Lent 4 Sermon

Fourth Sunday in Lent
John 6:1-15
March 31, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

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

The feeding of the 5,000 is a story that all four evangelists include. John’s Gospel, however, is a little different. He includes a few more details—some even a bit strange. He tells us that the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. He says that the place where Jesus had everyone sit down had much grass. And he says that these weren’t just any loaves and fishes, but particularly barley loaves and cured fish, or pickled fish. John tells the story as if he were standing there watching over Jesus’ shoulder—which He was.

Today instead of looking at the big picture, let’s consider one of those details that John throws in that the other evangelists leave out and find out what the Holy Spirit would have us learn from John’s account of this miraculous feeding. As Jesus climbs the mountain, John writes: And the Passover was near, the feast of the Jews (v 4). This is a phrase that John uses three times in His Gospel—the first is in 2:13 when Jesus chases out the money-changers; the other is in 11:55, just after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and just before His entry into Jerusalem and His passion.

The Passover is near. John’s simple statement gives us more than just a frame of reference for when the feeding of the 5,000 took place. It also points us to the true Passover, of which the feast is only a sign, and that this true Passover is for you.

The Passover Is Near


John’s Gospel is one of the last books of the New Testament to be written, which puts it further removed from the events of Jesus’ life than the other Gospels. The detail with which the Gospel is presented is a testimony to the Spirit’s working through the hands of this beloved disciple in bringing to John’s remembrance all that Jesus had said (John 14:26). However, getting a precise date for the events that happen in John’s Gospel proves to be a little bit difficult. The arrangement of the Passovers in John’s Gospel helps us get a better grasp on the time frame of different events, and so we can get a bit of the context of the feeding of the 5,000.

The Passover was instituted by the Lord when He delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, and was the basis for the way Israel kept time ever since. Passover occurred on the 14th day of Nisan (also called Abib), which was the first month of the Jewish calendar. The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in Egypt. “This month,” He said, “will be for you the beginning of the months, your first month of the year (Ex 12:1-2 AAT).

The Israelite month was a lunar month, which meant that it shifted every year. Abib, or Nisan, was the first month of spring, occurring after the vernal equinox. That means that the feeding of the 5,000 took place at about this time of year. The year, however, is a little bit trickier to pin down. In John, chapter 2, we get a little hint; on Jesus’ first recorded visit to Jerusalem for the Passover, some Jews remark that Herod’s temple had been under construction for 46 years. When compared to the dates given by ancient historians of when construction began, this would put John, chapter 2, in the year 27 A.D., and today’s Gospel in either 28 or 29 A.D. But ancient calendars don’t always agree, and some would actually date Jesus’ public ministry a couple years later. Regardless, the feeding of the 5,000 takes place in the spring somewhere around 30 A.D.

Passover is the feast of the Jews, St. John writes, but before the Passover of the Jews, Jesus presents a feast before a group of 5,000 Jews (plus women and children). A conservative estimate of the number of people fed that day would be enough to fill the Chaifetz Arena, and upwards of the capacity of the Scottrade Center during a sold-out Blues game. This is quite a catering gig that Jesus sets before the disciples. The menu is quite simple—barley loaves and cured fish—but it’s a feast that could rival the feast of the Passover. Everyone ate their fill, and for no other reason than that Jesus loves to give daily bread. Certainly as these 5,000 plus reclined at their own Passover feast in a few short days, they would remember the barley loaves and pickled fish that seemed to come out of nowhere


St. John includes this little detail to give a little historical and cultural context, but he doesn’t simply include this detail for the sake of trivia. There is a double entendre in John’s aside: not only is the Passover, the feast of the Jews, near, but the true Passover is also near to those who ate on that mountainside. Christ the Passover was near to the 5,000.

The conversation that follows the feeding of the 5,000 on the next day shows that there is a clear parallel between Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 and the first Passover. The first Passover began the Israelites’ exodus and propelled them into their wilderness wandering. Since food was scarce, God Himself provided bread for His people. Our fathers at manna in the wilderness, the Jews pointed out, just as it has been written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat” (Jn 6:31).

The feast of the Passover began a weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread. It commemorated the unleavened bread that went with the Passover feast, as well as the bread with which God fed His people in the wilderness while He purged them of their Egyptian idolatries. The Feast of Unleavened Bread that went along with the Passover pointed not just to the speed in which the Israelites made their departure (no time to let bread rise), but also pointed symbolically to the purging of sin from their lives, just as the yeast was purged from the Israelite house for those days.

The connection of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 to the Passover was quite overt, and many of the Jews clearly understood the connection (even if they were hostile toward it). But there was a more subtle connection that John made when he dropped the line, “The Passover was near.” John more subtly draws a parallel to the true Passover, who is Jesus.

St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, For Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed. So then, let us celebrate the festival not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened breads of sincerity and truth (1 Cor 5:7b-8).

In this sense, the Passover was nearer than anyone on that mountain realized. For the One who stood before them, the One who was teaching and healing them, the One who multiplied unto them bread and fish, this is also the One who would be set apart and separated from His flock, led before the council and judges and sentenced to die. This One without spot or blemish, the Only-begotten of the Father and Firstborn of Mary would be sentenced to die. In Jerusalem, on the night when the scores of Passover lambs were being slaughtered, this Passover Lamb be herded to the cross where His innocent blood would be shed.

And because Jesus died, God passed over former sins. Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed.


You are nearly 2,000 years removed from not only Christ’s feeding of the 5,000, but also the last true Passover feast of the Jews. You are half a world away from the Holy City where the feast was celebrated and the Lamb was slain, separated by mountains and forests and oceans. Do John’s words mean anything for you? Is the Passover still near? Christ, you Passover, has been sacrificed, but the sacrifice of the Lamb is only the beginning of this Festival. The Passover is also near for you.

As I said earlier, the Passover Feast began a week-long Feast of Unleavened bread, when the old leavening would be purged from Israelite house—kind of a culinary spring cleaning. During this festival, there would be a ritual offering at the temple on the day after the Sabbath during that Feast—an offering of the first sheaves of grain harvested. Then after the first sheaves were offered to God, the Israelites could partake of the newly harvested grains.

On the particular year that Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed, the very next day was the Sabbath, which meant that Sunday would be the day when the priest would raise the offering of firstfruits. As that offering was being raised on the first day of the week, so also the true Passover was being raised from the dead. St. Paul also writes to the Corinthians, But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor 15:20).

For this reason the ancient Church called the celebration of Easter, Pascha, which is the Greek word for Passover. Christ, our Pascha, has been sacrificed. But the celebration of Easter isn’t just Easter, it’s the entire Feast. It starts on the evening of Holy Thursday, the Last Passover and the New Testament in Jesus’ blood. It continues on Good Friday, the day of Sacrifice. On Saturday we rest. And Sunday is the firstfruits of Resurrection. The Passover, the Pascha, the Resurrection is near to you.

Today the Passover is also near to Kamille, nearer than it was on to the 5,000 on the mountain. She is now baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus. She is in Christ, and the Father has passed over her former sins. And so it for you, who are baptized. You are in Christ, and Christ is in you. You are washed clean; you are marked with the blood of the Lamb. Christ, the Passover, is near you.

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

Lent 2 Sermon

Lent 2
March 16, 2014
Matthew 15:21-28
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

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


There’s a picture of Jesus in that office over there that you would probably recognize in an instant. It’s the standard picture of Jesus you see in most churches—a man with wavy hair to His shoulders and a neatly trimmed beard. Although He has distinct features, they’re not rough or ugly. His face lacks any particular emotion, but you might be able to imagine a slight smile starting to come across His lips. His eyes in particular relay the message of the painter. Jesus is not looking at you, but rather off to the side, eyes slightly raised, eyebrows arched and welcoming, forehead smooth of creases. Whatever way you may describe it, scowling is the opposite of the Jesus. Behind His head is a soft glow. A welcoming, gentle, kindhearted face ready to help in time of need.

But what happens when that’s not the face of Jesus that you get? What happens when you approach your Lord Jesus and find Him to be stern, harsh, even cruel? This Jesus isn’t the kind of Jesus that you want painted on canvas and hung up in the Church, and it’s even less of a Jesus you want answering your prayers.

Yet this is the Jesus that a certain Canaanite woman finds in her time of great need. And Jesus went from there and withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that vicinity came out and was crying out saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord Son of David, my daughter is badly demon-possessed” (vv 21-22). First off, it’s a peculiar thing that this woman would come to Jesus in the first place. The region of Tyre and Sidon was beyond the borders of Israel. What was left of the Canaanites settled there after Israel claimed the Promised Land long years before Jesus walked in Galilee. The Canaanites were an idolatrous people, honoring the god of fertility. So what makes this Canaanite woman so interesting is that she comes to Jesus and addresses Him as, “Lord Son of David.”

There are two parts to her confession. First she calls Jesus “Lord.” The Divine Name. She addresses Jesus in the same way that the Israelites addressed the God who made the heavens and the earth. He is no false Baal. What’s more, she also calls Him the Son of David. A true man in the lineage of David. She confesses Jesus to be true God and true man.

How does she know this? She had heard the report of this Man who was more than a Man. But it was the Spirit who created this particular faith that Jesus was also truly God, and the only one able to answer her cry for mercy.

And what did this Man, who was more than a Man, who was God Himself, who was the only hope for her badly demon-possessed daughter, what did He do? He gave her the silent treatment. But He did not answer her a word.  And His disciples came to Him and begged Him, saying, “Send her away because she is crying out after us” (v 23). Even the disciples were taken aback by this Jesus. “Say something, Man! Anything! She keeps crying for You to have mercy. Why don’t you just tell her that her daughter will get better and send her on her way?”

Have you ever gotten the silent treatment? It makes you want to shut down, to give up. Has it ever felt as though your prayers were falling on deaf ears? It makes you want to stop praying, to shut down, to give up. Imagine that painting in the back office looking directly at you with stern eyes that say without words, “I could speak to you right now, but I’m not.” You don’t see too many pictures of Jesus like that hanging up in churches.

But this Canaanite woman is persistent. She keeps crying out. And He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v 24). When He finally does answer, it’s not even addressed to the woman—He’s talking to the disciples. It’s as if He’s saying, “Woman, you have no voice here, I’m only here for the Jews.”

Maybe even worse than the silent treatment is when you hear Christians raving about how God has answered prayers, and you feel more like you’ve just gotten the divine “Whammy!” Maybe God answers only people who are really full of faith, only special Christians. Maybe my faith isn’t what I thought it was. Imagine walking into a church and finding a painting of Jesus with His backed turned to you. No, no Jesus for you.

The Canaanite woman then starts to play the nag. She runs around and plants herself right down in Jesus’ way. But she came and fell down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me” (v 25). The prayer has changed a bit. No longer is she asking for mercy, but help. There is only one other time that a person makes such a raw, desperate plea for help; it was another parent of a sick child. And what does Jesus do? He adds insult to injury. And He answered and said, “It is not proper to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (v 26). Now the picture has turned around and the face of Jesus has gone from stern to harsh to downright cruel. Have you ever prayed for something, and the complete opposite happened?

The outward appearance of Jesus is often a stern, harsh, or even cruel, “No!” And worse, He often appears that way when you’re at your worst, when you have your greatest need. When life is coming up roses, Jesus looks just like that painting back in my office; but when life is in the gutter, you’d rather just run away.


It’s quite amazing that the Canaanite woman pressed on with Jesus, considering His outward appearance. But with Jesus, outward appearances are always deceiving. What appears to be plain water is a washing of regeneration. What appears to be bread and wine is His body and blood. What appears to be just another man is the sinless Son of God. And what appears to be stern, harsh, and cruel is kind, yielding, and merciful.

What is it that keeps the woman coming back, that throws her down at Jesus’ feet, confident that He will answer her prayer? It’s not in His outward appearance, but in what she finds in His words. She said, “Yes Lord, for the little dogs also eat from the scraps that have fallen from their lord’s table” (v 27).

Dr. Luther writes, “What a superb and wonderful object lesson this is, therefore, to teach us what a mighty, powerful, all-availing thing faith is.  Faith takes Christ captive in his word, when he’s angriest, and makes out of his cruel words a comforting inversion, as we see here.  You say, the woman responds, that I am a dog.  Let it be, I will gladly be a dog; now give me the consideration that you give a dog.  Thus she catches Christ with his own words, and he is happy to be caught.  Very well, she says, if I am a dog, I ask no more than a dog’s rights.  I am not a child nor am I of Abraham’s seed, but you are a rich Lord and set a lavish table.  Give your children the bread and a place at the table; I do not wish that.  Let me, merely like a dog, pick up the crumbs under the table, allowing me that which the children don’t need or even miss, the crumbs, and I will be content therewith.  So she catches Christ, the Lord, in his own words and with that wins not only the right of a dog, but also that of the children.  Now then where will he go, our dear Jesus?  He let himself be made captive, and must comply.  Be sure of this: that’s what he most deeply desires” (Luther’s House Postils).

It’s faith that finds under the stern, harsh, and cruel exterior the welcoming promise of Jesus and the mercy for which she prays. Then Jesus answered her and said, “O woman!  Great is your faith.  Be it done for you as you desire.”  And her daughter was healed from that hour (v 28).

It’s quite amazing that the Canaanite pressed on with Jesus. Actually, it’s more than amazing; it’s miraculous. Whenever faith is present, there also is the Holy Spirit working with faith to grab hold of the promises that Jesus buries—sometimes quite deeply—in His Word. The Spirit led the woman to find in Jesus’ silence an invitation to draw closer and intensify her prayer. The Spirit led the woman to find in Jesus’ seeming dismissal the kernel of a promise, that there is mercy in Christ. The Spirit led the woman to find in Jesus’ seeming insult a gracious invitation.

And so the Spirit leads you. He gives you faith to find hidden underneath Jesus’ stern, harsh, and even cruel, “No!” a merciful, “Yes!” The Spirit gives you faith to find these handholds in Jesus’ Word, to catch Him in His words, to hold Him captive. The Spirit takes your hand and wraps your fingers around these promises, and He makes them your own. And so He leads you from faith to faith, to find a blessing in the Words of Christ, no matter how they appear on the outside.

Faith Catches Christ in His Words, and Wins the Gifts He Longs To Give

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

Sermon for Lent 1

First Sunday in Lent
Matthew 4:1-11
March 9, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

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

After Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John, the Spirit who descends upon Him in the form of a dove drives Him up out of that water into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. This temptation is not for God’s benefit, nor for His own benefit, but for yours, and for the devil’s so that he would know that he’s been defeated before he’s even started.

Before His temptation, Jesus fasts for forty days and nights. Fasting is never a thing unto itself, but is always coupled with prayer and the Word of God. During those forty days, Jesus also prayed.

Regarding the Lord’s Prayer, the Large Catechism teaches us

“No one can believe how the devil opposes and resists these prayers. He cannot allow anyone to teach or to believe rightly. It hurts him beyond measure to have his lies and abominations exposed, which have been honored under the most fancy, sham uses of the divine name. It hurts him when he himself is disgraced, is driven out of the heart, and has to let a breach be made in his kingdom. Therefore, he chafes and rages as a fierce enemy with all his power and might. He marshals all his subjects and, in addition, enlists the world and our own flesh as his allies. For our flesh is in itself lazy and inclined to evil, even though we have accepted and believe God’s Word. The world, however, is perverse and wicked. So he provokes the world against us, fans and stirs the fire, so that he may hinder and drive us back, cause us to fall, and again bring us back under his power. Such is all his will, mind, and thought. He strives for this day and night and never rests a moment. He uses all arts, wiles, ways, and means that he can invent” (LC III.62-64).

The devil musters his allies—fleshly desire and worldly glory—into an unholy trinity of attack against our Lord when He is at His weakest. All the devil’s might is no match for even our Lord’s weakness. Jesus is victorious over His enemies, which means that

Jesus Claims Victory over Your Enemies—the Flesh’s Desires, the Devil’s Deceptions, and the World’s Glory


The flesh’s desires are the most obvious place for the devil’s first attack. St. Matthew writes, And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry (v 2). Hunger is a natural desire of the flesh—and there are lots of them—that God has hard-wired into this clump of dust. But after Adam’s fall, these natural desires are oriented toward disobedience and rebellion against God. Inhering in the flesh of all men born in the natural way is concupiscence, that is, the inclination to sin. But when Jesus confronts the devil, He gains the victory over the flesh’s desires.

I’m sure that all of us here proudly bear the name Lutheran. But when it comes to original sin, most of us probably turn into a bunch of medieval Roman scholastics, who considered original sin to be merely a stain, or a blemish on the body, something that could be scrubbed away with holy water and a little elbow grease. That’s what we do when we limit original sin to only the impulses that manifest in outward works—things like lust, envy, covetousness—and leave out “the more serious faults of human nature, such as ignorance of God, contempt for God, total lack of fear for God and confidence in God, hatred of God’s judgment, fleeing from God when He judges us, anger toward God, despairing of God’s grace, putting trust in things of this world, and so forth” (Ap. II.8).

Doesn’t sound like you? Of course not. You’ve overcome your inherited sin, haven’t you? Or have you? Dr. Luther teaches us that “this hereditary sin is such a deep corruption of nature that no reason can understand it. Rather, it must be believed from the revelation of Scripture” (SA III.I.3).

The irony is that, while we don’t believe this to be true about ourselves, the devil believed it to be true about Jesus. He considered Him to be just another son of Adam, corrupted to the core. But Jesus is a man born in a most unnatural way—conceived by the Spirit and born of the Virgin. His flesh is free from not only the superficial blemish of sin, but from the deeper corruption that cannot be perceived by human reason. Hidden beneath that flesh is no less than God’s own Son.

And the tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, speak, so that these stones would become bread” (v 3). It’s not just Jesus’ hunger the devil targets, but His attitude toward God. Unlike Israel in the wilderness who grew contempt for God, lost confidence in Him, and grumbled that He wouldn’t provide them food, Jesus waited patiently, and trusted His Father to provide according to His Word. But He answered and said, “It has been written: ‘Man will not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds through the mouth of God’” (v 4). The devil’s first crushing blow was landed from the word that proceeded from the mouth of the Son of God.


Clearly this Man was unlike other men. He didn’t give in to desire like Adam had. This calls for a new strategy; and the devil has a whole bag of tricks at his disposal. If he can’t get at Jesus by way of doubt, maybe he can get at Him by way of faith. Throw God’s Word in His face, and so deceive the Son of God. But despite this new tactic, Jesus gains victory over the devil’s deceptions.

“So you say man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God?” says the devil. How about this word: Then the devil took Him along into the holy city and stood Him upon the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down, for it has been written that He will command His angels concerning you, and they will lift you on their hands, lest You strike Your foot against a stone” (vv 5-6). If you believe, let’s put it to the test, says Satan. Let’s see that faith in action. What? Not going to do it? Must not believe, that much.

Now Satan tries to divert Jesus from the object of faith to faith itself. Do not trust in God, he is saying, trust in your own faith. In his bag of tricks, the devil keeps a Bible for the faithful. You believe? Check out what this Scripture says. But he’s never fully honest. When the Word of God proceeds from the mouth of the devil, he always keeps things hidden, takes words out of context, misapplies and misinterprets.

When the devil quotes Psalm 91 to Jesus, he leaves out a very important part. The verse following states: You will step on a lion or a cobra and trample on a young lion or a serpent (Ps 91:13 AAT). The devil prowls about like a roaring lion, that serpent from of old who deceived man. Psalm 91 is God’s Word to Jesus, that He will command His angels concerning Him so that He will not strike His foot against the stone that the devil is putting in front of Him.

The word for a stone that impedes the way is a scandal. The devil’s deception is to block Jesus’ way to the cross. The Father’s promise of angelic help is not for Jesus to jump from the top of the temple, but for the angels to support Him on the way to the cross. Jesus stomps on the serpent with another Word from God. And Jesus continued saying, “Again it has been written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (v 7).


The last ditch effort of the old evil foe is to distract Jesus from the glory of His kingdom with the glory of the kingdoms of the world. Again, the devil took Him along into a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory. And he said to Him, “These all I will give to You, if You would fall down and worship me” (vv 8-9). The tempter lays this stone of offense in front of Jesus, hoping that He’ll catch a toe; but this temptation is precisely the reason Psalm 91 was written. Jesus gains victory over the world’s glory.

The glory of the world’s kingdoms is power, majesty, wealth, honor. But the glory of Jesus’ kingdom is the cross. It’s weakness, humility, poverty, and ridicule. When Jesus is baptized, His Father speaks from heaven, This is My beloved Son; in Him I am well pleased (Mt 3:17). The pleasure of the Father is that Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on the cross. Jesus chooses a glory that far exceeds the glories of the kingdoms of the world. He chooses the glory of the cross.

The unholy trinity is set before Jesus in the wilderness following His baptism. These same enemies are set before you when you are baptized. Jesus gains the victory over these enemies, but His victory over them is not an example for how you can gain your own victory. Jesus’s victory is your victory. For your baptism doesn’t just set Jesus’ enemies before you, your baptism gives you the victory Jesus won.

Holy Baptism is not just plain water, but water that has God’s Word in and with it. By this Word alone—and not by bread alone—you live. Holy Baptism puts Jesus cross on you, the cross by which He crushed the tempter’s head. Holy Baptism buries you with Jesus in a death like His, and raises you with Him in a resurrection like His. You have a new life, a life in Jesus kingdom, whose glory far exceeds all power, wealth, majesty, and honor you might look for here. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

Sermon for Quinquagesima

Luke 18:31-43
March 2, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

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


A little girl is abducted in broad daylight. Another tortured soul goes on a shooting rampage among unarmed, unsuspecting victims. Bloody riots break out in other countries. An earthquake buries half a city under rubble. A tsunami sweeps away entire coastal villages.

How does the world react in the face of evil? Sometimes outrage, sometimes contempt, sometimes fear. Very often there’s a shared sense of guilt that we could have done more to prevent such a tragedy. Then the talking heads appear on the news shows opining as to the cause of this latest outbreak of evil. Invariably there’s talk of new laws that should be enacted to prevent future catastrophes until evil finds a way to work around the law, (or sometimes through the law) and the cycle begins again.

How does a disciple of Jesus react in the face of evil? How do you respond when presented with cross and suffering? You are likely not much different from the world. Depending on how close the tragedy hits to home, you probably go through a series of emotions. Perhaps some dull pangs of guilt rise up your throat like bile because of some past mistake you made that could have escalated into a disaster that captured national attention. Surely then, your head begins to nod along with the talking heads, a sense of righteous indignation finally overwhelming the more loathsome emotions. Then laws. If we could just get this degenerate society to shape up, we could reduce or maybe even eliminate these horrors.

But there’s something else that threads through a disciples’ reaction in the face of evil. There’s another sensation that stands tall when a disciple is presented with the cross and suffering. Confusion. Why would God, who is good, allow such horrible, ghastly, wicked things to occur on His watch? Does this mean that God isn’t as good as we thought, that He delights in evil? Does this mean that He’s not as powerful as we thought, that He’s incapable of preventing all this bad stuff from happening? How do you reconcile the good God that you can’t see with the evil that’s staring you in the face?

How does a disciple of Jesus react when presented with the cross and suffering? We see precisely how in the first part of today’s Gospel. Taking along the twelve, He said to them, “Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that has been written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be finished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles and He will be mocked and treated spitefully and spit on. And after scourging Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise. And they understood none of these things, and this word was being hidden from them, and they did not know what He was saying (vv 31-34).

Jesus tells the disciples, “Look,” “Behold;” this is what your eyes will perceive when we get up to Jerusalem. Jesus had been speaking of His suffering and death for His entire public ministry, but as they drew closer to the appointed place and time, Jesus spoke ever more explicitly. On this particular occasion, He tells the twelve precisely what they are going to see when they get to the holy city, and what’s more, this is not something new. The prophets had written of them. Not just one prophet, but them all. The uniting theme of the Old Testament prophets is the suffering and death of Jesus. The handing over to the Gentiles, the mockery, the spite, the spit, the scourging and murder—and also the resurrection.

But they didn’t understand any of these things. St. Luke tells us that, literally, “this word was hidden from them.” Jesus had been preaching about the kingdom of God coming, and what that should look like is Jesus sitting on a throne when they get up to Jerusalem. But their eyes were about to see something totally contrary to everything they thought God and His Son to be.

You are a disciple of Jesus. You have been baptized and taught to observe all that He has taught. You follow Him, and walk in His footsteps. And along that way, He presents you with the cross and suffering. Not just on the news in far away countries and communities, but in your very own life. Cancer. Family relationships strained to the breaking point. A budget that always seems to exceed your income. Your own continued failings, and anger, and lusts, and doubts. It is confusing and disorienting for the baptized when life goes the way of the cross, because when we are presented with the cross and suffering, our understanding is impaired by what we see.


Jesus said, If your eye scandalizes you, take it out and cast it away; it is better to enter into life one-eyed than with both eyes have to be thrown into the hell of fire (Mt 18:19). Jesus first says this in conjunction with lusting after another man’s wife, but then he repeats it in a conversation about who and what is great in the Kingdom of Heaven. He says the eye can scandalize. Often scandalize is translated as “cause to sin,” but its broader meaning is anything that is an impediment. The flip side of the eye causing you to sin when you see something desirable—like Adam and Eve seeing that the fruit was desirable to eat—the eye can also prevent you from seeing the true nature of God’s kingdom.

Not only would be better for you to have just one eye, but it would be much better for you to have no eyes at all. Which is the condition we find the man outside Jericho in.

And it happened that as they drew near to Jericho, a blind man who used to sit along the road was begging. And hearing a crowd passing through, he inquired what this could be. And they reported to him that Jesus of Nazareth was coming by. And he cried for help, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” And those who were going before him began to rebuke him to be quite, but he all the more cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me” (vv 35-39).

First, this man at the gates to Jericho was no stranger to suffering. His own limitations caused Him to beg for a living; he was reliant on the generosity and grace of others. Second, what moved him to action wasn’t what he saw, but what he heard. He heard the crowd first, then he heard the report that the commotion was from Jesus of Nazareth passing through. Now, it’s curious that the blind man didn’t address Jesus as, “Jesus of Nazareth,” but, “Jesus, Son of David.” Thus, we can reasonably conclude that this blind man had heard more about Jesus than this little exchange.

What had the blind man heard about Jesus? The same that the twelve had heard—what had been written in the prophets concerning the Son of Man. He had heard the Word of God. While this blind man did not have eyes to see, he had ears to hear. His own particular cross—his blindness—was turned into a blessing, in that not only was he reliant on the grace of others, but to know of Jesus, the Son of David, he was reliant on what he heard from Scripture.

What he has heard about Jesus, the Son of David, is evident in his confession: “Have mercy on me.” When the crowd tries to silence him, he cries out all the more: “Have mercy on me.” This is his confession of faith. Jesus of Nazareth, who is passing by, is Jesus the Son of David, the One of whom Scripture speaks, the One who has mercy.

And standing still, Jesus ordered him to be brought to Him. And when he came near, He questioned him. “What do you want for Me to do?” And he said, “Lord, in order that I would look up.” And Jesus said to him, “Look up; your faith has saved you.” And at once he saw again and he was following Him, glorifying God.  And when all the people saw, they gave praise to God (vv 40-43).

Now the verb that both the blind man and Jesus use is the verb that means “to see,” but it’s also got a prefix on it that means to look up. The blind man, dead eyes downcast, wants to lift them up to see what he can see.

So imagine yourself, never having seen a thing in your life, lifting up your eyes and the first thing you behold is…Jesus.  Jesus alone. “Look up, your faith has saved you.” Faith looks up to see Jesus. This new sight granted to the blind man, so he follows after Jesus, fixing his eyes on Him.  Inevitably, those eyes would continue to look up as Jesus went up to Jerusalem, where all that had been written about Him by the prophets would be finished. It is entirely possible that this formerly blind man was standing among the crowd on Calvary just a short time later, looking up to Jesus suffering and dying on the cross. What his eyes perceive is cross and suffering, but what his faith perceives is what saves him.

How does a disciple react to evil, to abductions, to violence, bloodshed and disasters; what does a disciple of Jesus do when presented with his own crosses and suffering?

When you are presented with the cross and suffering, your understanding is impaired by your sight. But when the cross and suffering is presented with faith, then true sight is restored.

Look up; your faith has saved you

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

Sermon for Sexagesima

Luke 8:4-15
February 12, 2012
Emmanuel Lutheran Church—Dwight, IL
Updated and revised February 23, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

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


I always like parables that Jesus explains for us. Except that the one He explains are often harder to understand than the ones He doesn’t.

Case in point. Today’s Gospel is a parable complete with explanation by Jesus. But even after a very thorough explanation of the details, you’re kind of left with more questions than answers.


Jesus tells a lot of parables, but in today’s He explains why He uses parables in the first place. “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God,” Jesus tells His disciples, “but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand’” (v 10). What?  Jesus wants people to see and hear, but not to understand?  So He deliberately speaks in riddles?

Jesus is quoting Isaiah 6 here, when the Lord calls and commissions Isaiah as a prophet. He says to him, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing but do not understand; keep on seeing but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes” (Is 6:9-10). The Word of God is a two-edged sword—it has the effect of both saving those who believe, but also confirming others in their unbelief.

The parable is the perfect linguistic tool to do such a thing. Those who do not understand God’s Word for what it is—that is, who do not have faith—will be even more confused by Jesus’ parables. And that’s precisely what this parable is about.

In this parable, there are a variety of ways that God’s Word is heard, but it is received to little or no effect. The sower in the parable sows his seed and it falls in three different places. First it falls along the path, but it’s trampled underfoot and the birds come and carry it away. Next it falls upon rocky ground and it grows, but after some time it withers for lack of moisture. Again it falls among thorns; these grow up and some fruit even begins to bud, but the thorns choke it and the fruit never matures.

In Jesus’ explanation, He tells us what the parable means. “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (vv 11-14).

One of the purposes of this parable is so that we might not be discouraged when someone who was thought to be of the faith falls away. Jesus said this would happen. You probably know someone who fits these descriptions, maybe even someone close to you. Do not think that it pains you more than it does Christ that they have fallen away. Nevertheless, His Word reveals unbelief just as the sower’s seed reveals the nature of the soil it falls on.

Just after Jesus tells this parable, He says, “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away” (Lk 8:18). It matters not only that you hear God’s Word, but how you hear it as well.

Those who hear God with no faith at all are already in the devil’s kingdom. They tread over the Word of God and abuse and scorn it. The person who is in the devil’s kingdom thinks he has the best that the universe has to offer right now. He doesn’t bother with church; he thinks that putting an offering in the plate is a foolish waste of money. When you tell this person about God’s kingdom, he laughs in your face and tells you how much better things are without a pesky God in your life. But even what he thinks he has will be taken away. The devil has no problem snatching the Word when it’s left unattended.

But then there are those who hear the Word, but it doesn’t take root, like seed in rock. These are those who look to God’s Word for something that it does not give, who put their faith in something that cannot be found in God’s Word. They put their faith in their own works, looking to God’s Word for motivation and confirmation for themselves. These are the ones who mistake the righteousness of their works for righteousness that counts before God. These are the ones whose faith is rooted not in Baptismal waters, but in the rockiness of their own hearts.

Then there are those who receive the Word of God in faith, but give more attention to the cares of the world than to the things of the kingdom of God. These are those who are religious about bringing their children to their baseball practice, but only once in a great while are to be found at Christ’s altar. The Word of God and faith, they think, is just one more extra-curricular activity. Faith that has to compete with every other aspect of life will soon be choked to death.


There is only one way to hear God’s Word to any lasting benefit, and this parable instructs you in that way. God’s Word, properly understood, is to bring Christ’s righteousness to you.

The Mystery of the Kingdom of God Is that Righteousness Comes Through Faith in God’s Word


The fourth location in which the sower’s seed falls is good soil. “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (v 15). The phrase “honest and good heart” has an interesting usage in the way the Greeks thought. Originally, the phrase, which is probably better translated as “noble and good,” referred to someone who by birth or by virtue was a better class of citizen than the general Greek citizen. He was a landowner or someone trained in the arts.

Socrates, a Greek philosopher, is responsible for a slightly different understanding. A noble and good person was not someone who had those qualities by birth or by nature, but someone who was trained in the way of righteousness or virtue.

A disciple of Christ is one who is trained to see and comprehend the external righteousness of Christ in God’s Word. That is to say, the “noble and good heart” that receives God’s Word and holds it fast is the heart that looks for righteousness outside of self and finds it in God’s Word. It is the heart whose faith rests on the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

How does your heart get to be this way?  “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). This means that the Word of God is not simply a word on a page, a dead word, a word of the past, but that the Holy Spirit is the one who works this understanding in those who hear God’s Word. This training in righteousness is training to find your righteousness not in your own self, but in Christ.  He is the One to whom the Word of God points us.  Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

The good soil in the parable is the one who finds his righteousness revealed in God’s Word.  The good soil in the parable is the one whose faith is rooted in Holy Baptism.  The good soil in the parable is the one whose heart is constantly being tilled by the Spirit by Confession and Absolution.  Take care how you hear—listen for a righteousness that is outside of yourself.

Such a faith is bound to bear fruit in good works. But, Jesus says, fruit that is borne in patience. That is to say that the fruit of faith in Christ’s righteousness is fruit that is borne under the cross. These works will endure to the Last Day, when they will be a testament to the faith that rests on Christ.


Jesus calls this a mystery of the kingdom of God. A mystery is a hidden thing that is revealed. Today the mystery of the kingdom of God is revealed to you, that God’s Word is given to you to deliver righteousness. “He who has ears to hear, hear this!” (v 8b). Jesus is your righteousness.

In + Jesus’ name. Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

Sermon for Septuagesima

Matthew 20:1-16
February 16, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

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


Standing vigilant in courtrooms around the country, and even around the world, are statues of Lady Justice, blindfolded and holding a sword in one hand and balanced scales in the other.  The statue is a depiction of the qualities of justice—justice is blind; it’s maintained by force of the Law; and it is fair and equitable.

The statues of Lady Justice are not a recent innovation of modern judicial theory.  Many of the ancient civilized cultures such as Rome, Greece, and Egypt had depictions of gods of justice quite similar to our own, and believed these gods to be living embodiments of the moral force of judicial systems.


These are qualities of justice that are held in the highest regard in our society.  Justice is blind—it is meted out irrespective of appearance, identity, power, or status.  It is one of our society’s great faux pas to discriminate against someone because of his or her skin color—and it’s certain to make a sensational news story when it does happen.  But there’s another side of that coin as well—thinking that you deserve a reward because of your skin color.

But justice isn’t as blind as we’d like to think.  In fact, the color that gets the most favorable judgment is green.  Have you ever written a letter to your congressman?  I did on several occasions in Illinois.  I always got a response, but it was clearly written by an aide, who copied and pasted a cobbled together some form responses.  But let’s say I were to put a couple million dollars in your bank account, fly you out to Washington, set you up at an exclusive restaurant with a promise of campaign donations, I’m sure you could get your congressman’s ear for a few hours, and maybe even some favorable laws for yourself.

Despite the socially progressive campaign to try to convince us that discrimination based on appearance or ethnicity is a learned behavior, the fact that it just won’t go away is an indication that it’s human nature to judge people based upon how they look.  It’s human nature to judge based upon appearance, identity, power, or status.  Lady Justice may be blindfolded, but she sure likes to peak when no one else is looking.

This is all merely symptomatic, though, of our even greater idolatry of equality.  Our United States declared her independence based in part on the belief that all men are created equal, that we all begin life on the same foot, and that this initial equality guarantees certain rights.  But in the 238 years since, we’ve come to flip that around.  Now whenever our society perceives inequality, it is bent on creating new rights in order to guarantee equality.

Consider, for a moment, that popular new term, “marriage equality.”  The question of homosexual marriage is framed as an issue of equal rights.  But if the state has no business restricting the rights of two men to marry each other, what business does it have restricting the rights of two siblings marrying each other, or cousins, or minors, or the right of a man to marry another man’s wife?

The idolatry of equality drives the liberal progressive agenda in our society, but it’s not something that’s only limited to the political left.  Perceived inequality drives the conservative just as much as his political counterpart, though perhaps not as overtly.  The fair and balanced debate is the way one conservative news station attempts to compete against the liberal mainstream media.  And conservative political candidates in Illinois make a living criticizing the Chicago political machine awarding work contracts to friends without equal opportunity for other businesses.

The idolatry of equality isn’t just a political problem; it isn’t just an American problem.  It’s a human problem.  Human nature has a hard time distinguishing between the Lord of all creation and Lady Justice.  It starts off early.  One of the first and go-to arguments of school children is, “That’s not fair!”  And it’s true.  Parents know the answer to this complaint: “Well, life’s not fair.”

Because we confuse the Lord for Lady Justice, we have a natural affinity to haggling with God for fair wages according to the Law.  But we forget that God is not blindfolded, and the scales that He holds have the history of humanity’s rebellion already weighing against us.  There is, however, one thing that Lady Justice shares in common with the true God of all creation.  She bears a sword just as the Lord bears the Law—which is the great equalizer, which does not discriminate on appearance, identity, power, or status.  If you negotiate your wages with God according to the Law, you will earn the wages of sin.  And the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23a).


The parable of the workers is addressed to the disciples who think they’re owed a reward equal to their commitment to Jesus.  After witnessing a rich young ruler go away sad when Jesus told him to sell all his things and follow Him, Peter says, “Look, we gave up everything and followed You; what will there be for us?” (Mt 19:27).  Jesus then begins a parable of the Kingdom with a negotiation.  For the reign of the heavens is like a man who was a ruler of a house, who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the workers for a denarius, he sent them for the day into his vineyard (vv 1-2).

This first group haggles for equal pay for equal work.  A denarius is a day’s pay for a day’s work.  But then something striking happens when the man goes out again.  And going out around the third hour, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace and to these he said, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is just I will give to you.” So they left.  Again he went out around the sixth and ninth hour and did the same (vv 3-4).  No longer does he haggle with them for a wage; he simply sends them to work in the vineyard with the promise of a just gift.  Often this turning point is overlooked for the irony that comes later in the parable.  But it is the point that shows how the Kingdom of Heaven departs from the kingdoms of this world.  He does not repay you with a reward equal to your work, but rather promises a just gift.

The Just Gift of the Lord Is His Gracious Promise to Reward You Apart from Your Work for Him 


The turning point of the parable is the lord of the vineyard’s promise of a just gift, but then it just gets absurd.  Going out around the eleventh hour, he found others standing and said to them, “Why have you been standing in the marketplace the whole day?” They said to him, “Because no one hired us for himself.”  He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard” (vv 6-7).  Now there is no longer even a promise of a gift; neither is there really an expectation of work.  Think of it.  There’s only one hour of work left to do.  By the time that these ones get to the vineyard, find out who’s in charge and what’s going on, the other workers are probably hauling in their harvest for the day.  The lord of the vineyard is effectively sending this last group into his vineyard for payday only.

And then the just gift.  The astounding, unbelievable gift.  When evening came, the lord of the vineyard said to the steward, “Call the workers and give over to them the wage beginning from the last until the first.” And when the ones from the eleventh hour came, he gave one day’s wage (v 8).  These guys, who maybe lifted a crate or two of grapes get a whole day’s wage.  Presumably on down the line the wage is the same for the others who were hired at various times of the day and put in various amounts of work, because when the first ones came, thinking that they would receive more, he also gave them one day’s wage (v 9).

This causes quite a scandal for the first ones hired.  And they began to raise complaints about the ruler of the house, saying, “Those who were last did one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the heat.” And answering one of them, he said, “Friend, I did not treat you unjustly.  Did you not agree with me for a day’s wage? Take what’s your and go.  I desire to give to the last as I gave to you.” Or is it not allowed to me what I desire to do among my own?  Or is your eye evil because I am good?”

There is a justice—or a righteousness—that is revealed in the Kingdom of Heaven that is a justice apart from the Law.  The just rewards of God’s Kingdom are not something you can haggle for. They are not determined by your fidelity to the Law, or your fulfilling a two-way agreement with God.

Inside the Kingdom of Heaven, the scales of justice tilt astonishingly in your favor, for Christ has redeemed your work with His work.  All of humanity’s guilt that counts against you is balanced out and finally overwhelmed by the cross of Christ.  You get equal pay for very unequal work.  For Christ is paid your wage for sin, and He gives you the just gift of His righteousness.

A wage paid apart from the work put in is a gift, and gift is grace.  By grace I’m saved, grace free and boundless.  The justice of God’s Kingdom is not blind, for God looks upon you through the blood of Christ.  This justice is not equitable, for you receive far better than what you have earned.  This justice is not achieved by the Law, but by way of grace, by way of gift.


Thus the last will be first and the first last (v 16).  Jesus ends His parable with the same words He spoke just before the parable.  It shows us how the reign of God in Christ utterly turns on its head everything we think we know about God.  His Kingdom is for the last, the least, the lost.  In the kingdom of Christ, in His Kingdom of Grace, many who are last according to the Law will be first according to grace.

So if your negotiations according to the Law break down—and they will—fear not.  Your reward is great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

In + Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

Sermon for Transfiguration

Transfiguration of Our Lord
Matthew 17:1-9
February 9, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

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


What would you ask God if you could ask Him one question? His is the mind that holds the secrets to life, the universe, and everything. Would you aim for something of cosmic significance—that he would explain the stars and their movements. Or maybe you’d aim smaller, and try to get a grip on sub-atomic particles. Maybe you’re a bit more altruistic, and you’d ask God to explain the nature of love. Or maybe you’re just interested in what the stock market will do tomorrow.

What would you ask God if you could ask Him one question? We love to learn new things—things we didn’t know before. The thrill of new discovery isn’t limited to Bill Nye the Science Guy, who doesn’t believe in God at all. It’s human nature to want to know a secret, to delve into the unknown, to bring hidden things to light.

It’s human nature to pursue the things that are hidden only in the mind of God, but it’s not the human nature that God created. It is, in fact, the corruption of human nature that lusts after the mind of God. Was that not the first sin? God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you’ll be like God and know good and evil (Gen 3:5 AAT). You will know what God knows.

The first sin was to delve into the hidden mind of God, and sinful nature has kept it up every generation since. We are not content that God keeps some things to Himself, that He hides some things within His own divine counsel. These are things that He should share with us. We want God to reveal Himself. All of Himself. Right now.

Peter, James, and John got a taste of that on the mount of Transfiguration. And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John his brother, and took them up into a high mountain by themselves. And He was changed before them, and His face shown as the sun, and His garments became bright as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah talking with Him. Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you will, I will make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (vv 1-4).

It must have been a sight to behold. Not only did the Son of God reveal His glory in a dazzling display, but Moses and Elijah appeared. Moses and Elijah! The Lawgiver and the Prophet who never died! What an opportunity.

Peter’s question, however, starts to show one of the problems presented to man when God reveals His glory. It’s too bright. Instead of asking Elijah to prophecy, or asking Moses to expound the Law, or begging Christ to reveal a secret of the universe, Peter asks if Jesus wants him to set up some tabernacles, some tents.  This glory needs to be contained.  His eyes are starting to hurt from the brightness of the light.

Moses and Elijah stand with Jesus in His glory not by chance.  Moses asked to see God’s glory, but God responded that no man may see His glory and live.  He hid Moses in the cleft of the rock and only showed His back, not His face. Elijah was led up into the mountain by the Lord, and he hid in a cave while the great wind, the earthquake, and the fire went on outside.  Elijah did not find God in these signs of power and awe, but in the still, small voice.

God keeps Himself hidden for a reason; He keeps Himself hidden for our sake.  As He told Moses, A man can’t see My face and live (Ex 33:20b AAT), that is, the full glory and revelation of God would strike sinful man dead.  And so, when the glory of the Father’s voice is added to the glory revealed in Christ’s face and clothing, the disciples have no choice but to fall down as dead men, like so many others who beheld even a glimpse of divine glory.  While he was yet talking, behold a brilliant cloud enveloped them, and behold, a voice from the cloud said, “This One is My Son, the Beloved; in Him I am pleased. Listen to Him.” And hearing [this], the disciples fell upon their faces and were exceedingly afraid (vv 5-6).

This is the end of all who pursue God’s hidden will, who lust after the mind of God.  That’s the rub.  If you would delve into the hidden mind of God, you must set yourself up as your own god, place yourself above the divinely ordained means by which God makes Himself known.  As St. Paul writes, you make yourself into antichrist, who lifts himself up above everything that is God preached or worshiped (2 Thess 2:4; Luther’s translation from Bondage of the Will).  In other words, if you pursue God apart from His Word—preaching and the sacraments, you will never find a God of grace and mercy.


Inside God’s hidden will you will only find His wrath, His anger, His punishment, and your death.  And it is His first act of mercy to hide this from you.  But there is a flipside to His hidden will, because He does reveal Himself to you.  That’s what God’s glory is—His intentional revelation of Himself. When Jesus is on the mountain, He shows His glory.  And at the same time He also shows how He reveals Himself in grace.

The revelation of Jesus’ glory is first paired with the two great prophets of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah.  These men are representatives of the Law and the Prophets, that is, God’s Word to His people of old.  And they are in conversation with Christ.  This tells us first that neither Moses nor Elijah, nor any of the prophets of old, got their ideas from their own heads, but Christ Himself gave them their words to preach and their words to write.  And what’s more, these written words all testify to Christ.  It is reported that Martin Luther once said, “If you tear a page of Scripture it bleeds the blood of Christ.”  This means that every Law of the Old Testament, every commandment, every story, every failure, every redemption, all of it funnels down to the One whose face shone with God’s glory on the mountain.  God reveals Himself for you in His Word preached and preserved in Scripture.

Secondly, the topic of this holy conversation shows us how God wishes to be revealed.  St. Matthew doesn’t report it, but St. Luke writes that these holy prophets were talking with Jesus about His exodus.  The exodus of Israel, which Moses led and wrote about, began with the sacrifice of the Lamb and the Lord’s Passover.  It’s was God’s mighty act of deliverance.  But this is not the historical exodus of Israel they are speaking of, this is Jesus’ exodus.  This is the death of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.  This is the blood of the Lamb smeared on the cross beams on Calvary.  This is Jesus revealing the will of God for sinful men through the cross.  This is God putting Himself under the anger, under the wrath, under the punishments, under everything that is in God’s hidden will.  Jesus is the only Man who can plumb the depths of God’s mind, who can explore the hidden things in God’s will without setting Himself above the things of God, because He is the only Man who is also truly God.

To find a merciful God, to find a gracious God, to find a kind and loving God, look not in any place but the cross.  For the face that is crowned with thorns is the face of God that you can look upon without fear of death.  The face of Christ is the face of God that gives life.

And Jesus came, and touching them, said, “Be risen, and fear not.” They lifted up their eyes and saw no one but Jesus alone. And while they were going down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell no one the vision until the Son of Man is risen from the dead” (vv 7-9). After the show of glory, after the brilliance of His shining face and dazzling clothes, after the ecstatic vision of the great prophets, what raises up the disciples, who have become like dead men, is Jesus alone. He comes to them, plain and simple, and touches them, takes them by the hand, and pulls them up on their feet.

The one who approaches God’s hidden will to discover the mind of God is a theologian of glory.  But a theologian of the cross finds God revealed in the cross, he looks for God in the preached prophetic and apostolic Word, he is touched by tangible means in the sacrament.  A theologian of the cross finds God’s will revealed in Christ, and ends up a raised man, even as Christ is risen from the dead.

Christ Is Revealed to You as the Risen One Who Raises You from the Dead

In + Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

Purification of Mary and Presentation of Our Lord Sermon

Purification of Mary and Presentation of Our Lord
Luke 2:22-24
February 2, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

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


According to the Old Testament Levitical Law, people, places, and things were distinguished in a theological sense as holy or common. Something that was holy was something that was near to God’s presence, something dedicated to the service of God, something set apart for God’s use. Common things, on the other hand, were things that were not dedicated to God’s service, things not in the peculiar presence of God, things that were not for God’s use. Common things—or profane things—were not necessarily bad things; they were simply the things of everyday life. For example, the breakfast you ate this morning is profane—it’s not bad, but it’s not a meal set apart for God’s holy use. You don’t get any particular spiritual blessing from God by eating a bowl of Cheerios.

Most things in the Israelite community were common. In order to be fit, though, for service to God, a common thing would need to be sanctified—set apart and dedicated to the service of God. God’s Law prescribed various rituals and ceremonies by which a person, place, or thing would be made holy (each of them with their own theological significance).

One person that God commanded to be set apart is the firstborn sons of Israel. Though some were dedicated to a particular service of God (like Samuel, Hannah’s son), the dedication of the firstborn had to do with what God did for Israel in Egypt. The LORD spoke to Moses: “Set aside as holy every firstborn of any mother in Israel, among both people and animals; they are Mine” (Ex 13:1 AAT).

Recall that the Lord visited Egypt with ten plagues, the last of which the Lord struck down the firstborn in all of Egypt. He passed over the houses of the Israelites, but not because He gave them a special pass or was easier on them. Death also came to the houses of the Israelites—but it was not their firstborn sons, it was the lambs who died in their places.

“When the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to you and your fathers, and gives it to you, give the LORD every firstborn, also every firstborn of your animals; if they are males, they belong to the LORD. Redeem every firstborn donkey with an animal from the flock, and if you don’t redeem it, break its neck. And redeem every firstborn of your children. In the future when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ tell him, ‘With a mighty arm the LORD took us out of Egypt, where we were slaves. When Pharaoh was too stubborn to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn among men and animals in Egypt. This is why I’m sacrificing to the LORD every firstborn male and redeeming every firstborn of my children.’ Make this a sign on your arm and a mark on your forehead, because the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty arm” (Ex 13:11-16).

This is why Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple in today’s Gospel—to fulfill this Law of presenting the firstborn son to God as holy. And when the days of their cleansing were fulfilled according to the Law of Moses, they carried Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, just as it is written in the Law of the Lord, that every male who opens a mother will be called holy to the Lord (vv22-23).

Because Jesus was born into the house of Israel, He was incorporated into this Law of presentation, but also the promise of redemption that went along with it. Although His presentation is different. For 1,400 years, the Israelites had been bringing their firstborn sons to the temple to present them to God, and all of them were found in need of redemption. But when Christ is presented to God, He is set apart in a different way—not as one in need of redemption, but One who will be the redemption of the world. His presentation is begun at the temple, but completed on the cross. There He is presented before God as the Substitute for mankind. The blood Jesus sheds and the death He dies is an acceptable sacrifice on behalf of all.


In addition to the realms of holy and common, the Levitical Law also made a distinction between clean and unclean. Clean things were things that were healthy and living, but unclean things were associated with disease, sickness, and death, such as blood or other bodily discharges, certain diseases, corpses—generally things that turn our stomach anyway. Where the distinction of holy and common is something strictly revealed by God, the distinction of clean and unclean is something we kind of know by nature—you don’t need to read your Bible to know to wash your hands after you use the restroom.

The realms of holy and common, clean and unclean overlapped. Most things were common and clean. A common and clean thing could be sanctified to become holy and clean; conversely, a common and clean thing could be defiled to become common and unclean. But no unclean thing could also be holy; it first needed to be purified by the rituals prescribed in the Law of Moses.

The presentation of Jesus in the temple was also done in conjunction with the ritual for purification for Mary following childbirth—and to give a sacrifice according to what has been said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeonsLeviticus 12 specifies a period of 40 days following the birth of a boy as a time of cleansing for a mother (for girls, it was extended to 80 days).  This time period ensured full post-partum healing.  Today is February 2, and if you count backwards, we’re now 40 days after Christmas.

The ritual for purification was the sacrifice of a young lamb and a turtledove, or in the case of the poor, two turtledoves or young pigeons.  The blood shed by these animals marks the transition from the realm of sickness and death to health and life, in conjunction with forgiveness for the mother’s sins.

All of the above is ancient history, however.  The presentations of firstborns and purifications of mothers have not been able to be done since the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.—even observant Jews can only follow a shadow of the Levitical Law without the temple.  But there is an ever greater reason why these rituals have come to an end—because the presentation of Jesus and the purification of Mary point to the true cleansing and redemption that is available for all.

The Blood of Christ Is Your Purification and Your Redemption


The sicknesses, the diseases, even the death of the body are only symptoms of the greater uncleanness that infects you.  You didn’t have to come into contact with anything disgusting, or repulsive. It was a congenital defect—something you were born with.  Disease is an infection or corruption of the body, but that which makes you unclean is an infection and corruption of your whole self.

Sin is the infection; rebellion is the corruption.  We’ve all become like an unclean person, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags, writes the Prophet Isaiah (64:6a AAT).  It’s not something you can cleanse with soap or sanitizer.  You can’t wait for it to just go away after 40 days.  This is an uncleanness that can, ironically, only be cleansed by blood.  For, the blood of Jesus, [God’s] Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7a).  Filthy rags dipped in this blood are washed white as snow.

The sacrifice of Christ and the blood He shed marks the transition from sickness and death to health and life.  For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of heifers sprinkled on defiled persons sanctify the body for cleansing, how much more the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, will cleanse our conscience from dead works to the living service of God? (Heb 9:13-14).


Not only does the blood of Christ purify you, but it also sets you apart as holy and suitable for the presence of God.  You are no common person, but you are one who has been set apart—not because of your birth order, but because a Substitute has died in you place.

You are redeemed now because of the blood of Christ—He has taken your place and given you His.  But Scripture often also talks about redemption as something that is yet to come.  Jesus speaks of redemption when He speaks of His return on the Last Day (Lk 21:28).  St. Paul says we are eagerly awaiting the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:23).

Christ was not only presented as the firstborn son of His mother, but three days after His blood marked the beams of the cross, He was presented as the Firstborn from the dead.  This is your final redemption, the resurrection from the dead.  Christ is the Firstborn, but you will follow in the same way as your old Brother.

The Holy Family went up to Jerusalem for the ritual purification of Mary and the presentation of Jesus as firstborn of His mother.   By the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, you also are purified from sin and sanctified as one set apart as one of God’s own.

In + Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

St. Titus Sermon

St. Titus
January 26, 2014
Titus 1:1-9
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

[Biography of St. Titus from Treasury of Daily Prayer]

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


St. Paul enjoys high regard among Lutherans—and rightly so—because of his clear teaching of the chief article of the Christian faith, justification by faith alone, as well as his particular mission to the Gentiles (which is us).  But it wasn’t so in his day.  Paul is constantly appealing to his credentials—first to the original twelve apostles, and then to the various churches he visits.  In his letters to Timothy and Titus, he opens with an appeal to his credentials: Paul, a slave of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ for the purpose of faith for God’s elect and a knowledge of truth that is according to godliness upon a hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before time began, and manifested at His own appointed time His Word in preaching, with which I have been entrusted according to the command of God, our Savior (vv 1-3).

The first credential that St. Paul refers to is his conversion.  He calls himself a slave of Christ.  Sometimes this word is translated simply as a “servant,” but the word carries a little more weight than simply a servant.  Paul didn’t just one day decide that it might be fun to serve God as a Christian missionary.  Remember that he was a Pharisee of Pharisees and a persecutor of the Christian Church—even presiding at the murder of the first Christian martyr, Stephan.  It was a miraculous conversion from one end of the spectrum to the other.  Remember the story: Jesus appears to Saul in person, blinds him with the light of his glory, and causes him to go blind until after some days of prayer and fasting, Ananias came to him and prayed for him and laid his hands on him.  The scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he was baptized.  This conversion and baptism was Saul’s redemption.  Where he was previously bound to his own sinful nature and the false doctrine of the Jews, by virtue of his baptism, he was bound to Christ—a dou/loj of Christ, a slave of Christ, a bondservant of Christ.

But that was not his only appeal.  In addition to his conversion, he was also an apostle of Christ Jesus.  Apostle means “one who is sent.”  St. Paul, along with the other twelve, were sent personally and immediately by God to preach the Gospel.  There were no Christian congregations before Pentecost—only the temple and local synagogues—and therefore, there was no call from a congregation for these 13 men.  They were called immediately by Christ, that is, without the means of a congregational call.  Their preaching, therefore, was confirmed by accompanying signs such as healing and raising the dead.  These signs were promised by Christ Himself in Mark’s last chapter and described in the book of Acts.

This sending, or apostleship, according to St. Paul is for a particular purpose—for faith for God’s elect, for knowledge of the truth, for hope of eternal life.  These come through the preaching of His Word, which has been preserved also for us in Holy Scriptures. Because these 13 apostles were called immediately by Christ they had the Holy Spirit in a unique way, which meant that the Lord preserved both their preaching and their writing from error—hence the Holy Scriptures, which were authored by them are inspired and truly God’s Word, and are the means by which faith comes.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17 NKJV).

Though the Holy Apostles had this great promise of Christ, they were still limited by time and space and the constraints of the flesh; they couldn’t be everywhere at once, and they didn’t live forever in the flesh.  St. Paul had many companions and assistants including, among others, John Mark, Barnabas, Luke, Tertius, Timothy, and Titus, who assisted his apostolic ministry.  When St. Paul writes to Titus, he is doing so according to his own apostolic credentials, but he also refers to Titus’s credentials.

To Titus, my true child according to a common faith, grace and peace from God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Savior.  For this reason I left you behind in Crete, so that you would set in order that which remained, and appoint pastors according to a town, as I gave orders to you (vv 4-5).  First, Paul calls Titus his true child according to a common faith.  St. Paul appeals to the first and common credential—faith in Jesus Christ.  Titus is baptized just as St. Paul was and bound to Christ by virtual of the name that was put on him with water and the Word of God.

But Titus did not have the immediate call from Christ.  Titus was not sent by Christ’s own command, neither did he have a call from a congregation.  His credential is his appointment by an apostle.  Paul the apostle appointed Titus to a specific task—to appoint other pastors in the towns around Crete.  These, St. Paul says, are orders.  In other words, Titus was ordained to a holy task—to ensure that the preaching of the Gospel would continue in the absence of an apostle.

These pastors appointed by Titus are not named, but there is also an appeal to their credentials.  St. Titus was given orders to appoint pastors according to each town.  This is a reference to the established congregations of that town.  Thus, Titus’ appointment was in conjunction with the call of the local congregation.  The pastors that followed St. Titus had no appeal to Christ’s immediate call, nor to the apostolic appointment.  Instead, their appeal is to the call of the Christian congregation.  And so today, pastors are ordained—that is, given holy orders to preach the Gospel—but their credentials and authority to preach come from the public call of the Christian congregation and the written, apostolic Word.


In the confessions of the Lutheran Church, there is no distinction made between the various orders of ministry.  In Scripture, deacons, ministers, bishops, overseers, presbyters, priests, pastors, teachers, elders, or whatever you are pleased to call them, they all refer to one Office of the Holy Ministry, which does not belong to a set of individuals, but to the whole Christian Church in general, and the local Christian congregation in particular.  So when St. Paul lays out the qualifications for an overseer, or a bishop, he’s laying out the qualifications for every pastor, no matter what his task are by human arrangement.

If anyone is above reproach, a husband of one wife, having children of faith, not among accusations of incorrigibility or rebelliousness. For it is necessary for a bishop to be above reproach, being a house steward of God, not arrogant, not habitually quick to anger, not given to drunkenness, not given to violence, not greedy for shameful gain, but, a lover of strangers, a lover of what is good, prudent, righteous, pious, and self-controlled, holding on to that which is according to the trustworthy teaching of the Word, so that he is able to both comfort in sound teaching, and to reprove those who object to it. (vv 5-9).

When compared to the high expectations of the Holy Scriptures, no pastor, no bishop, no priest, no elder, no minister can expect to live up to them.  Just try to find a minister who isn’t arrogant.  These qualifications should make every pastor (as well as anyone who has a pastor) stand before God with fear and trembling.  For no preacher can hope to live up to God’s strict demands by his own reason or strength; likewise, neither can you hope to live up to God’s strict demands in your various callings by your own reason or strength.

The fact is there has only ever been one who has filled these qualifications perfectly from the start.  Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Pet 2:21b-25 NKJV).  Jesus Christ is the true Shepherd and Overseer of your soul; He is the one who tends to you, who looks out for you.


There is a false and misleading notion especially among the pope’s followers, but also among other Christians, that becoming a minister makes you more pious, that there’s some new quality that’s bestowed upon preachers that the rank-and-file Christian doesn’t have.  In addition to the many proofs from Scripture and our Lutheran confessions that say otherwise, I can tell you from my own personal experience that this is not the case.  Neither Paul, nor Titus, nor any of Titus’s appointees, nor any pastor that has ever been called since then has been justified by the orders given to him.  Works never justify, even when those works are preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments.  And this is true not only for preachers, but also for you in your various callings.  You cannot live up to the expectations and qualifications demanded by God’s holy Word.

Justification for preachers and for hearers is the same—that which the Office of the Holy Ministry offers.  The trustworthy teaching of the Word, and the comfort that comes with sound teaching.  So be comforted.  Your true Shepherd and Overseer has borne your sins to the cross.  By His stripes you are healed.  He has judged you righteously; trust that judgment, and know it to be the truth.  Do not put your hope in your own abilities, in your own actions, in your own vocations, and for heaven’s sake, please don’t place your hope in your pastor.  He did not die for you.  Let your hope rest on the promise of eternal life that is in Christ Jesus, that is promised in your Baptism and the trustworthy Word.  There in eternity is where both you and your pastor will finally be perfected.

St. Titus’s holy orders teach us that the Office of the Holy Ministry is not for the ministers, but

The Office of the Holy Ministry Is for Your Comfort in the Teaching of the Trustworthy Word of God

In + Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

Sermon for Epiphany 2

Epiphany 2
January 19, 2014
John 2:1-11
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

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


Water above the firmament:
winter rain descending; the roots of vitis vinifera clutching earth.
Spring warmth:
water drawn through vinestock, stem, and leaf; tendril, flower, fruit.
Summer heat:
sun fierce upon the hills; in the grape now, water, glucose, fructose, tannin, acid; all beneath the thin firmament on            which the Spirit’s brooding leaves behind a bloom of yeast; Saccharomyces ellipsoideus: the thumbprint of the Lord        and Giver of life.
Then autumn:
basket, press, vat; sugar and yeast wantoning; earth’s old September love revived…fermentation; the warm must…            rejoices in the pleasure of good company…
Water come of age
in the vast pots of this old Cana, where the Word, in silence, orders up new wine.
racking off, barreling, clearing, bottling; the long wait—for esters: alcohol and acid reconciled, wine bodied forth to          roundness and a nose; for oxidation: tannin and alcohol softened, corners smoothed by the Spirit’s thumb, purple              shaded to brown
(in Heaven it is alwaies Autumne) earth’s last best gift is brought to sere and velvet elegance,
To Wine indeed
To Water in excelsis.

St. John calls the turning of water into wine a sign (shmei,wn)— This Jesus did, the beginning of the signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him (v 11).  The fact that water turned into wine wasn’t all that miraculous—after all, even the first wine at Cana’s wedding started its life as water.  The reason that this first of Jesus signs is called a miracle is because of the way in which it turned from water to wine.

Jesus turning water into wine was pretty miraculous.  But it’s no less miraculous that God turns water into wine all the time.  Clouds rain down water on the hills along the Missouri River, which is drawn through the vine and blooms into flower, then plump fruit.  Then the water is transformed into something altogether new in the grape.  Then miracle upon miracle: infect it with a yeast, and not only does it not spoil, it transforms yet again into something altogether different.  More miracles occur when this new wine is left to rest—it takes on a new character, new and subtler flavors combining and emerging.  The water is now become wine.

At Cana in Galilee, Jesus short-circuited this natural process.  And on the third day, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and His disciples were also called to the wedding.  And when the wine began running short, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They do not have wine.” And Jesus said to her, “What of me and you, woman?  My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”  There were six stone water jars standing there, for the cleansing of the Jews, each containing two or three measures [of about 9 gallons].  Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.”  And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some now and take it to the master of ceremonies.”  And they brought some.  When the master tasted the water that had become wine, and not knowing from where it came—though the servants who had drawn the water had known—the master called out to the groom and said to him, “All men first set out the good wine and when the guests should become drunk, the lesser.  You have guarded the good wine until now (vv 1-10).

When it was in the jars it was water.  When the servants drew it, it was water.  But when the master of ceremonies tasted it, it was wine.  Something happened when the servants drew the water, something was added to it.  By Jesus’ Word and command, Cana’s water was transformed into water in excelsis, water in the highest, a new spirit in those old jars.

This was the beginning of Jesus’ signs.  Signs always point to something.  The first thing to which this sign points is that God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is still actively involved in upholding creation with His almighty Word.  He Who shines with God’s glory and is the Expression of His Being sustains everything by His mighty Word (Heb 1:3 AAT).  It’s not just in Cana of Galilee that Jesus turns water into wine by His Word, but also at Roebbler of New Haven and Stone Hill of Hermann.

The first of Jesus’ signs shows that the Word that He speaks is the same Word of God spoken in the beginning—the Word that creates, the Word that sustains, the Word that accomplishes what it promises.  This is the particular glory of Jesus revealed that day.


In the beginning, God created all things by His Word ex nihilo, out of nothing.  And God said, “Let there be….” and there was.  But ex nihilo, out of nothing, is not the only way that God creates.  There is one particular piece of God’s creation that is different.  God created man from the dust of the earth; He created woman from man.  He shaped him, formed him, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.  God started with something and recreated it into something altogether new.

Which is good news, because we who were created special among God’s creation have been hard at work in every generation trying to undo what His Word commands.  Not in the sense that God created us to subdue and rule over and tend creation, but in the sense that we rebel against the very Word that sustains creation.  We would have ourselves be lords of creation, to tell the author of right and wrong what is right and wrong in our own eyes.  Yet, even though we are the infection that’s causing God’s good creation to spoil and waste away, He doesn’t eradicate us.  He doesn’t sanitize His creation.  He recreates—He produces something new, something altogether different.

Now here is something truly miraculous: just as God uses the infection of yeast to bring about something completely new from the water stored in the grape, so does He use the infection of sin to bring about a new creation.  He actually joins Himself to this mess.  Though He is born without sin, He places Himself smack in the middle of sinful men.  He gives us exactly what we want and allows us to become lords over Him.  He suffers under the same laws.  He receives the same punishment.  He dies the same death.

And then He adds this Word to it: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Lk 23:34 KJV).  This is the Word of the One who called all things into existence from nothing, the Word that still upholds creation, the Word that does what it says.  The is the Word that He speaks to you, the Word that creates something altogether new.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Cana’s best wine started as water before Jesus’ added His Word to it.  Water seems to be one of His favorite means of creation.  They deliberately forget that long ago God’s Word made the sky and formed the earth out of water and with water. Then this water also flooded the world and destroyed it. And the same Word has preserved the present heavens and the earth for the fire and keeps them for the day when the ungodly will be judged and destroyed (2 Peter 3:5-7 AAT).

Christ added His Word of forgiveness to water in order to create in you a New Man, a new spirit, by the working of the Holy Spirit.  By water and His Word, He continues to recreate within this sin-infected world.  And it is for this reason, and this reason alone, that He continues to sustain and uphold this corrupt world by His Word.

When you’re making wine (or, in my case, beer), you have to stop the fermentation at some point, or else your bottles will explode and you’ll have a big mess on your hands.  One way to do that is with heat—you kill the little yeasts with fire.  And with a little age, you’ll have a pretty good wine.  In the same way God will put an end to the infection of sin on the Last Day, and all the evil and wickedness will be burned away.  And that which will be left is something altogether new.

This is the second thing to which the first of Jesus’ signs points:

Christ’s Word Creates a New Spirit in You

A spirit created out of water, a spirit aged to perfection, a spirit that will endure this age, and raised to glory in the age to come.

In + Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

Opening poem from R.F. Capon, The Supper of the Lamb.