Thy Kingdom Come: The Gift of God

Text: John 4
Date: Lent III + 3/19/17

We are continuing our journey according to the ancient catechumenate Lenten Gospels from St. John. The theme of water continues. First, we with Nicodemus are told that no one can see, enter or possess the kingdom of God unless he be born again, born from above by means of water and the Spirit. The catechumens are preparing to receive Holy Baptism by water and the Spirit at Easter. We, accompanying them to the font, retrace our own new beginning or new birth of our own baptism for renewed repentance and faith. The very first question of the catechism on the Sacrament of Holy Baptism is, “What is Baptism?” And we are taught to respond, “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.” Baptism is water applied to our bodies externally. Therefore, Holy Baptism can be thought of as cleansing, not as removal of dirt from the body, however, but the removal or forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now today we hear Jesus speak about drinking water, slaking thirst, receiving it internally. Today we heard that Jesus is thirsty, wearied as he was from his journey. Jesus is truly human and suffered all the bodily needs like us. He sat down beside Jacob’s well. We will hear Jesus say from His cross, “I thirst.” The Man, Jesus, truly lived and truly died as one of us for all of us.

A Samaritan woman arrived and Jesus asked her for a drink from the well as she was just about to draw out some water. This is the first crisis for us to consider in this text. The Samaritan’s had their own false religion even though their heritage goes back with the Jews to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This meeting was at Jacob’s well. The separation of Jew from Samaritan was not only a matter of pride or personal disdain or racism. It was a confessional separation. In this way the woman symbolizes all sinful mankind. We are all pagans and unbelievers by birth. Therefore the woman asks Jesus, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” So, we might ask, what does God have to do with you or me, a sinner?

In answer to the woman’s question Jesus pursues our real need. “If you knew the gift of God,” He said, “and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Three things here: What is this gift of God? Who is Jesus? And what is this living water? Actually there is one answer to all those questions.

Remember John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave,” He gave a gift, namely, gave his Son. Jesus is the gift of God’s grace. He is the Savior.

The woman was thinking only of physical well water. The problem with water for the body is that, while it satisfies thirst for a moment, you will get thirsty again and need to have more. But when you are baptized, you are baptized only once as God’s gift and promise to you is forever, permanent. While water will be applied to you physically, you will not be drinking this water. So what is this “living water” of which Jesus speaks that will make us “never thirsty forever?”

Water in a well or a bowl is not living water, that is, it doesn’t move. Water in a river or stream is different for it is connected with a source of water. The Detroit River flows from Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie. The mighty Mississippi River flows into the great Gulf of Mexico but begins from a small stream you can even walk across in Itasca State Park, Minnesota. Jesus is living water because He is connected to the Source, namely, God the Father. He is connected not only because of His unity in the Holy Trinity but also because He has come down from heaven to do the Father’s will of taking on our sin, the sin of the whole world into His body thereby to be glorified by His death on the cross. When you are baptized you are given the gift of faith in Christ who died for you. You receive the sign of the Holy Cross both upon your forehead and upon your breast to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.

Jesus seems to change the subject when He asks the woman, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” Jesus calls forth the confession of her sin as having five husbands and now one more. Just so, I used to think that the woman likewise used the tactic of changing the subject. But it’s better than that. Having rightly perceived that Jesus must be some sort of prophet because He knows about her sinful life, she begins a discussion on religion and the proper place of worship. This was a hot issue between Samaritans who worship on Mt. Gerazim and Jews who worship in Jerusalem. But now Jesus redirects her attention saying the question is not where one worships but of whom one worships. He says, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth.” As Nicodemus learned that the Christian faith is the result of being born again by water and the Holy Spirit, now we with this woman learn that the Father is seeking such people to worship Him “in Spirit and Truth,” that is, in faith created and given by the Holy Spirit through the Truth who is Jesus. Remember how He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” So, you see the answer to our questions: What is the gift of God? It is Jesus. Who is it that gives living water? It is Jesus. What is this living water? It is Jesus.

Now when the woman mentions the possibility of God’s promise in sending the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus tells her straight out using the very name of God, saying, “I AM,” “I AM He speaking with you now.”

In Holy Baptism you are born again, given new life by God’s gift of faith. And this faith has an object, namely the Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God…being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” Yet also “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” In our human flesh He “was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried.” Nevertheless on the third day He rose again to life.

“In one Spirit we [are] all baptized into one body…and all [are] made to drink of one Spirit” says the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 12:13). The Samaritan woman came to begin to believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah, Christ, Savior. St. John ends the story, saying, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.” So do we all need time to learn from Him. The result: “many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” It is to this mighty, life-giving confession of faith that our baptism into Christ is leading.

Thy Kingdom Come: You Must Be Born Again

Text: John 3:1-17
Date: Lent II + 3/12/17

The road to becoming a Christian begins with this: you cannot just join up, you cannot just change your actions, you cannot just cover over your sin. The road to becoming a Christian begins with this: You Must Be Born Again. That is, you must be changed, be made totally new. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. You didn’t have anything to do with that. You must be born now from above. You also don’t have anything to do with that! Those who are born again, from above are born of God and have been given the gift of faith, faith in God, faith in His Word. Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: You Must Be Born Again

Thy Kingdom Come: The Kingdom Ours Remaineth

Text: Romans 5:12-19
Date: Lent I + 3/5/17

Today, especially in this first year of our three-year lectionary, we are blessed to begin again the ancient journey of the catechumenate, the starting line of the Christian race of faith, the journey of beginning to discover what it means to be a Christian. The catechumenate is guided by the ancient traditional gospels from St. John. For those going through this journey for the first time it will culminate in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism at the Vigil of the Eve of Easter. (Shhh! Don’t tell the new ones what to expect!) For the rest of us it is to be like going back to our beginnings, to rediscover the miracle and freshness of faith and the joy of our new spiritual birth (John 3), of satisfying our spiritual thirst (John 4), of regaining our spiritual vision (John 9), and of overcoming the last enemy of death (John 11). Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: The Kingdom Ours Remaineth

Thy Kingdom Come: What Glory Shall Be Theirs Above

Text: Matthew 17:1-9
Date: Transfiguration + 2/26/17

In Exodus chapter three we are told how Moses was called by God. “The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.’” He never found out. But God called to him out of the bush and was ordered to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. Where God is there is holy ground. Finally we are told, “And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Ex 3:2-6). Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: What Glory Shall Be Theirs Above

Thy Kingdom Come: His Rule is Over All

Text: Matthew 5:38-48
Date: Epiphany VII + 2/19/17

How large is God’s Kingdom? Today Jesus says, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” In other words God’s Kingdom comes to all. It’s just that not all receive it aright. We say that God’s Kingdom comes to our benefit “when He gives His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.” For the person who rejects God “Here in time” he needs to know that there still is time. God will give His Holy Spirit, His grace to all who hear and do not reject His Word or block Him out. “There in eternity” there will be no more need for all there will have come in repentance and faith. Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: His Rule is Over All

Thy Kingdom Come: You Are God’s Building

Text: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Date: Epiphany VI + 2/12/17

Thy Kingdom Come. When we pray these words we not only pray asking that the kingdom come to us from God, from outside of ourselves, but we also pray that God would make us part of His kingdom. St. Paul refers to you as “God’s Field and God’s Building.” Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: You Are God’s Building

Thy Kingdom Come: Great in the Kingdom

Text: Matthew 5:13-29
Date: Pentecost V + 2/5/17

Thy Kingdom Come. Glorious now, we press toward glory (LSB 578:3).

I wonder how many people, when we pray the words “Thy kingdom come,” think only in terms of the return of Christ on the Last Day, you know, as you often hear these words meaning something is going to continue “until kingdom come,” meaning the Last Day. And certainly, faith is, as we say in the creed, always “look[ing] for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” But the Kingdom of God is more than that as it comes to us Christians even now. Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: Great in the Kingdom

The Kingdom of Heaven is Yours

The Kingdom of Heaven is Yours

Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Occasion: The 100th Anniversary of St. Paul, Wood River, IL
Date: Epiphany IV + 1/29/17

For one hundred years God’s Word has sounded forth from the pulpit of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wood River, Illinois and generations of God’s people have believed and lived that Word, and have been given that new life God gives to those who repent and believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. First there is the preaching then the hearing, repenting, the living and believing.

I rejoice today with you that I was privileged to preach God’s Word here and live in the God-given fellowship of this congregation from 1983 to 1991 (the 77th-86th anniversary years), and that I can celebrate with you today this significant 100th anniversary. Continue reading The Kingdom of Heaven is Yours

Thy Kingdom Come: The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand

Text: Matthew 4:12-25
Date: Epiphany III + 1/22/17

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. The Kingdom is coming because the King has come. This was the proclamation of John the Baptist. Now he was arrested and out of the picture. By Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit John and the world know that this is the Son of God our Savior. And by Jesus’ baptism now you have been captured in your baptism to saving faith. So now what? Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand

Thy Kingdom Come: A Man Who Ranks Before Me

Text: John 1:29-42a
Date: Epiphany II + 1/22/17

Thy Kingdom Come. The coming of the kingdom means and requires the coming of the King. But whereas “the kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer” the King Himself comes with the help and assistance of others. He comes in the flesh as the Son of Mary. He comes to you by means of others preaching the Word of God. So now at the beginning of His earthly ministry He comes by means of the one sent to prepare His way, by the revelation given to John the Baptist. John bore witness, saying, “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!” Continue reading Thy Kingdom Come: A Man Who Ranks Before Me