Category: Sermons

Sermon for October 2, 2022, LWML Sunday

Romans 8:31-39 (LWML Sunday—Rev. Dr. Ryan Peterson)

“For Us and With Us”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

October 2, 2022

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

The text chosen for LWML Sunday is Romans 8:31-39:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is something powerful and nearly sacred about holding someone else’s hand. Picture these scenarios in your mind: a new parent holding the tiny hand of their newborn son or daughter; a teacher holding the hand of a timid kindergarten student as they cross the parking lot; a brave teenager reaching out their hand to help someone who has fallen or been hurt in competition; a young but nervous couple holding hands for the first time on a date; an excited husband and wife standing before a pastor on their wedding day, hand in hand; an elderly but tired man holding the hand of his beloved wife of many decades; a family holding the hand of their loved one as he or she passes from this life to eternal life.

A family was vacationing in Northern Michigan. They decided, along with many other people, to enjoy the sand dunes. They laughed as they ran down them, but then looked back up. It was a LONG way up. But there was only one way to get there—start climbing. At the time, one of the daughters was trying her best to climb the sand dunes, but she needed help. Her dad grabbed onto her hand, and together they made it to the top. It was important not to let go. It was important to maintain a good grip. It was important to stay together.

Today is LWML Sunday. As you may be aware, “LWML” stands for “Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.” It is an auxiliary organization of our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and has members throughout North America. Truly, they are a missionary organization, sponsoring mission efforts reaching people around the world. They do that with their mites, small offerings that together help more people hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For decades, the LWML has given a strong witness to how God’s love holds each of us.

I’d like us to consider the two questions raised by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:31: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Notice the main person, the subject. It is God. Sometimes it is tempting to think that our success depends on our grip, our hold, or our heroism. It may be subtle, but it’s a slippery slope in our lives. Thoughts of self-dependence or “thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought” can open the door to believing we are the main people in God’s narrative. But the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives a different perspective. He makes it quite clear that God’s everlasting love holds us. When we are insufficient, He is all-sufficient.

Because Jesus is for us and with us, we have no fear of condemnation. Paul writes: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32). What things? Paul has just acknowledged that God has done everything for our salvation. Therefore, how should we respond? God IS for us. Since God is for us, how should we respond? Paul continues with these words: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:33-34).

Why did Jesus die? To pay for our sins! Why was he raised? Because the Father accepted this payment. In other words, the check has cleared! It didn’t bounce and it was not found to have insufficient funds. Jesus died so we might live.

And now, Jesus is interceding for us, fully engaged in the battle for us. I love the way that Corrie ten Boom said it: “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” Think about this personally, in your own life. Who of us in the past week has been perfect? On the other hand, how many of us have said things we would later regret? Or have you spoken to a loved one in a tone you wish you could take back? In these past couple of years, have you been divisive in any way? Yes, me too. Yes, to all of the above. The Law is convicting because the Law shows us exactly where we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The pit is pretty deep . . . but God’s love is deeper still. His arm is long and able to rescue us; indeed, His stretched-out arms on the cross of Calvary DID rescue us. Those same arms were made alive again as Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus is for us and with us. Even though Satan wants to accuse and condemn you, the action of Jesus is evident—and the result is clear: we have no fear of condemnation.

The important mission of the LWML shares this life-saving and life-giving truth with the world. For many decades, through the LWML, Gospel seeds have been sown. The Holy Spirit is at work! That leads us to the next major point in our text: Because Jesus is for us and with us, we have no fear of separation. In your mind picture again hands joined together. God will not let go of your hand! Paul continues in chapter 8: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

Notice what Paul does not say in this text. He does not say that life will be free of challenges and difficult circumstances. He does not say that distress or danger will not happen. In fact, he writes in great detail elsewhere (including 2 Corinthians) about his own experience in facing these challenges.

We know this from our own experiences as well. Each of us could make a list of our own struggles of daily living. What would your list look like? What would you include? Who would you include? In many ways, you might feel like so much is stacked against you right now. But God declares you righteous and loved in Jesus (Romans 8:33, 39). Our assurance comes from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Our Lutheran Women in Mission have served many people for many years, whose lives seem out of control. But God is always in control, and by His Holy Spirit, has chosen to use them and all of us to serve others in love. God is love.

With no fear of condemnation or separation, we come to our third point: Because Jesus is for us and with us, we have certainty of victory. That victory is made yours personally through the gift of baptism. St. Paul says in Romans 6:4: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”Baptism equals victory: victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil. We are more than conquerors; we are super-victorious! As the hymn “A Mighty Fortress” says this: “With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is, Of Sabaoth Lord, And there’s none other God; He holds the field forever” (LSB 656, v. 2).

Our victory is not secure because of our hold on Christ, but by His hold on us. We are more than conquerors because He holds tightly to us. Therefore, we may live each day, including today, confidently trusting in Jesus. As a baptized child of God, remain in His Word. Be reminded of your identity as a victorious one in Christ. Rely on His grace. And respond to His call. Like Isaiah the prophet, may we enthusiastically say: “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8b).

Lutheran Women in Mission, thank you for your hearts and hands that have shared the Gospel with many around the world. Thank you for responding to the call of Jesus. Thank you for your example and encouragement to each of us. May our God continue to hold us in His love, the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Sermon for September 25, 2022, Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Timothy 6:6-10 (Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

“We Find Our Contentment in Christ”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

September 25, 2022

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our journey through 1 Timothy concludes this week as we give our attention to chapter 6. But before we jump into the final chapter of Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, you might be wondering, what about chapters three, four, and five? Well, those who set up the lectionary readings moved us through the book very quickly. But for some context, in chapter three Paul tells Timothy what God’s qualifications are for pastors and church elders. In chapter four, Timothy is warned that “in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:1–3 ESV). In light of this, Paul encourages Timothy to devote himself to “the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (4:13). Finally, chapter five gives instructions for the Church—honor widows and care for them, support your pastor in Christ, and beginning in chapter six, let slaves honor their masters so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled (6:1).

This brings us, then, to these words in our Epistle text: “But godliness with contentment is a great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and neither can we take anything out of it, but having food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all the evils, which some, by striving for it, have wandered from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.” What does God have in store for us as we unpack these words? Let me begin to answer that question by directing you to Martin Luther’s Large Catechism on the Fourth Petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

“Here, now, we consider the poor breadbasket, the necessities of our body and of the temporal life. It is a brief and simple word, but it has a very wide scope. For when you mention and pray for daily bread, you pray for everything that is necessary in order to have and enjoy daily bread. On the other hand, you also pray against everything that interferes with it. Therefore, you must open wide and extend your thoughts not only to the oven or the flour bin, but also to the distant field and the entire land, which bears and brings to us daily bread and every sort of nourishment. For if God did not cause food to grow and He did not bless and preserve it in the field, we could never take bread from the oven or have any to set upon the table. To sum things up, this petition includes everything that belongs to our entire life in the world, for we need daily bread because of life alone.”[1]

“Give us this day our daily bread.” “Lord, give us everything that we need for this body and earthly life. And lead us to remember and give thanks to you for all of it.” When we pray this petition, we look to God for what we need each day so that we don’t worry about the future. We pray that we would find contentment with what we have received. Are you always content with what God has given to you for this life? Are you always satisfied with what you already have? In Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker is struggling. He says, “Something’s happening. I’m not the Jedi I should be. I want more. And I know I shouldn’t.” Whether intended or not, this fictional character demonstrates the very desires of our sinful nature. As a fallen creature, you and I are always inclined to want more than God has lavishly given to us. Adam and Eve in the garden were tempted to want more. They literally had it all, a pristine paradise with all their physical needs completely met and abundantly satisfied. God was present with them, in communion and harmony with them. But the lure of the serpent was for more: “You can be like God.” Not content to be God’s crown of creation, His beloved creatures, Adam and Eve wanted God’s position. They were not satisfied with what God had given them, full and abundant life with all their physical needs met without the back-breaking labors that we know now in our fallen state.

Like our first parents, and all who have come before us, we too lack contentment with what we have. We are not always satisfied with what God has given. We are not always content because we don’t have what we think we should. There has been a cultural shift over the decades and so we find ourselves in a society in which the norm is entitlement. Rather than humbly receiving from God that which He is more than pleased to give to us—everything we need to support this body and life—we wrongly believe that we deserve it. We’re owed it. We’re entitled to it. Like Anakin Skywalker, we’re not the people God wants us to be. We want more. More money, more pleasure, more popularity, more power over others, more glorification, more stuff. More, more, always more. In the end, we would each just as soon as be our own god. O how we are linked in our fallen condition to the sin of Adam and Eve!

The temptation led to the trap and the trap to the desires for more, to be like God, not satisfied with what God gives according to His grace and mercy. And those desires, that lack of contentment with our daily bread, “plunges” us into “ruin and destruction.” The ultimate of which is eternal death. Listen to God’s Word carefully here, “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all the evils, which some, by striving for it, have wandered from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.” Look at the graphic language the apostle uses here. Our lack of contentment, our desires for more, our lack of trust in God providing our daily bread is said to effect a “piercing” with many pains. Paul likens this to impalement, to being pierced through, perhaps with a spear. Those who become obsessed with gaining more and more of life’s riches as they chase after their dream of wealth encounter many pains—personal emotional torments of unfulfilled dreams of wealth, damaged reputations to the relationships destroyed when desire for wealth overrules brotherly love.

This is not God’s desire for people. He promises to give us daily bread, even as He invites us to pray for the things that we need to support this body and life. What do we enter the world with? Nothing. What do we take out of this world? Nothing. Everything for this world is gifted to us by God in this world. “Having food and clothing, we will be content with these.” But we’re not always content and satisfied. We want more of the things of the world and seek after it with all our might. Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh” (Job 1:21). Doesn’t this put life into an earthly perspective? Our desires and wants for more wealth, more things, more popularity, more contentment on this side of heaven ends at the grave. You can’t take it with you. As I watched clips from Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and burial, I was struck by the removal of the crown, the scepter, and the orb from her casket. These earthly symbols of Her Majesty were not hers to keep. They were removed and placed on the chapel altar. She no longer needs them. Rather, she has received through faith in Jesus a better crown, a heavenly one. For like all of us, our sister in Christ Elizabeth is an eternal person. We are eternal people. Human life begins in a temporal or earthly mode, but we are destined for eternity.

You and I can be content with our daily bread, all that we need to support this body and life, as we look forward to life forever with God in a new paradise, a new Eden. We set our hopes not on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). We are eternal people destined for eternal, heavenly things. God has promised to restore to us what was lost in the Fall into sin—a perfect life with Him forevermore.

“Godliness with contentment is a great gain,” the apostle writes. Godliness is not about acquiring better and more material things. It is an active life of faith, a living out of this faith in relationship to God, which finds contentment in Christ alone, no matter what our earthly circumstances might be. 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Your wealth is in the eternal life you have now through the very forgiveness of your sins. Your riches are in the forgiveness for your lack of contentment in what God freely gives. Your treasure is in the restoration of your relationship to Him as your Father in heaven and you as His dear child. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, endured being pierced through for you so that you might be rescued from the pains of sin and death. Jesus died your death, suffered your condemnation, and rose victorious from death and the grave so that you have eternal life in the very presence of the God who also provides your daily bread. Left to our sinful natures, we plunge ourselves into ruin and destruction. But Christ takes us and plunges us into Baptismal waters, washing us clean of our love of money, cleansing us from our senseless and harmful desires. He presents us to our heavenly Father spotless, wearing Jesus’ own righteousness like a robe. And it is this heavenly Father, through His Son, who invites us to pray to Him and ask as dear children ask their dear fathers, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

With faith in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, you and I are enabled to “keep [our lives] free from love of money, and be content with what [we] have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5 ESV). Like the apostle Paul, we are able to learn contentment in earthly things. Writing to the Philippian Christians, he said, “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11–13 ESV). Through the Gospel and the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, Jesus does strengthen you in faith so that you can be content with the great gifts God does give you every day. You can be satisfied with the basics, if need be, because you have Christ and the assurance that God is working for you according to His grace here and now even as He has a place prepared for you in His new creation, Eden restored.

Your heavenly Father’s mercies are new to you every morning. In Christ and through Christ, He received you as His dear children and provides for all your needs of body and soul. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, we find our contentment in Jesus, in the gifts of God that He gives us every day. In faith, you and I heartily acknowledge His merciful goodness, give thanks for all His benefits, and serve Him in willing obedience until that day with are with Him who is our God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


     [1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis: Concordia, 2005), 417.

Sermon for September 18, 2022, Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Timothy 2:1-7 (Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

“We Pray for All Because Jesus Died and Rose for All”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

September 18, 2022

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our journey through 1 Timothy continues this week as we give our attention to these verses from our Epistle reading:

1Therefore, I urge, first of all, to make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all people, 2for kings and all those who are in high position, in order that we might lead a peaceable and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and pleasing before our Savior God 4who wants all people to be saved and to come into the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God, and there is one mediator of God and people, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave Himself, the ransom for all, the testimony in its own time. 7For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle—I am telling the truth; I am not lying—a teacher of Gentiles in faith and truth.

          We ended our time together last week with the Good News—the saying is trustworthy and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Paul focused on himself as the “chief of sinners.” He wrote to Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” This Gospel assurance we received as sinners ourselves, the Good News that forgiveness and eternal life are indeed ours because Jesus became man and lived for us, died for us, and rose again for us.

          With Jesus Christ as the foundation of the rest of his letter, Paul writes to Timothy first about prayer. “Therefore, I urge, first of all, to make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all people, for kings and all those who are in high position.” As a pastor, Timothy had oversight of the worship life of the congregation. Part of the gathering on the first day of the week, in addition to the hearing of God’s Word, the preaching, and the administering the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the gathered people of God—the Church—were to pray.

Prayer is speaking to God in words and thoughts. Prayer is commanded by God; He wants His people to pray and has promised to hear us. St. Paul, then, by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, writes to Timothy and to the Church that the people of God are to make supplications (they are to ask God for things), prayers, intercessions (they are to pray for other people), as well as thanksgivings. For whom? “On behalf of all people, for kings and those who are in high position.” In other words, we “pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus, and for all people according to their needs.” If you have ever wondered why we most often begin the Prayer of the Church with those words, this is why. God our Father tenderly invites us to pray, not just for ourselves (although we are certainly to do that), but also for all people. The Prayer of the Church offers those petitions for which the people of God pray, “hear our prayer”—hear our prayer for the Church and her pastors and workers, for the government and leaders of our nation and the countries of the world, for those with special requests, for the sick, the suffering, and the dying, for the grieving. The Prayer of the Church is all-encompassing.

Now, let’s take a deeper look into our Epistle. In the movie Shrek, Shrek tells Donkey that ogres are like onions in that they have layers. God’s Word is like that too. As we look at why God’s people pray, it seems that the short answer is, because we are urged, even commanded, by God to pray. Peel back that layer with me and let’s think about why God would ask His people to do this. Paul writes in verse 1 that the people of God are to pray “on behalf of all people.” If we put a dot on the text there, to where should we connect that dot? Look at verse 4. Our Savior God “wants all people.” All people connects to all people. We pray for all people because our Savior God wants all people to be saved and to come into the knowledge of the truth. Prayer, then, is more than simply asking for, praying for, giving thanks for. Prayer is also part of the mission of the Church that all people hear the Good News about Jesus who came into the world to save sinners. Paul says that he was appointed for this mission as a preacher and apostle. And now Paul urges and encourages Timothy, the congregation at Ephesus, and the whole Christian church to take part in that mission through prayer.

The Church prays for all people because God wants all people to be saved. That salvation came through the work of the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself—the ransom for all [people]. It is because Jesus, God the Son made flesh in His incarnation, gave Himself in His perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection so that believers in Jesus (the Church) can pray to God and expect to be heard. The Church prays with faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because Christ has won forgiveness for our sins, we now stand in Christ’s righteousness and are able to present our petitions to God. It would be presumptuous for sinners to attempt to stand before God and ask Him for anything. Therefore, we owe it to Christ that we can approach God in prayer without fear of condemnation. We trust in the merits and mediation of Jesus that our prayers touch the heart of God. He is the ransom for us all.

But what does it mean that Jesus is the ransom for all people? Ransom is a word that reminds us of the ancient marketplace, particularly the slave market. In the Roman world, anyone could be a slave—conquered peoples, debtors, people who for any number of reasons would sell themselves into the condition of servitude. The ransom was the price paid to purchase a servant or slave from indenture or slavery. Jesus came into the world to save those in the chains of slavery to sin, death, and Satan—to save sinners. Jesus is the One who came to pay the price for securing the freedom of those enslaved by these enemies. And Jesus is also the price paid, the ransom required to secure our freedom.

On the cross, Jesus suffered the punishment for the sins of all people. On the cross, Jesus shed His holy, precious blood for the sins of all people. The price of forgiveness and freedom from sin, death, and the devil is the eternally valuable blood of Jesus Christ, the priceless perfection of His obedience in life and in death, the precious treasury of His merit on the cross. For you. For all people.

          Because your sins are forgiven, you have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1). Because you have been given saving faith in the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for you, by the power of the Holy Spirit you can offer your supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings to God and be assured that you are heard because of the righteousness of Christ put upon you. And because Jesus came into the world to save all people, to be the ransom price that frees all people from sin, Satan, and death by His death and resurrection, you and the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus pray for all people according to their needs.

          And what is a person’s greatest need? Food, shelter, clothing? They are important, but is not the greatest need for forgiveness and eternal life? Is not the most needful thing rescue from sin, death, and the power of the devil? That’s the very reason the Son of God became man and lived in the world in which all people live and sin. He came to be the world’s Savior. His perfect life, death, and resurrection have indeed paid the price to set the world free from its enslavement. And so it is in the name of Jesus, with faith in Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that you and I and the whole Church pray for all people. We pray for their physical needs. We pray for their emotional and mental needs. But we especially pray that all people might come to the knowledge of the truth that Jesus Christ is their Savior God and Lord. We pray for their salvation in Jesus Christ.

          All types of prayers, especially requests for salvation, are what we as Christians ask of our Savior God. He wants all people to be saved and His given His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the Savior of the world. We pray that all people might come to know Jesus Christ as Lord through the hearing of the Word as the Holy Spirit creates faith in Christ through that powerful Word. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2 ESV). Not only do we ask the Lord to send out workers, both church workers and laypeople alike, but we also pray for those who will hear the Gospel Word through them. As then we are urged, so let us pray:

          Almighty and gracious God, You want all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Magnify the power of the Gospel in the hearts of Your faithful people that Your Church may spread the good news of salvation. Protect, encourage, and bless all Christians as they proclaim the saving cross that Christ, being lifted up, may draw all people to Himself, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Sermon for September 11, 2022, Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Timothy 1:5-17 (Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

“Jesus Saves Sinners Like Me”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

September 11, 2022

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our text is the Epistle lesson from 1 Timothy 1:

5Now the goal of this commandment is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith, 6from which certain ones, losing their way, wandered into empty talk, 7wanting to be teachers of the law, but not understanding either the things that they were saying or about the things which they were confidently speaking. 8Now we know that the law is good if anyone uses it lawfully. 9Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the righteous, but for the lawless and the disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and the profane, for those who murder their father and mother, for murderers, 10for the sexually immoral, homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching 11according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. 12I am grateful to the One who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus, our Lord, because He has considered me faithful, appointing me for service, 13being formerly a blasphemer and persecutor and a violent man. But He has sown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief. 14But the grace of our Lord abounded greatly with faith and love that is in Christ Jesus. 15The saying is trustworthy and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16But I received mercy for this reason: so that in me, the foremost, Christ Jesus might display His complete patience as an example to those who were about to believe on Him for eternal life. 17Now to the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, God alone, be honor and glory into the ages of ages. Amen.

          For the next several Sundays the Epistle readings take us through Paul’s first letter to Timothy. These Epistle lessons will serve as the sermon texts as we walk together through this pastoral epistle. The pastoral epistles are Paul’s two letters to Timothy and his letter to Titus. As you might guess, they are called “pastoral” epistles / letters, because they are written to two pastors—Timothy and Titus. There were no schools like our seminaries, so the apostle Paul mentored these men, teaching and encouraging them as pastors of God’s people. Our focus, then, will be on Timothy.

          What do we know about Timothy? Timothy was from Lystra in modern Turkey. He was the son of a Gentile father and a Christian mother named Eunice. It was in Lystra that Paul met Timothy. Timothy then joined Paul as his traveling companion and eventually, Paul’s trusted assistant. By the time of our text, Timothy was a pastor in the city of Ephesus, on the west coast of Turkey. It was while pastor there that Paul wrote this letter to give Timothy counsel and direction.

          On his third missionary journey, Paul had built up a strong Christian congregation in Ephesus. But the apostle knew that Satan would soon try to lead those believers away from the truth by sending false teachers into their midst (Acts 20:29–30). When Timothy became pastor of that church, he discovered that Paul’s prophecy had come true. Some men in Ephesus were actually teaching other doctrines, matters that were contrary to the truths Paul had taught. These people were indeed using the Bible, but they employed it in the wrong way. Some read into the Scriptures things that were not there. They invented myths and legendary stories about the Old Testament saints, and they attached great importance to the genealogies, or lists of names, raising all kinds of useless questions about them. Others claimed that they were teaching the true meaning and use of the Law, but they misunderstood its purpose and wasted their time with worthless disputes after the manner of the Jewish scribes. They taught that unless a person kept the Law he could not be saved, but they had not grasped that the Law demands love out of a pure heart and that only a believer in Jesus can do what the Law requires.

          Paul directed Timothy to the fact that God’s law is good. It has to be good because it was given by a good and just and holy God. But it is only good when it is used “lawfully” or in the way in which God intended it. Its primary use is to show people how far they have fallen from God’s righteousness and holiness. Paul writes to Timothy, “Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the righteous, but for the lawless and the disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and the profane.” Sure sounds like you and me at times, doesn’t it? So, the Law as we find it in God’s Commandments clearly illustrates that, because of our fallen, sin-filled natures, we are not always the people God intends us to be.

          Do you and I always listen to sound teaching? Do we always faithfully follow the Lord’s command to love Him first and always and to love our neighbors as ourselves? No, we don’t. We stumble and fall into temptation and sin. We fall short of God’s perfect righteousness as we fall prey to the desires of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. Maybe you look at Paul’s list here and say, “That isn’t me!” But look again. The Law is for “those who murder their father and mother, for murderers.” What was going on in Ephesus for Paul to write that?? But when we do not honor our father and mother and other authorities, do we not hurt and harm them in their bodies with our words and actions, breaking both the 4th and 5th Commandments? And the 6th Commandment means that we should lead “a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.” How often do we fail in this in our desires, thoughts, words, and actions? And what about being liars and perjurers? Eighth Commandment stuff right there as we are to “fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.” We don’t always shine well in that light, either.

          Maybe, just maybe, we could be like the apostle Paul. But wait, we are. Paul was by nature sinful and unclean, too. He was, by His own confession, “a blasphemer and persecutor and a violent man.” And what was given to Paul is what is given to you and me: the grace our Lord abounding greatly with the faith and love that is in Christ Jesus. I’m a sinner. You’re a sinner. Paul was a sinner. All of us, fallen short of the glory of God. But know this—The saying is trustworthy and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!

          Jesus—the name given to Him by the angel—means “Yahweh saves.” Gabriel said to Joseph, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21 ESV). Paul wrote to Titus, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4–7 ESV).

          The Church Father, St. Augustine, said, “There was no reason for Christ the Lord to come, except to save sinners.” God the Son, at His incarnation, took to Himself a true human body and soul, and entered into the realm in which we humans live and sin. In humanity’s place, this Jesus lived a perfect life according to all of God’s commandments—the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th; the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 9th, and 10th! All of God’s good Law Jesus fulfilled for you and me so that He might give to us His own righteousness. By the mercy and grace of God the Father, He looks upon us and sees the perfect rightness of Jesus and He says to you and me, “In my Son you are righteous and holy before Me.” By the mercy and grace of God the Father, Jesus suffered the punishment for our sins and died our death on the cross. Jesus shed His holy, precious blood to purchase our forgiveness for all our sins, for all the times we have fallen short of God’s perfect righteousness. By the mercy and grace of God the Father, Jesus is risen from the dead guaranteeing that death does not have the last word for Him or for us. We are given eternal life in body and soul and so we will rise from the dead on the Last Day when the Lord Jesus comes again in all His glory as the King of the ages.

          This Good News is the “beating heart” of all our hope and joy! God’s patience and mercy are at work in Christ Jesus to save us and all sinners from death and hell. At the cross and the empty tomb, we see the completion of God’s Promise to save. Through the gift of saving faith in Jesus Christ, we have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. As we sang and confessed in the sermon hymn, “Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me, Died that I might live on high, Lives that I might never die. As the branch is to the vine, I am His and He is mine.” Amen.

Sermon for September 4, 2022, Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 14:25-35 (Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

“The Cost”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

September 4, 2022

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our text is the Gospel Lesson recorded in Luke 14:

25Now large crowds accompanied Him, and He turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters and he himself as well, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, he cannot be my disciple. 28For who of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, if he has enough for completion? 29In order that, lest pacing a foundation and not being able to finish it, the onlooks begin to mock him, saying, 30 ‘This man began to build and was not able to complete it.’ 31Or which king, going out to meet another king in battle, does not first sit down to take counsel whether he is able with 10,000 to go to meet the one coming against him with 20,000? 32And if not, while he is still far away, sending a delegation, he asks for the things of peace. 33In this way, then, every one of you who does not renounce all he has cannot be my disciple. 34Therefore, salt is good. But if even the salt becomes tasteless, by what means shall it be seasoned? 35It is suitable neither for the earth nor for the rubbish heap. They will throw it out. The one who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

          Our sister in Christ, Janet Bastone, whose soul is with the Lord awaiting the day of the resurrection of her body, often remarked to me, “Old age ain’t for sissies.” She meant that getting older was hard work. It’s not for the weak and faint of heart. As we look at Jesus’ words to the crowds that journeyed with Him toward Jerusalem, we might come to the conclusion that Christianity is hard work, not for the weak and faint of heart. Jesus warns the crowds that are full of potential disciples that to follow Him involves great sacrifice. His parables make the point that those who would be followers of Jesus must count the cost of Christianity. They must realize what it involves.

          To begin with, Christianity is far more than joining an organization called the church the way you would join a club. Christianity is more than getting your name on a membership list. And it is more than being baptized, confirmed, married, and even buried under the care of the church. Christianity is more than just a “system of belief” where one subscribes to a body of doctrine and teachings. Christianity is a life that is lived 100% under the power and grace of God. As we learn from Jesus, who is true God and true Man, God doesn’t want a part of us. He doesn’t want half. He wants all—all we have! “Every one of you who does not renounce all he has cannot be my disciple.”

          And that sounds pretty difficult. Are you ready, willing, and able to say good-bye and to give up family and possessions, all that you have, in order that you might be 100% committed to following Christ and Christ alone while even carrying your own cross of burdens that being a follower of Christ places upon you? In a choice between Him and our family, we’re called upon to choose Him. This means that we are to love Jesus and His reign and rule more than family. That’s not easy. Do we dare let our desire for money or pleasure or “stuff” interfere with our relationship to the Lord Christ? We certainly have so many opportunities to face that decision, don’t we? And that’s not always easy. Our wants and desires, ever tainted by the sinful nature vies for our loyalty. Can’t be just have what we want and the relationships that we want and let the Lord have what’s left? No! Count the cost of discipleship! Realize what it involves. God demands our all.

          And what about Jesus’ words, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, he cannot be my disciple”? In common usage, a cross is any trouble that comes our way. But in the strict sense of the word a cross is the trouble that comes our way precisely because we are Jesus’ disciples, because we are Christians. Facing a choice between loving family more or loving Christ more is bearing a cross. Experiencing ridicule for Christian behavior is bearing a cross. Losing a job because of commitment to Christian principles is bearing a cross. Being nagged by the sharpened conscience that the Christian faith develops within you is bearing a cross. These, and others, are the crosses we must bear if we are Jesus’ disciples. And cross-bearing is not simple or easy.

Has our text destroyed a popular understanding about an “easy” Christianity that makes everything happy and rose-colored in this world? Has our text wiped out the idea that a Christian has a better life in this world, filled with less trouble and hardship that the non-Christian? You bet it has! Jesus wants us to have a firm grip on Christian reality. He wants us to truly count the cost and realize what being His disciple really involves. Being a disciple necessitates the readiness to give up anything if duty to God calls for it, whether that be a family member, a job, a friend, or a lifestyle that we enjoyed. Being a disciple demands that we bear the cross of trouble and suffering for the name of Jesus. That’s reality. That’s Christianity.

Sounds too difficult, doesn’t it? Reality can be that way—much harder than what we imagine. After all, this world isn’t too bad a place to live in. And with a little luck we could experience 70 or 80 years or more of it. Maybe we can enjoy this life to the full and heaven too! Then along comes Jesus and pricks the bubble of our imagination. Pop! Discouraged, we cry out, “Lord, I can’t build that tower. I can’t fight that enemy. They are too much for me. I’m helpless!” If that’s our feeling, good! Of course, we can’t build that tower and fight that enemy. That’s exactly the feeling our Lord wants to arouse in us: “Lord, I’m helpless. You take over from here.” God wants us to let Him take over through Jesus Christ. That is discipleship. That is what is meant by forsaking all that we have—giving up our self to God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Consider the demands that our salvation placed on Jesus Himself. He gave up all things for you and me. He gave up His very own perfect life into death so that in Baptism you and I could die to sin and rise with Jesus Christ into the new life of Christian discipleship. Jesus ascended into heaven so that He could give us the Holy Spirit to be with us and to conform our lives to Christ as we live as His disciples, loving Him above all things, being ready to give up all things for Jesus’ sake, even as we take up the crosses that we must face. Baptized, we are crucified to the world and to the world to us (Gal. 6:14). Through the Holy Spirit, working through our Baptism and God’s Word, we have all the resources necessary to remain faithful in our discipleship, bearing our crosses with patience and trust, until we are granted deliverance, peace, and health.

Being a Christian means being ready to give up everything if duty to God calls for it. It means bearing the cross and truly following Jesus in faith and in living the faith. We have been given the resources in Word and Sacrament, given the Holy Spirit, who enables us to count the cost of discipleship and then to go forth in the power of Christ living the life of discipleship. Dr. Dave Rueter, DCE, wrote, “Discipleship is simply our life as disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Discipleship is not some new application of the Law in the life of the believer. All believers are disciples and thus are all in a state of discipleship. Discipleship is not a special spiritual activity that we are responsible for. Rather, discipleship is the sanctifying work of God Himself in our lives. Discipleship is God calling us deeper and deeper into relationship with Him and with our fellow disciples. Discipleship is both the successes empowered by the Holy Spirit and the failures caused by sinful natures. Discipleship is our life in Christ. Discipleship is the Body of Christ in action.”[1]

And so, let us pray: 

Lord Jesus, make possible for us by grace what is impossible to us by nature. You know how little we can bear, and how quickly we become discouraged by a little adversity. We pray You, make every trial lovely and desirable to us for Your Name’s sake, since suffering and affliction for Your sake is so profitable to the health of our soul.[2] Amen.


     [1] https://www.youthesource.com/2013/11/14/a-lutheran-understanding-of-discipleship/

     [2] Thomas A Kempis. The Imitation of Christ. Penguin Classics, page 118.