Lutheran Preaching and Teaching from St. John Random Lake, Wisconsin
By Rev. Christopher Gillespie
St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church & School (Sherman Center) is in Random Lake, Wisconsin and is served by Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie. St. John Lutheran is God's place for Christians to gather around our Lord's Word and be edified by His gifts.
We are a congregation of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). We unconditionally subscribe the Unaltered Augsburg Confession. St. John Lutheran School has been approved for accreditation through the accreditation process of the National Lutheran School Accreditation of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.
As you look to Christ in faith, you are looking upon God Himself. As you listen to Him as He preaches and teaches, you are hearing the voice of God. As you were joined to His flesh by Holy Baptism, you are now God’s own child. As you are nourished and sustained by the gift of Christ’s body and blood, you are given to share in His forgiveness and thus His life and salvation. God is indeed with you, not in fear and terror, not in majesty and might, but in the flesh of crucified Jesus, and this “Jesus only.”
Disorder, chaos, and decay are all around. The answer is not to rely on petty tyrants, click-baiting press, pop philosophers, or others to provide you grounding, a sense of reality, and a lens by which to understand the world. And one after another, they will always fail you. Turn to Christ in His Word and receive from Him the institutions He has set up. Support devoted and faithful government. Reject the treasonous and ungodly ruler. Be ever attentive to your family and friends. Remain steadfast in the congregation He has given to you. Hold fast to Him and never let go and Jesus will see you through this present darkness.
Everything that Jesus gives you to live, breathe, and have your being is counter-cultural. Your baptismal identity in Jesus is now most obviously contrary to the world. You can no longer understand yourself as having one foot in the world and one foot in the church. Either both feet are solely planted upon your identity as Christian, in His church, and against the world… or you’ll be swept away in the flood that is sweeping through our world.
Christ Jesus has drawn you out of the devil’s kingdom. He has redeemed you by His sacrificial suffering and death on the cross of Golgotha. He has claimed you as His own through the washing of the water and the Word. You bear the mark of Christ, the holy cross on your forehead and heart. And you have been outfitted with the holy armaments of faith, clothed in Christ, shielded by faith, and the sword of the Spirit in your hands. The defeated enemy can hurl all his fiery arrows at you. He can prowl around like a lion seeking to devour. But He cannot take from you the only thing that matters, your greatest good: Jesus, His forgiveness, His resurrection, and His eternity.
Now, you are sons and daughters of the King, through the new circumcision of the heart, that is, faith. You have received this greater mark, giving you the new name, Christian. You are are marked by Holy Baptism, not with the removal of foreksin, but completely covered by Christ’s flesh. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. This free and precious gift of God is for all people, for all are one in Christ Jesus. There is neither Jew nor greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. God has put His name upon you, His people Israel, and He has blessed you. You are baptized. You are free. You are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. You are marked and named—child of God.
In the Bible a sign often means something that contains what God is doing and giving. But at the same time, a sign hides under what appears to be the opposite. What we see, touch, feel, or experience seems quite the opposite of what God says it is. We can only know the sign by the word of God, which requires hearing and receiving, that is, faith or trust. The ear is the organ of faith. God’s dealing with us in this way reduces us to the point where we are nothing but receivers, receiving by hearing.
Christmas isn’t about being filled with empty thoughts, empty pursuits, and empty calories. Christmas is about the empty being filled with the good thing, Jesus for you. In Jesus, you have access to God and His heaven, all graciously given to you by your Baptism as your eternal inheritance. By the preaching and teaching of the Word, you are filled with the Spirit of wisdom and the knowledge of Jesus for you. Your eyes are opened to see Jesus with the light of understanding. He feeds your hungry soul with His forgiveness, life, and salvation in the Supper of His body and blood. By these gifts of Jesus received within His body, the church, you all will come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, each filled with the fullness of Christ.
All history is wrapped up in the swaddling clothes. All that was foretold and foreshadowed begins to find its fulfillment on that night. Time and eternity are joined in the Babe of Bethlehem. The Bread from Heaven is given from a manger trough, to feed you with forgiveness He earned by His body given and His blood shed at Calvary. And now you are wrapped up in Jesus, clothed in baptismal garments of His righteousness. The promise given by the Prophets, the Patriarchs, the Psalmist is yours in the God who is with His people to save your sins, the Immanuel Jesus.
You have one priority today. You are to follow John’s finger as he points to Jesus. Your ears, eyes, heart, and mind are focused on Jesus for you. Set aside all the distractions. Forget about COVID-19. Don’t worry about what’s for dinner. Lay off all the political chatter. Stop making your plans for the holiday. Stop, listen, and focus. If you fail to listen to His voice, you will not hear His saving Word. If you do not hear, you cannot see your Redeemer. Instead, hold on to Jesus and don’t let go. Receive His Word and gifts and you’ll know Him.
13. December 2020 - Advent 3 - Matthew 11:2-10
The flesh, the world, and demonic authoritarians hate everything given by God the Father. They hate creation and violently want to reshape it. They hate human life and seek to destroy, alter, and transcend it through violent manipulation. Their violence leads to immorality, destruction, and death. But most of all they hate the gift of the Son of the Father, Jesus, and the kingdom of heaven, the Church. Why does the mob hate you and despise the Church? Because the violent must oppress anything that undermines their worldview.
What is the future? What is your future? Everything is moving forward toward that great day when we shall meet the Lord face to face. Time is given that the Gospel be preached to all people. The future is for repentance. The great net of Christ’s kingdom must be drawn through the sea of time. A great catch will be brought upon the shore. And all the righteous and evil finally separated from one another forever.
He comes to you! He comes with the help you need—His blood-bought forgiveness. Now is the great and mighty Day. Today is the Lord’s day! He comes to forgive you once again, making each day new, though we do not deserve it and by our own reason and strength cannot even believe it.
Everything needed for your salvation is gift. Even the oil of faith is given to you as a free gift. Thus, the difference between the wise and foolish is not in outward appearances. Both look like Christian from head to toe. The difference between the wise and foolish is not living a Christian life. The difference between the wise and foolish is trust in the Bridegroom.
In every sphere of life, fear, love, and trust in God above all things. Keep the state where it belongs and let the church be the church, a place where Gospel forgiveness is preached freely and the gifts that deliver this forgiveness are unrestricted.
What is the cure for an unforgiving heart? How can we overcome our grudges. our resentments, and our refusal to be merciful? Consider the beginning of the parable. Consider the amount of debt, the essential point. A talent is twenty year’s wages. Ten thousand talents is thus something well over a billion dollars and likely close to ten billion. That is the debt of sin Jesus your King has forgiven you.