Sermo Dei: +Peg Seitz+

Text: Luke 5:1–11

Dear Family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“It’s not about me.” That’s what Peg wanted to get across – she titled her book with this sentence. It’s not about Peg. It’s about Jesus. Everything is about Jesus; all of life is about Jesus. That’s what Peg believed.

This belief is a gift from God. Jesus says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” The one necessary work that God asks of us, and that God works in us, is that we believe in Jesus Christ, our Savior. Peg believed in Jesus Christ, her Savior.

But she couldn’t do it on her own. She was sinful from conception, just as King David knew he was when he wrote down those words in Psalm 51: “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Like all of us, Peg was dead in her transgressions.

But new life was given to her from God. Her faithful parents brought her to the font, where she was baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection on October 1, 1953. Thereafter she walked in the “newness of life” that Paul describes in Romans 6, which we spoke together at the beginning of the service. “We were buried therefore with [Jesus] into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Having been blessed with the baptismal gifts of a regenerated heart, the Holy Spirit, faith, and the complete and certain forgiveness of her Sin, Peg could rightly say that it wasn’t about her. It’s all about Jesus, for her; and for you.

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A Need to Speak for Life in Illinois

In 1977, the State of Illinois saw a bill passed through the legislature and signed into law that implemented a ban on the taxpayer funding of abortion. This included not allowing coverage of abortion services in state employee health plans, as well as not allowing the coverage of abortion services in Medicaid. That year – 1977 – over 12,700 abortions were paid for by tax dollars under Medicaid. The ban was challenged in the courts, but was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980.
The ban has since remained in effect, but a bill was recently introduced into the Illinois House that seeks to remove this ban on taxpayer funding of abortion through Medicaid and state employee health plans. In other words, the removal of the ban would allow blanket funding of abortion services with taxpayer dollars, with basically no restrictions whatsoever. The bill also would allow the Department of Human Services to provide taxpayer-funder grants to organizations that provide referrals for, counsel for, or even provide abortions (e.g. grants would be allowed from the state to Planned Parenthood).
Simply put, this is a terrible bill that is not only harmful to our littlest neighbors and women in need to true help, but is also dangerous to the consciences of so many citizens of the State of Illinois.
The bill has made it through committee and now is on the calendar to be debated and voted one by the full Illinois House, likely sometime in mid to late April.
I’m asking you to take a few minutes and write a letter or make a phone call to your State Representative and tell him to vote “NO” on IL HB 4013. Again, please take a few minutes and write a letter or make a phone call. To confirm your Representative, you can search here.
If you’re unsure what to say, politely ask them to vote “NO” because the bill would 1) be harmful to unborn children who have no say in the matter of whether they should be killed by abortion or not; 2) would be harmful to mothers and fathers who are scared and in need of help, but are misled into thinking that killing their child is the best way out; and 3) would be harmful to the consciences of Illinois taxpayers, who should not be forced to subsidize the intention killing of unborn children in any way.
Please also be unceasingly praying that our leaders at the state and national level would seek to protect the unborn, mothers and fathers who are scared, and the consciences of all citizens.

Sermo Dei: Ash Wednesday

Text: The Ten Commandments

One of the traditional emphases during Lent is catechesis; that is, instruction in the basics of the Christian faith. In the early church, the forty days of Lent would serve as the final time of instruction before the catechumens were then baptized during the Easter Vigil. And it’s not just for new Christians that Lent and catechesis go well together. The intensity and increased devotion of this season can aid us longtime Christians in returning to and being renewed in the most basic and always relevant aspects of Christian faith and life.

Tonight we begin a six-part series on the Small Catechism. Each week we’ll consider one of the six Chief Parts: The Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession, and finally the Sacrament of the Altar.

Tonight, the Ten Commandments, which preach Repentance; that is, by them God shows us our sin and how much we need a Savior.

We must have our sin shown to us, even though it gets rather uncomfortable. The Commandments seem like a big spoiler for the fun party that we often think life should be. But without those Commandments we would be left to receive the due wrath and condemnation of God. “[F]or sin indeed was in the world before the law was given…” [Romans 5] That is, even without the Commandments, we still are living in sin; we still are living the opposite of the very good way in which God has established His creation.

The words which were spoken to you as ashes were put on your forehead convey this. They should cause us to remember all the way back to creation: “From dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Death did not reign in Eden. It should stop with “From dust you are…” But from Adam and Eve on “…to dust you shall return” rules the day, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

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Sermo Dei: Baptism of Our Lord

Text: Matthew 3:13-17

I’m sure I’ve said this before here at Good Shepherd, either here in the pulpit or in our Scripture Study, but I’ll say it again (for the first time?): when you’re listening to the Scriptures, listen for the thing that seems out-of-place. Often in those little phrases do we find the significant teachings of our Lord.

There are many extraordinary things in what we hear from our Lord’s word today. A river seasonally overrunning its banks doesn’t heap up in one place just because some holy men carrying a holy box stepped into it. By Jesus’ time, prophets of the Lord are seldom seen and heard from – even less so today. The sky tends not to be rent open wide when someone wades in the water. Certainly disembodied voices don’t sound forth from heaven, nor do dove-like Spirits descend in plain sight.

Yes, these are all extraordinary in a miraculous sort of way. But they are commonplace occurrences when the Lord is involved. At His direction all sorts of astounding events take place: plagues ravage Egypt, the Red Sea is divided, water pours from a rock, manna appears daily for decades. The Word of the Lord causes city walls to crumble at the mere cry of His people. In fact, with His own speaking the entirety of creation comes into being.

The Lord regularly converses with His people: from a bush that burns and is not consumed, from the thin air many a time, in the appearance of travelers visiting Abraham.

An abundance of prophets appear in the midst of the Lord’s people, preaching repentance and a return to the Lord. The list is long, long, long, and ends with John baptizing in the wilderness.

Spectacular atmospheric phenomena are even a bit old-hat with YHWH. Pillars of fire and cloud, a whirlwind whisking away Elijah, the heavenly host appearing and shouting forth their Gloria, the Glory Cloud hovering over the Tabernacle, the fierce and frightening tempest atop Mt. Sinai, the sun standing still.

From a certain perspective these are tremendously out-of-place events. But not from our perspective. We consider these things knowing that there is a God who is Almighty, and who operates with great power and glory. These things come with the Lord by default.

However, considering things from this perspective helps us begin to see what is truly unusual here. Because God is God, it’s usual to consider Him as apart, separate, present but not with us.

It’s a perfectly natural way to look at things. After all, the Lord self-describes Himself in this way. I read from Isaiah last week where the Lord says His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. Again, He is the one who makes rivers turn to blood, plagues of locusts descend in judgment, fiery serpents to slither amok amongst the people of Israel, the ground to swallow up those who sin against Him. He is righteous, He is a consuming fire, Holy is He. When Isaiah beheld the presence of the Lord he cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Because of who the Lord Himself is, we have to see Him as separate. Even when the Son of God is incarnate, we cannot help but think of Him as not one of us. He may be a man, but He is still sinless. He can do no wrong; we can do no right. As John preached, “His winnowing fork is in his hand…”

John was preaching this message of repentance. He was doing his God-given task, preparing the sinful people for the coming of the kingdom of God and the arrival of God’s Righteous One. John was baptizing the people into repentance that they might believe in the salvation coming from the Lord.

When this Righteous One – Jesus – walks up to the Jordan and up to John and says, “baptize Me, too,” John does a double-take and can’t get past what he thinks his message has meant. If we are sinners and the Messiah is righteous then we cannot be in this together. “For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” This cannot be, John thinks. No, John says! “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

This is the same thing we say to Jesus when we dare to lay before Him our sins and think that they cannot be forgiven. This is the same thing we say to Jesus when we only want to talk about Him as powerful or Almighty or some other attribute that keeps Him at arm’s length from us. Whether because we’re terrified or because we don’t want Him quite that involved in our lives, we are keeping Jesus separate from us. Repent.

For here, in Jesus’ answer to John, is the extraordinary thing. “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Jesus does not need this baptism. He has no need for forgiveness.  He has nothing to repent of. Jesus comes to the baptismal waters of the Jordan fully righteous, perfect, without blemish or spot or stain.

Yet Jesus comes to these waters loaded down with sin – “…the sin of the world…” as John put it. That’s why Jesus is here, to fully be a sinner with us. There is no distance between us and Christ, no separation. In His baptism, Christ makes Himself completely one with us. What John saw as necessary separation – sinner’s baptism only for sinners – Jesus gently puts aside and says “it is fitting for us…”

Jesus’ Baptism is our Baptism. It is not the water that does it – it’s no mere water – but it’s the Word in and with the water that makes this Baptism. That is, it’s Jesus there in the water – being sinner for you – that makes it.

There is water in our Font today that you might go to it and touch it – even make the sign of the cross with it – and remember that it was sanctified water poured over you too; sanctified by Christ. For in your baptism you were buried with Christ and raised with Christ. This water saves by His death and resurrection. You were baptized into Him. His Name was given to you – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – that same Name that was there at the Jordan! You are His. His Baptism, His anointing, all yours. You have received the Holy Spirit.

All this, of course, is because Jesus the sinless one now sinner was one with you, appeasing the wrath of God against all sin, even yours. Jesus made the payment, so now in your Baptism you are free.

And as Luther was wont to point out, you are not those who were baptized, but those who ARE. Even now you are dripping wet with the saving waters. Sometimes it can be hard to see, but nothing now separates you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing. Tribulation and suffering come, but for you these are marks of being Christ’s. “Blessed are you” He says.

And these things will not last. There is an end to them. And though your skin may be thus destroyed, and tyrants and governments and even family and friends may rage against you, yet in your flesh you shall see God; your eyes shall behold Him, and not another.

In this is the extraordinary thing. Though He did not need to do so, the Lord saw fit to humble Himself, become a man, become you, become Sin itself, and put Himself to death (and Sin with Him.) For you. In this way, Jesus fulfills all righteousness and then gives all that righteousness to you. All this so that the Father can beam “Be-lov-ed, Heir of gifts a king would covet!” (LSB 593) Beloved by the Father you are. Remember your baptism, dear sons and daughters of the King. You ARE baptized and are fully righteous in Christ.

Amen.