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Paul said this about the apostles and pastors, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” So what are the mysteries of God? Just as in a mystery by Agatha Christie, and you don’t know “whodunit” until she reveals it at the end of the book, the mysteries of God are those things that we don’t know unless He reveals them to us. Some things about God are obvious, Paul says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,(Romans 1:19–20, NKJV)

On the other hand, we automatically don’t know about God’s mercy, or how He saves us from sin and death.  That is a mystery. It has to be revealed. That’s what faithful pastors do.

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent, December 13, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.

1 Corinthians 4:1–5 (ESV)

4 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Dear fellow redeemed: Our gospel lesson mentions that people went out into the wilderness to get a glimpse of John.  There they subjected him to their criticism as well as their curiosity.  Paul warns us in this epistle of the tendency  to subject the office of the ministry to human standards – the standards of the unbelieving world

That would be terrible for you!

Who but Christ knows what you will face on the last day?  Who but Christ knows the agony of soul that you might face on your death-day? Who but Christ is the perfect revelation of God for what you really need for eternal life? Faithful Pastors prepare their people for the return of Christ.

According to human standards John, and Christ’s pastors, are supposed to be reeds blowing in the wind, bowing to the latest sociological trends.  According to human standards they are to wear fine clothes and tell us how to get ahead in the world – something like a cross between Oprah, a life coach, and a savvy financial advisor.

But in this word Christ has given words of warning and comfort that faithful pastors bring to people like you and me, so that we are ready to greet our Savior joyfully as He comes to us.  Such is …


  1. According to Christ’s Institution
  2. Stewards of the Mysteries of God
  3. Preparing for the Coming of Christ
  1. According to Christ’s Institution

Just prior to this point in his letter to the Corinthians, a congregation troubled by divisions and constantly critical people, Paul had disputed and challenged the Corinthians’ idea that they had things all figured out. “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God….(1 Corinthians 3:18–19, ESV)

This led to a discussion of the pastor’s office. Proud people need to understand that the office has been instituted by Christ. 4 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. This is significant in several ways.

First, they are servants of Christ, and not of people. I can’t remember how many times people have asked me to confirm their “great new idea” or approve their condemnation (or sanction for that matter) of others’ actions. My reply: “I don’t get to say what you want me to say.”

Second, they are, under their Master, in charge of the mysteries of God. This is the gospel in word and sacrament. Like a “whodunit,” where you don’t know who did it until the author reveals it, in a far more significant way the gospel reveals the salvation that nobody knows naturally, but can only be known through the gospel. There is only one right answer as to how we have been saved.

Third, all human views of the ministry, ideas that reflect human reason and no Scripture are just wrong. The pastor isn’t a social worker, a life coach, a moral policeman, a therapist, or a religious philosopher. He isn’t a CEO, a marketer, or an actor. He is Christ’s servant to you.[1]

2.   Stewards of the Mysteries of God

For “steward” or “manager” Paul uses the word οἰκονόμους, which referred to a slave who superintended the master’s affairs. Jesus uses the term in a picture of those who feed the church until His return, “And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, [steward] whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time?” (Luke 12:42, ESV)

Of all the things needed of stewards, the most important is that they are faithful, as Paul writes here in our text, Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

And if they are faithful, Paul says we should leave the evaluation (judgment) of the stewards to the Lord: But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

This may sound like, “Don’t you dare question me!” But that isn’t the case. First, Paul, as an apostle, was preserved from error. He had told the Corinthians earlier, “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:13, ESV)

[Second] Those words taught by the spirit of God are normative, so our pastors are bound to the confession of those words, such as we see in the Apostles’, Athanasian, and Nicene Creeds, and in the Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, and the other confessions of the church.

[Third]  The point is that pastors are not hired and fired, and a pastor is not judged by anybody, including himself, according to what pleases people, but according to God’s word. Both pastor and people need to abide by this word of God through Paul: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28, NKJV) Placed in the church by the Holy Spirit, the burden of faithfulness is plenty heavy, without trying to appease people’s opinions.

People also need to see the pastor as holding a sacred trust, and not just as a hired man.  Yet there are those who resent his spiritual oversight, and when he must speak the truth in love, they criticize him for being so insistent upon the word and are more ready to tell him what to teach than to listen to what he teaches.

To people like that, Paul says, . But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. It is a sad and tragic thing to reject in pride the counsel of a faithful pastor, as Hebrews says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17, ESV)

After all, it is the Lord of the Church himself who has the final say: Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

3.   Preparing for the Coming of Christ

This is so important to understand. Who are we, after all, to judge someone else’s servant, as Paul put it, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4, ESV)

I think of the man who has a genuine and valid call to a congregation. “The Holy Spirit has made him overseer.” But on the ranking of pastors, some people might give him a C or C-. Nothing higher.

The important thing is to warn sinners that our sin really damns us, and to let Christ Himself come through His word to comfort the crushed and repentant with the assurance of forgiveness and reconciliation.  If the pastor has done that, elegantly or not, he has done well.

Now this is a pretty convicting text for you and for me.  I cannot help but think of all my shortcomings in bringing Christ’s words of warning sharply enough and clearly enough and His words of comfort and forgiveness sweetly enough and concretely enough.

And you in the flock should consider if there have been times when, rather than listen to the pastor and how Christ’s words apply to you, you sat in judgment of the pastor and his message.

Perhaps this is why God sent men instead of angels to speak the words of reconciliation, for together we kneel and confess our sins, and together we take comfort in the words of comfort and forgiveness.  And together we say, along with that faithful pastor, Paul Gerhardt,

Guilt no longer can distress me;
Son of god, Thou my load
Bearest to release me.
Stain in me Thou findest never;
I am clean, All my sin
Is removed forever.

Dearest Lord, Thee will I cherish,
Though my breath Fail in death,
Yet I shall not perish,
But with thee abide forever
There on high, In that joy
Which can vanish never.


By |2020-12-13T17:01:23-07:00December 13th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Zion Welcomed the World’s Savior

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Zion Welcomed the World’s Savior

Matthew 21:1–9 (CSB)

21 When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there with her colt. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.”
This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“See, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”,

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and its colt; then they laid their clothes on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their clothes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of him and those who followed shouted:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name
of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Dear fellow Redeemed: What’s important? What is important to you? What is important to you today as opposed to a month ago? A guy named Maslow conceived of the “hierarchy of needs,” which is a fancy way of saying that if you are starving, you won’t be much interested in what movie is opening next week or what celebrity was arrested recently.

Jesus was about 2000 years ahead of Maslow when he talked about the “worries, riches, and pleasures of life” that would crowd out God’s word, and so crowd out true and saving faith in the One who is our true hope and salvation.

But the fact is that whether in sorrow or joy, pleasure or pain, confidence or fear, the gospel message, the  essence of Gods relationship with you, remains of paramount importance.

So, whatever you are going through today, protective isolation, a day of many blessings – or even if you were sick and dying, this gospel is important:


  1. The Daughter Zion
  2. The Savior King
  3. Bringing Heaven’s Treasures
  1. The Daughter Zion

Let me tell you why.

Jesus’ disciples went to Judea expected that He would be killed. They thought in terms of a victim of the Jews’ envy and hatred. They figured Jesus would be found out, thrown into prison and, perhaps like John the Baptist, kept until the crowds quieted down and then killed. But Jesus talked about it differently, “saying, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Luke 9:22, CSB)

They thought of Jesus as victim. Not so! Jesus was the one giving himself over to the cross. He was in charge. Jesus faced the of the Jews’ murderous intent having just raised the dead, after all. Now, in what world is King and Lord of Life unimportant?

Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. John tells us that crowds had gone to Bethany to see Lazarus, and they were now the ones who “followed after” Jesus into Jerusalem. Then there were those who “went ahead” of him, ”the large crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him. They kept shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” (John 12:12–13, CSB)

Jesus was no victim to be caught, imprisoned, and secretly executed. He is the One Zion looked for, so now … Tell Daughter Zion,
“See, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”,

“Zion” is a figure of speech, meaning the church, believers.[1] You are the daughter of Zion. You are one who lives in hope. Whether you enjoy all the delights of life, and know they are just a shadow of the true joys and delights of heaven and the resurrection, or you live in fear, and sorrow, and misery and look forward to the deliverance of the Lord, you are Zion, and your King is coming to you, and now has come, to save you.

We see both His divine and his human natures paired here. In his humanity, He walks down from Bethphage, across the Kidron valley and rides a donkey into the city. In His divine omniscience and omnipotence creates the circumstances to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah.

     2. The Savior King

This business of finding the donkey and the willing owner was “providential” as we say; it was part of the Lord’s management of life. Even as a true man, He is our king, and The Father … “He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church,” (Ephesians 1:20–22, CSB) So now, instead of providing beasts of burden for His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, He, in His providence, provides for the church. So as you face the troubles of life, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, CSB)

He exercised His divinity in humility, and even now it is indirectly through His providence, His watchful care, and His loving power. Do not think, when you are safe and healthy, that it is just luck, or when you are sick, that it was bad luck, for even in our troubles our Lord works good.

He came into this world as he came into Jerusalem. He comes in humility and not in judgment. Many is the time that we have talked about this. For the Lord to appear unhidden, in divine power is to be the end of all things and the judgment of all souls. But this is put off for a while (How long? O Lord come quickly!) in favor of His coming in humility so that He may be our Savior.

As Lord of life, He came into this world that He may die and defeat death. He entered into Jerusalem to be captured by the Jews, turned over to the Romans, and crucified. Thereby on the tree of the cross he overcame the Devil who overcame our first parents by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

               3. Bringing Heaven’s Treasures

Because it was the daughter of Zion, the church that greeted Him as the King coming to her. And because He was here showing Himself as the Savior King, many spoke the truth about Christ. Hosanna, they cried. “Lord Save Us.” Oh, that people in our age of the world would learn that word, “Hosanna.” It is a cry of repentance, a cry of needing help that only the Divine Savior King can give.

But in our day, there is precious little repentance, and precious little acknowledgment of the Lord. Still people worship their false gods. Government, for one. We hear “If we had just been in power!” What then, eternal health and prosperity? When has humanity ever succeeded in that? Or the god of the world itself, offended by our misdeeds, as one former world leader said (paraphrasing) “this is what comes of not recognizing our role in changing the world’s climate. Repent!” Not to the Living God, but to His creature.

Hosanna, indeed, as God’s subjects and as His creatures we should cry every day. Lord Save! For we have sinned!  Have mercy!

And not just “Hosanna,” but “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the true Savior King who is the unique descendent of David, and who will ascend the throne of David in Heaven, Who will judge and save, give life and damnation, take to Himself and cast off forever.

And not just “Hosanna,” but “Hosanna in the Highest Heaven.” For we join with the angels of heaven and all the saints, those who have died in faith. We join in their eternal song now, and in the eternal joys of the resurrection hereafter.

But perhaps, for us, the sweetest phrase for us to sing is this: “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!” By “blessed” is meant that He is the one blessed (chosen, anointed) by God, not just to receive, but blessed to be the One coming to this world to pour out the treasures of heaven: Mercy, forgiveness, grace, life, salvation, the resurrection unto eternal life.

The greatest treasure, the Son of the Father, was given as a blessing to this world to redeem us from our sins. He lived the life that won God’s own approval, “In Him I am well pleased.” And having lived the righteousness that He gives to us by faith, He poured out His life and blood to atone for our sins, so that you are given the innocence of Christ Himself.

And the treasures continue to pour out through Him today. Light to see and know the truth. Grace, the unmerited love of God. Forgiveness, so that we are reconciled to God. Life, life like the Risen One himself, body and soul.

In His providence, through this pandemic God has put the world on notice of our mortality. As fragile as is our prosperity, our health, even our life, our Savior King is shown to be our hope in life and in death. I assure you, He hears our prayers with mercy.

It is my prayer that you are warm, safe, comfortable, healthy, and prosperous. I pray that you will remain so, despite the storm of fear that surrounds us. But whatever your situation I can point you to our true Hope, our Savior king. He has come in the name of the Lord, Yahweh, Creator and Preserver of all. He has poured out heaven’s treasures to you – forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Be at peace, in Him is the Hope of the world.

AMEN. This is most certainly true.

[1] Jesus fulfilled the prophet’s words so conspicuously that all physically present on that occasion and all of us present in spirit now might recognize and acknowledge him as the kind of Messiah or Christ he wants to be for all men, one who matches Zechariah’s prophetic picture. “Say to the daughter of Zion.” If we go back to Zechariah 9:9, we find a double summons there: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!” One term explains the other. Zion is the same as Jerusalem. Originally, Zion was the name of the site on which Jerusalem was built. Then it was narrowed down to designate the highest point of the city. The reader should note, however, that this was not where the temple was built. It was erected on a lower hill, called Mount Moriah, which we recognize as the eminence on which Abraham had been fully prepared to sacrifice Isaac. (Genesis 22:2) Finally, Zion or Mount Zion came to be used for the whole city of Jerusalem.

In New Testament times the name Zion, or Mount Zion, was employed for the new people of God or the new Israel, in other words, the Christian church. (See Hebrews 12:22, 23; 1 Peter 2:6.) In Revelation 14:1 Mount Zion is the place where the Lamb (Christ) is surrounded by all the saints in glory.

Franzmann, W. H. (1998). Bible history commentary: New Testament (electronic ed., pp. 601–603). Milwaukee, WI: WELS Board for Parish Education.

By |2020-04-04T17:41:25-07:00April 3rd, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

The Faith-Challenge of “OK”

“OK” Is a Challenge to Faith

How is it with you?

Running out of work – and funds?
Retirement Income in jeopardy?

Or maybe just slightly inconvenienced by an apocalypse that hasn’t hit you yet – and may never hit you?

Most of the time people are at least OK. So why are pastors talking to everyone as though they are suffering terribly? Are pastors adding to the angst people are feeling?

My answer is to point out two lies of the devil. The first is that things are OK with us, so we don’t need a Savior. The second is that things are so terrible with us that there is no Savior. The first is indifference and the second is despair. The first lie is to keep us away from savoring the grace and mercy of God when we are being blessed, and the second is to deny the grace and mercy of God when we are afflicted.

I have been a pastor to three generations of some families, and in each generation I have seen mainly good times. In each generation I have also seen heartache, crisis, sin, tragedy, alienation, and death. During the good times some were faithful hearers of God’s word; they sat through sermons dealing with troubles that had never touched them. But then came the troubles, and their faith held firm in our Savior. Others were not faithful hearers, and they blew off all appeals to abide in God’s word. They were OK, after all. But then came the troubles and their faith was swept away.

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24–27, CSB)

I have no idea how things will turn out for any of us in this health (or is it economic?) “emergency.” But you need to know how the mercy of God holds true through it all, by clinging to the words of your Savior.

Pastor Bryant

By |2020-03-25T12:36:40-07:00March 25th, 2020|Good News|0 Comments

What Is Your WorldView?

What Is Your Worldview?

A “worldview” is a body of concepts that describe and interpret the world in which we live. Our worldview may be true or false depending on whether we view and understand the world as it truly is. Do we believe, for example, that human life has value? If so, that will affect the way we look at others. Do we believe that the world was created? If so, we will respect the Creator; if not, we will view life as only a complex assemblage of matter.

Our worldview determines what is important in life. Is getting and having possessions the most important thing? If so, then we will neglect other “less important” things.

We are affected by the prevailing worldview of our culture, and therefore Christians have been “counter-cultural” when the prevailing worldview has been pagan or materialistic or humanistic, as the predominate culture is in our country today.

The Christian worldview hinges on four key realities: -Humanity was created by God in a state of perfection. –We have fallen from that condition. –We have been redeemed by God. –With or without this redemption, all must give an account to God at the end of life.

These realities are not shared by our culture, so they do not live as though they are true. We do live this way. We must!

By |2019-08-30T18:11:33-07:00August 30th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Got Peace? (July 20, 2019)

Real Peace?

God’s Peace

In the early 70’s, toward the end of the Vietnam War, a little girl in the Sunday school said emphatically, “I only like “peace” when Pastor says it!” It seems that the wise little 8-year-old had been put off by the “peaceniks” who were misusing the word to insist on the surrender of America in Vietnam.

She impressed on me the common misunderstanding of the word. What is peace of God? What is the peace that Christ gives? Is it emotional well-being? Is it cessation of hostility? And end to war? Is it not being upset in life?

This peace is important. Do you know what this peace is? Three thousand five hundred years ago,  The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’ “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22–27, NKJV) Likewise, Paul invoked the Lord, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7, NKJV)

God’s Peace is reconciliation with God. It is the forgiveness of your sins, and the gift of such righteousness that you are beloved of God and counted as His dear child. It is only the Prince of Peace who brings such peace, and He is present in His words of peace.  —- Pastor Bryant

By |2019-07-31T18:18:57-07:00July 31st, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Jesus’ Words Reveal the Holy Trinity

Jesus’ Words Reveal the Holy Trinity

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This sermon is abbreviated because of the importance of including the confession of the Athanasian Creed in the service.

John 16:12–15 (CSB)
12 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. 15 Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.

Dear fellow redeemed: Who is the God who is really there? What is He like? While there may be some differences in the way that we think of Him, if we actually worship the One who has created all things and revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures, then we must agree on those things. If God speaks of Himself in one way, we don’t get to think of Him in another.

God is a Spirit, for example, a being with mind, will, and emotions, but no body. As Jesus told the woman of Samaria, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.”” (John 4:24, CSB)

On this Festival of the Holy Trinity, we reflect upon the realities of the true and living God that have been revealed to us, so that we may distinguish him from all the counterfeits and imaginings of the people of this world.

Our text is not about the Trinity, or who God is. It is about the way that God deals with the disciples (and us), which incidentally tells us about the nature of God. It picks up where we left off last week, when Jesus taught us that the apostles and the Holy Spirit would tell the world about Him.

Here now He gives some detail, and in so doing…


The Holy Spirit is God. He has divine names and divine characteristics. Because of this perfection and holiness, He will guide the disciples into all truth. “He will also declare to you what is to come,” Jesus says. His point is that we will know the truth about God because of the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Besides that, we know about such things as the growth of Christ’s church in the world, the power of the gospel, the return of Christ, our resurrection, judgment day, and eternal life because the Holy Spirit will reveal them. This is more than the disciples could absorb before the whole plan of our salvation played out, but it was coming.

But don’t get the idea that the Holy Spirit is a God. Jesus says, “For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears.” As we confessed in the Athanasian Creed, “there are not three gods, but one God.” In our experience if there is one being, there is one person; that is the way God made us. But He is different. He is One being and three persons, so what one person does, God does, and what God does, all the persons of the deity do. So what the Holy Spirit teaches is the truth of the Father and the Son as well.

Scripture often reflects this reality about God, e.g., (Genesis 1:26, CSB) “Then God [singular] said, “Let us [plural] make man in our image, according to our likeness.” So also here, what the Holy Spirit reveals is in concert with the Father. He is God with the Father.

But also with the Son. All the glory of the Son, all that shines forth of His grace, mercy, power, and all the other divine attributes, will be proclaimed by the Spirit: 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Yet these divine attributes of Christ are the same as those of the Father. 15 Everything the Father has is mine.

The significance of this is that this word of the Holy Spirit is the word of the living God, as Jesus concludes with emphasis: This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you. This is so that they will know that what is revealed to them is the very word of God.

Let’s recap. John is telling us that in the upper room, the night of His betrayal, Jesus was preparing his disciples for the next day, bloody and terrible, and for the time of despair before they were confronted with the wonder, joy, and victory of Jesus’ resurrection. And He was also preparing them for what was to come, the New Testament age, in which the gospel goes out into the world to create the everlasting kingdom of the Lord.

They needed to know that the word that would come to them, the word that would in turn bring you and me to faith in Jesus, the word that would be a testimony to the world, was and is the testimony of God.

They faced their executioners certain of it.

What this means for you and me is that we must treat this word as the sacred truth. We don’t give it a certain “spin.” We don’t take what we like and leave what we don’t. It means that if someone does twist it or contradict it or demean it, that we are to treat them as the enemies of Christ, however well-meaning they may seem, as Paul writes to the Romans: “Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create divisions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. Avoid them, because such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.” (Romans 16:17–18, CSB)

But more importantly, it means that we have here the absolute truth for our comfort, consolation, and salvation. So that you may face your sins with the certainty of forgiveness, your troubles with the certainty of deliverance, and your death with the certainty of life, Jesus imprints the word of the Holy Spirit and the apostles with the seal of the Triune God. For that is the God who is really there, to whom we pray and from Whom we receive everlasting life.

AMEN  This is most certainly true.

The Athanasian Creed

Whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith. Which faith, except it be kept whole and undefiled, without doubt, one will perish eternally. And the true Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the Persons nor dividing the substance.

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one; the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father infinite, the son infinite, and the Holy Spirit infinite. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet there are not three eternals, but one eternal; just as there are not three uncreated, nor three infinites, but one uncreated and one infinite.

Likewise the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, and the Holy Spirit is almighty. And yet there are not three almighties, but one almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three gods, but one God. Likewise the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.

For as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be both God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the true Christian faith to say that there are three gods or three lords.

The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three fathers, one Son, not three sons, one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.
And in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another; but all three Persons are coeternal together and coequal, so that in all things, as said before, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. Whoever will be saved is compelled thus to think of the Holy Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary for everlasting salvation that one also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; perfect God and perfect Man, of a rational soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood. Who, although He is God and Man, yet He is not two but one Christ; One not by changing of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God; One indeed, not by confusion of substance, but by oneness of person. For just as the rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, God almighty, from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all will rise again with their bodies and will give an account of their own works. And they that have done good will enter into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; whoever does not faithfully and firmly believe this cannot be saved.

By |2019-06-19T17:31:06-07:00June 11th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

We Have Witnesses!

We Have Witnesses!

Download PDF of Pentecost 2019 Sermon

Listen / Download Audio of Pentecost 2019 Sermon

John 15:26–27 (CSB)

26 “When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Dear fellow redeemed, to whom the Helper (The Paraclete), the Spirit of Truth, comes:  The celebration of the ascension of Christ into heaven is ten days past.  His visible, local, presence, (one place at a time) was exchanged for an invisible omnipresence, by which He continues to work powerfully in every age and in every place, including here and now and wherever His word and sacraments are found.

So also here in our text for today:  Jesus says that in order to keep them from falling away He would reveal what He would do beyond His death and resurrection and ascension. Jesus is looking ahead to His ascension and beyond to His working in every age of the world, including our own. How does He describe it? In the “latter days,” this time between Jesus’ ascension and His return on the last day, Jesus says…


  1. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth Bears Witness
  2. The Apostles Bear Witness


The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth Bears Witness

It is by the witness of the Holy Spirit and the apostles that the church has been created and has endured.  We who were born spiritually dead have been given spiritual life and faith – how?  By the witness of the Holy Spirit.  We have been called together here as a Christian congregation.  All believers have been called to become the church of God.

We cannot see the Holy Spirit, but we can see the effect of His witness in spiritual life and faith.  Jesus put it this way in John 3:5–8 (CSB) Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit shows Himself in the creation of faith, the creation of believers, and the creation of the church in every age.

The reality of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is made known through the Holy Spirit: the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me.

Why “witness”?  What effect does witnessing have on us? That word “witness” is very interesting.  A witness is “one who relates what he knows.”  It isn’t persuasion, or manipulation, or oratory, or drama, it is simply passing on what we know to be true.  “Just the facts, please.”

If I tell you what I have seen, what I have observed, and what I know to be true about someone, what happens?  In some measure don’t you get to know them also?  So by the witness of the Holy Spirit we get to know Christ.

Unfortunately people often look for something else.  Some expect some sort of “experience.”  They call it spiritual, but it is really emotional, and they confuse a physiological reaction with the work of the Holy Spirit.  But we can “gin up” feelings:  –Someone did a whole study on just what the popular singer Adele does to create an emotional reaction.  –You can probably predict the “crying moments” in the movies, like when Old Yeller dies.  –Motivational speakers are experts at, well, motivating and stirring people up to action.

That makes merely witnessing about Christ and the cross seem pretty lame, doesn’t it?  Take witnessing like we see in the Apostles’ Creed – a very early form of witness in the church.  We get to know Jesus as God with the Father and the Holy Spirit.   There is the witness about His being born of a virgin and dying on the cross and rising again, and witness about the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.  This is the witness, the good news, the gospel about what God has to save us from an eternity of darkness and despair.  Remember- the gospel is not mere information, but, according to Romans 1:16, the power of God unto salvation.

Unfortunately, with this approach Christ often fails to win the approval of those for whom He suffered, died, and rose again. (Irony there) From time to time people I have been able to talk with people who don’t attend church because (as they put it) “This isn’t quite what I’m looking for.” Really? Isn’t the word of God enough? Isn’t the promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation enough? Isn’t the presence of Christ in word and sacrament enough?

But that is not what people want, and so, sadly, they reject the witness of the Holy Spirit in favor of the medium that plays to the “felt needs” of people who don’t know what they need – the Savior who is the subject of this witness.  Our salvation doesn’t depend upon a feeling here (in the chest) but a Savior there (on the cross).

The Apostles Bear Witness

But the fact that the witness of the Holy Spirit comes in words of witness and in the word with the water of baptism and the word, bread, body, wine, and blood of the Holy Supper means that His spiritual power really is also rooted in the mundane and the earthly. Two things are bound together, spiritual power and the mundane and earthly witness.

But the gospel in word and sacrament is a divine power, as Paul says, 1 Corinthians 1:21–25 (CSB) 21 For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached. 22 For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. 24 Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, 25 because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Now it’s a GOOD thing that the power of the gospel doesn’t depend on our ability to inspire or generate some emotion.  Think about it.  Often, we can’t help but respond with joy to the message of the gospel. The great festivals of the church can be a high point in any of our lives.

Still, many just don’t feel the presence of God.  The good news is that He is here whether we feel like it or not; faith isn’t feeling.

Everybody I’ve seen who was sick and dying felt horrible.  What if spiritual life depends upon being conscious, and then having the right emotional state besides?!  Even people who don’t suffer from depression have days in which they are just blue.  No, they don’t feel like they are the object of God’s love – but we are.

The apostles were witnesses.  They tell what they saw, and what they saw was the love of God played out in time and place.  Their witness is good news for you:  Your guilt has been taken away.  You are purchased at the price of God’s Son; you are precious. Your savior didn’t come to you in spiritual ecstasy, but in His childbirth, in His daily life, in His blood, suffering, death, burial, and finally going the way you too will go, in resurrection.

The means of grace are very physical for physical people looking forward to a physical resurrection.   With mundane and earthly things like the witness to physical realities they bring forth spiritual life.  As John says, 1 John 1:1–3 (CSB) 1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—2 that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—3 what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Now He comes to you in the word, in washing, and in Holy Communion. The ascended Christ has reached out to us through the witness of the Holy Spirit and the witness of the apostles, as Paul put it, 1 Corinthians 2:12–13 (CSB) 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. 13 We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.

Through this seemingly humble witness, the ascended Christ is with us, and remains with us.  He awakens faith and spiritual life and preserves us in it – not because we have the right reactions and feel the right feelings, but because He is our Savior.


By |2019-06-10T11:28:02-07:00June 7th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

His Suffering – Our Glory (Ash Wednesday, 2019)


He was marred in appearance so we would be glorified.

Isaiah 52:13-15

Dear fellow redeemed: The season of Lent is a penitential season, NOT meaning that we “do penance” or somehow think that we make satisfaction for our sins, but that we take a little time to reflect upon the heart and core of our faith, that we were sinners doomed to an eternity of despair, but are saved by the risen Christ. A faithful observance of Lent assures a meaningful Festival of the Resurrection.

For our devotion this year we will be reflecting upon Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the suffering and death of Jesus, for here we have an account of His suffering – His “passion” just as we do in the Gospels, but looking forward, not looking back. So let’s “set this up,” starting by getting ‘way back and looking at the “whole forest,” the whole book of Isaiah.

The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are called the “Book of Judgment” or the “Book of Woe.” The remaining 26 chapters are called the “Book of Consolation” or the “Book of Comfort.” Chapter 40 begins, “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”” (Isaiah 40:1–2, CSB)

Right in the middle of this Book of Consolation comes this passage. It is preceded with a picture of a ruined but (with the common reversal theme) victorious Jerusalem, “Be joyful, rejoice together, you ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has displayed his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:9–10, CSB)

You are “Jerusalem.” You need to understand that there is a certain figure of speech that runs down the spine of a good portion of Scripture. (It’s called metonymy, “Metonymy is a figure of speech in which something is called by a new name that is related in meaning to the original thing or concept.”[1]) It’s like when we say, “Hollywood is corrupt.” We aren’t talking about the hills in Los Angeles named “Hollywood,” we are talking about the culture associated with that place.

Zion is the hill on which the temple was built. Jerusalem is the city around Mount Zion. The temple is where the believers went to worship the true God. So “Zion,” “Jerusalem,” “My holy hill,” and so forth are all names for “the church,” the faithful believers in the true and living God.

You are Jerusalem, and one day the “ends of the earth,” the whole world, will see your salvation. You will travel from the ruined city of this world into the New Jerusalem, the dwelling place of the righteous. The Lord Himself will “go before you and be your rearguard.”

This salvation will be accomplished by means of the Lord’s servant. Think of the number of times Jesus said that He went to the cross to “do My Father’s will.” So, in the way of divine reversal that we have come to know, we hear of the “Suffering Servant” who saves us.

Who needs saving, after all? You see, it is necessary for the dying to defeat death, the sinful to be righteous, the condemned to be acquitted, the suffering to be relieved, the conflicted to find peace, the rejected to be reconciled. That is who we are, and that is who the servant of God, God the Son, became, in order to save us.

So now, our text:

13 See, my servant, will be successful;
he will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted.
14 Just as many were appalled at you—
his appearance was so disfigured
that he did not look like a man,
and his form did not resemble a human being—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations.,
Kings will shut their mouths because of him,
for they will see what had not been told them,
and they will understand what they had not heard.

The Lord announces His victory through Isaiah, 13 See, my servant, will be successful; he will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted. But in order that we share in that victory, and become known as righteous, the glory of Christ must be hidden. “Just as many were appalled at you— his appearance was so disfigured that he did not look like a man, and his form did not resemble a human being— so he will sprinkle many nations. Kings will shut their mouths because of him, for they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard.” (Isaiah 52:14–15, CSB)

Just as Isaiah was hated, just as people saw no worth or value, much less divinity, in his words, so it would be with the Christ. He was hidden, “marred or disfigured in appearance,” so that we might be glorified.

Let’s talk about “glory,” since it is a word used often in Scripture. It is “δόξα” in Greek. It is a “shining forth,” like light, but it doesn’t mean that you will be like a great light bulb in heaven. It means that your goodness, your righteousness, your personality, your virtues, your communion with God, your love for Him and for others will all be apparent.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about this glory to us, who for now are in the midst of this broken world, “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:16–17, CSB) If you could see the person next to you NOW as he or she WILL BE, with the goodness, love, righteousness, virtue, spiritual life, beauty and wisdom that will be theirs, you’d be scared silly. You’d be temped to worship such a person. Such is the glory that will be bestowed upon us in the resurrection. This is the victory that the suffering servant wins for us.

But for that, he suffered the opposite. He was hated, despised, and treated as subhuman, as is all goodness in this evil world: Just as many were appalled at you— his appearance was so disfigured that he did not look like a man, and his form did not resemble a human being—

This is the opposite of His glory. The world not only does not see Jesus, but it misrepresents Him in every way. He was finally accused and falsely convicted of blasphemy because in raising Lazarus from the dead he incited the envy of the rulers. In our day and age, we in some measure “glorify God;” we let Him shine forth as the source of all righteousness and justice, yes, but also the One who loves the undeserving in Christ. In His glory people will see Him as the Lamb of God.

Using imagery that strikes a chord with Isaiah’s readers as well as with us, Isaiah goes on speaking the Lord’s word: 15 so he will sprinkle many nations., Kings will shut their mouths because of him, for they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard.

The sprinkling of nations is with the blood of the lamb, so that forgiveness may come to those who know the law, but not the gospel, who know the natural law, but not the gospel that comes through the word alone. Paul put it this way, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are subject to the law, so that every mouth may be shut and the whole world may become subject to God’s judgment. For no one will be justified in his sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law.” (Romans 3:19–20, CSB)

But with the understanding of the law from God’s word, and the sprinkling of the nations with the blood of the lamb, that is with the Gospel, our Suffering Servant King rescues out of this broken world into the glory that awaits us because of Him. For the law, remember teaches not just right and wrong, but the wrath of God over sin. Anyone who sins is cast off forever. The Gospel, again, is that Jesus took the place of anyone who sins, and He has reconciled us to God through His blood because … THE SUFFERING SERVANT-KING Was Marred in Appearance … (so we would be glorified.)


[1], accessed 3/5/19.

By |2019-03-15T15:12:14-07:00March 5th, 2019|Sermons|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 #8 Where the Pastor Works

Where the Pastor Works

Spiritual 911

The Pastor as our spiritual first-responder.

#8 Where the Pastor Serves

One way of understanding the way our Lord uses pastors to heal and strengthen His people is to remember where they serve. On the one hand, pastors serve at church to those who come to hear the word , and on the other hand they serve in the  community for those who do not or cannot come.

Serving Those Who Come
It is most efficient for pastors to serve many people at once. In the Divine Service the pastor gives the forgiveness of Christ through the word and sacraments. This is like the regular use of good food and exercise to keep the body healthy; only here it is the soul. Through His word, our Lord warns us of our sins and the deceitfulness that is in the world, He comforts us with the assurance of His forgiveness, and He teaches us the way to live in this world with a view to eternity. It includes practical applications as well.
In Bible classes we look at God’s word in more detail. Our own questions and the questions of others help the pastor make applications to our own lives.
In this way we find healing from our spiritual injuries and renew our faith.

Serving Those Who Do Not  or Cannot Come
But sometimes people cannot come. Perhaps because of infirmity, age, illness, military deployment, etc., a person cannot attend church or Bible class.
At other times someone doesn’t come because of shame or guilt. I have seen this often when people have been though a divorce, have struggled with substance abuse or have otherwise been embarrassed. Often the devil deprives a person of just what they need by tempting them to cut themselves off from God’s healing word.
In Luke 8, Jesus tells us that the “worries, riches, and pleasures of life” so ensnare us that we neglect the word.
So, much of the pastor’s time is spent visiting the sick, sending sermons and devotions to the deployed, seeking appointments, counselling in private, coming by with private communion and just listening, and he loves doing it!
At other times, the pastor is like a shepherd pursuing someone who wanders.

But always, the pastor’s calling is the strengthening and healing of souls.

By |2019-03-04T17:05:12-07:00March 4th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments

Spiritual 911 #7 When to Call the Pastor

When To Call the Pastor

The Pastor as our spiritual first-responder.

  1. When To Call the Pastor

What does the pastor provide that you might need?

Council / Direction
Pastor, my spouse and I can’t seem to stop arguing. How can we live in peace again?
I am filling out a Power of Attorney for healthcare, how should I approach this as a Christian.
I am thinking about getting married / going off to school / joining the military / changing careers.
Anything like this? Call the pastor.

Life Event
Thinking of getting married? Have a new child or grandchild? Have you had a death in the family? Have an unbaptized member of the family?
Call the pastor.

In the hospital? Dealing with illness, including mental illness? Struggling with loneliness or alienation? Trying to cope with age (or youth!)?
Call the pastor! He doesn’t treat the physical or mental illness, but the spiritual injuries that result.

Guilt / Remorse / Doubt
The word “Devil” means “accuser.” The devil attacks our faith in Christ as our redeemer by making it seem that our sins are beyond forgiveness.
In our skeptical age we can easily be led to doubt our forgiveness, the truth of Scripture, or the reality of our faith.
Call the pastor!

It’s possible to regain our faith, to become reconciled with others, and to deal with remorse. It is possible to make sense of the troubles of life from God’s perspective. God can heal the remorse we feel from the sins of the past, from errors in judgment, and other things we cannot change.

What stands in our way?
Don’t want to bother the pastor? That’s like not wanting to bother the dentist when you have a toothache.
Afraid he will judge you? How can he when God counts you righteous?
Afraid he will tell somebody? The confessional is inviolate, even by the courts.
Embarrassed? The pastor has learned to ease embarrassment as well as any doctor, and never thinks less of you.

Be kind to yourself and call the pastor.

By |2019-03-04T15:05:06-07:00March 4th, 2019|Good News|0 Comments