Sermons by Pastor Walter Snyder plus announcements, articles, videos, and anything else that doesn’t fit Ask the Pastor or the Luther Library.

14 December 2014

Sermon: Advent 3B (OT)

14 December AD 2014

Theme: Restored by the Lord

Isaiah 61:10 Summary: Isaiah sums up our sorry condition as sinners born under the curse of the Law. We are poor, brokenhearted, captive, and devastated. By birth, we are dead in our trespasses. The Lord sent the prophet to bring good news to His people. Later, John assumed the same prophetic mantle and then Jesus completely fulfilled the task by both announcing and winning victory over sin, death, and devil.

Because of Christ’s triumph, all who believe in Him receive His gifts. We hear the good news that we are forgiven, enriched, liberated, gladdened, enlivened, and saved. We are restored — not to some higher point earlier in our lives but to the sinless freedom that our first parents knew in the garden and that we will see fully revealed when Jesus returns to judge the world and to raise the believers into eternal life.

Already, God has dressed us in “the robe of righteousness,” preparing us for a glorious eternity bedecked “like a priest with a beautiful headdress and as a bride ... with her jewels.”

Text: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion — to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations....

For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Restored by the Lord.

Other Readings: Psalm 126; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

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07 December 2014

Sermon: Advent 2B (OT)

7 December AD 2014

Theme: A Voice Cries Out

VDMA Summary: Whenever we approach God’s word, we should ask, “What does this mean?” We need to know what each individual word means, how they work together according to the rules of grammar, and what they meant at the time they were first spoken or recorded. Most importantly, we need to know is what they mean in light of the person and work of Jesus.

The pastor is called to “cry” what God gives him to say. Therefore, he needs to understand both the text and those who will hear his preaching. What he cries should be determined by the words before him, what his people need to hear, and how they will hear and understand. He also needs to know how to apply the words as God’s harsh, condemning Law and His sweet, forgiving Gospel.

So it is here in Isaiah 40. We hear uncomfortable, even painful words: wither, fade, warfare, iniquity, sin. We also hear words that uplift and set straight: tender, pardon, good news, strength, reward. Whether preacher or hearer, we pray that God’s abiding Word will be proclaimed and heard in order to convict and condemn sin and to comfort and forgive repentant believers.

Jesus Our Shepherd Text: Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry!”

And I said, “What shall I cry?”

All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:1-11

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of A Voice Cries Out.

Other Readings: Psalm 85; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

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30 November 2014

Sermon: Advent 1B (OT)

30 November AD 2014

Theme: Come, Lord

Rending the Heavens Summary: Often during Advent, Christians are called to ponder and to receive with joy the “now, not yet” of their Savior. The “now” is the Jesus who came in the flesh at Bethlehem, who lived a sinless life, died for our sins, and rose again from the dead. The “now” is also His coming to us in Word and Sacrament. The “not yet” is His promised return at the end of time.

Christians also confront another “now, not yet.” With one breath, we cry out, “Now, O Lord.” We echo Isaiah, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down ... to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence.” We want our Lord to return in glory to set all things right.

Yet because of our sin, we’re tempted to pray with even more fervor, “Not yet, God!” We aren’t ready to receive Him whose anger burns at all sin, including our own. Each of us wants more time to fix what’s not right in order to be that one “who joyfully works righteousness.” But that won’t happen because The Lord’s demand for righteousness is absolute and we cannot attain it on our own.

However, we fear not because we know that we have Christ’s righteousness as gift. All who believe in the Son receive credit for His good works and faithfulness. Our sins, put to death with Him on the cross, are left behind and we trust that because of His sacrifice, the Father certainly will “remember not iniquity forever.” And we, cleansed of sin freed of guilt, can cry out with joy, “Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)”

While we remain here, we welcome God’s presence in our lives. For even as He continues to forgive our sins and declare us righteous, so He also works His righteousness in and through us, shaping us by the Gospel and the Holy Spirit as a potter shapes his clay.

Potter and Clay Text: Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence — as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil — to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.

Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people. Isaiah 64:1-9

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Come, Lord.

Other Readings: Psalm 80:1-7; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 11:1-10 or Mark 13:24-37

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23 November 2014

Sermon: Proper 29A (OT)

23 November AD 2014
The Last Sunday of the Church Year

Theme: Our Shepherd, Our Judge

The Good Shepherd Summary: All too often, the shepherds whom God called to lead His people as He desired instead led them astray or sat idly by while the Church, His flock, wandered off on its own. His only recourse was to enter His Creation and become the Shepherd Himself.

Jesus came as the Good Shepherd and called the scattered flock to Himself. Likewise, He is the God who will judge, as He taught in today’s Gospel. He is also the new David who serves as the eternal King. Israel’s remnant acknowledged this as they called out their hosannas to the Son of David on Palm Sunday.

Jesus the Judge Text: “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land.

“And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.

“I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice....

“Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep.

“And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.” Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Our Shepherd, Our Judge.

Other Readings: Psalm 95:1-7a; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46

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16 November 2014

Sermon: Proper 28A (OT)

16 November AD 2014
Pentecost 23

Theme: The Lord’s Sacrifice

Sacrificial Goat Summary: The Lord’s anger over Judah’s unremitting, unrepented sins led Him to reject their sacrifices, even though He had established them for the forgiveness of His people. Their crass rejection of Him turned Him from accepting their sacrifices to preparing them as a sacrifice.

We, along with all of sinful mankind, would deserve no better. Yet those who still trusted in God’s promised Messiah during the time of Zephaniah, along with believers before and since, find forgiveness in Him who took mankind’s place as the Lord’s sacrifice. Instead of being slain for our sins, we find refuge in the One sacrificial Lamb whom God offered up for us.

Christ Sacrificed Text: Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests.

And on the day of the Lord’s sacrifice — “I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire. On that day I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold, and those who fill their master’s house with violence and fraud.

“On that day,” declares the Lord, “a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate, a wail from the Second Quarter, a loud crash from the hills. Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar! For all the traders are no more; all who weigh out silver are cut off.

“At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.’ Their goods shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.”

The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. Zephaniah 1:7-16

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of The Lord’s Sacrifice.

Other Readings: Psalm 90:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

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09 November 2014

Sermon: Proper 27A (OT)

9 November AD 2014
Pentecost 22

Theme: Desiring the Day of the Lord

Christ Crucified Summary: “Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it,” warns the secular proverb. Amos warned Israel to stop asking for the Day of the Lord until they realized what that Day means to unrepentant sinners.

Without faith in Christ and His blood-bought forgiveness, we would also face everlasting darkness and eternal death. Thanks be to God that His Son faced the dark of judgment on the cross that we might live in God’s light.

Text: Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?

“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:18-24

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Desiring the Day of the Lord.

Other Readings: Psalm 70; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

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02 November 2014

Sermon: Proper 26A (OT)

2 November AD 2014
Pentecost 21

Theme: Truth Amidst the Lies

Martyrdom Summary: Lies may be subtle or gross. They change as convenient. Absolute truth, however, never varies. Ultimately, there is only one truth: We are all sinners and our only hope for salvation is Christ Jesus.

So no matter what anyone wants to hear, no matter how we might seek to avoid it, one message alone is always true. Nothing but Law and Gospel, being dead in our sins but forgiven and made alive in Christ should be preached, taught, heard, and believed.

The world hates this message, those who proclaim it, and those who believe and live it. Yet even persecution and violent death cannot destroy this truth but rather confirm mankind’s desperate need for it. And we who died to sin in our baptisms need never fear death again, for we live forever in Christ.

False Prophets Text: Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry “Peace” when they have something to eat, but declare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths.

Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination. The sun shall go down on the prophets, and the day shall be black over them; the seers shall be disgraced, and the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God.

But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.

Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who detest justice and make crooked all that is straight, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.”

Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height. Micah 3:5-12

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Truth Amidst the Lies.

Other Readings: Psalm 43; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-12; Matthew 23:1-12

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01 November 2014

Sermon: All Saints Day (Epistle)

The Feast of All Saints
1 November AD 2014

Title: We Are and Will Be (MP3 Audio)

The Saints of God Summary: Led by the Holy Spirit, John the Apostle points clearly to Jesus. Any good gifts, any true blessings flow through Him from the Father.

Because Christ is the perfect Son, we are God’s holy children, His saints. Because our Savior lives, we live also — in time and throughout eternity.

Therefore, we don’t play guessing games, trying to figure out what eternal life will be like or what it means when Jesus returns and we are “like Him.” It is enough to know that we will be completely satisfied, absolutely joyful, and perfectly pure in heart and mind.

No matter how closely the New Creation resembles green pastures and still waters, a never-ending banquet, or a bejewelled city of gold, we know that it will be our home because it is where our Savior will lead us to dwell.

All Saints Text: See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of We Are and Will Be, preached to the saints at Trinity Lutheran Church, Norborne, Missouri.

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 149; Revelation 7:(2-8) 9-17; Matthew 5:1-12

Illustration Credits: Art of the Church Year by Ed Riojas available through Higher Things Store.

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19 October 2014

Sermon: Proper 24A (OT)

19 October AD 2014
Pentecost 19

Theme: Unlikely Instruments

Weimar Altarpiece Summary: Not only did God foretell the coming of a foreign, idol-worshiping ruler who would do His will, He also named Cyrus in advance. Before the judgment of the Babylonian Captivity fell upon His people, He was preparing the one who would return the Lord’s chosen people to their homeland. Yet it’s unlikely that Cyrus ever acknowledged Israel’s God as his own, although he certainly knew of Him through captive Judah.

Unbelieving foreign rulers are only type of unlikely instruments that God raises up to accomplish His purposes. He uses friendly governments, private citizens, and saints and sinners of all sorts as He works to accomplish salvation for mankind. The very lawbreakers  — or lawmakers — about whom we might complain could very well be working directly to accomplish God’s plans, even if neither they nor we realize it.

In the case of Israel, God judged the Northern Kingdom with the Assyrians. He condemned Judah by Babylon. Yet He also brought His people home in order to reestablish them that the promised Messiah would be born as He intended.

When the Savior was born, lowly Judaean shepherds and brilliant foreign scholars both found ways to honor Him. God anointed His Son by the hand of John the Baptist, allowed Jewish leaders to arrest Him, and led the Romans to put Him to death.

The Lord employed each of these unlikely instruments in order to accomplish salvation through the unlikely Instrument of an obscure rabbi from Galilee. No one expected such a thing: As Nathaniel so succinctly asked at the outset of Jesus’ ministry, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46)”

Of course, we say, “Yes!” The unlikely instruments of Jesus Christ and His cross secured our forgiveness. The unlikely instruments of water, of bread and wine, and of His called servants deliver this salvation to us. And we are now His unlikely instruments, bringing His light, His forgiveness, and His peace into a fallen, sin-stricken world.

Unlikely? Only to those who know not the wonderful ways in which God works.

Cyrus the Great Text: Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed:

“I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

“For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.

“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Isaiah 45:1-7

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Unlikely Instruments.

Other Readings: Psalm 96:1-9 (10-13); 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22

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12 October 2014

Sermon: Proper 23A (OT)

12 October AD 2014
Pentecost 18

Theme: The Feast of the Lord

Isaiah 25:6 Summary: When God invites His people to a feast, He promises only the best food and drink. Yet while he sets our table with rich meats and flavorful wines, He reserved something odd for His own consumption. He promised to swallow the burial cloth that covers all mankind. He declared His intent to devour death.

What Isaiah prophesied, Jesus performed: He dined on death. He swallowed up sin. He destroyed the Devil’s power. On Mount Zion, in an upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus first spread the feast of the New Testament. On the mountainside, He spread His arms and died. He was buried in a tomb on that mountain and from it He arose on the third day.

Because Christ devoured death, we eat life in Him. We “taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)” as we consume Holy Communion and as we hear and believe the saving Word of God proclaiming that Jesus came to save our fallen race.

Isaiah 25:6 Text: On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:6-9

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of The Feast of the Lord.

Other Readings: Psalm 23; Philippians 4:4-13; Matthew 22:1-14

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05 October 2014

Sermon: Proper 22A (OT)

5 October AD 2014
Pentecost 17

Theme: Song of Loss, Song of Love

Isaiah 5:1-2 Summary: A secular proverb says, “Bloom where you are planted.” It calls one to accept circumstances and do the best job possible at growing and thriving. However, it fails to take into account individual and corporate sinfulness.

The Lord does no such thing. He plants us in life, in His Church, and desires us to produce abundant fruit. However, we are incapable of doing so on our own. Indeed, when He looks to sinners for sweet works of righteousness, He finds only the “wild grapes” of wickedness. Even our best deeds fail when they come from our own hearts and minds.

Nevertheless, we don’t despair, for God’s Beloved — His own Son Jesus — produced the fruits that we cannot. He then took our punishment and was torn down by sinners and devoured by death and grave. Thus He did what we could not, paid for what we did, and finally rose to life in order to give new life and God-pleasing fruits to all who believe in Him.

Isaiah 5:5-6 Text: Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry! Isaiah 5:1-7

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Song of Loss, Song of Love.

Other Readings: Psalm 80:7-19; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46

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28 September 2014

Sermon: Proper 21A (OT)

28 September AD 2014
Pentecost 16

Theme: A Matter of Life and Death

Ezekiel 18:2 Summary: “God isn’t fair!” we often complain. If we thought more about it, though, we might instead complain, “God is fair!” Through the prophet, He flatly claims that He rewards good and punishes evil. What could be more fair?

If we’re honest with ourselves and with Him, we see that most of our requests for divine fairness are actually requests for leniency, excuses, and blame-shifting. When we realize that we are never fully free of the stain of sin and recognize that we sin daily, we begin to see that asking God to treat us fairly might not be in our own best interests. We dare not ask God to pay us what our works have earned, for “the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)”

However, God assigned full blame for all wickedness to His beloved Son. He exercised His justice — His fair treatment of evil — by cursing Jesus, sending Him to the cross to suffer and die for all the sins of all people. All who believe that this salvation is their gift from God then receive full credit for Christ’s righteousness.

He calls Israel (and us) to do the impossible: “Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” Those who sorrow over their sins then are led by the Spirit to cry out with the Psalmist to our merciful God: “Create in me a clean heart ... renew a right spirit.... (Psalm 51:10)” We realize that such heart surgery is no do-it-yourself project but that to succeed, it must be accomplished by Him.

Recognizing the gift that is ours in Christ, we receive it in thanksgiving. We trust that because the living God is also the God of the living, we who have new life in Christ will keep it even to life everlasting. In Christ, in Baptism, in the preaching of the Word, in Absolution, and in the Lord’s Supper, God puts to death our old, sinful selves and grants forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to all who believe.

The Death of the Wicked Text: The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

“As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die....

“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?

“When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

“Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!

“Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of A Matter of Life and Death.

Other Readings: Psalm 25:1-10; Romans 13:1-10; Matthew 21:23-27 (28-32)

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