Trinity 7 Sermon

Trinity 7
Mark 8:1-9
August 3, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

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

 2.

The text tells us that the crowd had remained with Jesus three days. Three days! What could keep a crowd twice the size of the town of New Haven out in the wilderness for three days on end? This particular account doesn’t say explicitly what was going on for those three days leading up to the mass feeding, but if we look just a couple chapters earlier, we see a similar situation with 5,000 men, plus women and children.

In the account of the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus withdraws from the crowds for a time of devotion and prayer, but the crowds follow Him regardless. When He sees the crowds, St. Mark writes, “He saw the great crowds and He had compassion on them, because they were as sheep who did not have a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things” (Mk 6:34).

The people wandered from their homes, from their businesses, from their leisure, to hear Jesus preach. They were like sheep without a shepherd, the text says. They wandered out into the wilderness, compelled by the Shepherd’s voice. So it is in today’s Gospel. Although St. Mark doesn’t record the sermons from the three days, He implies that the people were following Jesus to hear His preaching.

What a thing it would be if the entire town of New Haven and the surrounding region would shut down on Sunday morning. What a thing it would be if every home from the Missouri River to Highway 100 was empty today. What a thing it would be to see this room busting at the seams, folding chairs filling the narthex, people standing at the windows drawn to the voice of the Good Shepherd. What a thing it would be.

But it’s not. Only a scant few cross the threshold of this congregation each week; even fewer will take an extra hour to study the Scriptures an hour before the service. People are not naturally drawn to preaching and the Gospel. If they were, there would be no need for a Third Commandment. But we despise preaching and God’s Word. We may carve out a little time for church, or for personal devotions, but seldom do we do it gladly. We treat the Gospel as if it’s just one more item on our to-do list for the week, another duty to be fulfilled to maintain our status as good, Christian people.

And that makes the fact that 4,000 people follow Jesus for three days to listen to His preaching the unsung miracle of this Gospel. While the multiplying bread grabs the headlines, the fact that 4,000 people stayed to get that hungry in the wilderness is an act of divine intervention.

You recognize your bodily hunger when your belly starts to growl, or your mouth begins to salivate, or your head starts to get a little fuzzy. But there are no bodily indications of spiritual hunger. It’s a hunger that must be believed.

The 4,000 who followed Jesus into the wilderness stayed to hear His preaching not of their own power, but by the working of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the one who reveals the spiritual famine which has existed since the fall of man. He is the One who drove the 4,000 into the wilderness and He is the One who drives hearers to this congregation. If you are disappointed with the turnout, then you are also disappointed with the work of the Spirit.

Since spiritual hunger is only recognized by faith, it can also only be satisfied by faith. So Jesus gives faith something to take a bite out of. He satisfies your spiritual hunger and nourishes your soul with His Word. His Word is the object of faith. His Promise is the feast for the famished soul. Even in the wilderness He spreads this feast before those starved for forgiveness, for reconciliation. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be satisfied (Mt 5:6).

 1.

However, the ministry of Jesus isn’t just a spiritual ministry. He teaches His disciples that life is more than food and that the body is more than clothing, but He is not unconcerned about the body. When He feeds the 5,000, He has compassion on them at the very beginning and He teaches them. The 4,000 have already been with Him for three days and then He has compassion on them. In those days, when there was again a great crowd and they did not have a thing they could eat, He called the disciples to Himself and said to them, “I am having compassion on the crowd, because they remain with Me now for three days and they do not have a thing to eat (vv 1-2).

The word that I’m translating as “compassion” is one of those theologically rich words that doesn’t have an exact counterpart in English. Originally, the root of the word referred to the guts of an animal sacrifice, but then, as time went on, it came to be used to identify an emotion. The reaction that Jesus has over both the 5,000 and the 4,000 is a gut-wrenching reaction at the state He observes. The 4,000 are without food, and may become faint. But this compassion isn’t just an emotion. It’s an emotion that leads to action. He must feed this hungry crowd.

There is a particular ceremony to Jesus’ miraculous and providential feeding. And the ceremony teaches us a couple of things. First, it’s not Jesus who serves the people, but He is the source of the bread. And the disciples answered Him, “From where will someone be able to satisfy these people with bread here in this wilderness?” And He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”  And they said, “Seven.” And He instructed the crowd to recline upon the ground.  And after taking the seven loaves and giving thanks, He broke them and began to give to His disciples, so that they might serve.  And they served the crowd (vv 4-6).

The disciples want to know the source of bread for so many, especially in the wilderness. Bread comes from flour, flour comes from grains, grains come from fields, and fields come from hard work. From where will someone—anyone—be able to satisfy people with bread? How quickly they forget. Jesus’ miraculous feeding is first to teach the disciples and us—yet again—that Christ is the source of daily bread. He is the One who provides seed to the sower and bread to the eater, as the Prophet Isaiah writes. That is why smack in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, He prays, Give us this day our daily bread. Daily bread is not only a result of farming and baking, but it is also the result of prayer, though God does indeed give us daily bread without our prayers, even all evil people.

Although Jesus is Himself the source of this daily bread, He leaves it to the disciples to distribute. This teaches us that daily bread doesn’t come down from heaven like it did for the Israelites in the wilderness. Daily bread is given to us in the usual way through vocation. Christ our Lord calls Christians—He calls you—to particular stations in life in order to be His instruments in providing daily bread. And since daily bread is more than just bread, but includes everything to support this body and life, consider how you provide for the needs of others. In addition to food and drink, think of how God provides you with clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors. Think of how you help to provide these things to others. Those are your vocations. Those are where your Lord Jesus Christ works through you to provide daily bread for His creation. And He likewise provides it for you by sending disciples to be of service to you.

There is a second aspect to the ceremony by which Jesus provides daily bread, and it’s this ceremony that links this daily bread to the spiritual bread that precedes it. He took the loaves, gave thanks, He broke them, and He gave them. Sound familiar? While some liturgical scholars get hung up on this four-fold action, and ascribe some sort of mystical significance, we ought not think that this was anything more than a satisfying meal of bread and fish. But the way that St. Mark presents it to us—the way the Holy Spirit presents it to us—should scream out to us the one place where our Lord joins the eating of daily bread with eating of spiritual bread: the Lord’s Supper.

In the Holy Sacrament, our Lord Jesus Christ takes bread, blesses, breaks, and distributes—though the vocation of your pastor—and with it includes His own true body and blood. This is daily bread raised to a new level—bread that hosts His flesh (that’s why it’s called a host), wine that hosts the blood that He shed for your forgiveness. Into your mouth goes not only bread and wine, but His true body and blood, sacramentally hidden under daily bread. That is the first kind of eating.

But at the same time is also a spiritual eating by faith. When you believe that His body and blood are truly present under the bread and wine, when you believe that these are given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins, then you also are nourished with the spiritual bread of life and salvation. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there also is life and salvation.

In this way, in this Sacrament, our Lord Jesus shows that the body was made for the soul and the soul for the body. His ministry isn’t just a ministry of the spirit to keep you going until you’re one day freed from the prison of your body. His ministry for you is for body and soul. His ministry is to make you whole again. And so,

He Who Nourishes Your Soul with His Word Will also Satisfy Your Body with Daily Bread

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
VD+MA

Trinity 5 Sermon

Fifth Sunday after Trinity
Luke 5:1-11
July 20, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 2.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing is a name you probably haven’t heard of, but probably should hear of. He was a son of a Lutheran pastor in 18th century Germany (as most good heretics are in history). Among some of his more wild ideas, he was responsible for what’s become known as Lessing’s Ditch: “the accidental truths of history can never become the proof of necessary truths of reason.”[1] Now for those of you who don’t speak philosopheeze, what Lessing means is that since I don’t see any miracles happening in my experience, which I can verify for myself, then the accounts of miracles in Holy Scripture are untrustworthy. “The problem is that this proof of the spirit and of power,” he writes, “no longer has any spirit or power, but has sunk to the level of human testimonies of spirit and power.”[2] Just a story. This is the “broad, ugly ditch” that he could not cross.

I doubt that most moderns and post-moderns know that they have a Lutheran pastor’s kid to thank for the way they look at the miraculous in Holy Scripture. Accounts such as the miraculous catch of fish, they just laugh away. Myths and fables created by the Church to delude and control simple followers. Now, if there were miraculous catches of fish happening every so often, you’d have to give this story from Luke 5 a second consideration. But as it stands, it’s simply too fantastic to believe.

Which gets Christians all riled up. How could anyone not believe in miracles? We rally to defend God’s power, His miracles. We hone our apologetics in order to prove our theological enemies into submission. It’s in the Bible! And we just expect them to say, “Well, if it’s in the Bible…”

Truth is, they have a point. The miracles of Jesus are pretty unbelievable. And it’s not just for our side of Lessing’s Ditch. When [Jesus} finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch.” And answering, Simon said, “Master, although we labored throughout the whole night, we got nothing; upon Your words, I will let down the nets” (vv 4-5). Hear the doubt in Peter’s voice? Hear the hint of sarcasm? “Well, Teacher, we’re the fishermen, see. We do this sort of thing all the time. We fished all night. We pulled out every trick in the book. Still nothing. But at you word, we’re going to catch some fish? Ok. I’ll throw out the nets, but don’t be disappointed when you’re wrong.”

And then, when they had done this, they enclosed a great number of fish, and their nets began to burst.  And they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come to take hold with them; and they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink (vv 6-7). Not only did they catch some fish. Not only did the catch a haul of fish. It was a record-setting catch. Their boats began to sink. All night long the fish avoided their nets, but at the Word of Jesus, the swarmed to the fishermen’s nets. This wasn’t luck, coincidence, or some secret, killer lure Jesus had discovered. A bona fide miracle.

And what was Peter’s reaction? Wow, that’s really impressive Jesus? Let me follow you? No. When Simon Peter saw, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord.”  For all who were with him were also seized with amazement upon the catch of fish that they got (vv 8-9). This miracle drove Peter to the ground confessing his sins. He fell down at Jesus’ knees because this miracle, this magnificent display of power, forced him to reckon with his own powerlessness in the presence of God.

And that’s what we need to understand about those who reject the miracles of Holy Scripture. They don’t disbelieve them because they are so irrational. Rational people believe irrational things all the time—you just need to find out where their irrationality lies. It’s that accepting the miracles of Scripture would force the skeptics to reckon with their own powerlessness before God, with their own sinfulness—and that’s the real barrier to believing the miracles of Jesus. The skeptics loathe getting down on their knees and saying, “I am a sinful man.” Because that confession is more contrary to our sinful nature than fish miraculously jumping into nets is to the laws of nature.

The Word of Jesus—His Word of power—strikes us down as dead men on account of our sin. That’s the point of Jesus’ miracles—they never convince anyone to believe.

1.

It’s what comes before the miracle that creates faith. And it happened that the crowd was pressing in upon Him also to hear the Word of God; and He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret.  And He saw two boats standing still by the lake, but the fishermen had gone away from them to wash the nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, He asked him to be put out a little from the land.  When He sat down, He began to teach the crowds from the boat (vv 1-3). It’s the preaching of the Word of God, the teaching of divine Wisdom that creates faith. When Jesus commissioned His Apostles, He doesn’t send them to perform miracles. He sends them to preach, and then gives them accompanying signs. Divine power will drive the faithful to repentance—as the catch of fish did to Peter—or it will confirm unbelievers in their unbelief.

When Simon Peter and the sons of Zebedee left everything to follow Jesus, it wasn’t because of the miracle. The miraculous catch only set the stage. Likewise, also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were colleagues of Simon.  And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear—from now you will be catching men alive.”  And bringing the boats to land, they left everything and followed Him (vv 10-11).

These three fishermen, who also became Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, followed Jesus at His Word—“Do not fear.” That’s Jesus’ absolution. “Do not fear, Peter, your powerlessness in my presence is a good thing, for My cross is weakness in the eyes of the world. But it is the power of salvation. Do not fear, James and John, you thought My Word was foolish—and it is. But My foolishness is wiser than the wisdom of men. You ask Me to depart from you, because you are a sinful man? That’s precisely the reason I became Man. To be found among sinners.”

The task that Jesus calls these fishermen to is catching men. But there’s a few ways to catch things. The word Jesus uses is “to catch alive.” When you go fishing, you want to keep the fish alive as long as possible; the smell of dead fish is one you can’t get rid of. And that’s what Word of Christ also does—it catches men alive. His Word of grace, His Word of forgiveness catches men struck dead by His power and raises them to life. His, “Do not fear,” is an absolution that catches men in life.

There is certainly a ditch between us and the miracles of Jesus. But it’s not so broad and ugly as Lessing thought it was. That ditch is bridged by the Word of Jesus. The account of the miraculous catch of fish is indeed man’s testimony, but it is the testimony of men who were called and sent by the One whose Word caused the seas to swarm with fish in the beginning, whose Word sent swarms of fish into the nets, whose Word brought Peter to his knees, whose Word raised him up again and caught him in life.

And so this account of the miraculous catch of fish is also for you. Not simply that you would believe that Jesus is able to do unbelievable things. But so that you would believe, like Peter, that you are a sinful man, a sinful woman. That you would bend your knees in confession and recognize your own powerlessness in the presence of God. And that you would hear His gracious, “Do not fear.” These are words of forgiveness, words that catch you in life.

Just like the fish in the lake of Gennesaret,

The Word of Jesus Catches You Alive

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
VD+MA

[1] Lessing’s Theological Writings. tr. Henry Chadwick. Stanford University Press, 1956, 53
[2] ibid., 52

Trinity 4 Sermon

Trinity 4
Luke 6:36-42
July 1, 2012
Emmanuel Lutheran Church—Dwight, IL
Revised July 13, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 3.

Mind the grammar.  It’s a statement that would make my seventh grade teacher smile warmly—she’s the one who taught me how to diagram sentences, the difference between an independent and a subordinate clause, and that an adverb can modify a verb, adjective, or another adverb.  Martin Luther once wrote that grammar was the servant of Holy Scripture.  God chose to reveal Himself and His will to us with words, and words work because of grammar.  It’s important to mind the grammar when you read Holy Scripture.

Today’s Gospel begins with a string of imperatives.  Imperatives are verbs that command.  It’s like the game “Simon Says.”  You know how to play: Simon says, “Jump,” and you’re supposed to jump.  It’s a command.  But commands come in all shapes and sizes.  Simon could say, “Jump,” or he could say, “Start jumping.”  As the leader sees the players begin to tire, Simon may say, “Keep jumping,” but if the leader says, “Stop jumping,” without Simon saying it, everyone who obeys that command is out.

“[Jesus said:] ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (v 36).  Sometimes the Greek grammar doesn’t come into English clearly.  The force of what Jesus says here is more than a simple command.  He says that it’s time to start being merciful, even as the Father is merciful.  You aren’t yet living as if you believe that you have a heavenly Father who is rich in mercy.  Rather, by your actions—especially the way you treat your neighbors—you are living as if you expect the Father to reward you for your good works and only punish you for your bad works.

So He continues, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned” (v 37a, b).  Our English translation implies that if we don’t judge or condemn, then we won’t be judged or condemned ourselves.  But let’s mind the grammar.  Here’s a clearer translation: Stop judging, and be not judged!  Stop condemning, and be not condemned!  Christ says that you are not judged according to your works, you are not condemned on account of your sins, so be that way.  Stop judging others and condemning others.  That’s the way of the Law, to measure someone according to the goodness of his works and the wickedness of his sins.  The way of the Father—the way of mercy—is to judge you according to Christ, and for the one who trusts and is baptized in Him, there is no condemnation.

So, “forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you” (vv 37c, 38a).  In place of judging, start forgiving; in place of condemning, start giving.  Do you want to be forgiven?  Then forgive!  Do you want to receive from God?  Then give to others!

Christ’s imperatives reveal our false perception of our heavenly Father.  We expect Him to work by way of the Law—to have a ledger of our deeds and sins, and to judge us according to it.  These imperatives are a call to repentance, to put away the old way, the natural way, the way of the Law.  At the same time they are an invitation to live the way the Father has remade you, to live in the freedom of the Gospel, to live in your Baptism.

 2.

There is no possible way for you to do this on your own, but the forgiveness you extend to others is supplied by the forgiveness the Father will give you; what you give to other will be given to you by the Father.  “…forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you” (vv 37c, 38a).

How does the Father give?  “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap” (v 38b).  He begins with a good measure.  He doesn’t measure out His gifts by the teaspoon, but by the gallon.  When it’s filled to the top, He presses it down to fit more in.  When it’s pressed down, He shakes it together to find out if there’s more room.  And when all possible empty space is exhausted, He tops it off to overflowing.  One of the greatest statements in our Lutheran Confessions is from the Smalcald Articles: We will now return to the Gospel, which does not give us counsel and aid against sin in only one way. God is superabundantly generous in His grace (SA III.IV).

All these gifts are “put into your lap,” Jesus says.  Here is a tough translation.  The word Jesus uses is a cultural word that doesn’t have a direct correlation in our Western culture.  A kolpos is what’s formed when a long tunic is bloused out over a belt or girdle.  It wasn’t only a fashion statement, but it also doubled as a convenient way to carry odds and ends.  Think of it as an ancient backpack.

Presumably, one could carry more or less based on the size of his or her kolpos.  Jesus says that the gifts of the Father are placed in your kolpos, because “with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (v 38c).  That’s to say, if your measure is small, your portion will be small.

Imagine a widow in a small town, perhaps about the size of New Haven.  She loves Halloween and seeing the kids dressed up.  She’s also got a huge pile of candy each year and develops a reputation of filling Halloween sacks to the brim.  The kids who wise up, what kind of sack do they bring?

Jesus is saying that if you approach God with a teaspoon, you’ll get a teaspoon of His gifts.  Better to approach Him on empty and be filled with His grace.  With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

 1.

Jesus concludes with a parable.  “Can a blind man lead a blind man?  Will they not both fall into a pit?  A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (vv 39-42).

There’s a woman by the name of Joyce Meyer.  You may have heard of her before.  She’s one of the popular evangelical TV preachers.  What’s unique about Ms. Meyer, though, is that she used to belong to an LCMS church.  A few years back, I heard an interview with her on the LCMS radio program, Issues, Etc., and when she was asked about why she was no longer Lutheran, she said it had to do with sin.  And I’ll never forget her words: she said, “I am not poor, I am not miserable, and I was a sinner.”  You see, she had overcome sin in her life and now makes a pretty penny off of motivating others to do the same.

Her problem, and so many like her (I only chose her because of her former connection to our church body), is that they are disciples who believe themselves to be above the Teacher.  They have successfully turned the faith into the business of speck removal.  They see specks in their neighbors’ eyes because they believe that only specks can get in eyes.  That is to say that they consider sin to be a very small, insignificant irritation that pops up from time to time.

Somehow Ms. Meyer became convinced that she was only a middling sinner.  Mediocre misdeeds overcome with a little self-discipline.  I believe that she’s not the only member of an LCMS church to think that way.  We Lutherans pride ourselves on our humility, ready to admit with hands solemnly raised that, of course, we’re sinners.  But then we outdo ourselves in showing how small and insignificant our sins really are.

Christ did not take on human flesh and empty Himself of His divine majesty in order to rescue us from irritating specks and middling sins.  He came to deal with the logs in each of our eyes.

I try to imagine what a log in the eye looks like.  It’s a gruesome picture.  In fact, if a log is thrust in your eye, loss of sight is probably quickly followed by loss of life.  But that’s really the good news.  Christ became man to take the logs out of both of your eyes, so that He could fasten them together into a cross, and die with you.

If you only count your sins as small, insignificant, middling sins, the only grace you need is small, insignificant and middling grace.  But Jesus shows you the depth of your sins.  If the measure you use is your whole self, confessing your sins to the point of death, then the measure the Lord will gladly use is your whole self, measuring it back to you with life.

The Father is the forgiver of substantial sins.  And that’s the point of today’s Gospel:

The Father’s Mercy Is for Those Who Have Need To Remove Great Sins

In + Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
VD+MA

 

Trinity 3 Sermon

Third Sunday after Trinity
Luke 15:1-10
July 6 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The way to interpret the parables of Jesus is to first look for the point of comparison. There is a temptation to allegorize these little stories and to assign a meaning to every detail, no matter how insignificant it seems. Sometimes and interpreter even makes up details that he thinks are implied by the text, but aren’t really there, in order to make the parable fit what he thinks it should mean. This method of interpretation turns a parable into a fable, which inevitably arrives at a moralizing conclusion. The parables of Jesus, however, illustrate one point of comparison.

Another aspect of Jesus’ parables is His consistent inclusion of some utterly absurd detail. Now that we’re in the Trinity season and we have more parables in our readings, you’ll hear this again. The absurdity of the parables serves two purposes: first, to pique the hearer’s interest; and second, to illustrate the utter absurdity of the kingdom of God when compared to this world.

 3.

In the two parables today, Jesus sets up two lost objects. First is a lost sheep; second is a lost coin. In reaction, the shepherd of the sheep goes out on a mission to find the lost sheep and the woman turns over her whole house to find her lost coin. The absurdity shared by these two parables is the intense desire for the one lost thing, showing that God is concerned for the individual sinner.

He spoke this parable to them, saying, “What man of you, having one hundred sheep, and he loses one of them, does not leave behind the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go out toward the lost one until he finds it?” (vv 3-4). Our first parable puts us out in the pastures with a shepherd and his even one hundred sheep. But the complicating incident is that one of the sheep wanders off. The shepherd loses him. What is absurd is what happens next.

The shepherd goes off in search of the lost sheep. That in and of itself is not absurd, but when he goes off to find the lost one, he leaves the ninety-nine alone in the wilderness! Jesus asks what man would leave the ninety-nine alone and search for the one. I’m not an expert in shepherding (and maybe one of you can correct me), but I don’t think anyone would do that. What if another sheep, or two or three, from the ninety-nine wandered off? What if a wolf comes and scatters the ninety-nine and snatches another away while the shepherd’s off searching for the lost one? The absurdity of the shepherd is his intense desire for the one, as if it were his own personal sheep, part of his own household.

The absurdity of his intense desire for the one is mirrored by his reaction when he finds it. And when he finds it, places it upon his shoulders, rejoicing. And coming into his house, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice together with me, because I found my sheep that was lost” (vv 5-6). What about the other ninety-nine? Still out in the wilderness? But Jesus says this is about the one. I am saying to you that in this way there is joy in heaven over one sinner, than over ninety-nine righteous ones who do not have need of repentance (v 7).

The second parable reinforces the first. Or what woman, having ten drachmas, if she loses one drachma, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search for it carefully until she finds it? (v 8). A drachma is a coin that’s worth roughly a day’s wage, so what our woman has is a full two-week’s paycheck. But she loses one.

Now the absurdity. She lights a lamp, sweeps the house, and searches carefully for it until she finds it.  What the woman puts in to the coin search is more than what the coin is actually worth. Presumably she (or someone else) had put in a day’s wage already to earn the coin in the first place, and now she adds more work—perhaps even another full day’s work—to find the coin.

The absurdity shows us her intense desire for the one, which is again mirrored by her reaction when she finds it. And when she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, because I found the drachma that was lost” (v 9). She finds the coin only to spend more on a party than the coin she is celebrating. But, Jesus says, In this way, I am saying to you, joy comes before the angels of God over one sinner who repents (v 10).

The absurdity of the kingdom of God is His intense desire for the one, for the lost, for the sinner. Pastors and mission executives sell the faithful a spiritual snake oil that says that you have to experience exponential growth, or else you’re a dying congregation. They say that since the Bible mentions numbers, you also need to boast of great numbers. But Jesus says in no uncertain terms, there is only one number that He is concerned about: one. One sinner. One sinner who repents.

His concern, His intense desire is for you. You are the sinner that He desires to the extent that He does the unbelievable. He leaves His heavenly throne to come into the wilderness, to search with eyes of flesh for you. He exposes Himself to the same dangers and threats as you. He comes as the Lamp that shines in the darkness. He puts in a day’s work from courtroom to cross that far exceeds the value you have earned, simply because of the joy your repentance brings before the angels in heaven.

 2.

The absurdity of the parable isn’t the point of comparison, but rather flows from the foolishness of God, which is the cross of Christ. The particular point of comparison in these two parables is the particular application of the foolishness of God and the absurdity of His kingdom. These two parables, Jesus says explicitly, are about repentance. I am saying to you that in this way there is joy in heaven over one sinner, than over ninety-nine righteous ones who do not have need of repentance (v 7). In this way, I am saying to you, joy comes before the angels of God over one sinner who repents (v 10).

Jesus was prompted to tell these two parables (as well as the one that follows it) by some grumbling from the Pharisees and scribes. All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to hear Him, and the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats together with them” (vv 1-2).

The Pharisees are offended that Jesus would spend quality time with the degenerates, with the losers, with the sinners. This Man is supposed to be a spiritual teacher, people even claim that He is sent from God. And He wastes His time with the godless and the reprobate. Eats with them, even! Doesn’t Jesus know what makes a man unclean, uncivilized, unworthy to be in God’s presence?

This is not just a Pharisee and scribe problem. It’s also a Christian problem. After we come to faith, begin to learn a bit of the kingdom of God, we discover that the world around us isn’t so pure. We find sin everywhere. It’s on TV, in the papers, on the news, down the street, in the schools, in our own families, in the church. The sin and rebellion and godlessness encroaches the faithful and threatens our purity. It’s enough to drive a pious Lutheran to a nervous breakdown.

But it’s a spiritual arrogance. These two parables show us that you have to repent and amend your life to make yourself worthy of Jesus’ company. The point of comparison is that repentance is the work of God in finding the lost sinner.

Neither the wandering sheep nor the lost coin contribute to its own finding. It’s the work of the shepherd; it’s the work of the woman. Jesus not only puts us in the pasture with the sheep and in the house with the coins, He puts us behind the eyes of God for a few moments. When He sees one, lost sinner, He doesn’t see someone who’s impure, someone who should be shunned until they become more righteous. He sees someone who needs to be found, someone who needs to be restored to his rightful place.

Repentance is not something that you do. Repentance is the work of God upon you. Christ seeks for you like a lost sheep. He sends His Spirit to enlighten you, to sweep you clean of the sin that clutters your soul, to find a new creation begun under the not-so-pure exterior.

Luther once wrote a letter with these words: Therefore my dear brother, learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to pray to him, and despairing of yourself say: “Thou Lord Jesus art my righteousness, but I am Thy sin. Thou hast taken upon Thyself what is mine, and has given to me what is thine. Thou hast taken upon Thyself what Thou wast not, and has given to me what I was not. Beware of aspiring to such purity that you will not wish to be looked upon as a sinner, or to be one. For Christ dwells only in sinners.

It is heaven’s joy when Christ works repentance in you. He is the one who changes your mind, who gives you a new way of thinking. It’s absurd to the world, foolish to our own natural presuppositions. But the foolishness of God is wiser than men. His intense desire that you be found sends Him to the flesh and to the cross. He searches for you, He calls to you, He lightens the darkness to find you. And when He finds you, He returns you to His kingdom, borne upon His shoulders. He throws a feast in celebration—His own true body and blood. Angels rejoice. Archangels exult. The whole company of heaven comes together.

There Is Joy in Heaven When Your God Works Repentance in You

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
VD+MA

Festival of St. Peter and St. Paul

St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles
Galatians 2:1-10
June 29, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

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

 1.

In walks Paul and Barnabas, the two of them known to the congregation, but in tow is someone new, someone unknown. Titus. The Greek. The Uncircumcised. The rebellious. The outlaw. Titus walking into the Jerusalem congregation probably got a reaction similar to if a new face walked in here, and after taking off his jacket, revealed a sleeve of tattoos up one arm. And I’m not talking about cute dragonflies and frogs, or a hipster’s inked irony. I’m talking some seriously disturbing images, the kind of stuff that makes you want to lock your car doors when you see the guy walking down the street.

Titus. The living breathing, walking, talking object lesson. St. Paul writes of his trip to visit St. Peter, Then after fourteen years, I again went up into Jerusalem with Barnabas, and we also took along with us Titus (v 1). Paul and Barnabas were the ones with the mission, the ones that had business with the Jerusalem congregation; Titus was a tag-along. He was only there by the request of Paul and Barnabas.

 2.

When they arrived, St. Paul recalls that much of what he saw “seemed to be.” Four times in these ten verses, he writes that someone seemed to be something. In other words, there was a slick, polished exterior to the Jerusalem congregation, but there was something more at work among them. The truth of things was not as things seemed.

As St. Paul writes to the Galatians, he recalls that there was a faction at work in Jerusalem, whom he calls the false brothers, or the pseudo-brothers. I went up according to a revelation, and laid out to them the Gospel which I was preaching among the Gentiles, but privately to those who seemed influential, lest I was running or had run in vain. But Titus, who was with me, who was Greek, was not even compelled to be circumcised, on account of false brothers who were secretly brought in, who snuck in to spy out our freedom, which we have in Christ Jesus, so that we would be enslaved (vv 2-4).

St. Paul didn’t preach in the public assembly at first, but he met with those who appeared to be something—influential, maybe?—to talk theology. He laid out the message he had been preaching (going on eighteen years now).

But things weren’t as they seemed. These false brothers also appeared to be something they weren’t. They seemed to be pious, committed, Christian. But Paul sees through the outward presentation. He perceives something different at work among them. They sneak around and try to destroy the freedom of the Christian.

For the Jerusalem congregation during St. Paul’s visit, this meant compelling Titus to be circumcised, to submit to the laws of the Old Testament. They would be satisfied if Titus conformed outwardly, but they cared little about his inward regeneration.

But what does it mean for our congregation? No one here is compelling anyone else to submit to the Laws of the Old Testament, circumcision or otherwise. We don’t practice any of the Levitical code. If St. Paul and Barnabas walked in here today with Titus in tow, we’d welcome him with open arms and offer him some donuts and coffee.

The problem that falsified the pseudo-brothers in the Jerusalem congregation wasn’t just a love for the ceremony and discipline of the Jewish Law. What falsified these particular brothers was that they put sanctification before justification. In other words, they believed that in order to become right with God, you first had to become obedient to God. In their particular context, coming out of the Levitical Law, or the Mosaic Law, they believed that to be right with God, you had to be obedient to the Mosaic Law.

This flip-flopping of sanctification and justification wasn’t only at work in the Jerusalem congregation, but it’s also what gave rise to the papacy (obedience to the pope). Furthermore, the same false theology is at work among protestants—and even Lutherans—who believe that in order to be worthy of the Gospel, you have to first straighten up your life (obedient to a moral code).

St. Paul writes the false brothers—false Christians who appear to be pious on the outside—are the ones who sneak in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, in order that we would become enslaved again to the Law. False Christians live the Christian life when all eyes are on them, but they whisper about the failings of others over dinner, they gossip about secret sins, they murder reputations with their tongues.

Do we have false brothers in this congregation? I think we do. I’ve been keeping tabs. And it’s time to start naming names. We’ll begin with…Jacob Ehrhard.

 3.

St. Paul goes on, From those who seemed to be influential—of what sort they were and when makes no different to me; God does not take man at face value—for to me, those who seemed influential contributed nothing (v 6). These words written by St. Paul are some of the most frightening and lovely words ever put to paper. God does not take man at face value.

In our congregation, if you were looking for someone who seems to be something, you’d probably first think of the preacher. He is, after all, the guy you let stand up and speak to you every week, the guy you let teach you and your children. Some preachers even wield their influence so skillfully that they can mold an entire congregation to their own will. After the preacher might come the elders, then the chairman, then the officers, then the voters. The Ladies’ Aid definitely has its own little circle of influence.

But God does not take man at face value. It’s frightening to think that God sees past what seems to be—the good, pious, Church behavior—and sees the contradiction that hides underneath. False brothers and sisters, with something to hide down deep.

But at the same time, it’s beautifully good news. Because He does not take sinful man at face value. Our wickedness, our disobedience, our rebelliousness, our lawlessness, does not disqualify us from the Gospel. St. Paul will not yield to the circumcisionists so that the truth of the Gospel would remain for you (v 5).

The Truth of the Gospel Is for You Regardless of Your Outward Appearance

 4.

St. Peter is on the other side of the knife, as it were. Like Paul, he was raised under the old covenant, circumcised on the eighth day, obedient to the Levitical Law. He was a preacher, evangelist, and apostle in Jerusalem, and therefore, among the circumcised. Unlike, say, sacrificing a lamb, circumcision wasn’t something you could stop doing. The Jews who came to faith in Christ still bore the outward mark of the old covenant, which would seem to prevent the Christian faith from extending much beyond Judea.

There was a divide between the circumcised and uncircumcised, Jew and Gentile, obedient and outlaw with respect to the old covenant. But that dividing wall has been torn down in the death of Christ. He was circumcised for the uncircumcised. He was glorified for the Jews and Gentiles alike. He was obedient for the disobedient.

This Christ is the One who sent both St. Peter and St. Paul—St. Peter when He commissioned the eleven; St. Paul when He appeared to him on the road to Damascus. But rather, seeing that I had been entrusted the Gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter for the circumcised, for He who was at work in Peter for apostleship to the circumcised, was also at work in me for the Gentiles, and acknowledging the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we would be for the Gentiles and they for the circumcised (vv 7-9).

The same Christ who sent both St. Peter and St. Paul is the One who continues to work in both St. Peter and St. Paul, for Jew and Gentile alike, for obedient and rebellious alike. For the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not depend on works or obedience. It is the good news that God justifies a man by faith apart from works. But we know that a man is not justified from works of the Law, but by faith of Jesus Christ, and we believe in Christ Jesus, so that we would be justified from faith of Christ, and not works of the Law, because from works of the Law no flesh is justified (Gal 2:16).

 Justification has no prerequisite but Christ. You do not need to be circumcised, declare your allegiance to the pope (or your pastor), or straighten up your life to be justified before God. He justifies by faith. That is to say that He declares you to be just and upright apart from your outward appearance—even contrary to your outward appearance. This is the truth of the Gospel for those whose outward show is false. God does not take man at face value; He sees beyond the outward show of piety and obedience, but He also sees past the lawlessness and wickedness that hides just below the surface. God sees all the way to your heart, where He has begun a new creation. He sees to the inner man who is continually being renewed by faith in the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins.

 5.

Before St. Paul left Jerusalem, “the pillars” Peter, James, and John extended to him and Barnabas and Titus the right hand of fellowship. The word for fellowship means that they all shared something in common. It wasn’t their outward appearance, the people they associated with, or even the way they conducted themselves in public. What they shared was the common Gospel that God justifies the ungodly by faith. This is evident in their common concern for the poor, that is, for people who had nothing to show for themselves.

There is a fellowship between St. Peter and St. Paul, and it’s a fellowship that you also share. Your Lord Jesus Christ justifies you, apart from your outward appearance.

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
VD+MA

Trinity 1 Sermon

First Sunday after Trinity
Luke 16:19-31
June 22, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 3.

When I was a kid, I believed that everyone had one sister (like I did), two parents (like I did), two grandmas and one grandpa (like I did; I never knew my mother’s father). I first learned that it was possible to have more than one brother or sister, and they could be all boys and all girls. I remember discovering that some people had two grandpas, and I remember that even one of my friends had their grandma living in their own house—imagine that! My own personal experience colored what I believed to be true about everyone else.

The same is true for religion. If you grew up Lutheran, didn’t you think at one time that everyone in the world went to a Lutheran Church? Then you found out that not everyone in the world was even Christ—in fact most people in the world aren’t Christian. And not all Christians are Lutheran—in fact, most Christians in the world aren’t Lutheran. And then you find out that not even all Lutherans believe the same thing! ELCA, NALC, LCMC, WELS, ELS, ELDoNA, and us, the LCMS. And that’s only a few compared to a century and a half ago, when there was something like 150 separate Lutheran church bodies in America alone.

The more you experience outside yourself, the more you realize that there are a lot of religions and variations on religion out there. In American culture, religion is served up cafeteria style. My grandma used to take me to Grone’s cafeteria when I was young, and you could pick and choose your main, your sides, your dessert, your beverage. Hundreds if not thousands of variations to suit your taste at any given time. And so it is with religion—if you don’t like one of the traditional options, you can pick and choose elements of several and combine them into your own unique blend of spirituality. Hundreds if not thousands of variations to suit your taste at any given time.

With all of the religious options competing for a slice of your soul, there is a temptation to experiment with other spiritualities, to dabble in competing confessions. Teenagers, you guys especially will be faced with this reality in high school, in college. You’ll discover that not everyone is like you. You’ll discover that not every Christian is like you. You’ll discover that not every Lutheran is like you. The options presented to you may seem endless.

But when you are presented with presented with the cafeteria of religions and spiritualities, know that there are truly only two religions that exist—two religions that are fundamentally opposed to each other. Even atheists or “none of the above” have chosen one of these two religions. There is the religion of the Law and the religion of the Gospel. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man shows these two fundamentally opposed religions and their fruits.

 2.

How does the rich man show his belief in the religion of the Law? Jesus introduces him straight off as a man who was rich, and he customarily clothed himself in purple and fine linen, rejoicing splendidly in himself every day (v 19). It wasn’t just that he was rich, but it’s what he thought about his riches.

First of all, the text reveals that this man regularly clothed himself this way—in purple and fine linen—for his own benefit. He wanted to put on a fine outward show so that the passersby would note his outfit and compliment his impeccable taste in upscale clothing.

Secondly, this rich man “rejoiced splendidly in himself every day.” Most English translations give you something like: “He feasted sumptuously,” or, “He fared sumptuously,” or, “He lived in luxury.” The word means that this rich man rejoiced at his abundant and excessive lifestyle. But it’s not the kind of rejoicing someone does in reply to God’s gifts. It’s a more secular kind of rejoicing—self important and pompous.

These qualities of the rich man show us something about his faith, what kind of religion he believed in. His was the religion of the Law, and that’s evident by the next scene after the rich man dies and finds himself in Hades. His debate with Abraham shows that his religion is still only about works, even as he’s in torment. He asks for mercy from Abraham, and relief from Lazarus. And Abraham said, “Child, remember that you took your good in your life, and Lazarus likewise the bad; but now here he is comforted, and you are in anguish” (v 25).

Abraham is not talking about karma, or divine retribution. He’s talking about faith. The rich man took his good things in life as evidence of his own righteousness. I wore nice clothes, thought the rich man—God must be pleased with me. I had sumptuous fair—God must be pleased with me. I had power and honor and respect—God must be pleased with me.

The parable of the rich man is preceded by Jesus’ speaking with the Pharisees. The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Lk 16:14-15). The love of money, the love of worldly things, is a symptom of the spiritual disease of self-justification. The rich man in the parable presents to us what the religion of the Law believes: my righteousness depends on my wealth, my status, my heritage, my works. The religion of the Law is the belief that your works create your righteousness. It doesn’t matter what god you choose, or even if you choose no god at all. The religion of the Law is the natural, default position for all people.

The religion of the Law is even found within Christendom. This religion takes the Words of Christ in Holy Scripture and twists them into a divinely-inspired self-help book. This religion reduces the life-giving words of Christ to instructions for dressing yourself with the spiritual equivalent of fine, purple line, for rejoicing splendidly in your own spiritual achievements.

The rich man wasn’t particularly cruel. He didn’t steal all of Lazarus’ money to make him poor; He didn’t kick the poor man as he walked by. He was probably very well thought of. But his complete disregard for his neighbor showed where his faith lie.

 1.

Lazarus demonstrates the religion that is fundamentally opposed to the religion of the Law. Not only is it fundamentally opposed, but, as Abraham tells the rich man, “And in all these things, between us and you a great chasm has been established, so that those who desire to pass from here to you are not able, neither may he cross over from there to us” (v 26). Not only are the two religions diametrically opposed, but there is an impassable gulf between the two.

Larazus’ religion isn’t much to behold. Jesus describes him thusly: And a poor man whose name was Lazarus had been placed toward his gate, being covered in sores, and longing to be filled from what fell from the table of the rich man, moreover, even the dogs came licking his wounds” (vv 20-21). Poor Lazarus. Dirty Lazarus. Sore Lazarus. Hungry Lazarus.

Lazarus demonstrates a religion that the world doesn’t know. His is a passive religion—he is carried, he is place, he desires to be fed. Even dogs serve his needs. Lazarus has nothing to claim—no fine clothes on his back, no food on his table, not food, not status, not heritage. Lazarus is a man who needs help, and he finds none from the rich man. The rich man doesn’t care for this kind of religion.

Lazarus. That name comes from the Hebrew name, “Eliezar.” The rich man doesn’t get a name; he’s anonymous. But Jesus gives the poor man a name. Lazarus. Eliezar. It means, “God is my help.” Some people say that God helps those who help themselves. Lazarus would say differently. Even in death, he is carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.

The religion of the Gospel—the religion of Lazarus—is to receive help from God, and thus to be righteous. It is a religion that’s not really a religion at all. It’s a righteousness that comes by faith, apart from wealth, status, heritage, and works. It’s a righteousness that comes from Christ.

Jesus is an even greater Lazarus. He who is heir to the riches of heaven made Himself poor for our sake. He was driven outside the gates of Jerusalem by rich men, covered in stripes and wounds. Dogs encompassed Him on the cross. Even though He is the almighty God of all creation, He did not help Himself but waited on God’s help. Into You hands I commit My spirit.

What’s more, Jesus’ helplessness becomes the one and only work and sacrifice that is acceptable to God. He alone perfectly keeps the religion of the Law. And after He dies, He descends into Hades—not in torment, but to preach victory to the prisoners.

And He is now risen and ascended to His Father’s right hand. He has become the one bridge that spans the chasm between the religion of the Law and the religion of the Gospel. Through Christ, you have access to God’s help.

Trust His atoning sacrifice, the blood He shed for your forgiveness. You have Moses and the Prophets. And you also have the Apostles and Evangelists. They preach to you the One who is risen from the dead. Their words are Christ’s own words. They are sure and certain and worthy of faith.

 The True Religion of the Gospel Is to Receive the Righteousness of Christ by Faith in the Word of God

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
VD+MA

Holy Trinity Sermon

Holy Trinity
June 15, 2014
John 3:1-15
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 3.

That which has been born of flesh is flesh, says Jesus to Nicodemus (v 6a). That flesh can even give birth to flesh in the first place owes to God’s Word and blessing in the beginning. After God created them male and female, Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it: (Gen 1:28a NKJV). God does not create a whole population of humans, neither does He cause different races to evolve differently. He gives to man and woman the duty and joy of pro-creation, that is, continuing forward the work of creation begun in the beginning.

This gift of procreation was given to man before sin entered the world, and it still remains—though not without some damage. Woman’s curse is an increase of sorrow in conception and childbirth, but men are also not free from sin’s stain when it comes to procreation. Some men are unable to have children—and even intervening with modern science begets its own set of complications. Other men relentlessly pursue sexual pleasure outside of the union of man and wife with a complete disregard for the children that may become of their indulgences. And still others are corrupted by sin in such a way that their natural sexual desires are marred and turned towards other men, and they come to see this as the new natural.

However, the fact that children still continue to be begotten by fathers every day around the world is proof that God has not removed His providential hand from our existence and turned us over to our own destruction. He has not removed His blessing because He is so outraged and disgusted by our sexual sins. What He promised and gave in the beginning still holds true today. The one-flesh union of man and wife is still fruitful to fill and order this world.

Without this blessing in the beginning, there would be no fathers, and today would not be Fathers’ Day. Fatherhood is indeed a vocation that needs a little attention, because even though men continue to father children since the beginning of time, there are too few who are even interested in true fatherhood. Being a father isn’t just a matter of contributing 23 chromosomes to a mass of cells that will one day be a child. Fatherhood begins at conception—no, even before conception. It begins when a man vows to honor his wife with his body, to love her and cherish her. Because his children will come from her body. True fatherhood continues after birth, raising children, loving them, teaching them. True fatherhood also has a spiritual aspect. When Luther wrote the Small Catechism, he didn’t write it as a textbook for pastor’s confirmation class. It was written for fathers to use in the home. Sadly, too few men are interested in true fatherhood.

True fatherhood doesn’t necessarily come from the person with whom you share half of your DNA. Sometimes in this world soiled with sin men must become fathers to the fatherless. The Holy Writers of Scripture give special attention to widows. The Christian faith is shown in caring for women who are left widowed either by death or by neglect—and by extension her children. Often times a woman is forced into taking on the role vacated by a father.

But even the best and most committed fathers still beget children in sin and pass on Adam’s curse to the next generation. There is no escaping this reality. King David confesses, in sin my mother conceived me (Ps 51:5 NKJV). Fatherhood is a large task, and even the most disciplined, loving men fail. And so St. Paul must include the command: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the instruction and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:4). St. Paul writes to the saints—to Christians. If Christian fathers didn’t do what they ought not do and fail to do what they should do. Fathers, have you provoked your children to anger. Have you withheld from them, especially instruction and admonition of the Lord?

“That which is born of flesh is flesh,” says Jesus, “and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (v 6). St. Paul elaborates, The flesh desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh (Gal 5:17). As earthly fatherhood continues to perpetuate Adam’s sin and Adam’s curse to each new generation, we ought not be surprised that fatherhood itself breaks down. Any Christian who confesses the second article of the Augsburg Confession should not be surprised that the world, which is flesh born of flesh, delights in the things that are against the Spirit of God.

 2.

Is there an end to the cycle? Flesh gives birth to flesh gives birth to flesh—and so it remains. Is there redemption for the failure of fatherhood? There is. And it is found in One who was born in an unusual way. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came from an unconventional family. He was born of a mother who was suspected of fornication and adultery when she became pregnant out of wedlock (it took a miraculous intervention from the angel Gabriel for Joseph to take her as his wife). He was raised by a stepfather in His youth, but by the time He was a young adult, He was the Son of a widow.

Jesus was raised in an unconventional family because He was conceived and born in an unconventional way. Jesus was conceived out of wedlock not by the will of man, but by the will of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. He was born to a woman who remained a virgin. He alone is a Man born in an unnatural way, and because of His unnatural birth, the stain of sin did not blemish His person.

This Man Jesus truly has God as His Father. Not only is He begotten of the Father from eternity, but in time, He is also born of the flesh of His mother. In Jesus alone the flesh does not desire against the Spirit, but they are perfectly reconciled. His flesh is the hope for flesh that is born of flesh, because He gives His flesh for the life of the world (Jn 6:51). Christ is unique among men because He was born of the flesh, but conceived by the Spirit.

 1.

When Nicodemus approaches Jesus for an answer to the wonderful works that He is working, Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I am saying to you, unless someone is born from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God” (v 3). Nicodemus, perhaps himself a father of flesh, is perplexed. Nicodemus said to Him, “How is a man able to be born when he is old?  Is he able to enter into his mother’s belly and be born?” (v 4). He misunderstands this spiritual saying, because the flesh desires contrary to the Spirit. He thinks that when Jesus says, “born from above,” he’s talking about being born again in a fleshly way. Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I am saying to you, unless someone is born out of water and the Spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God” (v 5).

This Unique Man, in whom the flesh of man and the Spirit of God are reconciled and united, who speaks with Nicodemus of a second birth from above, says that the birth of the Spirit is a birth that is out of water. Just as the Spirit of God hovered over the waters at creation, so the Spirit of God hovers over the font to give birth to a new creation.

Today is the Festival of the Holy Trinity. Some people point out that the word “Trinity” is never found in Scripture. And that’s true. But there are two times when the Holy Trinity is explicitly revealed—three distinct Persons with one united will and substance. And both times it’s in water. The first is when Jesus goes down into the Jordan to be baptized by John. The Son of God stands in the waters, the Father’s voice speaks from heaven, and the Spirit descends on Him like a dove. The Holy Trinity is united together in will that Jesus willingly goes to the cross. The second time the Holy Trinity is explicitly referenced is when Jesus mandates Holy Baptism. …baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19b). Holy Baptism reveals the mystery of the Holy Trinity—not in general, but specifically for you.

This second birth of the Spirit incorporates you into this mystery and, what’s more, truly makes God your Father. This is the good news when the world celebrates the fatherhood of the flesh—God is Father, even to—and especially to—the fatherless(Ps 68:5a). Even when fleshly fathers from below bail before the baby is even born, your Father above remains faithful. He will never leave you, or forsake you.

It’s interesting to note that God is seldom called Father in the Old Testament. Fathers are of the flesh—Father Abraham; Father Isaac; Father Jacob. But not God the Father. Not until a few times in the Psalms. Then more so in the latter prophets. God is not revealed as Father until He is revealed as Father by Christ. For He is the eternal Son of God, and we cannot know God as Father except through the Son.

So when you are born from above by water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism, you not only receive God as your Father, but Jesus as your brother. What Christ earned by His perfect obedience, by being lifted up on the cross, that becomes yours. You are a co-heir with Christ to the treasures heaven. You are His beloved son, you are His beloved daughter, and with you He is well cplease.

Holy Baptism incorporates you into the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Father, Son, Spirit. You share the same name they share. You gain entrance to the household above by water and the Word. This is redemption for fathers and their children alike.

The Second Birth of Water and the Spirit Makes God Your Father and Christ Your Brother

In + Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
VD+MA

Pentecost Sermon

Holy Pentecost
John 14:23-31
June 8, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1.

Where is your place of peace? I like sit down by the boat launch on the Missouri River and watch the river roll by (in fact, it’s where I was when this sermon started to come together). Maybe your place of peace is on the porch, freshly brewed coffee at hand, engrossed in a novel. Or maybe it’s walking the trails over at Camp Trinity. Maybe your place of peace is on a beach with the constant background of crashing surf drowning out the cares of the world.

2.

Wherever your place of peace is, it rarely lasts. You have to leave paradise for the daily grind. The trail comes to an end. The coffee gets cold and the novel runs out of pages. The river keeps on running, but so does time—and you eventually have to move on to less than peaceful places.

But even in your peaceful place, distress and conflict can rise. Your peaceful vacation can turn into a family feud at the drop of a hat. The trail can be overrun by pests or worse. The novel and coffee can be interrupted by annoying telemarketers. The river can turn from peaceful to killer in a moment if you lose your respect for it.

The world offers some fleeting glimpses of peace. Your peaceful place can give you a short rest from the conflicts and the grind of daily life, but it’s never a lasting peace. It’s never a true peace. It’s more of a temporary escape.

This is true not only on a small scale, but also on the larger scale. Jesus says that from His day until the end of the age there will be wars and rumors of wars (Mt 24:6). And indeed, a list of the major conflicts and wars of the 20th century shows that only 15 of the one hundred years were free of a major conflict across the world. And, of course, nearly the entire 21st century has been consumed with several wars so far. Wherever your place of peace is, it rarely lasts.

Why is peace so fleeting? Because peace is not the default position for man. The flesh is naturally hostile in its fallen state. The first men born of women demonstrate the hostility of the flesh. Cain rose up against his brother Abel and murdered him on account of jealousy. There is even a whole discussion between God and Cain regarding this natural rage that ends up consuming him. “Why are you angry,” God asked Cain, “and why are you looking down? Isn’t it true that if you do right you are accepted? But if you don’t do right, sin is crouching at your door. [It’s desire is for you]; but you should [rule over] it” (Gen 4:6-7 alt).

Everything from little spats to world wars can be contributed to the obstinacy of the flesh. Even the smallest slights can boil over into harsh conflicts, or worse—erupt into full-blown wars. St. Paul writes to the Romans, For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins, those which were through the Law, were working in our members, to bear the fruit of death (Rom 7:5).

Your place of peace can provide a short respite from the conflicts and struggles and wars in your life. But it’s never true and lasting peace because you always bring with you your own flesh. Even in your place of peace you stew over the wrongs with which other people have wronged you. Even in your place of peace you plot against your neighbor. These are the passions that lead to sins, the desires of the flesh.

St. Peter also writes, Beloved, I am counseling you as aliens and foreigners to abstain from fleshly desires, the same that are waging war against the soul (1 Pet 2:11). Have you ever tried to abstain from a passion or a desire? First of all, fleshly passions rise up before you even realize that they’ve come. And the more you try to clear them from your head, the more they eat away at you. Like Cain, sin is always crouching at your door, and you let it rule over you.

This is nature of the war that is being waged even when you are at peace with the world. But it’s more than just an internal struggle for peace. Your war is also against God. You are at enmity with your creator. You cannot find true and lasting peace because you cannot find peace with God. This is a war that can only end in death.

3.

There is another peace, however, a peace which the world cannot give. It is the peace that is achieved when Jesus becomes your fruit of death, nailed unnaturally to a tree outside Jerusalem. Peace I am leaving with you, My peace I am giving to you; not as the world is giving am I giving to you.  Your heart be not troubled, neither your heart be afraid (v 27), says Jesus—just hours before His crucifixion.

True, lasting peace can be found nowhere in the world, but only in Christ. His is a peace that surpasses all understanding. His is a peace that shines forth from the cross. His is a peace that is given to you as a gift, to put an end to the hostility of your flesh. His peace is a gift and fruit of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit Brings Christ’s Promised Peace

 4.

The war that your flesh wages against yourself and against God will only bear the fruit of death. And so to end the war, God Himself goes to death. St. Paul writes, For [Christ Jesus] is our peace, who has made the two one, and He has pulled down the dividing wall, the hostility which separates, in His flesh, the law of commandments in dogma being rendered ineffective in order that He create in Himself the two into one new man, making peace, and that He reconcile the two in one body to God through the cross, putting to death the hostility in Him (Eph 2:14-16).

The peace that the warring world so desperately needs is accomplished in Christ. In His body, the hostility of the flesh is put to death. God and man are reconciled in Christ’s incarnation; the enmity is buried in His crucifixion. He departs this world, not just in Spirit but also in the flesh; He raises our flesh to sit at God’s right hand. And from thence He sends His Spirit.

The Feast of Pentecost was a harvest festival commanded by God in the Old Testament. There is no harvest if there is war. In war times, warriors beat their plowshares into swords and their pruning hooks into spears. Armies pillage the crops, or set fields afire for no reason. Pentecost is a reminder that God had given the Israelites not only their own land, but had given them peace.

And so on the Pentecost following Jesus resurrection and ascension is when Jesus fulfills His promise of peace. He sends the Spirit to the Church. But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name, that One will give you all and will call to your minds all that I said to you (v 26).

It is the work of the Spirit to give you all things that pertain to your salvation, and to bring to your remembrance the Word of Jesus. It is He who reminds you that the Father put to death the hostility in His body. It is He who gives you the gift of peace. And He does so by speaking to you a word of forgiveness.

Our Easter season began with these words of Jesus following His resurrection: “Peace to you” And after saying this, He showed them His hands and side. Again, He said to them, “Peace to you. As the Father has sent Me, so also I am sending you.” And after saying this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they have been forgiven for him; if you retain anyone’s, they are retained (Jn 20:19b-23).

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, is the gift of the Spirit when your sins are forgiven. He brings to your remembrance the scars in Jesus’ hands and His open side leading directly to His heart.

Where is your place of peace? It’s the place where you hear these words: I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. As the Father has send the Son to put an end to the hostility of the flesh, so also the Son sends the Spirit to the Church to proclaim peace.

 5.

When two nations sign a peace treaty, concessions are made and the armies go home. When you’ve made your peace with someone you’re in conflict with, you probably go your separate ways (and even some friction may remain). But the peace of Christ that is the Spirit’s gift to you does much more than simply end the conflict.

The peace of God is declared with a Word from God—the Word of forgiveness. The Holy Spirit preaches this Word to you through the ministry of the Church. Jesus answered and said to him, “If someone loves Me, he will keep My Word, and My Father will love him and We will come toward him and We will make a dwelling beside him. The one who does not love Me, he does not keep My words.  And the Word which you are hearing is not Mine, but the Father who sent Me” (vv 23-24).

It’s not just peace so that you and God can go your separate ways. The peace of God is a peace that draws you closer to God—or, better yet, a peace by which He draws closer to you. It’s not you who goes to God, but the Father and the Son come to you—through the ministry of the Spirit—and establish their dwelling with you.

This is a place of peace that goes with you wherever you go. It exists as the river rolls by, as you sit on your porch, when you walk through the trees. It exists when the world rises up against you, when your life is threatened. It exists on the battlefield with bullets whizzing by. This place of peace—the dwelling of God, Father, Son, and Spirit—is a place of peace that goes with you.

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
VD+MA

Sunday after the Ascension Sermon

Sunday after the Ascension
John 15:26-16:4
June 1, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 1.

With apologies to Tom Petty, when it comes to the Spirit of God, the waiting is the hardest part. One of the last things that Jesus tells the disciples before He ascends into heaven is, “Behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But you stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49). The word that Jesus uses for “stay” literally means “to take a seat.” It’s kind of like when you go to the DMV and get your number, then you settle in for what you know is probably going to be a while.

Take a seat. Today we’re in the lull between Ascension (last Thursday) and Pentecost (next Sunday) and you can almost hear the seconds ticking away on the clock. Wait. It’s a theme in Scripture when dealing with God: Noah waited for the waters to subside; the Israelites couldn’t wait for Moses to finish speaking with God; over ten percent of the Psalms are about waiting for God (and you can tack on another eight Proverbs); nearly every prophet prophesies about waiting for the Lord to fulfill His promises. But when it comes to the Spirit, the waiting is the hardest part.

 2.

What do I mean? Have you ever invited a neighbor to come to church with you? Have you ever spoken to a coworker about the hope that is within you? Have you ever worn yourself out asking one of your family members to get back to church? You were probably greeted with a blank stare, or a polite, “Thanks, we’ll think about it,” or a perturbed, “Oh, not again!” Rarely does the Spirit work on someone like He did on the Ethiopian eunuch, when Philip preached to him and he wanted to get baptized right away.

Lightning-fast advances in technology and our frantic society has trained our base nature—which is already inclined toward impatience—to expect and demand instant gratification. Probably most of you have in your pockets a device that’s able with a couple taps and swipes to give you access to just about any information you’d ever need. That same device will connect you with your friends and loved ones, wherever they may be; remember when you had to be near a cord for your phone to work? And is there anyone here that remembers a time when you didn’t even have a phone, and had to wait for a letter in the mail, or a personal visit?

When was the last time you saw a TV Guide at the grocery checkout line—are they even still there? Broadcast television is giving way to television on-demand: you decided what, where, and when you’ll watch your favorite shows. Or how about in the car? Do you feel your blood pressure rise when you’re stopped at a red light that’s taking forever?

We get annoyed at trivial things that take a few extra tics of the clock, but there are more significant things in life that test patience even more. The chronically ill wish that they’d hurry up and get better (or, perhaps, hurry up and die). The unemployed wish that they’d hurry up and find a job to support their family. The barren wish that they’d hurry up and have a child. We are not content waiting.

So it is in spiritual matters. There is nothing more disheartening than when you bear witness to Christ and that person does not come to faith. Which is the source of so many silly things in the Church. The Gospel does not promise immediate results; the Spirit doesn’t give instant gratification. So the Church, in order to get more quantifiable results, adapts the message of the Gospel to the culture, while in the process losing the Gospel itself. There are other spirits that are more than happy to deliver immediate results in exchange for denying the faith of Christ—St. John calls these the spirits of antichrist.

In all, we are terribly reluctant to allow the Spirit one ingredient He often uses to great effect—time. Our Lutheran Church teaches and confesses that the Holy Spirit works faith when and where it pleases God (AC V.2-3). Notice whose time the Spirit is on. God’s. He does not punch the clock for you.

 3.

Patience is a virtue, the saying goes. But it’s also a fruit of the Spirit, according to St. Paul. Human nature is inclined to impatience and despises waiting for the good stuff. When it comes to the Spirit, waiting is the hardest part. But when the Spirit comes, He gives us patience to wait on the Lord. Because

The Spirit Bears Witness to Christ’s Patient Endurance

 4.

When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, that One will bear witness concerning Me (v 26). The Spirit is the promise of the Father. The disciples were told to take a seat and wait for this promise to come. Those ten days between Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost must have seemed like an eternity. But the Spirit did not delay any longer than was necessary. He came precisely at the appointed time in order to clothe the disciples with power from on high.

This power was manifest in many ways—from speaking in tongues to raising the dead—but in particular this power of the Holy Spirit gave the disciples patience and endurance in suffering. When they were arrested and beaten for preaching, they praised God for having been considered worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. St. Paul in particular recalls his many tribulations to the Corinthians—being whipped and beaten and shipwrecked and stoned, constantly in peril. These things I have said to you in order that you are not scandalized, says Jesus. They will cause you to be excommunicated from the synagogue, but the hour is coming when everyone who puts you to death will think that he is offering a service to God. And these things they will do because they do not know the Father, nor Me (16:1-3).

Mission facilitators and church consultants make a fine living off of promising that your congregation can have the same success as the disciples at Pentecost if you would simply follow their methods. But what they overlook is that more often the disciples’ preaching fell on deaf ears. They were ignored, rejected, and even persecuted for preaching the Gospel. Yet they continued.

The reason why they continued even in the face of failure and persecution is because of the witness that the Spirit bears. He bears witness concerning Me, Jesus says. He bears witness to the One who patiently endured the suffering of the cross. Patient endurance is the way that God works.

Why does Scripture speak so often of waiting for God? Because time is the one thing He has on His side. He is the Author and the Lord of time. He is the One who started the clocks ticking, and who stopped the sun in its path along the sky when it suited Him. He is the One who fills appointed times with His incarnation, His death and resurrection, His ascension, and His coming again on the Last Day. He is the One who was appointed before the foundation of the world to be the salvation of mankind. He is the One who died for you while you were yet a sinner.

Take heart, the Spirit bears witness to the death and resurrection of Christ, through the means of grace, and creates faith when and where it pleases Him.

 5.

But it’s not just the Spirit who bears witness. You also bear witness, because you were with Me from the beginning, Jesus tells His disciples (v 27). The disciples are eyewitness to Jesus from the baptism of John until the time when He was taken up into heaven. Their words and eyewitness accounts are preserved for us in Holy Scripture. It is through these words that the Spirit bears witness to you.

And you also bear witness when you bear the apostolic Word, when it’s in your heart and on your lips. You bear witness when you speak to your neighbors about the hope that is in you. You bear witness when you encourage your family to take advantage of the gifts Christ freely gives in the Divine Service.

You also bear witness to Christ by your patient endurance of suffering. This is perhaps the greatest sermon you can preach—being conformed to Christ, taking up His cross and following Him, patiently enduring tribulation with joy. When your coworkers, your neighbors, and your family see how you bear hardships with the hope of the resurrection, they will want to know how you do it.

It is the Spirit who gives you patience, because patience is a fruit of the faith He works. This is the hope that you have within you—that in time, God will bring you to the fulfillment of His promise and a joyful resurrection and restoration.

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
VD+MA

 

Fifth Sunday after Easter Sermon

Fifth Sunday after Easter
John 16:23-33
May 25, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

3.

The last few weeks we’ve been bouncing around John 16, hearing different snippets of Jesus’s farewell discourse with His disciples. In the final days of His humiliation leading up to His passion, death, and resurrection, He abandons His figurative and cryptic ways of speaking (such as speaking in parables) and speaks plainly to His disciples; the hours before death are no time to play around with figurative speech.

But just because Jesus is speaking plainly doesn’t mean that He’s not precise and nuanced with His language. He tells His disciples that they will no more ask of Him, but they will ask of the Father. What’s interesting, though, is that He uses two different words for asking.

The first is how Jesus refers to His disciples’ requests from Him. This kind of asking is a gentle and courteous inquiry for information. It’s the way that you’d ask your sister to watch the kids last minute because your babysitter backed out. Or the way you’d ask your grandfather to tell you more about serving in the war. This way of asking implies that the questioner has less standing that the one being questioned, who has everything to offer.

Interestingly, this kind of questioning that Jesus uses to describe His disciples’ inquiries to Him is used most often in John’s Gospel to describe the prayers of Jesus to the Father. In the context of John’s Gospel, this kind of inquiry indicates a close, intimate relationship between the questioner and the questioned. The disciples’ relationship with Jesus—strengthened to brotherhood over the course of their three-year journey together—gave them the freedom to address Him in the same way that Jesus addresses His Father.

The humility exhibited by Christ during His incarnation and approaching His passion becomes a model for the disciple to address Him. However, Jesus says, this is going to end. And in that day, you will inquire nothing of Me.  Amen, amen, I am saying to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name He will give to you (v 23). In that day, that is, in the day when Jesus has departed to the Father and the Holy Spirit has come, you will no longer gently courteously inquire information from Him. You will ask the Father Himself.

Only He uses another word for asking. The kind of asking Jesus foretells is distinguished from the way His disciples address Him, or the way that He addresses His Father. This kind of asking suggests a claim or a passion, as opposed to a gentle and courteous inquiry. It’s a kind of asking that leans more to a demand.

This is the kind of asking that you use when you are exercising your rights. It’s the kind of asking you do when a business overcharges you and sends you the wrong order. You call up the customer service rep on the phone and say, “I’m asking you to make this right.” Similarly, it’s the kind of asking that the IRS does on your yearly 1040. It’s a line of questioning that the one being questioned is obligated to answer satisfactorily.

Amen, amen, I am saying to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name He will give to you. Until now you ask nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, in order that your joy would be filled up (vv 23b-24). These words of our Lord could also be translated: “whatever you demand of the Father…Until now you demand nothing…Demand and you will receive.” There is a boldness and a confidence that underlies these questions of the Father.

 2.

Of course, it may just be that Jesus is setting the disciples up for failure. It could be that He’s setting you up for failure. Do you know someone who’s insufferably demanding, someone who’s always insisting they’re in the right, someone whose expectations far exceed reality? Perhaps a coworker, or a family member. Or the person who looks back at you in the mirror.

To make a demand, you have to be in the right—you have to have some sort of claim—or else you’ll end up in shame and failure. Imagine if your babysitter bails on you, and you call your sister and demand that she drop everything to come and watch the kids. Even if she comes over, she’s not likely to be happy about it. Or imagine what a heel you’d be if your grandfather didn’t want to recall the horrors of war, but you kept nagging him about it anyway. If you have no right, or no claim, you’re not in the best position to be making demands.

Or, how much more absurd is it to make demands of someone who has a claim on you? Imagine that you’re the customer service agent who gets called about overbilling for a faulty product—imagine the reaction if you demanded that the customer just deal with it. You’d probably be out of a job pretty quickly. Or even more absurd—you call up the IRS and demand that they refund your tax overpayment with interest this year.

In civil transactions, being a demanding person may earn you some red-faced embarrassment from time to time if you discover that you’re not in the right. It may get you a reputation as a pushy person. It may even come with some legal consequences. But these can be shaken off and the demanding person will lived to demand another day. But in the spiritual transactions—that is, in your requests and petitions before God—you not only have no right, no claim before God, but He has the claim on you.

You are the one in His debt. Your sin gives you a sum total of zero footing before Him. You are barely in a position to beg for mercy, much less make demands upon the almighty, heavenly Father, the God of all creation.

There is only One who has the right to make demands, who has a claim to the good graces of the Father, and ironically, He’s the only One who does not make use of His right or lay claim to demands of the Father. Shortly after Jesus tells His disciples to boldly demand of the Father, He goes into the garden to pray, and to bring some of His final, humble petitions before the Father. And going a little farther, He fell upon His face praying, and said, “My Father, if it is able, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You do…Again, going away a second time, He prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cup is not able to pass, except that I drink it, Your will be done” (Mt 26:39, 42).

Jesus willingly gives up His right, His claim to divine deliverance, and obediently suffers the cup of wrath and punishment for sin. He makes no demand—not of His Father, not of His accusers, not of His judge. The only request He makes is for a little drink to wet His tongue in His last hours.

 1.

Jesus’ shame and humility has become your boldness and confidence. You have no right to stand before God, you have no claim to the Father’s graces on your own two feet. But Jesus gives you a gift that makes you right, a gift that gives you a claim. He gives you His name. Amen, amen, I am saying to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name He will give to you. Until now you ask nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, in order that your joy would be filled up. The name of Jesus makes all the difference.

The name of Jesus was given to you when you were baptized. It was washed on your forehead with water, stamped on your inner self with God’s Word. This name and Baptism, St. Paul writes, gives us boldness and access to the Father. Because of the name of Jesus, we have a freedom to enter into God’s presence, and a freedom to speak to Him.

The Small Catechism explains the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father, who art in heaven. With these words, God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear Father.

The name of Jesus first gives you the right to call the almighty Creator and sovereign God, Father. Not because He is simply the source of all things, but because He wants to give you good gifts as a Father gives gifts to His children. This is a right—or a righteousness—that you receive by faith.

Secondly, the name of Jesus gives you boldness and confidence to approach the Father with your requests and even your demands. It’s not that the name of Jesus turns you into a demanding person, it’s that it turns you into a son, into a daughter in the divine family of God. How do children—especially small children—ask for things from their parents? They don’t grovel or beg or plead. They say, “Gimme! Mine!” This is how our Father in heaven invites you to pray, this is how Jesus teaches His disciples to pray.

So pray boldly. Pray in the name of Jesus. Bring your requests, your petitions, your demands to the Father’s throne of grace. He loves to give His gifts.

The Name of Jesus Gives You Claim to the Treasures of Heaven

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
VD+MA