Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pentecost 11 (Proper 17), Series A

Sermon on Matthew 16:21-28
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
August 28, 2011 (Proper 17, Series A)

The Gospel Lesson for today gives us a picture of St. Peter both at his best and at his worst, one right after the other. Isn’t that often how it is with you and me? Sometimes our worst failures, our greatest humiliations, and yes, our worst sins, come right after some of our best successes, our greatest good works. Why is that? The answer is pride. We forget that it is God who works through us when we do good works, not ourselves. We want to take the credit for what we have done well, and that pride and that self-centeredness becomes the first sin that leads to all the others. Peter had just, on the spur of the moment, spoken one of the greatest and clearest confessions of the central truth of Christianity found in all of Holy Scripture. “You are the Christ.” Now, of course, today’s Gospel Lesson is from St. Mark. But when St. Matthew tells this story, he also tells us what our Lord told Peter after he had said this. He told him that these things had not been revealed to him by men but by the Father in heaven. Evidently Peter didn’t listen, because he became overconfident of his own theological abilities and tried to rebuke our Lord when He went on to talk about His death. In Peter’s mind, what Jesus was saying that didn’t fit with Peter’s own picture of how God’s salvation was supposed to work. Peter thought he was doing the right thing in telling our Lord that He shouldn’t go and die. But what Peter said was very, very wrong. What he said would have resulted in there being no such thing as Christianity, because without Jesus dying on the cross we would not have had a sacrifice for our sins. There would be no way for us sinners to be saved. Peter’s objections to what our Lord said came straight from Satan himself. And yet despite this, Christ forgives Peter. We know this because He later becomes the leader among the Apostles and eventually gives up his life as a witness (martyr) to the Christ whose death saved him.

What is going on here? We see a young disciple whose pride has led him to say something Satanic. And this is hardly the only time Peter manages to get his foot into his mouth, either. He denied our Lord mere hours after saying that he would never do so. But this man became one of the most significant apostles of the earliest church. St. Paul, another unlikely candidate for greatness in the kingdom of God due to his persecution of the church, explains it this way in 1 Corinthians 3: “Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.’” In other words, God doesn’t do things the way we expect Him to. After all, the redemption that is ours through Christ was hardly done in the way men expected either. A poor man from the back country of Galilee became an itinerant preacher who was eventually put to death because his message was too controversial. But it was by that death that the world’s salvation was won. And the angels proclaimed the resurrection on that first Easter morning not to the kings and princes by the angels, but to the frightened and miserable disciples and the women who had followed Him from Galilee, just as at His birth they proclaimed the message to shepherds rather than to Herod or the Emperor Augustus. If that is the way God works through His own Son, is it any surprise that he works in this “foolish” way through Christ’s followers? The one who was referred to as Satan for trying to stop Jesus from going to the cross, and who denied Him three times during His trial, becomes the leader of the Twelve Apostles. The one who persecuted and killed the Christians becomes the Apostle to the Gentiles.

God still works that way today. How does he make us Christians and keep us in the faith? Not through great and powerful signs and wonders but through water, through the words of a man who is a sinner just like yourself, and through bread and wine. Who are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven today? Not the television preachers, not the highest officials in the various churches, not the laymen and clergy who are always active in church politics. The greatest in the kingdom of heaven are those Christians, both the pastors and the members of the Church, who simply and humbly do what God has given them to do in their day to day jobs and callings, and who through words and through good works serve as living invitations for those who are as yet outside the Church to come to the waters of Holy Baptism and receive Christ and His salvation. These humble Christian people, just like you and me, are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It is not that their own works are so great; they are sinners like everyone else. But Christ works in and through them to do great things, just as he worked in and through the most unlikely candidates, including Peter. When I as pastor and you as Christian people do our daily tasks out of faith that God will bless our work, and when we by word and example confess to the world that it is Christ who is the center of our lives, we who are the saints of God in this place today are following in the example of these saints who have gone before us.

One final comment about Peter: not only does he serve as examples of Christ’s work in and through every Christian, including those who have a tendency to plant their feet in their own mouths, they also serve as examples to pastors such as myself. They did not preach themselves, they preached Christ crucified. As our Old Testament lesson says, they preached the Law to those who were secure in themselves, and to the poor and miserable they gave the comfort of the Gospel. I have been called to be your pastor here at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Through the coming years, I expect you to watch me as I proclaim God’s Word to you. I am a sinner just like Peter, and just like you. I will at times mess up the job God has given me to do in this place. If and when I begin to talk as if what happens here is a result of my abilities or of my work, I expect you to tell me I’m wrong in no uncertain terms. Also, if something I say doesn’t match up with God’s Word, you may need to say “get behind me, Satan” to me. I am here to speak God’s Word to you, and when I do it is not my authority but God’s that is at work. But when I contradict God’s Word or even go beyond it, it is the devil’s work. My prayer as we move forward as pastor and congregation is that we hold each other to God’s Word and to the confidence we have that through Christ our sins are forgiven and eternity is ours, and that we are unafraid to correct one another if we begin to drift away from that central message. That’s what we’re here for, and that is enough, and more than enough. Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pentecost 10 (Proper 16), Series A

Sermon on Matthew 16:13-20
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
August 21, 2011 (Proper 16, Series A)

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” If you took a survey today and asked people what they thought of Jesus, the answers you would get back would be just as varied as the answers the people gave when Jesus asked the question in our text. Some would say that He was a great teacher. Others, like the Jews, would say that He was a fraud. Some might say that He was a good example for us to follow. Others, such as the Muslims, might call Him a great prophet, one of the more honored predecessors of their own prophet Mohammed. Other people you ask might not care who Jesus was. This last group are the ones we are more likely to meet, in fact, many of them are our friends, neighbors, and even relatives. They have never even given the question of who Jesus is much thought.

But the question is an important one. It is important because who Jesus is determines who we are. This is why after hearing the answers the apostles had gleaned from the people around them, He asked the question again, only now it was personal. “Who do you say that I am?” This is a question we all must face if we are to be sure that what God has to give us, namely salvation and eternal life, is indeed ours. It is a question we face as we examine ourselves in preparation to confess our sins and receive Holy Absolution, as we examine ourselves in preparation for the Lord’s Supper, and especially as we daily examine ourselves in preparation for Judgement Day, which could come at any time. Who do you say that I am? What do you believe about Jesus? Who is He? How do you answer that question?

In our text, Peter spoke up in behalf of all the apostles when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter confesses his faith that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the Creator of the Universe, who has become man in order to save us. Peter’s confession is not just his own, it is the confession of all the apostles. Peter becomes their representative, their spokesman. In fact, Peter represents the entire Church, both of the Old Testament saints who expected Christ’s coming, and of the New Testament saints such as you and me who look back to His first coming and forward to His return in glory. All of us were represented by Peter when he spoke those words. You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The one in whom we believe, in whose name we pray, is the Christ, the anointed one of God, who is Himself God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. This is the root form of the Church’s confession throughout the ages. Even the creeds we say on Sunday morning are simply an expansion of this basic confession.

Jesus points this out when he says to Peter (a name which means “rock”) that on the rock of this confession He will build His church. Of course this does not mean that the Church is built upon Peter as a man, since no man is perfect enough to serve as the foundation stone for the Christian Church except the God-Man, Jesus Christ. But it does mean that it was the confession that Peter spoke which would indicate, at the most basic level, where the Christian Church is to be found. Peter himself, of course, was one of the more prominent apostles, being one of the three disciples closest to Jesus, and playing a very prominent role in the first half of the book of Acts. But it was not anything worthy in Peter that made him this way. Peter was an impulsive, headstrong individual who often got himself into trouble by letting his mouth get ahead of his brain. Peter became a leader in the Christian Church because of what God had given him, namely the confession of the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus points this out to Peter in our text. “This was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven.” The knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, came only from God Himself. It was only because God had first revealed this to Peter that he could confess it to the world. It is the same way with us. God must first speak to us before we can speak back to Him. After all, like Peter, we are sinners. We are not able to believe what God wants us to believe in our natural minds. The fact that this Man Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, is a fact that seems impossible to human reason, and in our sinful pride we think that our reason must be the judge of all truth and falsehood. Our sinfulness causes us to reject Jesus our Savior because who He is and what He is don’t go along with our reason and our senses. It is only when God reveals the truth to us and gives us the ability to believe it by creating within us a clean heart that we are able to believe, and to confess, what He has said to us.

And that’s what “confession” is. It is saying back to God, and to each other, and to the world around us, what He has first said to us. He tells us that we are sinners. We repeat back to Him what He has said to us when we say that, yes, we are sinners, as we do every Sunday morning and every day when we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” God then tells us that we are forgiven for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ. We repeat back to Him what He has said to us by confessing our faith, as we do on Sunday morning in the words of the creed, as well as in all the other words of the liturgy which speak of our salvation through Christ. We also confess to each other and to those around us as we comfort and encourage one another in Christ and testify to those outside the Church what Christ has done for us. We speak what God has first spoken to us.
Through our speaking what God has spoken to us, God Himself speaks through us. God has given me the vocation of preaching His Word to this congregation and administering His Sacraments. Through my mouth and my hands, Christ’s Word and Christ’s hands work on you to give you salvation. I don’t speak my own word, but God’s Word (and of course one of your responsibilities is to make sure that what I say is in fact God’s Word by cross-checking my preaching against the Holy Scriptures). If I speak God’s Word, which He has first spoken to Me, then He is speaking through me to you. As you confess to your neighbors who do not know Christ concerning the salvation that He has given you, as you comfort and encourage one another with the Gospel, and even as you confess your faith through the words of the liturgy and hymns here on Sunday morning, God is speaking through you. He is speaking the words He has first spoken to you, but He is now speaking through you.
God continues to speak to us. He continues to give us life through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, as well as through the conversations and the comforts we receive from each other. It is only through God’s speaking to us, both in the spoken Word and in the edible and drinkable Word of the Sacrament where He gives us the body and blood of Jesus, that God strengthens us. To receive the Lord’s Supper is also to confess your faith that this Jesus whose body and blood we receive is in fact the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This body and blood will strengthen us in our confession to God and our neighbor of what He has done for us. And our confession is blessed, for this was not revealed to us by men, but by our Father, who art in heaven. Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Better late than never . . .

A couple of things I should have posted here several weeks ago, but here they are.

July 24, 2011

Dear Fellow Redeemed:

This letter is to acknowledge that I have received the call to become the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran
Church. Since I have been serving as your vacancy pastor for over half a year now, I do not intend to take
much time to consider this call. However, since I am currently called as an assistant pastor to Lamb of
God Lutheran Church in Pleasant Prairie, I do think it proper to inform the senior pastor, deacons, and
members of that congregation of this call and invite their feedback before announcing my final decision.
To that end, I will be asking Pastor Smallwood and the deacons at Lamb of God to distribute this letter to
Lamb of God’s membership as soon as possible with the invitation to direct any comments or feedback to
my e-mail address or phone number within the next week. God willing, I will announce my decision at
Holy Cross’ Divine Service on July 31, 2011. I will also communicate my decision to Pastor Smallwood
prior to that service so that he can announce it to Lamb of God at their Divine Service the same day as
well.

In Christ,

Timothy D. Schellenbach
Assistant Pastor, Lamb of God Lutheran Church
Vacancy Pastor, Holy Cross Lutheran Church

=======================================================
July 31, 2011

Dear Fellow Redeemed:

After prayerful consideration, I have decided to accept the call you have extended to me to be your pastor.
My wife and I appreciate the fact that you have accepted us as part of your congregation, and I appreciate
the opportunity to continue to serve you on a permanent basis. The members of Lamb of God have
communicated to me through their pastor that they are happy for me to have received this call and have
wished me God's blessings as I minister to His people here at Holy Cross. The people of Lamb of God
also send you their greetings and will continue to keep you in their prayers that God would continue to
bless your congregation.

I am tentatively planning to hold the installation service on August 28, 2011, and I have asked the Rev.
Jack Kirk, USN, CHC, CMDR, Ret., of Bremen, Kansas, to preach for the installation service. Pastor
Kirk is also my father-in-law. Either President Wille or Pastor Chryst will officiate the rite of installation,
depending on their schedules. If that date is not acceptable, please contact me so that we can schedule the
service on a different date.

Again, I appreciate the opportunity to bring you God's Word and look forward to working with you on a
permanent basis.

In Christ,

Timothy D. Schellenbach
Assistant Pastor, Lamb of God Lutheran Church
Vacancy Pastor and pastor-elect, Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pentecost 9 (Proper 15), Series A

Sermon on Matthew 15:21-28
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
August 14, 2011 (Proper 15, Series A)

Why did God allow this woman’s daughter to be possessed by a demon? Since God is all-powerful, and Satan and his fellow fallen angels are just that, mere fallen angels, why didn’t God stop that demon from entering the woman’s daughter in the first place? And then, when she asks God for help with the situation, why does He act so impolite toward her and make her go through all of that begging and humiliation before He will consent to heal the daughter? Why? For that matter, if God can do anything, why does He allow us to be tempted and afflicted in various ways? Why does He allow us to have to fight and struggle against the temptations of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh? After all, if Jesus already won the victory over the temptations that the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh bring us, then why do we still have to fight against these things? Why do we still have trouble in this world? Why do the righteous so often seem to suffer while the evil so often seem to be so well off? You would think, that if God is both good and loving on the one hand, and almighty and all-powerful on the other hand, then these kinds of things wouldn’t happen to us. Demons wouldn’t be able to torment people like they do in various ways.

These questions, why do bad things happen to good people, why doesn’t God help me out when I’m suffering, why doesn’t He seem to care if He’s supposedly such a good God, are questions that theologians and philosophers have pondered over for thousands of years. And they’re not just an academic exercise, either. Suffering is very real all around us and in our own lives. And very often God’s response to our prayers seems to be the same kind of seemingly callous and insulting response we read that Jesus gave to the woman in today’s Gospel.

Now, many times we can’t know specifically the reason why God allows these sorts of things. But in general, we know from Scripture that God uses these things to make us rely on His promises more firmly. God’s promises to be with us and to preserve us and to comfort us depend only on the fact that it was He who spoke them. His promises to us are true even if the whole world and everything we see and feel seems to contradict them. His promises to us are true even if He Himself seems to be ignoring us and rejecting us. Sometimes God puts us through experiences like that of this woman to remind us of that fact, and to strengthen our faith so that we rely more firmly on the promises rather than testing Him and trying to see physical evidence of His care for us. Our confidence in God’s protection and care, and more importantly our confidence in His salvation, should not depend on whether or not we feel or see His care and protection in our lives. Our confidence in God’s love for us and His care for us depends solely upon His promises to us in the Holy Scriptures. But all too often we like to rely upon other things besides God’s promises to support our faith, whether those things be our emotions or good feelings about God, or whether those things be the fact that things are going well for us, or whatever it may be. For this reason, sometimes these blessings are taken away from us precisely because we are using them as a crutch in the place of our faith or making our faith depend on them rather than Him.

Notice also that even though Jesus didn’t come right out and call the woman a dog, she more or less admitted herself to be one when she said that even the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from the master’s table. God’s care for us and His protection of us also don’t depend on our own worthiness. We can’t come to Him and say that He should do things for us because we’re such good people or because we have tried to do what is right or whatever. The fact of the matter is that we aren’t good people. None of us have done what God required. Before God’s throne we have to admit that we are nothing but poor, miserable sinners. And many of us can name specific sins we have committed that are pretty terrible. If we were to have a conversation with God the way this woman did, we too would be forced to admit that we aren’t worthy for God to do anything for us. We too would have to admit that we are nothing and worse than nothing, and that God would be perfectly within His rights to ignore us and to forget about us and allow us to go straight to hell after our deaths.

But God has promised not to do that. And it is His promises that give us the reassurance that He won’t do that. It is His promises in the Holy Scriptures that we hold on to. God keeps His promises. This woman stubbornly held God to His promises after He had cut out from under her any other reason for Him to help her. He wasn’t going to help her because of her nationality, because she was not of Israel. She was a Canaanite, a group of people whom the Jews of those times often referred to as “dogs.” He wasn’t going to help her because of her crying and yelling after Him. He helped her only because His nature was of love and mercy. He helped her because not only the Israelites but all people were among those who are to humbly and thankfully receive God’s gifts. He helped her not because she was worthy of the help but because He is the one who helps people and upholds them. That’s who He is, that’s His identity: the life-giver and life-sustainer, both here and in eternity.

God has not promised to take away all our pains and griefs and troubles in this world. After all, if He did away with everything that’s wrong with this world the easy way, He’d do away with us sinners too. He has not promised that we will always feel very good or that we will always have the greatest feelings of joy and peace. But He has promised to take away the guilt of our sins and to give us eternal life. In eternal life we will have no more problems, troubles, and fears. In eternal life every tear will be wiped away from our eyes. In this life we may experience times that feel an awful lot like hell to us. Sometimes those hells are of our own making, whether because we have refused God’s Law and done what we ought not, or whether we have refused the Gospel, disobeyed the First Commandment, and imprisoned ourselves in a nightmare of guilt and self-blame. But we have His promise that this too shall pass. And we believe His promise, we have faith in His promise, not because we see Him working, not because we feel Him working, but because He is the one who gave us this promise. Despite everything we might see and feel, He is still there watching out for us and providing us with daily bread, and more importantly with the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation. Even we dogs, we poor miserable sinners, get to eat the crumbs which fall from the master’s table. And these “crumbs” are nothing less than the body and blood of Jesus Christ Himself. These “crumbs” grant nothing less than eternal life and salvation to those who receive them. We don’t deserve it, but God has given us to participate in the eternal feast of victory which has no end. God may not always seem to be gracious to us if we only use our five senses. But to the eyes of faith, which see the promises of His Word and the body and blood of His Supper for what they are, the richest blessings imaginable are ours. Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pentecost 8 (Proper 14), Series A

Sermon on Matthew 14:22-33
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
August 7, 2011 (Proper 14, Series A)

Try to picture yourself in Peter’s place for a moment. Here you are, standing on top of the water, water that should never be able to hold you up, with waves crashing all around you and wind threatening to knock you over at any moment. It’s bad enough that you’re standing on top of a liquid, a liquid which should by all known laws of nature allow you to sink into its depths and drown. It’s even worse that the wind is whistling around you, pushing against you and trying to make you fall. And then there’s those waves coming your direction, waves which, even if you manage to stay on top of the water, will almost certainly bury you and drag you down into a watery grave. It looked so easy when Jesus did it. In fact, He made it look so easy that you just had to try it, thinking maybe it would even be fun. And that’s probably the worst part about the whole situation. You got yourself into it. You put yourself where you had no business being, and now the water, the waves, and the wind are going to swallow you up and take you to a watery grave on the bottom of the sea of Galilee.

Now, I’m sure most of us have never tried to walk on top of water, so we have never been in Peter’s situation here. But we have all been in situations where we felt like we were doomed. There have been times in all of our lives when there are so many demands on our time, our energy and our abilities that we cannot even concentrate on our ordinary, day-to-day tasks. Whether we have been overcommitted at work, or at school, or found it difficult to balance family with other obligations, or even something as simple as forgetting an important family anniversary or birthday, this kind of hopeless feeling is not all that uncommon, especially in our busy age. The hopeless, sinking feeling we get is the figurative equivalent of the hopelessness and doom Peter felt when he was literally sinking into the waters of Galilee. And as with Peter, the worst part of it all is the fact that we are to blame for the impossible situation we are in. We are responsible, and we will be doomed when the whole thing comes crashing down around us. In extreme cases, we feel our life will be over. Sometimes those who cannot face the consequences of their actions may even commit suicide to avoid the condemnation they are sure the world is going to heap upon them.

I suspect that there is a reason that we human beings so easily give in to despair and overwhelming guilt. We know deep down that we are at least partially to blame for many of our problems. And even the non-Christian knows, even though many of them won’t admit it, that there is a God who made the universe, who is angry over sin, and who will condemn the sinner. And the truly frightening thing is that apart from Christ, they’re right. Apart from Christ and His Gospel and His Sacraments, God is an angry God who condemns the sinner. This knowledge colors everything a man does and thinks, especially when he is burdened with guilt.

The reaction of depression and despair is natural in those who know nothing of a loving God in Christ Jesus. However, to us who know Christ, whose foreheads are marked with His cross in Baptism, the reaction of helpless, paralyzing despair that many of us experience, the reaction that Peter probably was experiencing as he sank into the waves, is a reaction that demonstrates unbelief. It is a reaction that shows doubt in a God who loves and cares about us and will see us through these kinds of problems. Our Lord chastised Peter for his lack of faith. That admonition applies to us as well.

But when you are in the midst of a situation where it seems the world is caving in on you, where nothing you do can avert disaster, simply saying that your reaction to the situation is a symptom of doubt and unbelief doesn’t help. It only increases the guilt and despair, for not only have I let down everyone on this earth I love, but I’ve let down God as well. Indeed, there is only one thing that does help such a person in any truly lasting sense, and that is for God Himself to come to that person in His Word, His baptismal water, His body and blood, and tell that person that his sins are forgiven, and that no matter what the outcome of his current problems he will be with God in heaven for eternity. This is what our Lord did for Peter in the sea of Galilee. He pulled him out of the water. He demonstrated His love and His forgiveness by saving the very man who was doubting His promises. It was only after Peter was safe that he scolded him for his lack of faith. His first response was to restore that faith by saving Peter.

But Peter did die in the sea of Galilee that day. That’s right, I said that Peter died there in the water. Now, before you go accusing me of saying that the Bible is lying to us, let me explain. The Peter who doubted our Lord’s promises, the Peter who gave in to despair and fear, that Peter did not survive. When Jesus stretched out His hand and pulled Peter out of the water, it was a different Peter he pulled out, a Peter who believed our Lord’s promises and relied confidently on His ability to save. In a sense, the old Peter, or rather the old Adam in Peter, was drowned so that a new Peter, a new man in Christ, might come forth and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. By saving Peter, Jesus killed the old Adam who thought that Jesus could not save him.

What really happened out there on the sea of Galilee was that Peter was returned to the time when he was baptized. Most scholars assume that the disciples Jesus chose had been baptized by John the Baptist, since we never read of them being baptized by Jesus. Back there at the Jordan river, God worked though the hands of John the Baptist to drown the old Peter so that a new Peter could arise. Just like every one of us, though, the old Peter refused to die, and so he had to be drowned again every day. As Luther says in the Catechism, “Baptism signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins, and that daily a new man should come forth to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” What happened to Peter on that day in the sea of Galilee was simply an unusually graphic example of this process at work.

Now, this daily renewal of our Baptism doesn’t usually happen in such an extraordinary way. But God is rich in His grace. Often in the midst of the worst despair a verse of Scripture, the memory of a particularly powerful sermon, the forgiveness of a caring friend, or on Sunday morning the forgiveness of God Himself in the words of the pastor’s absolution, or any one of a host of other things will come into our minds and reassure us that we do have a loving God who will see us safely through all our earthly troubles so that we can be forever with Him in heaven. We have all experienced such comforts in times of trial. But we don’t usually think of them in terms of death. But that is what happens when God speaks through a friend or a pastor to remind us of God’s promises. The old Adam is put to death, and the new man, the new Christ in us, comes out of the Baptismal water to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Martin Luther was often assailed by doubts and fears. After all, he had a big job. There have been Lutherans around for almost 5 centuries, so we may not realize what he was up against. In Luther’s day, the true doctrine seemed new. False doctrine had been taught by the Church’s highest officials for centuries. In this kind of environment, its not surprising that even Luther himself sometimes doubted whether or not what he was doing was right. Satan would taunt him mercilessly, trying to get him to forsake the reformation he had started. But in the moments of his worst doubt, his worst despair, Luther would cry out, “Nevertheless, I am baptized!” The fact of Luther’s Baptism was his comfort against the doubts and tricks planted by Satan in his heart. He knew that even if some of his ideas were a little off (they weren’t), even if what he had done was more of a harm to the church than a help (it wasn’t), that God had still claimed him as His own and would still take his soul to be with Him at the end. He knew that on the last day his body would be raised, and he would, as he put it, “live before God in righteous and purity forever.” Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +