Monthly Archives: May 2015

Feast of the Holy Trinity – John 3:1-17

Almost all Christian feast days have their beginning with an event in the Bible. The feast of the Holy Trinity does not have an event or an account in the Bible. You won’t find the phrase “Trinity” anywhere in Scripture. Yet God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit make their mark on almost every page of the Bible. Without the manifestation of His triune divine essence, the Divine Service is mere idolatry. On the other hand, salvation and eternal life is included for all mankind in the revealing of His essence.

That is what Christ taught Nicodemus. Jesus preaches to him about the person of the Holy Spirit, without Whom no one enters into eternal life. Jesus preaches to him about the person of the Son of God, for Whose sake alone it is possible that you have eternal life. Jesus preaches to him about the person of the Father, in Whose love the work of redemption of mankind has its origin. Jesus’ preaching is not about a mere incantation of a correct formula about God. His preaching makes you from a sinner into a child of God and brings you to eternal life.

The miracle of eternal life happens through a rebirth which the Holy Spirit works, for Christ’s sake alone, through believing in Christ.

“Rebirth” is often called “born again” in Scripture. There’s some baggage with that phrase “born again” that might make it sound like you did something to achieve it. Jesus uses the phrase “born from above”, a better way of putting it because this birth is out of your control. In fact, Jesus seals this truth with an oath: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God. Jesus uses a double “amen” here, meaning this is the only way to see the kingdom of God.

All must be born from above, not merely naughty people. Even the most pious and upright person must be born from above. Consider Nicodemus. He’s an Israelite, a Pharisee, a ruler, a teacher of Israel, does not deny recognized truth, had reverence for Christ and Who He is, recognized the works of God as such, sought out and heard Jesus as a teacher sent by God, and indeed was with God. Nevertheless, he must be born from above. Not even Nicodemus, not even you are left out of our Lord’s statement, unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Despite Nicodemus’ résumé, he still cannot deny the natural, fleshly disposition that is set against God. Saint Paul lays it out in Romans chapter eight: For what the flesh has in mind kills; what the spirit has in mind gives life and peace. This is so because the fleshly mind hates God. Yes, it refuses to subordinate itself to God’s Law because it cannot obey God’s Law. The divine demand of Christ displeases Nicodemus. He doesn’t understand it, and he’s a teacher of Israel. The true Teacher of Israel has Nicodemus in a teachable moment. You can’t crawl back into mother’s birth canal and come out again as an adult. Being born from above happens in a totally different way.

The Holy Spirit works rebirth. The Spirit is found by man in the external office of preaching the Gospel. This external office, the Holy Preaching Office, is where God rebirths man through external means of speaking the Word and applying water with the Word in Baptism. This external office has been set up through John the Baptist and continues today, for unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

What is more, being born from above is not trying to get the Old Adam to bring something good to the table. What comes from the Old Adam is of the flesh. The Holy Spirit works to produce a New Creation, where spiritual knowledge, trust in God’s grace, and a new spiritual life in God emerges. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Jesus compares the work of the Holy Spirit to the wind. Wind is not governed by the human will. You know there is wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. Being born from above by the Spirit is also unknown to man, even to a teacher of Israel. Yet it happens and it is real, for you have experienced it and seen it happen to others. The eyes of reason see nothing. The eyes of faith see it all, and rejoice.

No one has ever entered eternal life by his own righteousness. You have eternal life because of Jesus Christ, through Whom alone the gate of heaven is open. No one else can save us, because in all the world there is no other name given among mankind by which we must be saved. The name is Jesus Christ. He descended from heaven as the promised Savior. He, Whose nature is the eternal Son of God, took on our nature, came down in our misery, bore our sins, bore God’s wrath, yet remained holy in His own humanity, so that in Him your sinful humanity is raised into heaven.

Because Jesus now remains eternally both a natural son of Adam and the eternal Son of God, in His humanity our nature is purified, reconciled, united forever with God. His work of redemption on earth happened in inseparable fellowship with the Father in one divine being and authority on our behalf, in our stead, and for us.

Since the Holy Spirit alone works rebirth, based on the work of Christ alone, in that He implants you in Christ’s death and resurrection through baptism, then this is only done through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the bronze serpent lifted up in the wilderness to dying Israelites. Because our sins bring death, and because we don’t have a cure for it, help only comes in the Name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. The Son of Man is nailed to a cross, being in the form of God, yet also in the form of man. Jesus bore in Himself our sin, overcoming both sin and death, in order to save us from everlasting death.

As the Israelites gazed upon the bronze serpent and lived, so you come to eternal life when you hear in faith the wonderful counsel of God and consider Him as the One Who absorbed your sin. This work of God is appropriated in you through preaching, through your Baptism, and through the Lord’s Supper. When you hear His Word, rejoice in your Baptism, and dine at His altar, then the eternal redemption of Christ is your own redemption as well.

The revelation of the Triune God that happens to you is the only way you are saved. The Holy Spirit makes you a partaker of redemption through the Gifts Christ gives His Church. In these Gifts you receive what the Son of God as Son of Man has acquired for mankind. In these Gifts you are brought into eternal fellowship with the Father in heaven, Whose love has given the only-begotten Son, in Whom you, born from above, have eternal life in Him.

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The Feast of Pentecost – John 14:23-31

Pentecost is not the beginning of a new church season. Pentecost is the conclusion of Eastertide. It is the seal on the seal of Christ’s death for our sins. As the Resurrection is for our justification, so Pentecost is for sealing the promise of the sending of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Who teaches all things and brings to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

The Holy Spirit teaches and brings to remembrance in the Christian Church on earth. The Church, as we see it, is a marvel of the Holy Spirit. In spite of the tares among the wheat, in spite of false sons within her pale, the Holy Spirit continues to call people by the Gospel, enlighten them with His gifts, and sanctify and keep them in the one true faith.

The Christian Church on earth is the communion of saints. Another way to put it is to call the Church a community of saints. The Church is a community that is in communion, in fellowship, in a close relationship with her Savior, Jesus Christ. This relationship is more than public displays of affection between a man and a woman in love with each other. This relationship is in the world, yet not of the world.

Just before today’s Holy Gospel reading begins, Judas (not Judas Iscariot) asks Jesus, Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world? That’s where the Gospel reading picks up. Our Lord says, If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

If Jesus makes His home among us, why have church buildings? The Spirit could let Christ make His home individually among us. There would be no need for meeting together to receive Gospel gifts. We don’t need to see the Church. We know whoever hears Christ’s word is a Christian. That should be good enough for us. Yet this isn’t enough for our Lord. There’s a need to recognize the existence of the Church. There’s a need to see those who love Christ and keep His word.

Perhaps a better word is hearing rather than seeing. Martin Luther says “the church is a mouth-house, not a pen-house, for since Christ’s advent that Gospel is preached orally which before was hidden in written books. It is the way of the Gospel and of the New Testament that it is to be preached and discussed orally with a living voice…. Thus the apostles were not sent out until Christ came to his mouth-house, that is, until the time had come to preach orally and to bring the Gospel from dead writing and pen-work to the living voice and mouth.”

Where Christ is preached, the Church welcomes her Savior with open ears. She rests in His true presence in preaching, in water, in bread and wine, for the Word of Christ dwells richly in those things for His precious bride. The Church is a community that walks in frailty, walking under the cross she bears. She is a holy Church, loved by God. Jesus dwells only with sinners, for He declares sinners saints who are clothed in His innocence and righteousness. You can read all about it in Scripture. You also hear all about it where Jesus gives His gifts. This is why we do not forsake meeting together and instead sit at home having individual, personal Jesus experiences.

As the community of saints is holy by means of the Holy Spirit working in the gifts, so also the means and instruments through which the Holy Spirit gives the gifts are holy. Some Christians and those who despise Christ and His gifts think visible means are foolish. They expect direct divine miracles. They expect forgiveness to be given in a reasonable way. Baptism doesn’t make sense. The Lord’s Supper? I mean, come on! Who would think of Jesus’ Body and Blood truly present under bread and wine?

Human reason knows nothing about the way of God. The Word not only teaches what is hidden from all reason, but also gives what the world cannot give. The Word proclaimed gives the peace of the justified Christ. Jesus Himself says so in verse 27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

As we hear in the Pentecost account in Acts chapter two, these men were given the gift of the Spirit to speak both the word of condemnation and the word of peace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. They didn’t have the exact knowledge of everything about God. They had the Holy Spirit, Who brought to their remembrance what they were to speak concerning salvation. They spoke peace found in Jesus’ blood and righteousness. They spoke peace found in the empty tomb and the hope of our empty tombs on Judgment Day.

As they spoke then, so men still speak today. Men still speak in the Holy Spirit, proclaiming the favorable season of the Lord. The Word of Christ they speak, powered by the Holy Spirit, still changes the hearts of mankind. That’s all the Church has to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Our heavenly Father promises the Word sowed in the world will not return to Him void. This we believe, for Jesus promises If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Welcome home!

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Preaching Sets Men Free

Luther…deduces no ethic out of Christian doctrine, but plunges right into human life as it is and finds that all evil in the world comes from our own sin, from our slavery. We have no need of being fashioned into something or other: we only need to be set free, and then to take the place that is ours in our usual calling. Slavery simply means that we cannot be men, but when freed from the clutches of the Evil One we can be men again, we have reached the goal, we are redeemed. The Church of the first Christian centuries shared this conception of ethics, as is especially evident in the theology of Irenaeus. The fundamental view of the Early Church and of the Reformation on this may be briefly summarized in the expression, “the restored life of man”. If we think of the kerygma against its background of man’s slavery under the Devil this way of looking at things becomes natural: the message of Christ’s cross and resurrection restores the enslaved, that is, it gives man his natural life and thus redeems him. Subjective and objective preaching are alike in this that they have got to make something out of man’s life, either a “personality” or a “churchman” – to be just a man seems too tame. A characteristic action of Jesus as a healer, to which the Gospels bear witness, is his sending of those whom he had healed back home again to their everyday life. Christ looses the bonds of the prisoners and bids them return to that place in the life of the community to which they belong.

– Gustaf Wingren, “The Living Word”, pages 30-31

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The Hearers Are In the Passage Itself

When a word is spoken which involves nobody as a hearer, that is not automatically meaningless talk; indeed many examples of such words are to be found, not least in the history of the teaching ministry of the Church. But such is not the word of the Bible. There, both under the old covenant and the new, we unfailingly find a chosen people. To think of the bible, and not to think at the same time of Israel and the Church, is to omit from the Bible its character as message. The Bible does not acquire that character because we preach its Word, but already possesses it as a historic fact, and having that character it preaches. Our preaching, then, is just the Bible’s own preaching – the passage to be expounded already has the meaning – and as God’s people belong to the Bible’s preaching, so the congregation belongs to ours. Hearers do not just come on the scene in a secondary way when the sermon begins, but that group was already there from the very first moment that the thought of preaching entered the preacher’s mind. They were present in the sermon from the beginning not because the preacher felt a missionary interest in them, or had a personal knowledge of his public, but rather because they were there in the passage itself. The preacher, on first reading the prescribed passage, found there words, sentences, promises, admonitions belonging to God’s people, which had been the water of life to them long before he was born and which will still be the same when his day is done. Now the Word is here in order that by means of a particular sermon it may speak to this congregation which has come to listen and which thereby reveals itself as the congregation of the Word.

– Gustaf Wingren, “The Living Word”, page 26

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Seventh Sunday of Easter – John 15:26-16:4

It is our Savior Jesus Christ’s pleasure to let His work on earth continue through men. He does not set up the way to receive His forgiveness and life through cosmic vending machines. He does not work directly through some human beings as some Christians would have you believe. He works through stuff; stuff given out by men.

Jesus tells His disciples before His ascension to His Father, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. The witnesses do not stop with them. Wherever these men went, they appointed preachers of the Gospel to baptize, to preach the Gospel, to administer the Lord’s Supper, to forgive sins, and to teach the Scriptures. This we sing in the last stanza of “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice”: What I on earth have done and taught/Guide all your life and teaching;/So shall the kingdom’s work be wrought/And honored in your preaching./But watch lest foes with base alloy/The heavenly treasure should destroy/This final word I leave you.

The final words of Jesus are to teach and to watch. Teaching and watching are the duties of witnesses of the Lord Jesus. In today’s Gospel, the witnesses are the Twelve, now the Eleven, but not for long as Matthias will be added to the number to replace Judas Iscariot. These are men who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead, as Peter recalls in his sermon to Cornelius and his family in Acts chapter ten.

By virtue of your Baptism, you also are a witness of the Lord Jesus. Your specific witness may not be to preach the Gospel publicly, but Peter says in his first epistle, you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The Christian Church of the twenty-first century still wrestles with Scripture’s words about being witnesses. Yes, Jesus does set up an apostolic ministry to give His gifts. Yes, Jesus does call men to give out His gifts. One way the Church wrestles with our Lord’s mandate is shutting out those not called publicly to preach and teach, making them the “frozen chosen”, so to speak. Both of these positions are in error, even though you might think one is better than the other.

Consider the latter error. To say that a Christian layman is never to speak the Gospel in public but instead is to tell people to visit a pastor in order to hear the Gospel is wrong. Peter and John stand before the religious rulers in Acts chapter four and tell them, we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard. Their statement comes on the heels of being told by the religious authorities not to preach Christ crucified and resurrected. This is the sin of stifling the Holy Spirit. When someone tries to stifle the Spirit, the Church tends to grow in spite of every roadblock man sets in the way of the Gospel.

Jesus warns His disciples that their preaching would be stifled. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. There’s all sorts of talk about the beginnings of persecution of Christians in our country. Truth be told, it’s not true persecution. It’s not even the birth pangs of persecution. When people have their citizenship taken away for preaching Christ, or when people are put to death with the government’s implicit approval, then there is true persecution.

When the hour of persecution comes, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit is there for you. Jesus calls Him the Spirit of truth and the Helper. Both names are comforting, for they denote what the Spirit does for you. The Holy Spirit leads you into all truth. He does this by directing you back to the Scriptures, where God’s truth is written for your learning and for your consolation. He does this by directing you to the preaching of the Scriptures, where God’s truth is applied to your situations in life. I can’t be at your beck and call to answer your friends’ questions about what you believe and confess. You know what you believe because the Spirit has taught you. Open your lips and confess the truth. The Holy Spirit, working in the Word, will give you the words to speak to confess your faith before friends and foes.

The Holy Spirit is also your Helper. He brings consolation in every time of need. It would be nice to have Jesus right there next to you at all times. You do have Him and His help when the Holy Spirit directs you to Jesus in His gifts. Your help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. The Lord’s name is on you in your Baptism. The Lord’s forgiveness wetly covers you. The Lord’s forgiveness goes in your mouth under bread and wine in His Supper. The Lord’s name goes out those doors with you in the Benediction. You are His. He is yours. What you do, when you do it, and where you do it, that is to say, your vocations, is a witness of Jesus Christ.

Vocation is such a freeing thing. You don’t have to go out of your way to try to find a way to please God and to please your neighbor. You already have places to do what is given you to do. When you change a young child’s soiled diaper, you are a witness to Jesus Christ. When you do your homework, you are a witness to Jesus Christ. When you do the laundry, wash the dishes, or go about your job, you are a witness to Jesus Christ. There’s no need to put the adjective “Christian” before all these things. You are free to serve God and your neighbor simply by being who you are. Listen how Peter puts it in today’s Epistle: As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

We stand in between the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit. It seems like a lonely place to be, but it is far from lonely. Jesus remains with us, even as He is with His Father. He leaves us not without consolation, but sends the Spirit of truth Whom He promised from the Father. The Spirit of truth is the Helper Who helps us to receive what Jesus wins for us in His innocent suffering and death. You are not an orphan. The Holy Spirit keeps you close to Jesus. When you are close to Jesus, you are never alone.

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Keep Watch! Study! Attend to Reading!

This is the advice: Keep watch! Study! Attende lectioni (“Attend to reading” 1 Timothy 4:13)! Truly, you cannot read in Scripture too much; and what you do read you cannot read too well, and what you read well you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well. Experto crede Ruperto (“Take it from Rupert, who knows from experience.”). It is the devil, the world, and the flesh that are ranting and raging against us. Therefore, beloved lords and brothers, pastors and preachers, pray, read, study, and keep busy. Truly, at this evil, shameful time is not the season for loafing, snoring, or sleeping.

– Martin Luther, Preface to Johann Spangenberg’s Postils. Erlangen Edition 63:372-373. St. Louis Edition 14:397-398. Now found in The Christian Year of Grace, translated by Mr. Matthew Carver, p. 6. English Translation of the above quote from Mickey L. Mattox.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – John 16:23b-30

Revised from a sermon written in 2007.

What’s the first thing you do when you hear good or bad news? You might jump for joy. You might hug or kiss someone or, to be civil, pat someone on the back or shake their hand. You might cry. A hug could be appropriate. Even holding someone’s hand goes a long way in sympathy.

What happened to prayer? Many Christians don’t pray because they haven’t been taught. Some Christians won’t pray because they think God isn’t listening or God has better things to do. Others forget to pray because it’s the last thing on their minds. They might think the situation is so hopeless that God isn’t able to help.

Unbelievers put us to shame. You have seen a movie or TV show featuring someone who cries out: “If there is a god, help me!” When trouble comes, they lift up their voice in prayer to a god that might exist hoping their god might save them. Perhaps you have prayed that prayer.

You are not the first. Job says, I cry out to You [Lord], but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You regard me. But You have become cruel to me; with the strength of Your hand You oppose me. King Solomon laments [Lord,] You have covered Yourself with anger and pursued us; You have slain and not pitied.

You’ve dropped to your knees in prayer asking for something or praying on behalf of someone. If the Lord answered the way you want, you rejoice and keep asking Him. If He answers otherwise, you might wonder if the Lord has gone deaf. Forgetting or neglecting to pray makes the devil jump for joy. The devil is a scoundrel who sneaks up behind us to see if he can somehow divert us from prayer (Luther). There’s always something better to do; something more urgent than taking a few minutes to talk with the Lord.

You spend hours on the telephone. You type your fingers sore with e-mails. You get writer’s cramp writing letters. You remain in constant contact with friends and family. The Lord, however, gets a quick “Our Father” under your breath at bedtime if you don’t fall asleep first. The Lord gets a little face time in the liturgy and hymns if your mind doesn’t start to wander.

Then there is this excuse: God didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted. You act like a spoiled brat. You take your toys and go home in a huff. You quit praying like the abbot in a monastery who visits Lourdes expecting a miracle and instead finds a tourist trap.

Let me rephrase the question. When trouble comes, what is the first thing you are supposed to do? Do you recognize these words? Have we trials and temptations?/ Is there trouble anywhere?/ We should never be discouraged/ Take it to the Lord in prayer./ Can we find a friend so faithful/ Who will all our sorrows share?/ Jesus knows our every weakness/ Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Jesus said to His disciples: Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. What are you waiting for? PRAY! Pray to the Father in Jesus’ name! Don’t procrastinate! PRAY! Don’t be faithless! PRAY! Martin Luther says, next to preaching the Word, the greatest devotion Christians can render to God is to pray.

Apart from Christ and His atoning, redeeming work, God is no one’s Father (Nagel). He gives not according to your wants, but according to your needs. Maybe you don’t really know what you need. The heavenly Father does. When we pray for our salvation for Jesus’ sake, God has to give it to us. When we pray for earthly things, we tell our Father what we would like and are confident that He will give it to us. If it is for our good and He does not grant it when and how we like, we know that He gives us what is better for us (Nagel). The elephant is off our back because our Lord gives what we need, whether in plenty or in want.

Praying in Jesus’ name means to pray as if Jesus Himself is doing the praying. Just as faith is created in our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, so by the Word we are given guidance and example in the art of prayer (Nagel). If it’s been so long since last you prayed that you’ve forgotten how to pray, ask the Lord to teach you again how to pray. He will draw you into Scripture, where the Word will inform you how to pray. The word “inform” means more than brief you on the facts of prayer. Scripture will form your insides. Scripture will mold your words in line with God’s Word. You may not be King David or King Solomon or even Saint Paul, but your words will begin to sound like theirs once Scripture informs your prayers.

When you cry out for forgiveness, His Word says your sins are forgiven. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer before receiving Holy Communion, we pray the Table prayer that our Lord teaches us to pray. Here at His Altar He gives us more than daily bread. He gives us the Living Bread that comes down from heaven. He forgives our trespasses so we may forgive others their trespasses against us. He leads us not into temptation, but into His courts where He feeds us with His Body and gives us to drink of His Blood. The Lord’s Supper of forgiveness, life, and salvation delivers us from the evil one into the kingdom, power, and glory of the Kingdom not made by hands.

When you pray in the name of Jesus, Jesus prays your prayer too. He is your Great High Priest. The Helper sent from heaven will give you the words to pray. Our heavenly Father is all ears. He will answer in the way that is best for you. As the psalmist prays, so do you: O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

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The Installation of Rev. Eric J. Brown – John 21:15-17

A seminary classmate was installed at Trinity Lutheran Church, Herscher, IL on Sunday. He graciously asked me to preach. Here’s the sermon.

Feeding and tending. That’s what a shepherd of the Good Shepherd’s flock is given to do. Jesus repeats it three times to Simon Peter. He does so not only to restore him to the Kingdom of God, but also to show Peter what he will do after the Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost.

Jesus has already breathed on His disciples and given them authority to loose and bind sins. Now comes feeding and tending sheep. These are not two separate duties. Authority to forgive or bind sins and feeding lambs go together. Jesus sets up the Holy Preaching Office to do these holy things to His holy ones.

That is why Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession in Herscher, Illinois has extended a divine call to The Reverend Eric James Brown, previously of Zion Church in Lahoma, Oklahoma. Today the Reverend Mr. Brown will again say before God and His holy angels, as well as before our eyes and ears, what he will teach and confess. The names of those Symbolic Books perhaps sound foreign to your ears. Nevertheless, they are a correct exposition of Sacred Scripture. Your pastor is under orders to preach and teach nothing novel and foreign to both Scripture and those Symbolic Books bound together in the Book of Concord.

Those are the gimbals of the Gospel for your pastor and for this congregation. Gimbals are a pivoted support that allows the rotation of an object about a single axis. If you’ve seen a gyroscope or used a compass, you have seen gimbals at work. You need gimbals to keep a ship, whether on the ocean or in space, properly navigated. The gimbals of the Gospel show the boundaries of feeding sheep on the pure milk of the Gospel. Gospel gimbals direct the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord, to you.

Pastor Brown feeds the sheep of Trinity Church with the preached Word. Saint Paul makes it clear in Romans chapter ten that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? Jesus sets up the ministry of the Gospel by giving authority to men to proclaim His salvation. Jesus could have dropped this good news out of the sky or up through the soil. He instead uses men to give His forgiveness, life, and salvation.

It’s hard to believe because all mankind are sinners. The smart money is on Jesus not using sinners to preach and give the Gospel. Perhaps that is what keeps some people from the Christian faith. How can sinners give forgiveness to other sinners using what seem to be sinful things like the human voice, water, bread, and wine? Why doesn’t He just give us ecclesiastical vending machines or, better still, just directly give the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection directly to me without any middleman? Then we won’t need pastors, church buildings, and all the sinful muck that goes with these things.

Using men like Pastor Brown is the crazy, left-handed, upside-down, backward, completely out of left field thing that Jesus loves to do. Jesus dines with sinners. Jesus only dwells among sinners. He’s totally sinless, yet hangs around the better class of losers. He raises dead people. He calls a thing what it actually is and doesn’t give a tinker’s cuss what people think about it, especially if that thing gets in the way of giving the Gospel.

Jesus sets up the middlemen of the ministry of the Gospel to feed and tend sheep. Sheep are not smart animals. They need to be tended, lest they run free and are taken in by wolves. Pastor Brown, under orders from Jesus Christ, will protect you from the wolves of false teaching. Sometimes he will have to protect you from yourselves. You’ll want to follow every wind of doctrine. You’ll want to chase after what works and what is practical. You will not want to walk the lonely way of the Scriptures. Pastor Brown will be there to preach repentance toward the forgiveness of sins.

Pastor Brown will also be there on the most important days of a person’s life. He will apply water with the Word of God according to Christ’s mandate. He will forgive your sins, both corporately and individually, in the stead and by the command of Jesus Christ. He will put the Body and Blood of Christ in your mouth for the forgiveness of sins. He will teach Sacred Scripture in Bible studies. He will preach the blood and righteousness of Christ that covers you and cleanses you from all sin.

Your pastor gives gifts that Christ gives His Church. He has gimbals that keep him, and you, on a steady and sure course. He feeds and tends sheep. He loves sinners redeemed in Christ. He covets your prayers and support as he stands in Christ’s place among you to give these gifts. Today the Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. What’s stunning is that the Lord sees fit to use Pastor Brown to do it.

The Lord has comforted His people of Trinity Church in Herscher, Illinois with a new shepherd of the Good Shepherd’s flock. No wonder Isaiah bids us to break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. Let’s be bold and substitute “Herscher” for “Jerusalem” and the prophet’s words remains the same.

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