Category Archives: Sermon

Seventh Sunday after Trinity – Romans 6:19-23

I am indebted to my friend and brother-in-office William Cwirla for his thoughts on this text. Soli Deo Gloria!

When was the last time you sat down and read Saint Paul’s epistle to the Romans? You could probably read all sixteen chapters in 30-45 minutes. If you’d rather listen to it instead of reading it, it would be about the same time commitment. We hear Romans as an epistle reading in Divine Service several Sundays through the church year, but nothing beats reading this epistle from start to finish. Like the Gospels, Romans begs to be read three or four times a year.

Paul’s letter to Roman Christians might be considered the textbook for Christianity 101. Leading up to last week’s and this week’s reading from chapter six, here’s a short summary of what Paul says up to this point.

In chapters 1 and 2, Paul sets down the universal condemnation of humanity under God’s Law. Whether one is a Gentile or Jew makes no difference, all have sinned, all fall short of the glory of God. The Law cannot save you, nor can your works under the Law save you. The Law exists to shut every mouth before God, to silence every self-justification, and to make the whole world one, big sinner.

In the middle of chapter 3, Paul introduces us to the breakthrough of the Gospel, a righteousness before God that is not by what you do but by what Christ has done, namely His blood shed on a cross for you and for all humanity. For His sake, and for His sake alone, the sinner stands before a righteous God justified not by work but by faith. In fact, it is by faith in Christ, and not by works, that we uphold the Law, since Christ alone upholds the Law.

In chapter 4, Paul demonstrates this by the example of Abraham whom God declared to be righteous not by the works Abraham did but by his trust in the promise of God that through his yet to be born Seed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Abraham believed God, the Scripture says, and it was accounted to him as righteousness.

In chapter 5, Paul sets Christ alongside Adam. Jesus is the second Adam, the new head of humanity. As the first Adam brought Sin and Death into the world, so Christ, the second Adam, brings forgiveness, justification and life. As the first Adam embodied all of humanity and brought it into the Fall, so the second Adam, Christ, embodies all of humanity and brings it into life and salvation. Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.

Last week we heard Paul’s mighty words on your life in Christ in your baptism. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his…. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

This is the sum total of the Christian life in this life. Christ died for all, and in Him all died, because He is humanity’s second Adam, undoing the damage of humanity’s first Adam. But you hear what happens when the first Adam, our old Adam gets ahold of the good news that we are free of the condemnation of the law and stand justified before God for Christ’s sake alone covered by His blood. The old Adam says that I can sin as much as I want and God will forgive all those sins. There are Christians, even of the Lutheran variety, who seem to agree with that sentiment.

The apostle Paul says otherwise. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. It’s a dangerous thing to talk about slavery in both a negative and a positive way. We’ve been conditioned to despise slavery when we’re taught American History. The slavery question in our country was one of the factors that led to the Civil War in the mid-nineteenth century. Yet here Saint Paul calls us slaves of God. What do we make of that statement?

We make something totally different than what we think about when we hear the word “slave”. Once you were a slave to sin. Outside of Jesus, outside of His perfect mercy and perfect righteousness that covers you and frees you from sin and death, you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness. Old Adam still wants to live that way. He figures you can sin as much as you want, as often as you want, and God will still be OK with it. After all, hey, you’re baptized into Christ Jesus. God has to cover your sin. Who cares about being a slave to righteousness! Besides, slavery is bad.

Being a slave to Christ is actually being a free man. There’s another paradox for you. Like I said last week, Christians have a hard time wrapping their minds around a paradox. We like everything nice and tidy when it comes to what we believe and how we confess what we believe before the world. To say, “I am a slave of Jesus Christ” to the world means you might be itching for a fight.

Consider it another way. “The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith”. That’s Small Catechism language about the work of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is to keep you close to Jesus. How close? He keeps you connected to Christ in preaching, in your baptism, and in eating and drinking Christ’s very body and blood in Communion. These things are your lifelines, or “chains”, so to speak, that keep you bound fast to Jesus. When you try to pick the lock and set yourself free, you actually go back into slavery to sin. That’s not freedom. Staying connected to Christ in His gifts of forgiveness and life is freedom.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. A slave to sin receives death. A slave to God receives life in Christ not as wages earned but as a free gift of undeserved kindness. Adam must die. Christ must rise. You are a slave, but you are free in Christ. Believe it for His sake.


Sixth Sunday after Trinity – Matthew 5:17-26

How do we deal with Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount about His righteousness and our righteousness? Jesus says, I have not come to abolish [the Law or the Prophets] but to fulfill them. He later says, Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. It sounds like Jesus is talking about two different kinds of righteousness. First there’s the righteousness He has and gives you, then there’s the righteousness you have and show to others. So where’s the connection? Is there a connection?

The connection is that Jesus is talking about the same righteousness. What you do before God and your neighbor does not save you. Only the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ imposed on you in His all-availing sacrifice on the cross saves you. This same righteousness can’t help but shine in you and out of you as you live a godly life in Christ Jesus. Simply put: There is one righteousness that goes into you and comes out of you. One saves you, the other shows forth the Savior’s love from you to your neighbor.

That is why Jesus is able to say, Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is an external righteousness. It has no foundation in the Savior. It is all show, all talk, with evil intent behind it. The evil intent is trying to show just how good you are while your heart and soul is black in sin. You’re following the rules, but you’re following the rules only on the outside. On the inside, your intent is to put on a good show while hiding your anger and shame.

Jesus quotes what the scribes and Pharisees teach people: You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. Note how they add to the commandment with commentary in order to make it more stringent. You’re going to the judge if you murder someone. That’s true. You’ll go before the court to determine whether you are innocent or guilty. God does set up earthly tribunals to wield the sword of justice in the civil kingdom. What is more important to Jesus, though, is your intent.

Jesus draws out murder even more than picking up a weapon, or using the body as a weapon. He says if you’re angry with your brother, then you’re liable to judgment. If you insult your brother, you’re liable to the council. If you call your brother a fool, you’re liable to go to hell. The act itself is something, yes, but God looks at what is behind the act. That’s why Jesus draws it out and covers every avenue of what is murder.

You murder your neighbor every time you do not help and support your neighbor in every physical need. Granted you may have never picked up a gun, a knife, a blackjack, or any other weapon of your choice. When you do not help and support your neighbor in every physical need, you murder your neighbor. That pretty much covers it all, doesn’t it? Your tongue is perhaps the mightiest weapon of all. When your blood boils at bad driving, when you want to throw something at your TV because you’re angry at President Trump, even when you lose your temper at your spouse, your children, other family members, your pastor, or your fellow member of the body of Christ, you murder someone. Whoever says “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire.

“But, Pastor, it’s only natural to get angry at someone when they have done me wrong.” Yes, that’s true. It also is sinful to act on that anger, even if that action isn’t violent. God’s Law isn’t relaxed because you’re giving it the ol’ college try. That falls far short of what the Law demands: Be perfect. His commands are not burdensome. Go and do likewise. Go and sin no more. Those aren’t suggestions. They are commands. They are for you. You are to do them.

“I can’t.” In Christ you can, but still not the way God expects from His children. He knows you can’t do what He commands the way He demands. That is why Jesus does them for you. That is why when you fall short of the mark, when you sin, Jesus’ blood and perfect righteousness covers that sin. As you live in Christ, as the Old Man in all of us is daily drowned, crushed, and put to death so that the New Creation in all of us rises and lives a godly life in Christ, you will still miss God’s expectations. Even the most devout Christian will frequently sin. That person may try to put a little paint on it and patch it up, but it still isn’t perfect.

Welcome to your life in Christ as a baptized child of God. You are no longer a slave to sin, but sin still clings to you this side of Paradise. The good you want to do, you do not do. The evil you don’t want to do, you do. You are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus, as Saint Paul says in Romans chapter six. You try harder and do better every day not to murder your neighbor, not to steal from him, not to lust after their spouse, only to speak well about your neighbor, and still you fail. Your righteousness in Christ exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, but your righteousness alone won’t save you. It’s a paradox.

Christians aren’t often comfortable with a paradox. We look for pretty ribbons to tie up our pretty pieces of paper to stick in the cubby holes of the roll top desk of life. Life is messy. Jesus tidies it up and makes it whole again. We untie it and make a mess while trying to make it look perfect. There’s the paradox. We are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. That’s how it is.

So why bother? Why not quit and live in your own righteousness? All the best in that endeavor. Outside of Jesus you are dead in your trespasses and sins. In Christ you are perfectly righteousness, blessed in His sight, even though your sin remains with you. You have to hear the truth about who you are in order for you to be prepared to hear the truth about who you are. Alas, another paradox. The truth is your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. No halfway righteous business. It’s not possible. Christ, though, covers you with His righteousness. In Christ you love both God and your neighbor. You love and serve your neighbor where the Lord puts you to love and serve others. Even then you will fail. That’s what God’s Word of Law tells you: you have failed. You aren’t this way when you should be this way.

The Law brings you to repentance so you can hear the Good News that Jesus has put away your sin and given you life. You are a new creation, ready both to love God and your neighbor as yourself. The cycle of Law and Gospel, death and life, sin and grace, plays out until you die and are raised from the dead.

How do we deal with the paradox of sinner and saint, of Law and Gospel? We let the tension stand. We rejoice in what God has done for us in Christ. We lament our sin. We live in the Good News of sin paid for in Jesus. Then we show forth Christ’s love in our calling…only to sin again. Such is our life as Christians under grace. Through it all, the Lord is the strength of His people; He is the saving refuge of His anointed. In His righteousness He delivers you from sin and death to salvation and life.

Fifth Sunday after Trinity – Luke 5:1-11

When you see something unbelievable, your first instinct is to run away from it. It’s all part of the “fight or flight” instinct. When the unexpected happens in front of you, either you’re going to stay and fight or you’re going to flee. In Saint Peter’s case, there’s nowhere to run. He’s on a boat in the middle of the lake of Gennesaret. Jesus is in the boat with him, as are other fishermen. When the miraculous catch of fish is hauled into Peter’s boat, Peter takes one look at Jesus, falls on his knees, and tells Him, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

That’s the natural reaction for a divine sign in your presence. Get out of here, Jesus. I’m so sinful I can’t stand here and be a part of it. You are holy. I am not holy. I would split the scene but I’m so afraid that I’m petrified. Peter, James, John, and all the fishermen were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken. The boat was sinking with fish caught in broad daylight in deep water. This catch of fish goes against every rule of fishing in New Testament times. Usually fish are caught at night in shallow water. No wonder Peter tells Jesus to leave.

Yet Jesus doesn’t leave. In fact, Jesus calls Peter and his companions to catch something else: men. How will they catch men? What happens earlier in today’s Gospel shows how mankind is caught for Christ. In fact, Peter himself says it: at your word.

The word of Jesus spoken to sinners in preaching, in their baptism, in forgiving their sins, and in feeding them Christ’s holy Supper catches mankind for Christ and keeps them secure in the boat of Christ’s Church. That’s our task together as fellow sinners and fellow redeemed. Jesus puts us in places and situations to speak His word to our neighbor. Yet we remain timid to speak that word of hope that we hear each week in this house or that we read in Sacred Scripture.

We are timid because we are conned into believing that the spoken word isn’t enough. Ask one hundred Lutheran pastors the question: “What is the best way to bring Christ to people?” and you might get at least ten different answers. One of them might be “tell the Good News about Jesus to someone”. That’s the way Christians for centuries have cast the net over their neighborhood to catch men and bring them into fellowship with Jesus Christ.

But it can’t be that simple, can it? What if you don’t know what to say? What if you play the Moses card and tell God that you can’t speak like Aaron? Saint Paul is one of the greatest Gospel preachers in history, but, hey, I don’t have the education he had. I’m a simple person living in a small town in the Midwest. Besides, most everyone I know has a church or at least a decent working knowledge of who Christ is and what He’s done.

We can’t make that last assumption anymore. Not only do many outside the Christian faith know something about Christianity, some of them know more about Christ and are familiar with the Gospel than faithful Christians! The problem is those who have a working knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ do not believe that Gospel is true or is even for them in the first place. They are familiar with sin, but don’t believe they are sinners. Some Christians believe that’s true about them as well.

So instead of actually speaking the word of hope to their neighbor, Christians look for some sort of method or system that will bring big numbers and, ultimately, big dollars for the Church. There are countless programs in Christianity that say they work well in bringing Jesus to people and people into the Church. All you have to do is say the persuasive speech just the right way and you might hook a big fish. Maybe you clean up the church grounds, spruce up the building, and make everything look comfortable for people. The less your building looks like a church, the more people might be inclined to stay. Let’s not forget about perks and incentives like great coffee, free Wi-Fi, even giveaways on occasion. Oh, and don’t forget to text the pastor during the sermon with your questions. #askthepastor

Please don’t misunderstand me. A beautifully manicured church grounds are inviting, not to mention a well-taken care of building. But what goes on inside that building? What goes on after God’s people leave that building and go about their daily callings? Have they heard Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected to take away their sins and give them eternal life? Or are they happy for free child care and great tasting coffee while they hear a nice speech about how God wants them to play nice in order to help Him out in saving their souls?

The best program the Church has to draw sinners into fellowship with the Savior is to tell everyone what God has done to rescue mankind from sin and everlasting death in the blood of Jesus Christ. Even Saint Peter dismisses it when he tells Jesus, Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets. It’s as if Peter tells Jesus, Okay, Master, who is the expert here? You’re my guest. I treat my guests with respect. Because you said so, and you’re my guest, I’ll try it your way. You’ll see that I’m…oh, my goodness, look at all this fish! Come quick, fellas, the boat is sinking! Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Christ’s response could have been, “I told you so.” He says instead; do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men. It doesn’t take Peter long to figure out that if he caught all that fish by hearing Christ’s word, what sort of catch will he take when he preaches that word?

That’s the question that stymies us even today. We know what we’re doing. We don’t need that tried and true casting the net and let the fish swim into the net thing. Go ahead. Try it. Sure, you might see a big payoff but does what you catch actually know why they are caught when you don’t speak Christ’s word?

Watch what has happened, and still happens, when the Church speaks the word of Christ to those who do not know Him. Saint Paul has a summary of what happens in Second Corinthians chapter four:  Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

That’s the treasure of the kingdom of God put in broken clay jars like you and me. When you speak of what Jesus has done for you, grace extends to more and more people. The harvest belongs to Christ. It will be bountiful in His eyes, even if that bounty is less than a handful. The bountiful harvest increases thanksgiving and God’s glory among us. It all starts with saying the Word that never dies; the Word that sets us free; the Word that is sowed and harvested for a rich bounty in God’s kingdom.

Nativity of St. John the Baptist – Luke 1:57-80

John the Baptist’s birthday is a feast that gives not only a gift to his mother and father, but also to the Jews and, by faith in Jesus, to us as well. Even though it is someone else’s birthday, we get the gift.

The gift we get is the birth of a man who is not the man, but a man who comes in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for the man, Jesus Christ. When we consider John’s preaching in the wilderness, what he says doesn’t sound like a gift. John went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John said to the crowds who went to see him You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. That sounds nothing like a gift, at least a gift that makes us joyful.

If we look beyond John’s preaching, though, we’ll see the bigger picture. Did you notice the words that Saint Luke uses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he describes John’s birth and records Zechariah’s hymn of praise? Great mercy. Blessed be the Lord. He has visited and redeemed His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for usthat we should be saved from our enemies. Show the mercy promised to our fathers and remember His holy covenant. Grant us to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. Prepare His ways. Knowledge of salvation. Forgiveness of sins. Tender mercy of our God. Light to those in darkness and the shadow of death. Guide our feet into the way of peace.

Meditate on those words this week. Those words are gift words for you from God. John’s preaching of repentance is toward the forgiveness of sins. The words he speaks prepare you for Jesus. In Christ, in His victory over Satan, in His shedding of blood for your sin, you are judged worthy of everlasting life. That’s the message John prepares you to hear as he prepared the Jews for Messiah’s coming by preaching and baptizing in the wilderness. No other man ever had such fingers as John’s fingers. He points to the Lamb of God and declares that He is the true Savior Who would redeem the world from sin. John pushes everything out of the way that gets in the way of Jesus and Jesus’ ministry on your behalf. Look at John’s mouth. Listen to his preaching. Follow his finger that points to Jesus. That finger shows you where remission of sin and peace with God is.

Let’s go back to Zechariah’s song of praise. The Church usually calls that song the “Benedictus”, the first word of the song in Latin. “Benedictus” means “blessed”. Blessed be the Lord, Zechariah sings. His song traces the story of salvation through Israel, God’s chosen people, up to the present day. The story of Israel is a story of visitation and redemption. God leads His people into Egypt to protect them from famine. He leads them out of Egypt back to the Promised Land through dry ground in the middle of the Red Sea. Redemption. He is with His people in a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. He gives them manna and quail to eat and water flowing from a rock to drink. Visitation.

Time and again God visits and redeems His people from their enemies. God goes to great lengths to keep His promises to Abraham’s family. Then, after 400 years of silence, God speaks again. He speaks by striking the high priest mute when the high priest doesn’t believe the message the angel of the Lord gave to him on the Day of Atonement. It is a moment of great mercy, for the angel could have struck Zechariah with death.

When the promised child is born to his elderly parents, he is given the name “John” instead of Zechariah. John means “The Lord is gracious.” The Lord is gracious not to have struck Zechariah dead. The Lord is gracious to provide a child to the High Priest and his wife. The Lord is gracious in sending one last great prophet to prepare the way of the Lord. The way of the Lord is a way of grace: undeserved, unwarranted, and unearned favor. God’s disposition over His people is mercy. No wonder Zechariah sings Blessed be the Lord God of Israel.

Not all will receive God’s gracious visitation and redemption. Many will turn their back on the Savior of the nations. Many will not receive His hard sayings. Many will find it hard to believe that a carpenter’s son from Nazareth is the Son of the Most High God sent to save His people from their sins. Many will yell at Him as He bleeds and dies upon the cross to come down from the cross so that the world may know He is Messiah. They will not receive Jesus because they will not receive John as the forerunner of the Lord. They will not hear John’s preaching. They will not hear John quote Isaiah: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

How, then, is the way of the Lord prepared? How do we welcome Jesus anew not only in His birth according to the flesh, but in His coming to us in His Gifts of forgiveness and life given here in the Divine Service? Jesus is welcomed when we hear John preach repentance toward the forgiveness of sins. John proclaims His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. Christ’s Church is given to proclaim the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life to both the converted and the unconverted. The Lord knows those who are His. We leave the separation of wheat and chaff to Him.

John baptized with water for repentance. It was he who baptized Jesus in order to fulfill all righteousness. Elijah’s mantle, so to speak, is cast on Elisha. Jesus increases, John decreases. You enter into fellowship with Jesus in baptism, having sin washed away and having the garment of incorruption placed on you through water, Word, and our Lord’s mandate to baptize all nations.

After John’s death, Jesus institutes His Supper that we eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. The hymn says, “No greater love than this to Thee could bind us.” As John fed those in the wilderness with the preaching of repentance to prepare the way of Jesus, now Jesus feeds us in the wilderness of this world with His Body and Blood to sustain us until we are taken to Him in glory.

John’s preaching is still at work among us. When sin terrifies us, when our conscience is burdened, and when we are afraid of death, we hear John say to us as he said to those in the wilderness when Jesus began His earthly ministry: Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. No greater comfort is heard in the Christian Church than the words from John’s mouth and the direction of his finger. His finger points to Christ, His Savior and yours.

Third Sunday after Trinity – Luke 15:1-10

Jesus Christ is the Friend and Savior of sinners. “Jesus sinners doth receive” is the heart and soul of the entire Word: Old and New Testament. Yes, Jesus not only receives sinners, He also seeks them, pursues them, and is full of joy when His search is a success.

The problem with pondering that phrase is that we put limits on it. Jesus sinners doth receive, as long as they agree with my faith, my politics, my favorite news channel, my favorite sports team, and so forth. We also don’t want to apply it to ourselves. Jesus sinners doth receive, but I’m not a sinner. Jesus sinners doth receive, but my sin is so great that He certainly will not receive me.

Our refusal to think Jesus would accept a sinner like me, or like anyone else, flies in the face of what Scripture says about God directing the evil deeds of people for the better. Joseph tells his brothers, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. The high priest Caiaphas says about Jesus’ upcoming arrest and death that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish. Even Jesus’ own people cry out His blood be on us and on our children!

Let’s add the murmuring of the Pharisees and scribes to that list: this man receives sinners and eats with them. Yes, Jesus does receive sinners and eats with them. He receives you, too, but you will not receive His words to you. The funny thing about our Lord’s preaching in the Gospels is that Jesus saves His harshest words not for the rabble of tax collectors and sinners. He saves His mean streak for the scribes and Pharisees who seek to shut Him up any way they can. Come unto Me…I will give you rest. STOP IT! I am the Good Shepherd. NO, YOU ARE NOT! Let the little children come to Me. YOU KIDS GET BACK HERE! DON’T GO NEAR THAT MAN!

See yourself saying those interjections because you do say them. The silent inner monologue that goes on inside you whispers those screams all the time. You’re lost. You’re dead. You are of no account. Your conscience is so stained with guilt that Jesus could never offer the something for nothing deal to you. Jesus only deals with people who have their act together. Jesus doesn’t go after people who don’t first make a move toward Him. These are lies Satan wants you to believe. Your sinful nature wants you to believe that accusing voice.

Who do you see going after the lost sheep and finding the lost coin? Look close. No, it’s not you. No, it’s not me either. It is Jesus. Jesus goes after the lost. His love for sinners compels Him to leave His Father’s throne and enter the wilderness of this world. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, even lost sheep. That’s the cost Jesus is willing to pay to rescue you. You could make it a generic thing but, try as you might, there’s Jesus going after you. When He finds you, He lays you on His shoulders, rejoicing. When He comes home, He calls together His friends and His neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” He won’t let you walk home with Him. He carries you home, happy all the way.

Jesus seeks sinners. Like the woman who lights a lamp and sweeps the house, not giving up until she finds that one lost coin, so Jesus is relentless in seeking you. He will not give up. There are moments when we think Jesus wouldn’t waste His time looking for someone as callous as me. I’m nothing compared to the really coarse sinners. You are something because you are counted with coarse sinners. Jesus leaves no stone unturned. Even frequent ingratitude on your part doesn’t stop His search. He seeks you as if you are the only soul that matters. He seeks you not to get angry with you about you getting lost or breaking His commands or despising His Word. He seeks you to find you. When the woman has found the coin, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.”

Some love playing hide and seek with Jesus so much that they refuse to be found. They play the game to their own detriment. They love the darkness more than the light. They don’t want to be found. Yet look on the bright side. So many others are found. An old preacher once said that at least one soul will be converted and believe the Good News of Jesus Christ every time a preacher preaches that Good News. As we’ve learned in the past, one is greater than none.

Jesus seeks. Jesus finds. Jesus raises the dead to life through His Holy Spirit. Jesus opens the eyes of the blind so they recognize their sins and also recognize the Savior of sins. So often Christians love that Jesus shines the light of His law so that we recognize our sins that we miss the ultimate note of preaching. The ultimate note of preaching is not God’s no, but God’s yes in Jesus Christ. The law of God is the handmaiden of the Gospel of God. The Law brings you to say, “Yes, I ran astray. Yes, I played hide and seek from God hoping He would never find me.”

Once you say it, the pit bull of the law stops biting. Then you say, “Now that Jesus has found me, I see why He went through all that trouble. In His light do I see light: the light of everlasting life, the light of sins forgiven, and the light of a happy conscience. I believe what Jesus says is true. He says it especially to me: I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Here is hope for all who grieve: Jesus sinners doth receive. Firmly in these words believe: Jesus sinners doth receive. In His arms that they may live: Jesus sinners doth receive. Let these words my soul relieve: Jesus sinners doth receive. For these words I now believe: Jesus sinners doth receive. Naught remains my soul to grieve: Jesus sinners doth receive. Dying, still to Him I cleave: Jesus sinners doth receive.

Second Sunday after Trinity – Luke 14:15-24

There’s not one of us who can say that we don’t despise God’s holiness and righteousness revealed in His Law. The more God shows us our sin in His Word, the more we do the opposite thing every time. It started with eating a forbidden fruit. It continues today. This week we had to keep our children away from a poisonous weed growing in our garden. Like moths to a flame they wanted to get close to it. Even I couldn’t help myself by looking at it.

Our sinful nature is why we despise the Law. Even worse is that our sinful nature also despises God’s grace and mercy given in His Gospel. We know the number of those who despise God’s “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” is great. We’re in that group. It’s sad to say that those who despise God’s “you are forgiven in Christ Jesus” and “the good news of salvation is for you” is also quite large. If it were not so, then we’d have to build a bigger church building and have multiple services. Everyone would answer God’s call of Come, for everything is now ready.

Yes, God provides His creation with wonderful meals. He feeds the birds of the air, the fish in the waters, even the worms that crawl in the ground, let alone human beings. Consider what is given at this feast that is called the Divine Service: good news of forgiveness, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. What a feast! You would think people will happily wait in line for a seat at the table.

Did you see any line outside coming into church today? Consider how three people handle the invitation to the feast. All three of them, in their own way, make excuses for themselves. They’ll ask about all the things they need to get done. Not even an hour away from their tasks is permissible. Please have me excused. Fields and oxen, wife and children, all these are more important than God and His undeserved love for sinners. The mundane tasks of today that can wait for another day are greater than eternal riches. Even the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame wouldn’t come if the servants did not compel them to come in because they are poor, crippled, blind, and lame. Great are the number of those who despise this feast.

This is nothing new in Scripture. Jesus preaches to His own people in vain. Paul and the other apostles do the same, but many do not come. They turn to the Gentiles, but even then they are ridiculed. Luther becomes exasperated at how Germans could be so foolish not to soak in the passing rain shower of the Gospel. Every pastor, everyone who ministers the Gospel in the Church sees the same thing: lots of despisers. Everyone has their excuse. Even I have my excuses. Parents, teachers, men, women, even earthly authorities are much despised. Yet no one is more despised than God, and in God nothing more is despised more than His gift of forgiveness and life in Jesus Christ.

Consider the excuses in our Lord’s parable. Did you note that the third man invited to the feast didn’t even give an excuse? His apology was so self-explanatory that there was no need for him to say anything else. A word of explanation is in order because of changes in culture. In the age of the New Testament, a newlywed man was free from any obligation for the first year of his marriage. He needed time to get to know his wife and start the marriage on the proper foot. This usually deals with business affairs, but the man is so impudent that he uses this excuse for a feast.

All these excuses make the master of the house angry. He sees this as a personal insult. He’s ready to give a feast. You don’t have to do anything but answer the call to come and eat. Everything is paid for. You are waited on hand and foot. The food might even be put in your mouth so you don’t have to lift a finger. But no. Sorry. I’m busy right now. In fact, I’m busy every week at this time.

Granted there is sickness is your life or vacation or another event. That’s not the despising Jesus is getting at in His parable. What He’s talking about is a matter of your priorities. What takes precedence in your home? Do you block out this hour each week and make yourself unavailable so that you are able to rest in Jesus Christ and let Him feed you in this feast? Nowadays an average churchgoer considers “regular” and “faithful” church attendance to be once a month. Even then I sometimes wonder if once a month is now too frequent. What if all of us, on a regular basis…more than once a month…blocked this hour and made ourselves unavailable? Sorry, I’m not available right now. Whatever you need me for can wait. I’m resting in Christ, receiving His Good News in Scripture, sermon, song, and Sacrament.

As we sing during Eastertide: “This is the feast of victory of our God.” God has won the victory over death and hell for you. Our heavenly Father did not spare His Son to save you. He spreads a table before you in the presence of your enemies, whether they are your bed, your easy chair, your lawn, your family, your friends, or your electronic device. These things can wait. What you have before you every week in this house will not always be here. Christ’s return is imminent. All things will then be new. You will enjoy an everlasting feast of which you receive a foretaste right now.

When Judgment Day arrives, those who persistently despised this feast will no longer be able to answer the call of Come, for everything is now ready. There’s no more call to the feast. There is only eternal condemnation. That’s what they wanted because they didn’t want a part of it here. None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.

Jesus instead welcomes the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. That’s you and me. We are compelled to come to the feast. Sure, there are days when we drag ourselves here. There are times when our heart isn’t in it. Yet every time we come to the feast, the sumptuous fare of forgiveness and life are here. A heart of stone again becomes a heart of flesh. The joy of salvation is restored. Blessed indeed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God! Blessed are you when you eat the Living Bread that comes down from heaven: Jesus Christ, the Master of the Feast.

First Sunday after Trinity – Luke 16:19-31

There’s no better way to consider how God works on us than to consider the parable par excellence that sets up the non-festival half of the church year. On the one hand we see the rich man, clothed in purple and faring sumptuously at every meal. On the other hand we see Lazarus, a poor man covered in sores who finds his only earthly comfort in dog spit that soothes his sores.

Jesus quickly upsets the apple cart when he shows us the eternal welfare of both men after their deaths. Lazarus was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. So far so good. We expect each to receive their eternal reward. The rich man’s reward is in Hades, being in torment.

Not much of a reward, eh? Then comes insult on top of injury, or so it seems. The rich man lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. The man he saw, or maybe perhaps tried not to see, lying at his gate every day now has a place of honor. The honorable rich man, having his necessary creature comforts during his life, now has a place of disgrace.

How can it be? It can be because we have it hard-wired into our brains that riches equal success. That success must necessarily carry over into eternity, or so we think. Jesus says otherwise. Perhaps we might consider the opposite true. If you’re poor and covered in sores, you get an automatic pass into eternal life because God loves the poor more than the rich. After all, riches get in the way of salvation. Plenty or want in earthly things do not matter to our heavenly Father. What matters is the condition of your heart.

We get a glimpse into the heart of the rich man as he says three things in order to redeem himself and, ultimately, his family. We might consider each statement under Luther’s explanation of the First Commandment: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” The rich man shows no love toward God and his neighbor as he attempts to use Lazarus to help him in the place of torment. Abraham reminds the rich man, Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. If that wasn’t enough, there is a great chasm fixed between Abraham’s side and Hades. There’s no way you can travel from here to there.

The impudence of the rich man makes us steam with anger. Look at yourself before you get too worked up. You also show no love to God and your neighbor when you use both to get what you want. You can’t manipulate God. He can’t be bribed. He won’t send a loved one back to you to help you or your family. When death comes your eternal lot is cast. Not even a word to the “man upstairs” from anyone, living or dead, can fix it.

The rich man also shows no fear of God when he begs Abraham to send Lazarus to my father’s house for I have five brothers so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment. The rich man did not fear what God says in the Scriptures. We have no evidence from Christ’s parable that he went to the synagogue, let alone the temple. Perhaps he had some head knowledge about the promise of salvation in Messiah, but Jesus doesn’t tell us. His family has every opportunity to hear Moses and the prophets.

You have every opportunity to hear Moses and the prophets, and especially Jesus Himself. Your family has that opportunity, too. Don’t rely on the faith of grandma and grandpa, or uncles and aunts, to suffice for other family members. You can’t ride through the pearly gates on someone else’s coattails. You enter through the narrow Door, Jesus Christ.

The rich man finally doesn’t trust God’s Word to work repentance and faith among his loved ones. No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. He supposes you have to see it to believe it. Reading the Bible isn’t enough. Hearing the Bible read and salvation proclaimed in church isn’t enough. You need to see someone rise from the dead and tell you to repent before it’s too late.

A Day is coming when many will rise from the dead. Some will receive eternal life in the New Creation. Others will receive what they wanted: eternal separation from Christ in the burning lake of fire. Oh, maybe they knew there was a Savior. Maybe they took a risk and figured that God will save everyone regardless if they believed in Jesus as Lord. Maybe they figured all the good things they did and their good behavior would be enough for salvation. When those who would not trust in Jesus Christ as Savior see Judgment Day, the great chasm will be fixed. There’s no more crossing over. There are no more deathbed conversions.

What the rich man forgot was what Lazarus’ name means. When you forget what Lazarus’ name means, you end up in the same place as the rich man. Lazarus means “God is my help.” God is your only help. God does not do some or most of the work, giving you a chance to give Him a hand. God is your help, period. God covers you in the blood of His Son Jesus. He does everything to save you, no matter if you’re filthy rich or gutbucket poor.

The chief concern of God is the condition of your heart. Consider Abram in today’s Old Testament reading. Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted it to him as righteousness. Abram didn’t have any special quality in him that made him more special than anyone else. God chose Abram as the father of the family whom God would make promises and keep every one of them. Like Abram, later Abraham, as we believe those promises, for they are ours not by blood but by faith in God’s only-begotten Son, it is also counted to us as righteousness.

The rich man had the opportunity to receive salvation. It was too late when he discovered his folly. In Christ you are Lazarus, for God is your help. He alone makes it possible for you to rest for all eternity with Him. As you stay connected to Jesus, trusting His Good News of forgiveness and life for you, living in your baptismal grace, partaking of His Supper, rejoicing in the restoration of the joy of His salvation, you will rise from the grave on Judgment Day not to condemnation, but to the bosom of Abraham with all those who have gone before you in the faith.

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

The phrase “born again” means different things depending on what you believe as a Christian. I grew up among Baptists, Methodists, and Oneness Pentecostals. When they asked this Lutheran boy if he was “born again”, the answer wasn’t what they wanted to hear. The answer is, “Yes, on June 18, 1972, the day of my baptism.” The usual response is that I was an infant. How could I make a rational, conscious decision to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior when I couldn’t talk or didn’t understand what sin is? My response is that God chose me. I didn’t choose Him. God did all the heavy lifting to save me and make me His child.

Try as you might, you won’t find the phrase “born again” in the Bible. Granted the phrase is there in some English translations. It’s thought to be the best way to translate a word that is better translated “born from above”. Another way to translate it is “regenerated”. You might call it a second birth. What it is is a new birth, a new birth over which you have no control.

That’s what confounds Nicodemus, a leader of the Pharisees. Nicodemus is no dummy. He’s a classically trained teacher of Sacred Scripture. He’s well thought of among the Jews. Yet he can’t grasp that unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God. So he asks Jesus the obvious question: How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?

We might laugh at Nicodemus’ question. If we do laugh, we also laugh at ourselves, for it is the same question we might ask. We also have no clue how one is born from above outside of what Scripture teaches us. It’s not possible for an adult to go up and down mom’s birth canal a second time. The new birth comes from outside in. Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

A-ha! See, there it is! A birth by water and Spirit takes place, but you have to have a say in it, especially if you are an adult. If you’re an infant, someone else is forcing you to do something you may not want. You don’t have a say in it if you’re a baby. So let’s wait and let the child grow up and make up his or her own mind. Then you can choose whether or not this being born from above is something for you. You Lutherans and your radical monergism! You guys need to get with it and be like much of American Protestants and use a little bit, or a lot, of decision theology. I mean, look how those other churches are doing compared to yours. And yet you say you stand with Scripture and let God act through His Word and through stuff like water, bread, and wine. When will you get with it?

We are with it…with Scripture, that is. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. A birth according to the flesh brings life, but that life ends in death. Outside of the Spirit there’s nothing to look forward to when you die. The party’s over. You’re done.

When you receive the second birth, regeneration from the Holy Spirit working in water and the Word that comes down from above, you have something to look forward to when you die. You actually do not die when you die. You live. You live because Jesus lives. The Spirit puts the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus on you by virtue of your baptism. Though one common sin infects us all, in Christ, as we sing: “Now no more can death appall, Now no more the grave enthrall; You have opened paradise, And your saints in You shall rise. Alleluia!”

Okay, Pastor, yeah, second birth, born from above, I know that. Now explain it to me. We go right back to Nicodemus’ question to Jesus. The answer is that an explanation won’t do. The second birth happens to you when the Spirit connects you to Christ and keeps you connected to Him. In doing so, you are a child of the heavenly Father, safely gathered in His bosom. Attempts to explain it in a cold, calculated, and rational way does you no good. You are not so much taught in Christ as you are caught in Christ.

Let Jesus tell it to you plainly as He told Nicodemus: Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? So if you end up scratching your head a lot about how God saves you or how God acts to keep you connected to Him, that’s not a bad thing. The more you know about something, the more you don’t know about something. Humility is a good thing for Christians to appreciate.

What you do know is that God has acted in history in order to save you from everlasting death. Our heavenly Father sends His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to bear your sin. When you hear the Good News that Jesus has forgiven your sins in His blood and given you life in His resurrection, you have what that Word says. The Holy Spirit works in that Word to create trust that God does you good and never bad. He will bring you life here and bring you into eternal life on Judgment Day.

So let’s get back to the question that confounds Lutherans everywhere: Are you “born again?” Your answer is “YES!” You didn’t choose to be born again. God chose you to be regenerated. God chose you to pour out His mercy, His love, and His joy over you. He is the actor. You receive all the benefits of His action on your behalf. The one who is born once, dies twice and forevermore. The one who is born twice, dies once, and lives forevermore.

Pentecost Day – John 14:23-31

“The Spirit of the Lord fills the world.” The first words of the Introit summarize the Feast of Pentecost. So what does it mean? How does the Spirit of the Lord fill the world? What’s different now that Jesus has ascended to heaven and sent the Spirit of Truth to direct all the faithful back to where Jesus promises to be?

The answers to the questions are found not only among those gathered in one place when the Holy Spirit descended. The answers are found among us today. We are people in whose hearts it has become Pentecost through the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, you see, never ends. “The Spirit of the Lord fills the world.” He fills you. Me too. The Spirit fills us with Jesus.

Jesus says in John chapter fourteen, 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. Pentecost people love Jesus. Pentecost people also keep Jesus’ word. Let’s take the easy one first. You love Jesus because Jesus loved you first…even before the foundation of the world did Jesus love you. Jesus puts His Word into your life when you hear His Good News preached. He waters that Word with baptismal water and says with water and Word: You are mine. All that I have is yours. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. I will always do you good and never evil.

Keeping Jesus’ Word can be a tricky thing. You could say that keeping Jesus’ Word means to do everything He says to the letter. Thing is Jesus has already done it for you. He doesn’t need your help. As Jesus has put His life into your life a wonderful thing happens. You love what He says. You desire to hear more of what He says about His promises He makes to you. You trust that Jesus never lies.

Because Jesus puts Himself among you, you can’t help but treasure all He says to you. He says you love the Father because He sent Jesus. He says you love your neighbor, for your neighbor is a little Christ. He says take care of those who take care of your spiritual well-being. He says all that you have is His and you are a good steward, a good manager, of what you have been entrusted. The best thing about keeping Jesus’ Word is to take seriously what He says about His Supper that He instituted for the forgiveness of your sins. This is My Body. This is My Blood. Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. He also says where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Those who do not love Jesus or keep His Word find their heart elsewhere. Their treasure will be there, too. That’s a lonely place to be. There’s no certainty in keeping an idol’s word. Your treasure among idols will rust and decay. You can’t take it with you. There are no storage facilities in the New Creation. So you put what He gives to you to work in His kingdom. You struggle with His love and keeping His Word, but in the end you let Jesus win and watch what you give Him go to work for Him.

Think of the blessings you have in Christ. He gives you so many blessings that you are not able to count them. He blesses you like a father blesses his children, but even better than any earthly father. King David sings in Psalm 103: As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

We are dust. Dust cannot redeem itself. Dust returns to dust. Yet the dust washed and made holy in the Word and in baptismal water will be raised a new creation on the Last Day. An earthly father cannot raise his children from the dead. Jesus Christ, Son of the Father in heaven, will do it. He blesses you with eternal life, something you can’t buy or earn, and you don’t deserve it, but it yours because Jesus gives it to you.

Saint Paul says at least twice in his epistles that you are a temple of God. Saint Peter calls God’s people living stones being built into a spiritual house. You are a dwelling place of God. Jesus dwells in you and you dwell in Him. Yes, Jesus is everywhere, but He is not everywhere for you. He is particular about where He dwells. That’s why He says Come to Me…I will give you rest. Jesus rests in you. He pitches His tent and hangs out with sinners who are made righteous in His blood and His innocence.

What is more, the Holy Spirit continues to point you to Jesus. He teaches you Jesus in His Word. This is why we gather each week for Scripture study. It’s one thing to learn by heart Luther’s Small Catechism and some Bible passages. It’s another thing to gather as living stones to be built up in Sacred Scripture that we may know our Savior better. Once the Spirit informs, literally forms you from the inside out in Sacred Scripture, you, like the disciples, will recall what Jesus says to you about many things, especially when you think Christ has left you an orphan.

What a blessing to be Pentecost people! “The Spirit of the Lord fills the world.” Today He fills His Church with the joy of forgiveness and eternal life. Today He calls out to His beloved bride that He loves them and will remain with them unto eternity. As He keeps Himself with you, so you keep His Word close, treasure it, and accordingly steward all that He gives you for your life and for your neighbor so that the world may know that I love the Father and that the Father loves you for Jesus’ sake.

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

We could make a long list of “it used to bes.” It used to be that business closed at noon on Good Friday so you could go to church or perhaps take the afternoon to contemplate our Lord’s death before a church service at night. It used to be that businesses didn’t open on Sunday in order to give employees some family time and, yes, let them attend church. It used to be that the pastor was once one of the most educated people in a community. He received some privileges among businesses, and even in the public school. To this day I am asked each year to help choose scholarship winners at Momence High School.

It used to be that everyone in town had a church. They actually went to that church. Children attended Sunday School. Oh, sure, some parents dropped off and picked up their children rather than attend a Bible Study, but at least the children were there. It used to be that you knew where your friends went to church because nearly all of them went to church.

When it comes to the Christian faith, there are a lot of “it used to bes.” Many of them are now history. So it goes. Yet the Christian faith remains in our country even among churches once large but now small. What we notice among the fewer numbers is the greater hostility toward Christians. Granted the hostility isn’t overt and doesn’t involve shedding blood. Still, the world reward God’s charity and a Christian’s love with ingratitude. Here’s one more: it used to be that unbelievers had a grasp on what a Christian believed. You can’t assume that anymore. Many people misunderstand what the Christian faith confesses. Even Christians misunderstand their own confession of faith.

What does Jesus have to say about it all? They will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. I have said these things to you that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. These things Jesus is talking about with His disciples are more than shops closing on Sunday and pastors being respected in the community. He’s talking about two things much worse: martyrdom and being kicked out of the synagogue.

For a Jew, being kicked out of a synagogue means you have all but lost your identity as one of God’s chosen people. Parents, as it were, have no son. Siblings have no brother or sister. You are an outcast, worse than a leper. All this will be done to you because you confess Jesus Christ as Lord. Jesus also mentions dying for the faith. Those who kill you actually think they worship God when killing you.

Some perhaps lose family and friends when they practice the Christian faith, or perhaps even when they leave one particular fellowship and join another. We’re blessed in our country not to have to face being killed by fellow Christians and have it considered a form of worship. Yet these things do happen elsewhere in the world and elsewhere in history.

So much for us being mad about losing little privileges in our country. Yet we panic every time we see what we think is the fabric of our life being unraveled in front of us. We hit the panic button. We think the Gospel of free grace for Christ’s sake for sinners will make others want to go rob a bank or change their sex. So let’s double down on preaching good behavior. Pretty soon the Good News of Jesus Christ becomes “try harder, do better, don’t do this, better do that, or you aren’t a Christian.” The it is finished of Jesus on the cross becomes a “well, not really, until…” in our hands.

Jesus sets a roadblock on our march to the panic button. The roadblock is the coming of the Helper, Whom He sends to us from the Father, the Spirit of truth. The Helper bears witness about Jesus. His witness is true. What is the witness of the Spirit? The water and the blood flowing from the side of Jesus. The words from the mouth of Jesus in His teaching. Where Spirit, water, and blood are, there is Jesus, forgiving sin and giving life to the dead.

That’s what Saint Peter is writing about in today’s Epistle: be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Do. Not. Panic. Your suffering, though perhaps not what others are suffering for Christ elsewhere, is bound up with the suffering of Jesus for your sake. When our Lord suffered upon the cross, He begged His Father to forgive those who put Him there. They didn’t know what they were doing. The same remains true today. Many misunderstand what a Christian believe. It’s not hard to see why because our minds, mouths, and hearts aren’t always in sync. That’s hypocrisy, something well practiced by sinners redeemed in Christ.

Peter continues, above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Notice Peter says one another, not just Christians only or unbelievers only. Love one another. Love those who despise you. Love those you despise. Even if the time comes when you must speak words that you know will anger your neighbor, do so with humility and, above all, love. Yes, Jesus showed anger, but His anger was directed at all the right people: those who despised Him.

Do. Not. Panic. Jesus tells you that you will suffer much this side of Paradise. You are not alone, though. Many fellow Christians suffer with you. Jesus Himself first suffered for your sake. What is more, the Helper has come, the Holy Spirit, Who keeps you connected to Jesus in His Gifts of life and forgiveness given in this holy house. Among all the “used to bes” one thing hasn’t changed. Jesus says, yes, there will be trouble, but “I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places” with the joy of freedom in the blood of Christ that cleanses you from all sin.