  We can always use a good dose of repentance if there is anything sinful that is keeping churches divided.  Yet, if we are convinced of the truth, we should not go against our conscience, for as Luther said at Worms, “I cannot and I will not recant, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  Here I stand.  I can do no other.  So help me God.”
And after we have repented, we can do some dusting off of our own.  We can dust off all that would obscure the truth of Christ in our day and age, so that Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins remains front and center in all our preaching and teaching.
We can dust off the history of the Reformation and retell it to remind us of its importance today.  The Reformation reminds us to remain steadfast in God’s Word, to pray for and seek unity on the basis of that Word.  It reminds us to not allow God’s Word to become a relic in our life, something we venerate and keep prominently displayed at home – like a “family” Bible – but never open or read.  The Bible was never meant to be a good luck charm, a talisman, a knick-knack set out to show company how good and moral we are.
The Reformation can remind us to not allow our Confessions to become a relic, in particular the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Catechisms, along with the other documents contained in the Book of Concord.  These are not dry and dusty academic treatises, but they are devotional confessions that can read by all.  Get yourself a copy of the Book of Concord if you haven’t already and read it.  It’s a gem.  It’s what our pastors are to unconditionally subscribe as the teaching of our church because it confesses what Scripture teaches.
The Reformation also can remind us to view the liturgy not as a relic – as a quaint, historical anachronism – but as the heritage of the Church, inherited from our forefathers from well before the Reformation, and that which reverently frames up and delivers God’s Word and Sacraments to you … a contemporary, living channel of God’s love and life for you.
When we dust off the relics of the Reformation, we do as the Lord Jesus told us: “Abide in my word.”  This is so important when we are faced with what Luther called “anfechtungen” or “tentatio” in Latin …temptations, trials, and doubts.  Like Luther’s day, we are faced with increasing opposition from government authorities.  Unlike Luther’s day, we live in an increasingly secular age that wants nothing to do with the things of God.  And all this “tentatio” drives us to “meditatio” and “oratio” … meditation on God’s Word and prayer.
Abide in Christ’s Word and “you will know the truth.”  Relying on God’s Word, you can have certainty in God’s love and forgiveness for you.  Don’t rely on your speculations or your emotional experiences, your feelings.  Don’t rely on man-made traditions, the words of men or councils that have no foundation in Holy Scripture.  Rather, abide in, rely on, cling to the sure and certain truths that because Christ Jesus shed his blood for you, you are forgiven, justified by faith alone apart from works of the law.
Abide in Christ’s Word and “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  When Jesus first spoke these words to the Jews who had believed in him, they replied, “We are Abraham’s offspring and have never been enslaved to anyone.”  Had they forgotten about the experience of their ancestors in Egypt?  Had they forgotten about the exile that their ancestors had endured in Babylon?  Perhaps they meant that as the chosen children of Israel, they were free children of God no matter what their external circumstances.  But Jesus explains that this has nothing to do with being in bondage to an earthly master.  It’s about our sinful condition.  “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin,” he says.  That was the case of his hearers. That’s your case and mine.  No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you exert your effort and will, you cannot escape your bondage to sin and death.
And this leads us right back to the beginning of the Reformation.  In the very first of his 95 Theses, Luther wrote, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”  Repentance … a daily, ongoing, continual turning from sin and turning to the Savior in faith and trust.  Jesus says, “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
And this in turn leads us right back to the Incarnation, where the Son of God humbled himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men (Phil 2:7).  Bound to his Father’s will, bound to the cross, he suffered and died for you, so that you could become a son, God’s child, adopted in the waters of Holy Baptism, freed from your bondage to sin, and given a place in God’s house forever.  So take your place here today in God’s house.  Take your place at the Lord’s Table, where the Risen Jesus is present for you and feeds you with his Body and Blood.  These are no relics to venerate.  No monuments to admire.  These are true treasures that God gives you to eat and drink for life, forgiveness, and salvation.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sermon for the Feast of St. James (October 23, 2016)

St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus and Martyr (October 23, 2016)
“St. James and the Power of the Resurrection” (Ac 15:12-22a; Jas 1:1-12; Mt 13:54-58)
In the readings assigned for the festival of St. James, we learn a little bit about his life, but more specifically about the power of the resurrection of Jesus in the life of St. James.  The resurrection of Jesus brought James to repentance.  It led him to see the importance of reconciliation between two groups once opposed to each other.  And it inspired him to remain steadfast in the face of suffering and death.
The resurrection of Jesus brought James to repentance and conversion.  It turned him from unbelief to belief.  His once dead heart was made alive with the message of the living Christ who had died for the sins of the world but now had risen from the dead.
Today’s Gospel reading mentions Jesus’ family members, including his brother James.  It’s most natural to assume that these brothers and sisters of Jesus were born to Mary and Joseph after Jesus was born…although some hold to the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and believe that these siblings were step-sons and step-daughters of Joseph from a previous marriage.  Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that not only did the folks of his hometown take offense at him.  His family did, too.  And not only did they take offense at him.  In Mark chapter 3, they were so concerned about him that they tried to seize him because they thought he was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21). They wanted to shuffle him off and shut him up. He was an embarrassment to the family!
So what made the difference?  James doesn’t appear anywhere else in the Gospel accounts, but he does in the book of Acts, where all of a sudden he is a leader in the Jerusalem church.  So what happened?  We don’t know exactly when James came to believe, but it apparently was after the resurrection.  According to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, the risen Jesus specifically and personally appeared to his brother James.  The resurrection made all the difference.
The resurrection makes all the difference today.  The risen Jesus is present and active for us.  He is present in his Church.  He is present with his body and blood for you today.  When Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins is preached, he gives the Holy Spirit to convert dead hearts from unbelief to belief.  The unbelieving world will think we are not in our right minds.  But faith in Christ is the only sane option in a world that has gone quite mad.
            The resurrection of Jesus led James to see the importance of reconciliation between two groups of people opposed to each other, specifically Jews and Gentiles.  This was the issue at the Jerusalem council in our reading from Acts this morning.  Some people from Judea had travelled to Antioch teaching that Gentiles could not be considered Christians unless they were circumcised according to the Law of Moses.  Paul and Barnabas were sent from Antioch to discuss this with the church in Jerusalem.  The Apostles and elders gathered to debate.  Peter shared the vision he had received before visiting the Gentile household of Cornelius, where the Lord told Peter, “What God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 10:15).  Paul and Barnabas related the signs and wonders done through them among the Gentiles whom they visited in their travels in Syria and Cyprus and Galatia in Asia Minor.
Then James gave his speech to the council that we hear in the reading.  He declares that the Gentiles are most definitely included in God’s plan.  Even the Old Testament prophets foretold this, and he quotes Amos, saying that the house of David will be rebuilt and restored … the people of Israel … but now this people will include Gentiles, as well.  At the same time, James teaches that it is important to show cultural sensitivity.  Gentiles who become Christians should abstain from certain things in order not to offend their Jewish neighbors.  Have nothing to do with things that have come in contact with or dedicated to idols, such as meat sold in the marketplace.  Avoid sexual immorality.  That seems like a no-brainer for a Christian, but among the Gentiles, consciences were not as well-formed.  Theirs was a very libertine society.  Also, they were to avoid eating blood and meat from animals that had been strangled, that is, with the blood still in it, something strictly forbidden among the Jews.
            James’ speech, of course, applies to any group of brothers or sisters in Christ, not merely those ethnically and culturally divided.  We should all be willing to reach out and forgive one another, reconcile with each other, because we are already truly one in Christ, a part of his Body, saved by grace alone, empowered with the peace of Christ to live at peace with each other and to show respect to one another.  We should also seek to find ways to avoid unintentionally offending our neighbor … not compromising doctrine, not setting aside the truths of Holy Scripture, but being sensitive so as not to set up any unnecessary barriers to people hearing the Word of God.  What does that mean for us today in our context?  I’m still trying to figure that out, especially in this day and age when people are so easily offended over any number of things.  Maybe one aspect for us is the way we speak to our neighbors who have no faith.  Perhaps we need to learn to speak clearly and winsomely about our faith without sounding superior or judgmental, but being merciful and compassionate instead, admitting that we are sinners, too, in need of a Savior.
            We have one other reading to mention, the epistle of James.  In the opening portion of this letter, James teaches us that the resurrection of Jesus also enables us to remain steadfast … to have patience, endurance, perseverance, to stand firm in the faith even when we face trials.  When trials come, when your faith is put to the test, James says to “count it all joy.”  That seems contrary to how we feel in times of testing and trial.  But this is exactly where faith comes in, trusting God in spite of what you see, in spite of your circumstances, having an eternal perspective, having God’s perspective.
            In an essay presented at last summer’s LCMS convention, the Rev. Dr. Berhanu Ofgaa told how many Ethiopian Lutherans endured trials, yet trusted God with an eternal perspective.  He is the secretary general of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, “one of the largest and fastest growing Lutheran church bodies in the world,” with an estimated 5.2 million members and 2 million children in Sunday School every Sunday.[1]
            In his essay, Dr. Ofgaa spoke of the years they spent under the thumb of Communism:
The closing down of congregations, banning of worship services, detention of many ministers, severe trials and death of many ministers and church leaders, and loss of church properties had severely damaged the church. It was a duration when church properties were confiscated and the existence of God and his church were totally denied. It was a duration when many believers had been brutally tortured, beaten, harassed, intimidated, lost their jobs, detained, and faced various sorts of sufferings and trials. Those evil moments were when many leaders and ministers of the gospel were brutally tortured to death, when many top leaders like the Rev. Gudina Tumsa suffered repeated imprisonments and faced a cruel death. Especially, it was the moment when many young people were atrociously tortured and faced various sorts of trials, including being forced to deny Christ. As I myself have been a partaker of these trials and sufferings, I testify this as a living witness. Nevertheless, all these horrible actions didn’t and couldn’t stop the church from boldly declaring the Lordship of Christ. Although heavily challenged, the survival of the church was certain because of Jesus’ promise. The persecution couldn’t move the church an inch from her firm confession and witnessing to the Lordship of Jesus in public. The church was counted worthy to suffer and to sacrifice for Jesus. All these challenges and confrontations from the forces of evil couldn’t prevail against this church, as Jesus said. The words of Jesus, “the gates of hell cannot prevail against it,” have been demonstrated and proven in the experiences the church in Ethiopia underwent. This severe persecution and test of faith endured by [our church] in those horrible days, even though it shocked and rocked her foundation, did not move her an inch from her firm confession.[2]
Our Lord uses trials not to weaken but to strengthen us.  His desire is to produce steadfastness in our hearts and lives, so that even though our foundations are rocked and shocked, we are never moved an inch from our firm confession.  In this way, we are made “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” … not that we are perfect and without sin … that awaits until the day of our own resurrection.  But in Christ Jesus, through faith in Christ Jesus – in spite of the brokenness that we see in our world and in our lives – in him we are whole and complete.  In Christ Jesus we are forgiven, we are saved, we are whole, we are perfect.  And James invites us to pray for wisdom so that we can recognize the ways in which God is working to produce steadfastness in our lives, to strengthen our faith … so we can trust in his steadfast love for us, giving thanks for the ways in which he is always so patient with us, showing that steadfast love for us at the cross.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life.”  That’s an apt description of James, the brother of our Lord.  James remained steadfast under trial.  He stood the test.  He received the crown of life.  James was martyred for his confession of faith in his brother, his Savior, Jesus.  Hegesippus, an early church historian, says that at Passover, James was preaching that Jesus was the Christ.  His opponents dragged him to the pinnacle of the temple and threw him down.  But James did not die immediately.  Instead, he knelt and prayed, echoing his brother’s words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” At that point, James was stoned and beaten with a club until he finally died.[3]
Repentance, reconciliation, and remaining steadfast, even unto death … all fruits of the resurrection in the life of James.  We pray that the Lord would have mercy upon us, and grant us the same fruits of the resurrection in his Holy Church today.

[2]Berhanu Ofgaa, “Rejoice: The Church is Built on the Rock,” Journal of Lutheran Mission, September 2016, vol. 3, no. 2, pages 58-59.
[3] Roudkovski, V. (2016). James, Brother of Jesus. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.