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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Jan 15, 2017  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy and Peace to you from God our Heavenly Father, and from opuir Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for the 2nd Sunday After Epiphany, John 1:29-41. There we read these words:

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, "What are you seeking?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and you will see." So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter).

Thus far the text.

When lightening ignites a forest fire in a California mountain range, or when a hurricane begins to gather its fury off the coast of Texas or Florida, you will inevitably find people living in the path of death and destruction who do not want to listen.

Government officials will appear on the front porch, warning these people in the strongest terms: "The hurricane or the forest fire is coming. You are not going to stop it. Act NOW." So many people will not listen. "I can take care of myself. I will tough it out. I do not need your help."

Everything may seem fine while the danger is still distant, but then the forest fire begins to melt the siding on the house, or the hurricane picks up your boat and throws it through the living room window. NOW you want to escape, but you cannot. You do not have the power, you do not have the escape route, and you do not have the time. Fire and storm are right there.

What happens? The very same government officials who earlier warned that this was going to happen now come in and save the day along with your backside. First they gave you the command, and then they did for you what you would not and now could not do. Without them you would be destroyed; with them you escape death and you get the gift of life.

Somewhat like a government official who warns you of impending disaster, Jesus says in today’s Gospel, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"—in other words, the kingdom of heaven is right here at your door and your window.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

But honestly: How is it even possible for you to repent? What exactly does repentance look like and what does it mean and how can any of you be certain that you have done repentance well enough to gain entry into the kingdom of heaven? You do not have any more willpower for repentance than I.

Even if you did have the desire to repent, what precisely are you going to do? What steps do you plan to take? How do you intend to do it? "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." In other words, fire and storm are right here; Jesus is here and He is the judge of the living and the dead. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

And just like a homeowner who stays too long while the disaster looms overhead, it does not matter how much you might want to escape the fate of those who refuse to repent. You do not have the power to repent, no escape route to follow for repentance, and you do not have the time.

So, what happened? The very same Jesus who called for your repentance came and saved you.

Even as He said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," even while the kingdom of heaven was drawing near to you, Jesus did all of your repentance for you, He gave you deliverance and escape from death, and He gave you your certainty of forgiveness and life.

You see, Jesus’ Built His sermon upon the sermons of the Old Testament prophets who came before Him, preparing His way. When Jesus said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," He was not merely echoing the preaching of John the Baptist before Him (Matthew 1-2).

No, Jesus’ sermon about repentance in today’s Gospel taps deeply into God’s Old Testament, where God spells out for you precisely how it is that He works His miracle of your repentance for you. Essentially, Jesus is applying personally to you what God had earlier said through His prophets: · Hosea 6:1–"Come, let us return to the LORD; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up."

With these Words, God wants you to know that repentance is something HE begins in you through the wrath and condemnation of His Law. Through the Commandments, God tears at you, so to speak. God’s Law performs its work on you when it crushes you and breaks your bones, as it were—so that God Himself may heal you and bind you up with the promises of forgiveness that are yours in Christ Jesus.

How, then, do you repent? You repent by listening wholeheartedly to God’s Ten Commandments and by not resisting the way they tear you down and accuse you and condemn you. In other words, you repent by allowing the fire and the hurricane to draw close—precisely so that you may call out to someone to save you.

Isaiah 44:21-22—"O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a mist; return to Me, for I have redeemed you."

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

With these Words, God wants you to know what repentance does for you through the preaching of forgiveness and peace. If your God were still angry with you, you would have reason to run away

But God is not angry—Jesus died on the cross to quench the fire of His anger. God only wants your health and well-being when He says to you, "Return" (Isaiah 44:12) and when He says to you, "Repent." God has blotted out your transgressions with the blood of Jesus His Son. All your sins have disappeared like the mist in the rising Sun of morning.

How, then, do you repent? You repent by listening wholeheartedly to God’s Gospel promises, which He speaks to you on account of Christ. You repent by allowing Jesus your rescuer to save you from the forest fire of God’s judgment and the hurricane of divine wrath.

Matthew 3:1-2—"In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilder-ness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’"

With these Words, God wants you to know that repentance is not something that happens for you only once in a lifetime. Repentance is a miracle God produces in you repeatedly and continually through the power of His Word.

Repentance is something God continually works in you and something God desires never to stop working in you. John the Baptist did not preach, "Repent," as though it were a single action. John the Baptist preached, "Be repenting" or "Continually repent" or "Never stop repenting."

So long as you remain in this life, the Law of God will not stop accusing you and the fire of judgment will not be far from your door. "Be repenting and continually repenting."

So long as you remain in this life, your Lord Jesus will never fail to remain your faithful and courageous rescuer, delivering you again and again by the miraculous power of His promises. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

There is only one thing Jesus has in mind for you—your rescue and deliverance. There is only one thing Jesus has in mind for you—that you might know and believe in your heart......

That Christ is Risen. AMEN

Luther Rose


Christ Is Risen
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