Hearing and Working Together (LCMS 2019 Convention Sermon)

A storm is coming. It threatens to sweep them away. Death will soon visit this house. And Death comes with his companions, Doubt and Despair.

Knowing death was coming for Lazarus, Life came. Life spoke. And Mary listened. She does not know it yet, but she will soon need the Word of Life. A storm is coming.

Another storm rages within Martha. She is busy. Doing what? Doing diakonia – service, ministry. Is that not good? To prepare a meal for Jesus? But over the fire of the hearth, a fire burns in Martha’s heart.

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The Fourth Sunday after Trinity 2019

Last week we heard about a father who is merciful. The lost son, sometimes called the prodigal son, wasted everything. He was rebellious. He was ruined. He is us. 

His father forgave him. His father was merciful.

That’s the foundation for today’s Gospel. Without the merciful father, the words of Jesus will be abused, misused, misunderstood. The merciful father is everything.

“Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” Just as your Father. 

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The Marriage of William Thompson and Ji Yoon Noh

The day will come when things will have gone sour. You will have gotten on each other’s nerves. You will have misunderstood each other. You will have disappointed each other – maybe in a severe way. You may even question if you still have a future. But the godly marriage, no matter how rough the waters are, comes back to this question: An nyong hah se yo - “Are you at peace?” And the answer, between children of God—especially husband and wife—the answer is always, 네 - Ne: “Yes. I am at peace with you - because God is at peace with me. If Jesus forgave my sins, how can I not forgive you yours?”

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The Marriage of Louise Gebel and Kyle Shideler

We want to own the thing we love, to possess it, to control it. But that only shows the love of self.

The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel show us a different kind of love. “I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” The ones Jesus calls “His own” are not possessions (like a collection of trophies) but people – the people He Himself created. His love for us He demonstrates by self-giving. “The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

That’s marriage. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” There’s no ownership here in the sense of domineering control and a demand to do things my way. It is self-giving to the end, the end where the shepherd lets himself be bitten and clawed by the wolf attacking the sheep. The husband doesn’t care about himself, only about his wife.

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Baccalaureate Vespers 2019

After sitting through dozens of graduation speeches that were a terrible waste of time, the brilliant educator and critic Neil Postman wrote the sort of commencement address he wished would be given but never is. In it he talks about two groups of ancient people, the Athenians and the Visigoths. This is because, Postman said, you soon must align yourself with the spirit of one or the spirit of the other. You must choose between the Athenians or the Visigoths.

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Misericordias Domini: The Third Sunday after Easter 2019

“The hireling,” Jesus says, “does not own the sheep.” But the Good Shepherd—the true and perfect shepherd—sees the sheep as belonging to Him. “I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”

The sheep, Jesus says, are His – His own. Here Jesus expresses more than mere ownership. This hymnbook is mine; it has my name on it. But more is happening here than just possession. I suppose that’s at the heart of what we call sin – seeing possessions, positions, and even other people as ours, such that we are masters, and everyone else is there to serve us.

But not so with Jesus. When He calls the sheep His own, two realities are coalescing in that one little phrase “My own”: The first is creation, and the second is incarnation.

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Vigil of Easter 2019

When a child is adopted, he gets a new family and also a new story, the family’s story, with its history, and hardships, and heroes. 

You who are baptized learn the story, your story. It’s the story of all mankind. But the unbaptized, and those who have wandered away from their baptism, have forgotten the story, the family history. Some have even developed competing stories, a falsified account. It is as though they came upon a beautiful mosaic, depicting with glittering tiles the image of a king. With malice they rearrange those tiles into the image of a fox.

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Judica 2019

“The lie is the death of man, his temporal and his eternal death.” Thus wrote Hermann Sasse in 1933. Sasse was among the greatest theologians of the 20th century, and vigorously opposed the Nazis, a dangerous position for a German pastor to take. But Sasse saw the lies of the National Socialists as part of a larger lie – a single great demonic lie that holds the world captive.

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Catechetical Sermon on the Second Article of the Creed

In the hour of darkness—when your career is collapsing; when your marriage is on the ropes; when you come face to face with the ugliness of your sin; when the stench of death cannot be sanitized by the wretched sterility of hospital antiseptic—when in the hour of darkness you despair, you don’t need a concept or a philosophy. A platitude won’t help. An ethic is worst of all, for the accuser gleefully reminds us that we have failed.

The supposed comfort of a nebulous better place I find revolting. Who are you to say there is a better place, and that my loved one is in it, or that I will go there? How do you know?

Leave me alone, incompetent comforter! I need a Lord, a real redeemer who is actually mine, who is coming for me!

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Oculi 2019

Renowned theologian Michael Scott once said, “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitous.” In the battle against modern philosophy, Christianity is seen as—and sometimes is—in a battle with the modern world itself. Modernity sees Christianity as mired in antiquated superstition. So the preacher has a problem on his hands with all this talk of the devil in today’s gospel, and the last two weeks. You can talk about a man “battling his demons” if he is, say, an alcoholic. And we understand those demons to be metaphorical. An occasional mention of the devil you can get away with, because many people are like Michael Scott: not superstitious, but still a little stitious.

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