St. Luke 18:9–14 – Trinity 11 2020

St. Luke 18:9–14 – Trinity 11 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
August 23, 2020 – Video Here

INI. Amen. Before I even knew what a publican was, I knew I was one. Can’t be the pharisee. Must be the Tax Collector. I’m a virtue signaling social justice warrior. You are too. It’s all right there for all to see on our Social Media — what lives matter, how conservative we are or how woke, how to make our country great again, how to save the world from the evil Orange Man, how white privileged we are, how not, we wear our masks and care about covid, we defiantly don’t, we’re pro-life and anti-vaccine, we’re pro-choice and science, and we are for JC more than anyone else. Lutherans care — we have the 1990’s bump-stickers to prove it.

And before you cancel me for not meeting your expectations as pastor, remember my second job is to call you out your sins. We are inclined — all of us— to find inside ourselves something that we can take comfort in, trust in, as deserving favor with God. Something that makes us more and balances the scales. And then, we look at others as just simply not — not good enough or not as committed of a Christian as we are. They are deficient but I’ll make up for what they lack. (Sigh) Someone has to…

We may self-identify as Publicans, but we sure act and sound like Pharisees. “My kids behave better. I am more mission minded. I volunteer here while most people just sit in the pew. I’m a charter member. I’m give more. Bless your heart, they’re trying the best they can with what they have.” 

But the truth is that both when you are at your very best, kicking your sins in the teeth, on fire for Jesus, and when you are your at lowest and can’t even lift your eyes to the heavens, at both those times you are a pharisee.

And if I’ve offended you in this, it’s because it goes against your nature to confess this truth: “I am the pharisee of the parable.” To beat your breast and ask God for mercy is to confess that you have look down on others for the very sins that you have done. Speck in their eye. Log in yours.

Now that I’ve told you about your utter hypocrisy I get to do primary job you called me twice to do: Jesus came and took on your flesh to live before God as you should live and to suffer the punishment that you deserve. He was crucified for the Pharisee and Publican, for holy person and sinner, even you and me. His life spent to save them, to redeem them, to buy you back from your sins, from your death, and from the power of the devil. To not only end the war between you and God but also to end the skirmishes between you and others, the constant pushing each other down and raising ourselves up over their dead pharisaical corpses.

You are saved, you are forgiven, you are made right before God by Christ and Christ alone. τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως·  καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον· οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται. (Eph 2:8-9)

Grace alone means grace alone, not you working or doing or being. It means Jesus alone, gift alone, mercy alone, by faith alone. It means that you are saved from ever having to worry about whether you are enough for God. Jesus alone is all the “enough” you’ll ever need before God. 

All these things you hold up as good can’t save you. Being or not being something doesn’t save. That’s the problem of the Pharisees prayer! Not being a like other men, extortioners, unjust, homosexuals, adulterers, porn addict doesn’t save. And in the same way, being the publican, being honest, nice, straight, a good parent, repentant sinner, or conservative doesn’t save either. 

Your sins damn you to a real hell. But the answer to this problem isn’t fixed by not being or being something. Only Jesus saves. His death on the Cross is more than enough for God. Only His forgiveness covers you. He your holy life. He your getting better. He your virtue before others. He your identity, your story, your truth, your only Savior. 

For Jesus became your inner Pharisee. He became your virtue signaling. He became your hate, your despising others, your thinking yourself to be just a little more than those around you. In Him, all your sins died. In His resurrection, you are raised to the very right hand of God.

And don’t just throw your hands up and say, “I guess I’ll just not do anything,” Repent of your sins like the publican and believe that God saves you in Jesus. Then, remember that your neighbor needs the good that you do—the good that Jesus does through you—to build them up. The peeps around you need you to tell them that they are going to be okay in Jesus. They need to be loved and lifted up, cared for, and forgiven for the bad they’ve done. The good you do won’t save you, but the people around you sure could use some good from you to lift them up and save them in Jesus!

You live, free, forgiven, by grace. No longer having to justify and hold up those pathetic things you do and don’t do before God as if they matter. No more need to define yourself by your failures and successes. You aren’t a pharisee in Jesus. You aren’t a failed parent, divorced, addict, gay, straight, good church attender, a good spouse, or a great citizen either. Not in Jesus, not any more.

In Jesus, you are forgiven. In Jesus, you are a baptized child of God. In Jesus, you are an heir to the right hand of God. He even makes your works good for others. You see, Jesus defines who you are you just as He saves you. INI. Amen.

St. Luke 16:1-13 – Trinity 9 2020

St. Luke 16:1-13 – Trinity 9 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
August 9, 2020
Watch Here

INI. Amen. Hardest parable ever! Buckle up. We could hit turbulence  for the next eight minutes! Let’s work through it together: A manager is accused of being unrighteous. His rich boss demands an audit. The manager reasons out what to do. Can’t do manual labor. Too proud to beg. Don’t wanna be so poor that all I can afford is beanie wienies or ramen noodles. So he calls his masters debtors.

“How much do you owe? A hundred measures of oil? Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty. And how much do you owe? A hundred measures of wheat. Take your bill, and write eighty.” But at this point our ride gets bumpy: The rich boss commended the steward of unrighteousness for his shrewdness. What? He gave away his bosses stuff? How does he get commended?

Well, after he got done speaking, the Pharisees, who are lovers of money mocked Jesus! That’s the clue from St. Luke about the first meaning of this parable: This is about money and our misuse of it! The issue that we pharisees have with this parable is that we can’t fathom someone giving away our stuff and thinking of money this way! “It’s mine. It’s my precious. Every last dime. Mine. Mine. Mine.”

You know I’m right too. For from this pulpit I’ve called you adulterers, idolators, thieves, liars, and gossips. You just look at me and smile and love me. 

But, if I talk about your money, well… that’s where you draw the line. You reach into your pocket to protect your favorite idol: your money.

We worry. We fret. We look at our accounts every day. In voter’s meetings we argue for thirty minutes over $100. We need more. Always more. Never enough money—in our homes and in our church. And it’s not the money that’s evil, it’s our loving and trusting in it that wrecks our relationships with others and with the God who made us. We may sing that it’s not about the money money money, but it kinda is.

Οὐδεὶς οἰκέτης δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δουλεύειν·  ἢ γὰρ τὸν ἕνα μισήσει καὶ τὸν ἕτερον ἀγαπήσει, ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται καὶ τοῦ ἑτέρου καταφρονήσει.  οὐ δύνασθε θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ. (St. Luke 16:13)

Now, I could stop here and skate right into shaking you down for your offering but there is this: εἰ οὖν ἐν τῷ ἀδίκῳ μαμωνᾷ πιστοὶ οὐκ ἐγένεσθε, τὸ ἀληθινὸν τίς ὑμῖν πιστεύσει; (16:11). So, to truly understand this parable, we also have to get a handle on what the true riches are!

Now, remember the manager is accused of being unrighteous. But there’s no evidence that He actually is. His answer to the charge is to give his master’s stuff away and he’s shockingly commended for that. But, the big clue to what is going on is also at the end of the parable where the manager is referred to as the “manager of unrighteousness.” 

You see, whether the manager is guilty or not doesn’t matter. He takes the guilt onto Himself and makes the unrighteousness His own! Do you see it now? Jesus is the Manager of Unrighteousness! For God made Him who knew no sin to become your sin that you might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

Jesus is falsely accused. Hated by the Pharisees for giving His Father’s kingdom away. Crucified for crimes that He didn’t commit.

 For your love of your things, He suffers. For your idolatry of your stuff, He is crucified. For your unbelief and despair about your money, He dies.

But, Jesus doesn’t stay dead. He raises from the dead on Easter Morning. Forgiveness won by Jesus taking on the unrighteousness of those who don’t deserve it. Life for those who deserves death. Salvation for who can’t possibly earn it. 

You Good Friday-ed and Easter-ed with Jesus in Holy Baptism. In Jesus, you are a new creation. Alive to God. No longer longing for riches that fail, now you seek the true riches given by Jesus: Forgiveness, mercy, grace, love from God, righteousness, and faith. Not just things concerning God, but also love for others, joy, peace, patience, and kindness.

And the proper use of money. Given to you to love your family with, to feed them, and to care for them. And before God comes to you like today and says, “Give me an account of your management,” you can use the money given to you, like the manager of unrighteousness, to win friends and help others in need.

Christ has redeemed you. He has bought you back from your sins. He has given you — freely — salvation in His Good Friday and Easter. For Jesus has come to you and said, “Take your bill, take what you owe God, and write down 0. Paid for. Paid for by me.” Now, you now have the truly valuable things.

Hardest parable ever! Did we get it done in eight minutes? First this parable attacks your love of money. Then, the Lord points you to the true riches: salvation in Jesus and its fruit of love for those around you with the true riches. INI. Amen.

Sermon: St. Mark 8:1-9 – Trinity 7 2020

St. Mark 8:1-9 – Trinity 7 2020 (Confirmation)
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
July 26, 2020

INI. Amen. You’d think the disciples would’ve gotten it! It was a chapter and a half ago! They were there! They saw Jesus take the bread, give thanks, and break it. It fed five thousand. They picked up the twelve baskets of left over fish poboys.

It’s simple math really. If Jesus can make five loaves of bread and two fish feed five thousand men not counting the women and children, then seven loaves of bread and a few fish should easily feed four more thousand a chapter and a half later. Seriously!

Well, hold up. You two confirmands are about to confess before all of us that Jesus lived His life for you, died the death you deserve on the Cross, and rose again on the third day. You are going to promise to suffer all—even death—rather than to fall away. All of us who were confirmed made this promise too. 

You’ve worked so hard for it. All the times I threatened to fail you to make you be nice to me. All the times you stayed up late memorizing the catechism. All the times I made you repeat the catechism “one more time” because you didn’t stay up late memorizing it.

You going to commune for the first time today and without doubt confess that the bread is the Body of Christ and the Cup is the Blood of Christ. Then, you are gonna grimace because it’s easier to believe that the bread is the Body of Christ than the that the wafer is actually bread!

Then, the universe will go crazy. The world out there will tell you there is no truth and that everything in your faith is just a perspective. One amongst many. You have yours, I have mine. 

You will go to desolated places called “high school” and “college.” Your faith will be tested. You’ll hear professors scoff at the idea that God made the heavens and the earth. Actual good works before God will be replaced by virtue signaling. Your foundations will be rocked as you try to get the approval of others. Then add something no one is expecting — like a virus— and we’ve got a genuine hot mess of cray cray.

You will feel uncertainty—in your faith, in the truth of the Gospel, in all of it. Especially when the glory and beauty and memory of your Confirmation Sunday is a thing of the past. And everyone here can tell you that that their Confirmation Day was just a chapter and a half ago. Life moved on for them too.

Jesus had compassion on the crowds. He knew they were hungry.  He wanted to feed them. That’s the way God is, He feeds and cares for His people. As the Catechism says, “God made me and all creatures. He has given me my body and soul, eyes and ears all my members, my reason and all my senses and He still takes care of them today… He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.”

Dear Saints of God, to believe that God actually made you is to confess that you are not your own. If you are a random accident, then you can live, do, and think what you want. Without God I’m heaven, you would be just a combination of random genetic material. The end of all this talk is death.

But, if God made you then He is your God and you are His creature. And you know that you are created by God because Christ came and took on your genetic material to keep all that God requires of you and to die your death on the Cross. On the third day, He rose again from the dead. The Holy Gospels say this — they eyewitness testimony of how God is for you in Christ!

And Jesus’ death for you isn’t just someone dying in history. No, when Christ died you died with Him. His death is your death. And when He rose on Easter morning, you rose with Him too. He is your resurrection and forgiveness before the Father. It all happened for you at the Baptismal Font!

For the wages of sin may be death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Chris Jesus, our Lord. That’s why Church is essential — no matter what the world says. Because it’s easy to despise this Gospel, to have it slipped your mind, to forget it a chapter and a half later, in the midst of the desert of this world. That has all of us here every Sunday. That’s why confirmation isn’t the end of our church attendance, but just the beginning.

For Jesus wants to feed His people — five thousand, four thousand, you two, y’all out there, and even me. He wants to forgive your doubts, your despair, your feeling of helplessness. He wants to show you mercy when you feel so lost in this world that you throw your hands up and say, “What’s next God?“

He took it all first on the Cross. His life for your life. His death your death to sin. His resurrection your forgiveness before the Father. Whatever you go through in this life — the madness, the uncertainty, the unbelief and despair, the rejection by your friends because of this Faith, He went through first for you. He did it for you. He enlivens you to live by faith in Him and to love those around you.

And when you fail—and this goes for all of us—the Lord feeds you better than fish poboys, no He takes bread, gives thanks, and breaks it. “Take eat my Body given for you. Take drink My Blood shed for you. Be forgiven in my Calvary-won gifts”

Enough sermon. The Lord wants to confirm and feed these two young people. For Jesus has compassion on sinners — on the four thousand, five thousand, and on you and me. INI. Amen. 

St. Matthew 7:15–23 – Trinity 8 2020

St. Matthew 7:15–23 – Trinity 8 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
August 2, 2020

INI. Amen. You are a child of God, adopted, into the family of God. God is your Father. Jesus your brother. The Spirit your comforter. The Church your Mother. The people around you — even the strangers you’ve gotten to know from different services — are your brothers and sisters in Christ.

You are the Church, the Bride of Christ, purchased with the precious blood of Jesus. You are His prized possession. Holy. His own. He plucked you from out of all the nations and said, “Mine! You are mine!”

Jesus came and took on your flesh. He lived as you should live before God doing all that God requires of you. Then, He took upon Himself the punishment that you deserve all the way to the Cross—By His stripes you are healed.

He suffered. Your sins are atoned for. He died. You live. He rose from the dead. You rose with Him forgiven in the water and Word. He endured the punishment of eternal hell and death and you get eternal life in Him. He’s at the right hand of God. You will be too soon.

You are holy. You are pure —without spot, wrinkle, or blemish. Completely and totally righteous. Forgiven. That’s true on the Last Day. It’s true right now by faith in Him.

And your works are perfect before Him too. How could they not be? A good tree — the Cross of Jesus — bears good fruit. In faith, in Jesus, He calls your love and service to others “good.” All of you—including your love and works— has been washed clean in the blood of the One who died and rose again for you.

And you didn’t earn this Good News. You don’t deserve it. Apart from the Tree of the Cross, you deserve the fires of hell because of what you do and don’t do.

But you aren’t apart from Jesus. You are baptized into Him. You are Worded and Absolved. Body and Blooded. You are God’s child. You are His own bought with His Blood. They’ll have to get through Jesus to get to you and that isn’t gonna happen after Easter.

That’s the Gospel! The good tree that bears good fruit in your life. Apart from Him you have no hope, no fruit, no salvation. But in this Gospel you are saved—even you.

Guard this Gospel. Cherish it. Don’t take your ears and the ears of your children off it. It’s hard to find — I know because I spent many years roaming around Christendom before I ever heard it.

All messages and preachers are not the same. It doesn’t matter if the preacher is an old guy who has no inflection or a C-list Internet celebrity pastor who dresses like me—What matters is the Gospel, the proclamation of Christ and Him crucified FOR YOU. That’s what matters!

A sermon that makes you feel good isn’t enough. Nor does a homily full of stories with an honorable mention of Jesus cut it. A message that begins with Jesus and then ends with what you do is a dog that don’t hunt too. God did all this for you, now it’s your turn. That’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

And Jesus has to say this to you today because everything inside you fights this Gospel. Your heart says, “What about me and what I do? Where’s the part where I get better, am better person, and finally deserve more from God?” All that talk ends in death.

For only the 100% pure, unadulterated, Jesus-did-it-all-for-me-on-the-Cross Gospel brings lasting peace to you in this world. Only the true Gospel will calm you down when the lights are off and the horror of the things you’ve done whisper to you that everything that the Devil accuses you of is true. “God can’t save a person like you. He certainly doesn’t love you. I mean, Look at you.”

But the Father did and He does save you. Your Lord Jesus has taken upon Himself all your evil and shortcomings. Your sins and the serpent’s accusations died with Him. You live in Jesus — today, tomorrow, forever.

Which frees you to forgiven good works for others not to save yourself or to prove you are are a Christian, but because the Good Friday tree bears good fruit, you bear good fruit. Love for others — family, friends, the people that you meet as you are walking down the street, even for the people you are getting to know again in this service.

And that’s just the Second Table fruit! Here’s the best fruit: when the day you’ve run from your whole life finally arrives, when cancer gets you, or your failing heart, or this virus, it’ll be this Gospel that tucks you in with everlasting comfort:

You are a child of God, adopted, into the family of God. God is your Father. Jesus your brother. The Spirit your comforter. The Church your Mother. You are an heir to paradise.

Any preacher, devil, or your conscience telling you otherwise is a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing liar. The One who died for you says you’re His own. They’ll have to get through Jesus to get to you. That’s not gonna happen after Good Friday and Easter. So, in Jesus, your sins are forgiven and you have eternal life. INI. Amen.

Sermon: St. Luke 5:1-11 – Trinity 5 2020

St. Luke 5:1-11 – Trinity 5 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
July 12, 2020

INI. Amen. καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Σίμων εἶπεν· Ἐπιστάτα, διʼ ὅλης νυκτὸς κοπιάσαντες οὐδὲν ἐλάβομεν·  ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ ῥήματί σου χαλάσω τὰ δίκτυα. (St. Luke 5:5). St. Peter had it out all figured out. He had his Jesus life — church, Bible Study, and potlucks. What Lutheran doesn’t like a good Potluck? Peter too! Jesus always gives the best Fish Poboys!

Peter also had his work life. Fishing not for a hobby like but for a career. Fished these waters his whole life. He knew how to catch fish— his life depended upon it.

Traveling preacher Jesus comes with a large crowd in tow. They push Him, press Him against the shore demanding of Him some words. That’s the way of faith! Faith clings to the Lord’s Words and promises as if our lives depended upon it. Because they do!

So, Jesus hopped into St. Peter’s boat and asked him to put out a little from the shore. And He taught the crowd right there from the boat! But the Lord didn’t stop there, after teaching, He asked Peter, Ἐπανάγαγε εἰς τὸ βάθος καὶ χαλάσατε τὰ δίκτυα ὑμῶν εἰς ἄγραν. (Luke 5:4)

Peter knew fishing. He lived it. He breathed it. And here was the Lord telling to cast his net into a water that he knew had been utterly fish-less all night long. So when Pete says ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ ῥήματί σου χαλάσω τὰ δίκτυα (Luke 5:5), you can bet it was not in faith, but with a sigh and an eye roll just to prove Jesus wrong.

You see — it’s easy for a while to juggle all the compartments of your life: work, faith, family, politics, and even how we fight this virus — all neatly compartmentalized so you can get along with the world, your family, your work, and still have your church.

But when your faith conflicts with those other compartments of your life, that’s when the problems begins. When the world pushes your faith, when it contradicts it, when it challenges it, when the world says you are gonna get this virus and die, what moves? Do you trust Jesus or do you trust what you know, think, feel? Do you know nothing other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified or is that just one contradictory truth amongst many in your mind? 

The Miracle: Fish and more fish. So many fish that the net was breaking. Call the other boat there’s so many fish. Two boats so filled with fishies that they are gonna go under!

That’s the way of faith — always more. More forgiveness, more mercy, more love — from God to you and then enlivening your love, mercy, and forgiveness to others. Won on the Cross where Jesus suffered and died for your sins and the sins of the whole world and then delivered to you in the waters of your Baptism.

Baptism— that’s where fishes are caught in His net. You, me, all of us were caught up by Jesus’ men in the net of His words. Fishermen like Kunz, Koch, Johnson, Fenker, and the fisherman you are slumming with now delivering the words that the world thinks are foolish but that you know to be the power of God.

 Ἔξελθε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός εἰμι, κύριε. (St. Luke 5:8)  Peter drops to his knees in fear. All that He had known about his life was trumped by Jesus and He simply had refused to believe it. He had believe Jesus was God but not the God that is two-boats-filled-with-fish good. The Lord was the only compartment—the only truth in His life—that was certain and true.

The Lord is calling you to repent today. He will not suffer Himself to be just a part of your life, He would be in all of your life —- in your work, your family, your friendships, your politics, even in how you protect yourself from this virus. 

And I’m not telling you to force your faith down the throats of your neighbor or to walk around as if you are virus proof. That’s not what Jesus did for St. Peter and not how He rolls with you. I’m telling you to cast your net on the side of the boat of your life and get ready for a catch of fish. Live your Christianity in your vocations — in your school, work, family, your politics. Put your mask on and obey the governor with the certainty that all these measures won’t protect you. No, your Lord has made you death proof and He will save you even if the virus gets you.

The world and your faith are going to collide more and more in the months to come. They are incompatible. One is going to have to give. I’m telling you now to comfort you so that when you fear being cancelled, that you will lose friendships, that you are going to die every time someone coughs, that you will lose your livelihood, then you will remember that before anything else your are a fish that has been caught by Jesus. The most that anything in this world can do is kill you. You already died in your Baptism. As surely as He lives, you will live also! That Gospel truth isn’t just a part of your life, it permeates every other thing you do, say, how you fight this virus, and is the center of all your relationships. 

And when you realize that like St. Peter, you know you have failed, don’t fret. Confess your sins. Be forgiven in the boat. 

For the worst thing that could happen to you — death— happened to Jesus first. You have been caught by Jesus in the waters of Holy Baptism. He has you in His net. He won’t let you go. He raised from the dead. You will too. 

For Christ is your salvation. He your life — your whole life. He has saved you —all of you. From the world that hates you, from what you think, from being cancelled, from being abandoned, even from this crazy virus.  You are a fish. You are saved in Jesus. INI. Amen.

Sermon: St. Luke 6:36–42 – Trinity 4 2020

St. Luke 6:36–42 – Trinity 4 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
July 5, 2020

INI. Amen. Remember Joseph? The coat-of-many-colors-dreamer who told his brothers that they would all bowed down to him. They wanted him dead. Judah saved Joseph by convincing them to leave him for dead in a well. He was found by the Egyptians, made a slave, falsely #metoo-ed by Potiphar’s wife, then thrown into a prison. But God saved him in prison, giving him the chance to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams about a famine. He was so helpful to Pharaoh that he became the chief administrator in Egypt! Now the famine also brings his brothers to Egypt to kneel before the Hand of the King needing food. Oh yes, Karma! But instead of repaying them the same evil that they visited on him, Joseph forgave them. 

Now, our OT lesson takes place after their father, Jacob, had died. The brothers are afraid. Will their little bro Joe go all Godfather 2 now that Dad is dead and Fredo them? With Dad dead, will he kill them? He would be justified. Afterall, they were the cause of all the evil in his life— the slavery, all the pain, the abandonment, and being separated from his parents. They had it coming!

וַיֹּ֧אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֛ם יוֹסֵ֖ף אַל־תִּירָ֑אוּ כִּ֛י הֲתַ֥חַת אֱלֹהִ֖ים אָֽנִי׃ וְאַתֶּ֕ם חֲשַׁבְתֶּ֥ם עָלַ֖י רָעָ֑ה אֱלֹהִים֙ חֲשָׁבָ֣הּ לְטֹבָ֔ה

Joseph had been forgiven, how could he not forgive? God had shown him mercy, how could he not show others the same? How could he cancel others when God never cancelled him? Was he God to condemn his brothers? See where I’m going, yet?

There’s a lot of things to be judging today: Those wearing masks judging those who don’t. Those judging people by the color of their skin and those judging others for not being angry enough about the injustices of the thing. People being judged for speaking out and judged for not. Red vs Blue. What a judge-y-hot mess!

And that isn’t even the day to day judging we do of each other! We know other people’s motives, feelings, thoughts, and intentions. They did it deliberately! We judge their parenting, their relationships, their work, their lives. They never measure up to us. In fact, they are evidence to our sinful minds that we are going to be okay because at least we aren’t as bad as they are. 

If your eye doctor came out wearing glasses like she was blind, would you let her perform your surgery? But that’s what we do! We are hypocrites trying to tweezer out our neighbor’s eye speck with logs in our own. We are the blind performing eye surgery on the blind thinking they can see! But all we are is in darkness.

Γίνεσθε οἰκτίρμονες καθὼς [καὶ] ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν οἰκτίρμων ἐστίν (St. Luke 6:36). The Lord is compassionate. He doesn’t retain His anger forever. Instead, He wants to show mercy.

God won’t judge you in Christ. He won’t condemn you. He won’t send you to hell in Jesus. He won’t abandon you to the darkness you’ve made for yourself. Not after He judged His Son guilty in your place, condemned Him to the Cross and hell in your place.

The world can surround and condemn you. You can fail, trip and fall in the darkness of your guilty conscience feeling alone and abandoned. The devil’s accusations against you can even be true.

But, Christ is your light and your salvation, whom shall you fear? The Lord is the stronghold of you life of whom shall you be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1-2). For all that you could be judged for, condemned for, and punished for was put upon your Lord Jesus first. He endured it all. He who knew no sin became your sin so that you might be the very righteousness of God. And in His death and resurrection, God has fathered you and called you His child and made you a member of His family. And that makes everything a gift from the Lord’s hand — both good and bad!

For faith trusts, faith believes that whatever is thrown at you from above or from below is all going to work it out for good to save. How could it not? After all, you are baptized child of God— His sons and daughters bought by the precious blood of Christ. God has showed you — even you — compassion. You are forgiven. You have been shown mercy. He has had compassion on you.

Take His compassion and give it to others. Forgive, mercy, love those around you with the forgiveness, mercy, and love given to you in the suffering and death of Jesus. Start with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, your family, and then your neighbor!

Whatever they did to you, whatever you feel they need to be judged for happened to Jesus first. He’s died for you to save you from whatever evil they we did deliberately to you. He works good from evil, happy from sad, goodness from pain, and life from death. He’s even using the evil around you to draw you closer to Him so that He show you more of His compassion in Jesus.

For the way of karma isn’t the way of Jesus. You don’t get what you deserve in Christ. Free others from getting what they deserve for what they’ve done to you.

It worked out for Joseph and His brothers. God used the evil they did to him to bring his whole family safely through a famine. It’ll work out for you and your neighbor too—maybe even despite you. Through the virus, the hate and madness around you, the failures of others and the things you are tempted to judge but are going to forgive—God is working through all of it to save you and your family. It’s sure as His Word from Joseph to his brothers:

 וְאַתֶּ֕ם חֲשַׁבְתֶּ֥ם עָלַ֖י רָעָ֑ה אֱלֹהִים֙ חֲשָׁבָ֣הּ לְטֹבָ֔ה (Gen. 50:20a) INI. Amen.

Sermon: St. Luke 15:1-10 – Trinity 3 2020

St. Luke 15:1-10 – Trinity 3 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
June 28, 2020
Watch here

INI. Amen. Dear forgiven sheep, the Lord wants you to hear this message today! Repeat it to TV, internet, and your neighbor.

First, from the OT:לֹא־הֶחֱזִ֤יק לָעַד֙ אַפֹּ֔ו כִּֽי־חָפֵ֥ץ חֶ֖סֶד הֽוּא (Micah 7:18). 

Then the Epistle, repeat: Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς ἦλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἁμαρτωλοὺς σῶσαι, ὧν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ.  (1 Tim. 1:15b). And the Gospel has this good news grumbled in the mouthes of the Pharisees who complain about Jesus, repeat: Οὗτος ἁμαρτωλοὺς προσδέχεται καὶ συνεσθίει αὐτοῖς. (St. Luke 15:2)

All three readings repeat so clearly the Scriptural truth that not even your LSU graduate pastor can miss: God saves sinners in Jesus. He wants to show mercy in the suffering and death of His Son. He desires to forgive those who don’t deserve forgiveness and to save those who don’t deserve saving in the Cross of Christ.

The other gods of the world aren’t like this. You’ve heard their message screamed at you. Their priests cancel your childhood heroes in the unforgiving anger and rage against injustices of past. 

Their parables sound like this: A man had one hundred sheep. One of them got himself lost in something hateful. The shepherd doesn’t get Him because he deserves exactly he got. No mercy.

A woman has ten coins and she loses one. Instead or looking for it, she examines the other coins and decides which ones she’s going to throw out because of the unforgivable sins of the people engraved on them.

To the world’s religion, if you are in you then you are in and if you aren’t, consider yourself cancelled or all time. Sure you can try to do penance, you can pay alms, and kneel before their altars. 

But, you can’t undo what you’ve done, can’t make it better. One sin — big or small — and you are out for all time.

And all of this is framed under under some really good virtues: everyone being treated equally, equal justice under the Law for all, loving everyone, and caring for those who are in need. We want those things, right? But the world’s love only goes to those who agree to hate what the world hates, despise what they despise, and cancel who they cancel. In the end the world’s love and open mindedness extends to only those who are agree with them. Failure to comply means you too will be canceled.

And let’s be clear: There’s no room in Christianity for not loving anyone because of the color or for slavery. Remember, we, God’s people, were slaves in Egypt and to our sins. God has freed us from the chains of death itself. And when Paul sends a runaway slave Onesiumus back to Philemon, his master, he is encouraged to free him because God sent His Son into our flesh to save us.

To save you—that’s what God is really about! He sends His Son to grab lost-sheep-you and throw you over His shoulder to rescue you from your lost-ness. He sweeps and cleans houses to find the lost pennies, lost you and me, in order to bring us back to the God.

For God wants to save sinners. He wants to save those who can’t fix what they have done. The more sins, the bigger the savior. And that’s not a challenge for you to sin more because how could you possibly sin more than you already do — with all your thoughts, words, and deeds. He took on your flesh to be die for you — even for those like you and me who deserved to be cancelled by Him.

And in Him, in His forgiveness, in the waters of your Baptism, in His Body and Blood, you are enlivened to repent and leave not only the trying to sin more to get more forgiveness but also any desire to cancel anyone, to not forgive them, to hold anything against them, to judge and hate them, or let them be dead to you. 

For be warned those who live by the sword, who join this cancel culture and cancel others for their past sins, who refuse to show mercy and forgiveness to others, will find on from God the same treatment as they dealt out to others. With the measure you measure, you will be measured with on the Last Day.

For God is not about throwing you into a penalty box that you can’t get out yourself out of.  God puts His own Son into a penalty box of hell and abandonment in order that you will never ever be abandoned by Him. The only thing cancelled in this world is the sin of the world — for it died with Jesus. How on earth could you ever hold anyone’s sins — past, present, or future, against them.

And that’s the only answer to the religion of this world. It’s to step out of it and say, “I don’t need your approval, world. I’m going with Jesus on this one. I deserve to be cancelled for my sins. But, God cancelled His Son for me. I’m not going to hold sins against people. I was a lost sheep, lost coin, and I’ve been found by Jesus. I’m going forgive because the Lord saves sinners — you, me, and and all.”

Dear forgiven sheep, the Lord wants you to hear this message today! You need to hear it and repeat it so that your neighbor hears it. From the OT: לֹא־הֶחֱזִ֤יק לָעַד֙ אַפֹּ֔ו כִּֽי־חָפֵ֥ץ חֶ֖סֶד הֽוּא (Micah 7:18).

The Epistle, repeat: Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς ἦλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἁμαρτωλοὺς σῶσαι, ὧν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ.  (1 Tim. 1:15b)

And the good news grumbled at Jesus: Οὗτος ἁμαρτωλοὺς προσδέχεται καὶ συνεσθίει αὐτοῖς. (St. Luke 15:2). 

Jesus eats receives sinners and eats with them— like today with you and me. Take eat, take drink, His Body and Blood. Your sins are forgiven you. Your neighbor’s past is cancelled too in Jesus. INI. Amen.

Sermon: St. Luke 14:15–24 – Trinity 2 2020

St. Luke 14:15–24 – Trinity 2 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
June 20, 2020

INI. Amen. Dear “cancelled” Christians, here you are again! The unwanted, the broken, the absolute failures of this world all gathered together in this 340-person-capacity building. And that’s just at 50% capacity!

Now the children of Israel— also known as “His people”— had been invited to be His church. They ate right, washed their hands properly, if asked to they’d have worn their masks in public— they had it all together! They worked to keep the Law like they had to in order to be saved — because they thought they did have to! But when He invited them, all the invitations got RSVPed in the resoundingly negative. “I have bought a field. Bought some turbo charged oxen! I have married a girl. Please excuse me!”

And what did God replace them with? Good people who have bad secrets. The Hurt, abused, molested, and the abusers who violated them. Couples whose marriages have failed, parents who have failed their kids and the kids who hate them for it. Religious losers or those crabby with God because of what is going on in their life. Academic dropouts, the furloughed, and unemployed. Hateful racists and those who are discriminated against.People who struggle with their identity, gender, and same sex attraction. A basket of deplorable, grumpy old trolls who live under bridges that neither Hilary nor Dora the Explorer want them around. Ex-Cons and people with coughs that no one wants around. Witches who look at horoscopes and think that they go crazy on full moons and when Mercury is in retrograde. Bad people who are trying to be good people and the people who are forced to live with them. Gossip, porn and secret drug addicts. Those who try to fight sin and fail and those who have thrown in the towel. Did I miss anyone?

You see God had His people, actually good people, but they had better things to do. So, He sent His Son to invite the people in the back of His Rolodex. For you young whippersnappers with your smart phones, that’s the people who all the cool kids have already blocked on social media. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about the people the likes of you and me.

νυνὶ δὲ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ὑμεῖς οἵ ποτε ὄντες μακρὰν ἐγενήθητε ἐγγὺς ἐν τῷ αἵματι τοῦ Χριστοῦ. (Eph. 2:13). For Jesus Himself is your peace and has broken down all the barriers between you and the God who made you by His death on the Cross.

You didn’t earn the Lord’s salvation. You don’t deserve His love. You were only invited because His people rejected Him. Consider that! Rejoice in it! Revel in it! No one showed up to God’s party and so He invited you. Jesus bought you to His dance, clothed you with His clothes, forgave your sins by His death on the Cross, and proclaimed to you that everything in your failed life is forgiven because of His Cross. And the best part? Jesus acts like you did Him a solid and refuses to be convinced otherwise!

And before you write a four page-single-spaced letter about how your pastor preaches as if God saves actual hard-core sinners, let me save you the time: God does save actual hard-core sinners in Jesus! He says He does! He glories in it and you should too because that means that He’s going to save you in Christ Jesus.

Remember, you aren’t made of better stuff than others. You weren’t even originally invited to His livestream. You are here because the actual good people were busy. And some of us still need to be coerced or paid to come to here. How many fathers today said, “No lunch unless you actually go to church!”

Jesus has brought together you and God. He makes peace with you. For God has reconciled us to Himself by fulling the Law and it’s ordinances in the death of His Son. 

He has reconciled with those who don’t deserve reconciliation and made peace with people who bring nothing to the peace. He did it in Jesus. He invited even me who doesn’t deserve mercy and been given the inheritance of the children of God. You too!

That means that today my relationships are #forgiven. My parenting has been #absolved. My failed friendship are #reconciled. My past is #diedfor. My life is #madebetterbyJesus. Yours is too.

“ἄρα οὖν οὐκέτι ἐστὲ ξένοι καὶ πάροικοι ἀλλὰ ἐστὲ συμπολῖται τῶν ἁγίων καὶ οἰκεῖοι τοῦ θεοῦ,”(Eph. 2:19). That’s you, Immanuel, even when your lights flicker. You’ve been cancelled by the world, despised, rejected, broken by failure, wearied by the quarantine, wrecked by the economy, and abandoned by the world around you. 

But, don’t fret! All those things and more were done to Him first to save you. And when your life is such a hot-stinking-mess that you feel like the church building will implode if you come into this place again, don’t worry because His church, this place, isn’t built on your faithfulness to Him, but on the Apostles and prophets with Christ Himself as the Cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 

For you’re here again being built up together in Him into a holy temple. Whether you walk through those doors or were dragged with promise of Father’s Day food, you got the invite that was dropped by holier people.

The Lord has saved you in His Cross—even you with all your failures, mess ups, and catastrophic life fumbles. And one day soon, He will again bust into this world where you are trying to do better and failing and He will snatch you out of this veil of tears and take you to a place where He shows you how wonderful you are in His Cross. He’ll even say that you are doing Him a favor being there. INI. Amen.

Sermon: John 3:1-17 – Holy Trinity 2020

John 3:1-17 – Holy Trinity 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
June 7, 2020

Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the Undivided Unity! INI. Amen. 

Boy, do we need some good news! In a world gone completely bonkers — viruses, lock downs, injustices, and protestors! That’s just last week! And there’s been no break — COVID19, quarantine, unemployment, then riots?! And you look up to heaven and be like, “Really? What’s next? Murder Hornets. No, nevermind, God, it’s okay!” Then comes a Tropical Storm!

And in the midst of it all, the Holy Trinity can seem so academic and abstract. Algebra, Trigonometry, and the Holy Trinity. You know 1+1+1=3. No, that’s not it. It’s 1x1x1! That’s Trinitarian! Three in one. Yet, how does that Math matter when the world has gone completely cuckoo for Coco Puffs?

Well, let’s see if a word from today’s Gospel can rescue us from the same old Trinity stuff: καὶ καθὼς Μωϋσῆς ὕψωσεν τὸν ὄφιν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, οὕτως ὑψωθῆναι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον. (St. John 3:14-15)

Moses, of burning bush fame in Egypt. God said, “Let my people go.” Red Sea. Crossed on dry ground. Yes, that Moses.

God had saved the Israelites from bondage to Pharaoh with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. And even with the nations trembling ahead of them and the Egyptians plundered behind them, they still grumbled against Him. He was to blame for all their problems — from the lack of variety in their meals to the perceived unfairness of their punishment in the wilderness.

God wasn’t unfair to them. He chose them. He picked them out. They were His. He heard their cries and saved them out of slavery in Egypt. He their God; They His people. 

And what did they do? They built a Golden Calf and said, “This cow-god saved us from Egypt!” In the wilderness they despaired, rejected God and His servant, Moses. No good! Think about before you wanna string up your pastor because the Lord Jesus wants you to do something new like have one service on Sunday.

God sent fiery serpents through the camp that bit many Israelites. They suffered. They died. They cried out to God again and what He did was just something that no man could make up on his own:

He didn’t remove the serpents. No, He told Moses to make a bronze snake on a pole. And whoever looked on that snake-on-a-stick was healed. So, snakes still there, still biting the grumblers, but whoever would look on the bronze serpent would saved.

That’s the way of things with God! He doesn’t have to remove the pandemic or give you break in between the endless drama. No, He can toss in there someone you love getting sick, supply chain problems leaving no Diet Mt Dew in BC, and while you deal with a world gone mental.

Is God neutral to this stuff? Does He just not care? Why is this happening? Can’t He just make it stop? Have you asked that? I have! And when I did I couldn’t have been more wronger!

You see, God lifted that bronze serpent to show you that He would lift up His Son that whoever believes in lifted-up-on-the-Cross-Jesus would be saved. For THIS is how God shows His love: He sends His Son not judge the world but to save it.

You’d miss this good news, if the doctrine of the Trinity wasn’t revealed to you by the Holy Spirit from Scripture. The Father, fully God, hates nothing that He created and sends His Son. Jesus, true God and true Man, is lifted like the serpent on the Cross. The Holy Spirit, true God proceeding from the Father and the Son, delivers to you the Father’s love for you in His Son. 

And yet, there are not three Gods or three Lords, but one Lord God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-committed to saving you. 

You see, God is not neutral in what’s going on around you. He’s not punishing you either. Repent of that thinking for the Truth is quite the opposite! God in Christ is working all of this out for your good. He’s turning evil into good. Moving the universe to make things eternally better for you. He is even turning death into life.

Have doubts? Well, don’t start by looking at the virus, the tropical storm, the economy, your health, how many funerals we have this week, and especially not the bee murdering hornets. No, those things will only make you grumble against God and His servant. Repent of that too!

Instead, look at the Blessed Trinity undivided in Unity to save you. The Father loves you in the lifting up of His Son on the Cross. The Spirit makes it known you the Father’s loving you in the Calvary and Eastering of His Son in the Word, the water, and the bread and wine. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for you. Not three “for-you’s” but one “for-you” in Jesus.

God can’t be neutral about you or clueless about the cray-cray in your world. Like He acted to save the children of Israel, He sent His Son to die and rise again for you and then made that life yours in the external Word. He’s going to carry you through this and out the other side! 

Then, when it’s over and He’s all done working out your salvation with fear and trembling in your life, you’ll see on the Last Day how even the fiery serpents or the Murder Hornets in your life didn’t happen apart from Him for your good. He’s got you. He will have you on the Last Day. He has you now by faith in Jesus. It’s as sure as the Name put on you on Holy Baptism: the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirt.  Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the Undivided Unity. INI. Amen.

Sermon: St. John 16:32 – Rogate 2020

St. John 16:32 – Rogate 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Bossier City, LA
May 30-31, 2020

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! He is risen indeed! Alleuia! In the name of Jesus. Amen. Ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν, ἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶ εἰρήνην ἔχητε. Ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ θλίψιν ἔχετε· ἀλλὰ θαρσεῖτε, ἐγὼ νενίκηκα τὸν κόσμον.

Can you beat that? So very calm, matter of fact, and simple. We’ve been separated from each other, pulled apart, and in a sort of Babylonian captivity. And here comes Jesus with a simple Word: “Take heart, I’ve overcome the world.”

The Greek word is νικάω. Origin for the company “Nike.” You know the “swoosh.” Simple meaning: “to conquer, to overcome, to win.”

Jesus uses νικάω in the perfect tense. You remember English class? The perfect is similar in Greek — an action completed in the past. Jesus proclaims to you today: I did it—I niked the world. 

κόσμος. That’s better. That’s the Greek word too. I have overcome the cosmos. Everything there is, the universe of things that could get you, I got it, I niked it, schwoosh done deal. You win in me.

“I say these things to you,” says your Lord, “because in the cosmos, you’ll have tribulation.” You’ll have disease, viruses, pain, suffering, and separation. In the world, you and your faith will be non-essential. 

You’ll try against your sins and fail. You’ll be overcome by doubt, fear, and death. You’ll be scared — deathly scared of what you have done and how you have leaved. You’ll worry about how much you have, your job, and tomorrow. That’s what goes on in the cosmos — tribulation. 

“But I have spoken — another perfect tense — these things to you that in me you have peace.” The Lord doesn’t give His Word only to make you feel bad about what you have and done. He doesn’t just speak condemning Words. No, He wants to give you forgiveness, comfort, and grace.

“In me you have peace,” says your Lord. Present tense. Right now. Where you are, even in all this strange fear and dread, and in a cosmos turned upside down. In Jesus, in His Word, in His Baptism, in His Body and Blood, you have the peace won and achieved on the Cross with His holy life and bitter sufferings and death. 

Not peace only tomorrow. Not peace when things get better and everything opens up. Not peace if you don’t get the ‘rona or don’t give someone else the ‘rona. Peace —right here and right now. Present tense. Peace in the Word, water, and Body and Blood of Jesus.

And this peace isn’t something you figure out, some Zen moment that you find in a world gone mad, or a mantra that you repeat to yourself over and over again like “I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be okay. I don’t have this virus. I’m gonna be okay” after you cough or sneeze or wake up a little warm.

Peace — true peace that nikes the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh. Not because you are so strong or believe so hard, but solely because of what Jesus did for you on the Cross. He has spoken so that in Him you would have peace. Out there tribulation. In Him, peace that the world, a virus, not even death itself can take away.

And if your doubts should creep up, if your fears should flair up, or the devil whisper to you, “You are going to get what you deserve. God can’t give peace to someone who has lived as you have lived. You must go to hell.”

Luther says for you to that evil serpent and the world, “No, that is not the will of God. Begone, devil, you and the evil world; for my Lord Christ says no to you, He tells me that the Father is not angry with me but will give me the Comforter… [God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] concur in this, that they do not want me to be frightened and sad, much less rejected and condemned, but comforted and happy,” (AE 24, 114-115). “Run along, devil, and peddle your [stuff] elsewhere.” (AE 24 133)

For clinging to God’s Word, “all God’s anger and all hell are totally extinguished,” (AE 24, 112) God has only peace for you. Out there — tribulation. But you are not of the world, you are in the Faith of Jesus. He has spoken to you so that you would take heart, He has schwooshed the cosmos for you.

Can you beat that? So very calm, matter of fact, and simple. We’ve been separated from each other, pulled apart, and in a sort of Babylonian captivity. And here comes Jesus with a simple Word: Take heart, I’ve niked the cosmos. Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! He is risen indeed! Alleuia! In the name of Jesus. Amen