Isaiah 2: 1-5 

Psalm 126 

Romans 13: 11-14 

Matthew 24: 36-44 

“Flood Watch” 

Grace and peace to you my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Amen. 

In all societies there is a group of people whose duty is to  observe their surroundings for potential danger. Most are looking for  one specific type of danger and are quite skilled in identifying the  unique signs that would alert such a specialist of the upcoming event.  This includes those who watch the skies for storm patterns, those who  stand guard for potential crime, those who observe the borders of a  compound in observation towers for enemy forces, etc. These  individuals are always at the ready, not expecting a disaster but to  always be attentive for the sake of the common person. And the skill  of such a watchman truly shines when he can forecast a certain  disaster with absolute assurance of its arrival so early that all are  prepared when the disaster finally does arrive. 

A good example, in California there are those whose job is to  monitor the seismic shifts. When certain measurements are  ascertained, they warn the public of an upcoming earthquake. Another  example, those who read the skies for hurricanes. Though we may not 

know the strength the hurricane when it hits land, we all get plenty of  warning that a hurricane is indeed coming our way. You also have  economists whose primary job is to forecast everything financially  related, when they foresee an economic collapse they warn us. The  list goes on, for there are many things we should rightly be concerned  about, but instead of worrying over something that is not happening  we have watchmen who will warn us of future concerns when such  arrive. 

One such watchmen are those who are concerned with floods.  Whether or not it is rain, or broken dams, or tsunami, or weak earth, or  winds carrying lake water – the flood watch is always concerned with  that which might result in dangerously high water levels that cause  destruction and loss of life. Communities that regularly get hurricanes  or tsunamis are most especially always on the alert and they, more so  than most people understand, know the importance of having a flood  watch team. For if there were no watchmen, then for the common  person who knows not how to read the skies nor behaviors of animals  would one day be working in the field and the next will disappear in  the flood. One day your unprepared neighbor will be outside drying  the bed sheets and the next the flood snatches her and the search for  her body begins. One day a child would be playing out in the streets,  the next day funeral arrangements are being made. Why, because  they were not prepared and the rushing flood caught them of guard.

In other cases we have plenty of warning and still we do not pay  attention. In fact, many mock those who see the writings on the wall of  a coming disaster. An older fisherman feels in his knees a storm a  brewing so he stays at home and warns the younger fishermen to do  so likewise, but the younger ones see clear sky and know that today  will be huge catch so they write off the old kook's supposedly foolish  witch doctor nonsense. They go out to fish in the middle of the lake  and the worst storm they have ever seen hits them. They are terrified,  beg God for mercy, call on the radios for help that will cannot come,  and work furiously to save their lives from impending doom. 

In Genesis, God warns Noah that He was going to flood the earth  to kill most of humanity. The wickedness of His greatest creation  despaired God so much that almost gave up on us and was about to  start anew. However, He didn't. He had mercy on Noah and his family,  a faithful people, and decided to not only save Noah from the flood,  but to save Noah through the flood from the wickedness of human  society. God gave Noah plenty of warning and instructed him to build  an ark and fill it with every creature two by two. 

Now imagine the time it would take to accomplish such a feet.  Also imagine the man power needed to do such in comparison to the  man power at Noah's disposal. What are the chances that the wider 

community became aware of Noah's ark building endeavor? 100%.  There is no way the wicked human society was not aware of Noah's  ark building. And how do you think the wider community acted towards  Noah and his family due to this project? I would wager mocking and  laughter as they ridicule this outrageous claim that a mighty flood  would destroy them and that God selected Noah's family to continue  the human race. They most likely harassed Noah's family as the ark  was being built, using all sorts of slurs against them as they used up  precious resources on a giant useless structure. On the day of the  flood, while Noah and his family was secure in the ark, what about the  community of corruption? They were partying with luxurious food and  spirits, marrying and such. They did not believe in the flood, so while  they celebrated to themselves, unaware, the flood came and killed  them all. 

One day there are two people out in the field, the next death  takes one and the other is left behind. One day there will be two  women grinding at the mill, preparing floor, the next one will be  swallowed up by death abandoned by God and the other will be left  behind alive in the Lord's presence. One day Noah and his community  were alive, the next day the wicked sinners who mocked God  disappeared and sent to Sheol while God's faithful, Noah's family,  were left behind to live.

You never know when the day of the Lord will be. You never  know when death will come knocking. You never know when Satan  will come marching with a trail of temptation. You never know,  therefore always be prepared. 

And it's not like we don't have fair warning. The watchmen of the  great flood, missionaries and pastors and faithful teachers alike have  all proclaimed that there will come a day when Jesus will come back.  We have all preached that if Jesus does not come again soon then  you most definitely will meet Jesus upon your death, either way you  will very soon, and some sooner than expected, meet your maker.  Therefore now and tomorrow and the day after, always be prepared  because no one knows the when but only the assurance it will happen. 

Same goes for the Devil, for you never know when he will come  to tempt you. So go to church and pray to God and receive  communion as often as possible for the sake of preparing yourself  against Satan. 

So be prepared for he who is not will be swallowed up by death  and taken by the flood. One day the wicked will be here, the next he  like weeds will be thrown into the fire pits. He who does not walk in the  name of the Lord with faith in Jesus Christ will not experience life  eternal but instead will fall into damnation as the life-giving face of the 

Lord is turned away from them. But he who is prepared, who does  walk in the name of the Triune, who fears the Lord's wrath, but have  faith in God's grace, will not be swallowed by death but will be the left  behind. When the day of the Lord comes the ones who will be left  behind and experience life eternal on the new earth will be the saints  and those who have not been sanctified through the precious blood of  Christ will be taken away, disappear, as Hell takes them. Just as how  the flood took away the wicked and Noah's family were left behind, so  too when the end comes those who are not faithful will be taken away  and those who are faithful will be left behind. 

Because we know not when this will happen, always be prepared,  for today might be the day. 

Let us pray, 

 

Dear Heavenly Father, give us watchful eyes, alert to the potential of either death, the Second Coming, or temptation. Keep us  vigilant in faith toward you so that when such happens we stand firm  in faith, alive. In your most holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy  Spirit. Amen.

Jeremiah 23: 2-6

Psalm 95: 1-7

Colossians 1: 13-20

St. Luke 23: 35-43

 

“A King Like No Other”

 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.

 

During the Nazi era, many Germans abandoned faith in Jesus Christ as they joined the Socialist movement that was rising throughout the lands. As they left Christianity for National Progressivism or Fascism, they laughed in the face of Jesus. For you see, the rising powers of the new regime lauded Jesus as a weak spineless person who lost to the first Reich. Jesus didn’t command an army, nor spoke bold strength, but rather spoke in terms of love and gentleness. Jesus wasn’t some mighty force as the Christians confess to believe but was an ineffective water flea; an insignificant maggot that disparate know nothing Jews utilized to create a false religion founded on useless hope. Jesus was so ineffective that the domesticated Pharisees, who can’t hold a candle to the might of Rome, was capable of getting him hung on a cross.

 

The disrespect from the Nazis was nauseating as they piled filth on top of the Holy Church. They looked at the cross with distain and used their governing authority to target any Lutheran Church that would dare stand up to the Party in the name of Christ. Big Brother Government was God, and no King on Earth or in this “supposed” Heaven will dominate the power of the 3rd Reich. Eventually many Lutherans were thrown into the reeducation camps.

So in response to this growing movement known as Socialism, and all its seasick rot, the Church at large created a new holiday for the church calendar. The Roman Catholics, the Augustinian Catholics (Lutherans), the Orthodox Catholics, the Anglo Catholics (Anglicans), and many others united against the Nazis as they as one preached unanimously of the Kingship of our Lord and Savior. Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday of the church calendar was a direct response to rampant Socialism. And even in this Church, for Christ the King Sunday, you see on the white linen covering the altar the words in bold red, “Jesus is Lord.”

 

Jesus is Lord. Nothing on earth can change nor hide the reality of Jesus’ royal divinity. On top of that, Jesus is not just some mere lord, someone unaffiliated to us who so happens to have a rank, but is our Lord. Jesus is our Lord. He is our King. He is our Prince of Peace. He is the one whom we ultimately answer to.

 

In all reality, that is why the Nazis, and the authoritarian Socialist states that came after such the CCP, cannot stand the presence of Christians. We have a higher power that we answer to which trumps any fealty we may have with the state. No king on earth will ever be able to truly demand more love or adoration or obedience out of us than what we give towards Jesus our Lord. We love Jesus more than any human or human made philosophy. We obey Jesus more than any leader or government. We respect Jesus more than any human-made role or judgement. The real reason why the Nazis hated Jesus is because He was in their way. Yes they laughed at Him and falsely labeled Him as weak, but all of this was to disguise their fear of Jesus and the divine might that is behind His Word.

 

They, like all other totalitarian maniacs that came before them, attacked Christianity because they knew that if we had to pick between God and politics, then we would always choose God. Why? Because He is our Lord and our King.

 

Yet what is so interesting is that the arguments of the Nazis and all the other socialists are quiet similar to the arguments made by the Pharisees. The Pharisees wanted mighty political King of the lineage of David who commanded an undefeatable army to rise up suddenly through the grace of God against the Romans who ruled over Israel. They, and many Jews, misunderstood Scripture to mean that the coming Messiah was going to be a political figure and was going to reestablish Israel as the mighty earthly kingdom forevermore. They had earthly grandeur in their eyes, and couldn’t see the reality of Jesus’ true might. To them He was no powerful charismatic figure that could trample the Roman Armies. Instead, he was meek and kind, though at times understandably wrathful and downright rude. He commanded no army, so he was a fake. Therefore they snatched Him in the middle of the night and on the next morning crucified Him as they laughed and mocked Him for dare claiming He was a king.

 

The Nazis mocked Jesus the same way the Pharisees mocked Jesus. The Nazis and the Pharisees couldn’t stand the sight of Jesus, and their desire for might guided them towards persecution.

 

In their insistence to rid themselves of this weakling of a false messiah, they nailed Jesus to a tree. The Roman Soldiers mocked Jesus and had a sign that wrote “King of the Jews” above His head. Little did they know how right they were. And to make the point even more nauseatingly obvious, the Soldiers and people proceeded to slander His good name with phrases such as, “He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One,” and, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself,” and a criminal, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” And almost as if His suffering was proof of their right to mock Jesus they continued to harass their one and only true king. Jesus didn’t fight back; He took every insult and every punishment. The mob took this as justification for their malice. They thought Jesus was weak and had given up, but their eyes were too clouded to see the reality that faced them.

 

In our Gospel only one person had the fear of God, and that was a criminal also nailed to a cross. He who knew he deserved death, saw an innocent man being berated by all around him. He saw a crowd of sinners attacking their God, and he was terrified of what God the Father might do to them. As for his fate, he was ready, so he looked upon his Lord and King simply asking for remembrance. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And in response, Jesus proved his might and authority which can overcome sin and death by proclaiming to the criminal what can only be aptly described as an act of God, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

It wasn’t until after Jesus died and the skies turned black and the earth shook and the curtain of the temple torn in two and many rose from the grave that the despair in knowing what they had done suck in. A mortified centurion present for the public mocking and crucifixion uttered to God, “Certainly this man was innocent!” As for the Jews present, I cannot imagine the horror on their face when they realize that they just murdered their Messiah.

 

Now all is not lost, and we know this for certain; for our King is not like other Kings, and or Kingdom is not like other Kingdoms, and the war we fight is not like other wars. Yes Jesus is mightiest of all Kings, but not by human standards but by divine standards. He is the King of Kings from which all authority stems. If He liked He could have just annihilated the Roman Army and dismantled Caesar’s throne with a snap, but He is not like other kings. Kings conquer with armies. Jesus conquers by turning the hearts of humans. Kings sends mighty forces to take land. Jesus sends messengers of His word whether human or angel to spread His Kingdom through the Word. Kings command others die to protect themselves. Jesus died to protect everyone.

 

Jesus is not like other kings, He is far more powerful. He does have to use the power of the sword to spread His Kingdom, He just wills it so.

 

And His Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one. Kingdoms on earth come and go, but Christ’s Kingdom never goes away and is constantly growing, even pass the limits of this earthly plane. Earthly Kingdoms have criminals and must use fear to curb crime. Christ is so mighty that His Kingdom is void of sin completely, not on account of fear but grace. On Earth we starve and suffer want, but in Christ’s Kingdom there is no need to worry about such things for Christ is the Living Bread through whom you will never thirst nor hunger.

 

And war; the war we fight is radically different than the wars fought by earthly kings. Whereas military Soldiers use blades and bullets to kill the enemy, Christians Soldiers wield the Word of God on our lips to save our enemies. Whereas the wars countries fight is against men. The war Christ has already won is against the Devil and his entire army of demons. You claim my Lord is weak, did your little earthly king defeat the most powerful immortal force of evil and an entire spiritual army with not a single casualty (Christ rose from the grave)? No? I think not! My King is not like your King. He died for me, rose for me, lives eternally for me, and has given to me Heaven. This is why Jesus is my Lord. This is why I will worship Him to the end of my days. This is why nothing on earth will ever trump by love, fear, and obedience to Jesus.

 

And to the ones who may desire to test my metal, whether it be Nazi or Pharisee, or even the Devil himself, try me. Our Lord is strong, and is with us, and can never be defeated.

 

 Let us pray,

 

Dear Heaven Father, when the earthly and demonic forces attack us and our divine citizenship, give us the strength to stand firm in your Word, bolding proclaiming that we serve first as servants of the Lord. In your most holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

Genesis 32: 22-30 

Psalm 121 

2 Timothy 3:14- 4:5 

St. Luke 18: 1-8 

“Don’t Stop Believing” 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen. 

When I worked in a cancer ward in Pittsburgh there was one  man I visited every day. He was a very faithful person who  understood the fear of the Lord, but he had trouble with the  Gospel. His fear paralyzed him, and though he would ask me  often to pray for him, he himself never prayed. He once told me  about how he believed he did not deserve to go to Heaven and  how he had done horrible things in his life. He was so weighted  down by his own guilt that he wondered why God would ever listen to his prayers. It was better off that he punted the act of  prayer to someone nobler than he. His insistence was born out of  a desire to be heard by God hindered by his belief that God would not hear him. He looked up to the Lord God with reverent fear and  seeing the Son upon the cross his fear of retribution for his sins  overshadowed the blessed redemption of Christ. He looked up,  and saw no help. 

Additionally in college, I had seen so many people get so  swept up by the charismatic movement that they lifted up their  hands in praise as they worshiped this amazing God with a new  fervor of emotional highs. These people who were once agnostic  were made Christian through the power of loud music and  theatrics which confused their hearts and the brains as ramped up  endorphins disguised themselves as the Holy Spirit. Some 

eventually went on to be incredibly faithful Christians, but all too  often I saw these pleasure seekers crumble under the weight of  the world. For some, their faith was proven to be worthless as  they were put to the test through trials of fire. As the beating sun  pummeled them with reality and the veracity of evil attacked their  fragile conviction, the hell fire that Satan threatens Christians with  in this world burned what little elation they had and these young  Christian pups came out of the blazing furnace as not precious  gold but charcoal that disintegrates with a light puff of wind. When  they were in desperate need of help, instead of being made  strong in complete patience through faith, they caved to the world  and swiftly abandon faith. 

Both examples, though seemingly different, are more similar  than what meets the eye. The first is of a man who knows that he  deserves to go to Hell but knows not that the grace of Jesus  Christ overcomes all sin. The second is an example of those  whose faith fades the moment it is put to the test. What they both  lack is the peace of knowing that the Lord is our helper. What they  both lack is not faith per se, but high quality faith. The faith of the  first does not trust the complete forgiveness of sins which comes  from Jesus Christ. The faith of the second does not trust the rock  of Christ of which they stand on. Both have a picture of what the  Catholic faith looks like, but their pictures are but a fragment of  what true trust in the Lord looks like. 

When the Lord extents His hand to these two examples  asking, “Do you trust me?” both, though they do want to trust, do  not grab on to the hand. 

There will always be opportunity to test our faith. We  shouldn’t will it, nor does God the Father will it, but that does not  mean that it doesn’t happen. So long as there is sin and the world  is subject to Satan, then our faith will be tested. Sometimes it’s  our own demons that haunt us at night and causes our hearts to  ache in agony. Sometimes it’s our friends and family, used by the  Devil, who cause us to squirm as our own faith in the Lord above  is being used against us. Sometimes we tempt ourselves,  sometimes it’s the world, and sometimes it’s the Devil himself.  Either way, there will be plenty of opportunity to test our faith. 

Now, when you are thrust into the furnace and the heat is  kicked up to new heights what then will happen? Will the fire to  you be purifying or will it be putrid? Will you come out with all  impurities burned out or will you come out of the flames burnt?  Will you overcome the Devil or will you wither away? The  difference between the outcomes start with one question. Did you  lift up your eyes to the Lord for help? 

Know this, the Lord your God is a present help. He does  indeed listen to your prayers. And He desires only the best for  you. The Father does not want to see His children in pain; in fact  it troubles Him greatly to see us suffer. Though there is a Hell that  does not mean He desire us to go to Hell; no, for He has always  desired us to live eternally without sin. So if you in faith look up to  the Lord for help will he tarry? 

When in agony, lift up your eyes for help, and know this, the  Lord is there. The Lord who made heaven and earth is indeed  your help and nothing can prevent the Lord from protecting and 

preserving you if you allow Him to. If you place your faith in He  who is so powerful that He is the creator of everything, do you  think anything would have the ability to block His aid? And if you  look to the Lord for help in a righteous manner do you think the  Lord will turn a blind eye? 

God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will not turn a blind eye  nor will anything get in His way. What does Scripture say? Ask  and it shall be given? So too when help is needed, do not give up  the faith but turn to the Lord for help. 

Yet again, I stress that there will be many opportunities to  test out your faith. Therefore, it is of the upmost importance that  you continue to have faith. Do not loosen your grip on the Lord,  for if you do the Devil will surely snatch you away. Persevere and  hold in your heart all of Scripture. Do all that the Lord commanded  of you, you who are already saved, and swiftly ask for forgiveness  and help when you falter. Use the Word of God and all the  training you have received in righteousness to stiffen your spines  and grow in wisdom. When evil rears its ugly head, face it without  fear for the Lord your God, Jesus Christ, is the Lord of Lords and  has already vanquished the gates of Hell. 

The Devil is like a shadowy lion who lurks in the darkness  always hungry, never satisfied; he is constantly circling you in the  outer darkness waiting to pounce. However, the Word of God  pains him and causes him to take a step back. When you pray,  invoking the name of God, the Devil suffers. He wants you to rely  on your own abilities, because against his demonic might, you are  powerless. You rely on yourself and the light of God withers away 

as the darkness creeps closer to you. As faith in God becomes  absent, the ears become itchy, and the teeth of the lion get ever  closer. Eventually, he gets you, and the faith you once had  vanishes. The Devil has won yet another victim. 

However, even the tiniest spark terrifies the Devil. One small  flame of hope buffets the lion with fear as the might of the Lord  reigns supreme. He who goes to church regularly, who takes  communion as often as he or she can, who prays daily, whose  faith endures long suffering while being spiritually sober-minded – the Devil will never overcome. Not on account of the works done  by these, but because of the patient faith they have which is  strengthened by prayer, communion, and worship. He who does  not go to church, the devilish lion creeps closer. He who does not  take in the Body and Blood of our Savior, the devilish lion creeps  closer. He who does not pray, invoking the Name of the Lord  which Satan fears above all else, the devilish lion creeps closer.  But He whose faith is strengthened in prayer, worship, and  communion, the Devil will never overcome. 

So do not turn your hearts away from the Lord. Do not allow  itchy ears to guide you to politically-correct-but-oh-so-biblically incorrect preachers. Do not be guided by passion. Let myths  remain myths. Suffer the consequences of being a religiously  conservative Christian, knowing that no amount of suffering will  ever separate you from God. Let the Word guide your tongue as  you courageously preach the Good News most especially to  those who will hate you for doing such. Always be ready to have  your faith be put to the test. Be willing to reprove, rebuke, and 

exhort those who sin, for their own sake. Do all of this and know  that the Lord will be with you during every step. 

And if it seems that any one of these steps might sound  difficult don’t turn tail and run away. It’s going to be okay. Do not  lose heart; maintain your trust in Jesus and pray. Pray for help.  Pray for courage. Pray for healing. Pray for discipline. Pray for  forgiveness. Pray for the words that your stumbling tongue has trouble uttering. Pray that no amount of political manipulation will  cause you to believe in unbiblical lunacy. Pray for patience. Pray  for an at ease mind that never seeks worldly pleasure. Pray for  stability. Pray. 

And if you believe you are not being heard, do you stop  praying? No, keep praying. Keep asking for help. You may not get  what you want, but that does not mean that the Lord God does  not want to help you. Regardless, still pray. For the Lord does  hear you and will give justice speedily. 

Let us pray. 

 

Heavenly Father, we know that in our weakness we cannot  overcome the Devil, so when he attacks us we pray for your  defense. Shine your face upon us when we lift our eyes in agony  so that we don’t need to search long for help. Strengthen our trust  in you so that we look toward you for help. And remind us that  though we can’t overcome the Devil, you have already overcome  him. In your most holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy  Spirit. Amen.

Deuteronomy 10: 12-22  

Psalm 34 2  

Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18  

St. Luke 18: 9-14  

“On Death Row”  

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.  

With Veterans Day just a couple of days ago, this sermon might feel a little  odd because it connects more with Memorial Day. To be more accurate,  this sermon connects more with martyrdom. You see, the second lesson is  not a letter from Timothy, but rather to Timothy from Paul, and this letter is  one of his last letters, if not the last letter, before his execution. During  those days most of the disciples and apostles suffered the similar fate of  execution. You have Steven in Acts, you have St Peter, and you have St  Paul, to name a view. So when you read 2 Timothy, read it from the lens of  a man who knows he is about to die.  

Paul has come a long way since the day he orchestrated the death of  Steven in Acts. The first Christ martyr was killed at the hands of then Saul  now Paul. If there was anything Paul should have been ashamed of, it was  the life he lived before Christ. He was the chief of sinners and the worst of  persecutors at the time. Yet through the glory and mercy of Christ who  presented himself to Saul, he was saved and renamed Paul. Since the  fateful day when Christ blinded Paul, he had been on a very long journey.  After he professed his faith in the one and only true Savior, he went out into  the world no longer the worst of persecutors but instead one of the most  influential of God’s chosen.  

It’s interesting that the fate Paul once dealt before he was saved had gone  around and circled back to him as faced a similar fate. Paul in his youth  was on a hell bent mission to execute the Jews who had joined the  “heretical Jewish cult,” known as Christianity. Paul in his elder years was to  be executed for just that. So before he departed this world for the crime of  being a Christian, he had a few last words he wished to pass on to his  protégé Timothy. 

“I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”  Paul had been put to the test multiple times on account of his new found  faith. Those he once persecuted had trouble accepting him as one of their  own, an enemy turned brother. Those he once worked with saw him as a  traitor. The governments of the world targeted him multiple times, and  continue to do so even today. Even the sins that haunted him from his past  test him. Being a Christian is not an easy thing, for some every day brings  a new trial. Yet Paul did not give in and was capable of keeping his faith to  the end of this treacherous journey called life.  

“Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the  Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me  but also to all who have loved his appearing.” No matter what life threw at  him, his eyes remained on Jesus Christ his Savior; for he knew that Christ  had prepared for him a place in Heaven, not on account of his actions, but  solely because he had faith in Jesus Christ. Upon his death, Paul was  awarded by the Lord a righteous crown. A wreath of 3 salvation was placed  upon Paul’s head as he walked through the gates of Heaven. This crown is  not for Paul alone, but for all whose faith in Christ remains to the very end.  For all who die with faith will be crowned in Jesus’ righteousness, washed  forevermore from sin’s demise, and be made kings and queens. Here on  earth, as Christians, we have a mighty inheritance promised to us on  account of our adoption through baptism into the holy family of God. When  we die the inheritance, which is a crown of glory and Heaven itself, it is  finally presented to us. Paul knew this, thus he had no fear in his  destination as he walked like a quiet lamb to his death.  

“At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May  it not be charged against them!” Humans are weak and will fail you,  sometimes when you are in the most need for help. If you rely on humanity  to meet your needs and to provide a steady hand do not be disappointed  when even your brother turns against you. Christians are still sinners, and  though we should not sin against each other, we still do. Paul suffered a  similar fate where no Christian rose to defend Paul upon his imprisonment.  And when he was to be executed, what human help was there? If you trust  in humanity, you will be sorely disappointed. Paul did not trust humanity.  He who was the chief of sinners knew the wickedness in the human heart. 

Thus, instead of getting mad at his fellow Christians who abandoned him,  he asked the Lord to be merciful to them. Similar to how Christ said upon  the cross, “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  

“But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the  message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I  was rescued from the lion’s mouth.” Paul did not trust humanity, but he  didn’t need to. He trusted in the most powerful being, our Creator, God the  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God never goes back on His word. He fulfills  all His promises. There is no need to doubt the grace and mercy and  providence of God. Therefore, why should Paul trust in humanity when all  he needed was God? When humanity abandoned Paul, God stood with  him. When Christians didn’t provide words of courage, God strengthened  Paul so that he might face his death knowing that there is a better reward in  Heaven. When many told him to be quiet around the non-Christians lest  they might get angry, God guided Paul towards the Gentiles and fearlessly  proclaimed the Good News to them at the cost of his own life. For in the  end, proclaiming the Gospel is more important and rewarding than living  even one day longer. By trusting in God to the point of death, Paul was  rescued from the lion’s mouth which holds in its belly eternal death. 

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His  heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” And with  a final greeting that proceeds after this verse ends the final message from  Paul before he died a martyr for Christ.  

Paul was on Death Row for the crime of being a Christian. He preached the  Good News, without fear of who he was preaching to and where he was  preaching. There was never a time to not preach, there was never a person  who shouldn’t receive the Gospel. This cost Paul his life, but rather we  obey God and suffer execution than it is to obey Man and suffer eternal  damnation. Therefore, on account of his insistence to obey the Great  Commission commanded to him by God the Son, he was placed on Death  Row. 

Yet behind the words of this letter, you can almost feel another message.  Paul is unashamed. He is not ashamed of being executed. He is 

unashamed of his faith and his insistence to preach the Good News which  ultimately is the reason why he is being executed. To be ashamed is to  allow the Devil to win. To feel shame would be to Paul an act of extreme  selfishness as his own reputation would become more important than  God’s. If there is any shame within Paul it would be over his prior life as a  persecutor of Christians. However, to feel shame for becoming a Christian  Martyr never ends well for that is exactly what the Devil wants. He wants  you to choose life over Christ.  

Paul was unashamed and was glad that through every trial God protected  him and strengthened him spiritually against the fiery darts of the Devil. No  matter what Paul faced, God strengthened him so that at the end of each  leg of the race Paul ran victorious, still a Christian whose faith was  unquestionably sound. Know this, if we hope to finish the race of life with  our faith intact then we most certainly need the help of God. The Devil will  throw many difficult things at you. Your brother might betray you and try to  get you thrown indefinitely in jail for being a Christian. Your friends might  abandon you. Execution might become your partner. Without the strength  of God on our side, then we will abandon our faith. So you who are close to  death knocking on your door, but have remained a Christian through thick  and thin, know this, that is on account of God who has stood by your side,  has strengthened you, and has rescued you from the lion’s mouth.  

Do not be ashamed of the path God has chosen for you. Be like Paul. He  knew that the end was coming, so instead of feeling self-pity he turned to  those younger than him and passed the torch. Paul may have finished the  

race, but that did not mean that the race had ended. It still goes on. Paul  looked not at his own demise, but on those who were left behind. Paul is  basically telling Timothy it is your turn to carry the torch. Have faith in Jesus  Christ your Savior, who already died on the cross for your sake, and so  long as you do that we will be reunited. This life is nothing compared to the  eternal happiness we will share in Heaven through Jesus Christ.  

So what are some of the things you can do? When death comes, gracefully  receive it. However, before this happens encourage faith in Jesus Christ to  others. Teach about His benevolence. Pray for the Spirit to give generously 

courage and divine love. And let it be known that you are not ashamed of  your faith.  

 

Let us pray, Dear Heavenly Father, no matter what the Devil throws at us,  give us the courage and kindness to overcome all his obstacles and to  willingly walk towards death as firm believers in your generous saving  grace. In your most heavenly name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen

Jeremiah 31: 31-34 

Psalm 46 

Romans 3: 19-28 

St. John 8: 31-38 

“Slaves No More!” 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen. 

One of the hardest pills for loving Christians to swallow is the  unfortunate reality of our complete and total ineptitude to do  anything that is remotely good on account of our own human  abilities. It’s hard because many do not want to fathom that their  brother or mother or friend is an evil person totally enslaved to sin  simply because they are not a Christian. We would like to believe  that our pagan neighbors are capable of loving God, of acting out  of love, of praying to the Triune God, of doing one act that is not  subject to sin. God tells us that the opposite is unfortunately the  truth. No one is born capable of loving or trusting God, but rather  sin compels us to hate God. No one is born capable of loving they  neighbor, but is rather taught by the world a twisted form of love  that is completely infected with sin. No one is born capable of  conducting one single thought, word, or deed that is void of sin,  but rather due to original sin all are born slaves to sin. That is the  harsh reality we live with; that on account of our own fallen human  nature we who are sinners cannot hope to rely on our own  abilities to do that which is void of sin. 

This naturally leads to the other hard pill to swallow, and that  is all are born already damned to Hell. It’s easy for Christians to  acknowledge there is a Hell, but it’s hard for loving Christians to  fathom that there is anyone in Hell. I’ve heard some say that there 

is a Hell, but it’s empty. Such a statement can be translated as  such: you don’t need Christ in your life because he already  forgave you of all your sins. This is a much more horrifying  statement and will naturally lead to a decline in Christianity. No,  we need Christ in our life because we are born already with a  one-way ticket to Hell and no hope of entering Heaven on account  of our own fallen human abilities. 

Again, these are hard pills to swallow, but we need to  acknowledge them for the sake of saving as many people as  possible. If left to our own devices we would try and work  ourselves into Heaven which always lead to failure. As sinners,  we want to think we can save ourselves, that we don’t need the  help of God, but naturally all that ever leads towards is  abandoning God. We cannot save ourselves. And if we can  stomach the fact that we are born sinners who are slaves to sin  and are wholly incapable of doing anything within our own power  to obtain salvation then no longer will we turn to ourselves and the  world for salvation but instead towards God. 

So often do we want to take matters into our own hands,  even Christians. Look no farther than the Church of Rome during  the Reformation. They taught that salvation came from observing  the Law. They also taught that the more good things you do and  the more money is given to the Church the more likely you will go  into Heaven. The Church of Rome was trying to take matter into  their own hands and teach that one can save themselves. Sadly,  all that accomplished was enslavement to works. They became  distraught over their own salvation, never know for certain if they  would enter Heaven, and thus abandoned faith. No longer did 

they relied on God for salvation, but only in their own fallen  human abilities. They were slaves to sin, and instead of being set  free through faith, they only doubled their chains. 

The Old Adam within us is so terrified of reality; of the fact  that we cannot save ourselves. Sin does not want to recognize  sin. Now if we but just confess that we don’t got this and turn to  the Lord God for help, allowing the Holy Spirit to enter us,  

allowing Jesus to take that one way ticket to Hell from us, then  you are saved. If you release your insistence on trying to save  yourself and turn to Jesus who already died on the cross for you,  then know this, you are free, no longer a slave to sin, but a  freeman; free not on account of your works or merit, but only on  account of grace. 

This is the lesson Luther was trying to teach the Church and  the lesson Jesus was trying to teach the Jews. You are slave to  sin, but through faith in Jesus Christ you are set free from the  burdens of trying to save yourself. 

Let me ask you this, which would you rather be judged by:  the Law or the Gospel? In other words, would you rather merit  salvation on account of your actions which without the help of  God are totally subject to sin or would you rather merit salvation  on account of the forgiveness of sins that comes graciously from  Christ who died on the cross to take away that which was  preventing you from entering heaven? Which sounds easier and  more blissful?

If you try and save yourself via the Law, you will fail; for the  Law does not justify nor save, but rather shows you what a just  and saved life looks like. The Law shows you how you ought to  act, and simply that. If you want to know what a sinless life looks  like then look at the Law and no further, but if you want to know  how to be justified you need to look beyond the Law. The problem  is the Law does not justify, and as sinners if we wish to enter  heaven we need justification. If you turn to the Law for  justification, you will not get it. Instead, the Law will act as a curse  as it points out to you your complete inability to truly follow the  Law. Under the Law, your only reward is Hell. 

On the flip side, if instead of saving yourself you turn towards  the gracious gift of Christ, having faith in His redemption which  came only on account of Him willingly sacrificing Himself so as to  take on all of our sin, then your reward is indeed Heaven. By  realizing your enslavement to sin, you can truly turn towards the  only means of freedom and Salvation which is through faith alone. 

Now I can imagine many Americans acting like the Jews  whom Jesus is currently speaking to in today’s Gospel. What do  you mean I’ll become free through you? I’m an American, a  citizen of the freest country on Earth, and I have never been  enslaved to anyone. Yes, physically you have never been a slave,  and it is true you are an American, but truly, truly, I say to you,  everyone, including yourself, who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The similarity between these Jews and pagan Americans is that  both have yet to recognize that they are slaves to their own  sinfulness. But once they swallow this hard pill, the next step  becomes incredibly easy. As they turn away from vain attempts of 

self-gratification and self-earned meritocracy they will start to look  outwardly. Once they realize that it is humanly impossible to  achieve Salvation then they will search for a higher power that  already paid the price. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, turning  towards Jesus and His free gift of eternal freedom becomes one  of the easiest things on earth. 

The goal of Lutherans is to provide hope to the world  through the name of Jesus Christ. We do not damn people to  Hell, but rather expose to them that they are already damned, for  if you do not believe you are damned why in the world would you  want to be saved? And once we expose they are already damned  and incapable through their own power to save themselves, we  swiftly turn to Christ for our goal is to not keep them in despair but  rather show them that hope is already here. Whereas there is  nothing they can do to save themselves, they don’t have to do  anything. For when Christ died on that cross He took on all our  sins and asks that you but allow Him to sanctify you. Therefore  Christ has already done everything; the battle has already been  won! There is no waiting list, therefore if you turn in faith toward  your Savior then right then and there you are saved. 

Slaves no more. Now is that not the truth? That’s all Luther  wanted for the Church at large, to tell his fellow Christians that  they are no longer slaves to sin but are already set free through  faith. He wanted to tell them that there is no longer any reason to  despair but to lift their hand and rejoice for the Son of God has  already saved them and that the promise of heaven is theirs no  on account of their own merit but only on account of Christ. He  wanted to light a spark of joy in the hearts of man, to bring life in 

the eyes of the believer so that no longer will Christians walk to  Church with dead eyes doing this or that to obtain salvation, but  instead come to Church and obey the Law because they know  that they are already saved. Now, for those who aren’t Christians,  we want them to come to Church because they are slaves to sin.  But as for Christians, we want them to continue to come to  Church with elation because no longer are they slaves but truly  free and only free wholly on account of the sacrificial propitiation  of Christ. 

Now as I provide this sermon, talking about Martin Luther,  freedom through faith, and America, I noticed that there is a  famous speech provided by a famous American pastor that aligns  quite well with what I’m imploring. Sadly the history books will like  to exclude the fact that he is indeed a pastor and too many  Americans, though inspired by this individual, have no clue that  he is a pastor; Reverent Martin Luther King Jr. Though not a  Lutheran, Pastor Martin knew his name sake and his ministry was  completely influenced by Martin Luther and the Reformation. He  drew inspiration from the Lutheran Reformation as he studied the  intent of his name sake, Martin Luther, who desired not to split the  Church but rather unify it, and unify it under freedom through faith.  The Reformation was an eye-opening event that exposed the  slavery under works. Martin Luther was trying to liberate his fellow  Christians by pointing them in faith towards Christ; preaching  loudly to the Masses, He already saved you! 

The ministry of Pastor Martin Luther King Jr took the same  trajectory. Though it is obvious that many of his speeches outside  the church was with regards to civil liberties, that does not mean 

that under each of his speeches undertones of spiritual freedom  was void. I mean, he was a conservative pastor, so of course  every one of his speeches will have religious undertones. But as I  preach the ending of his most famous publicly given sermon, I ask  that you listen closely to the connection between it and todays  Gospel and the Lutheran Reformation: 

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every  hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be  made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the  glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it  together. 

“This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with.  With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of  despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to  transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful  symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work  together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail  together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will  be free one day. 

“This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing  with new meaning: My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty,  of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims'  pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring. 

“And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.  And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New  Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New 

York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of  Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of  Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of  California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain  of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of  Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of  Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. 

“And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when  we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state  and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of  God's children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles,  Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in  the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last.  Thank God almighty, we are free at last.” (“I have a Dream”). 

Slaves no more, but free at last; not through the power of  man but wholly on account of Christ’s sacrificial grace. 

Let us pray, 

 

Dear God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, to you be  all glory and might for you alone are good and you alone are  capable of saving. Though we do not deserve it, you sent your  Son to die on the cross any ways to save us of our sins. You ask  nothing in return, but only that we allow Christ to save us. Give us  the humility to turn away from selfish salvation, and to humbly turn  towards your life giving presence. In your most holy name we  pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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