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HOLY TRINITY & ST. JAMES LUTHERAN CHURCHES

You are welcome and encouraged to read the last two sermons preached.  An audio of the most recent sermon is available above.

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Jesus and You are Baptized to Fulfill All Righteousness – Mt. 3:13-17 (The Baptism of Our Lord, 1.13.19)

Hear your heavenly Father speak of His Son…and of you!  “This is My Beloved Son, with Whom I Am well-pleased.” (Mt. 3:17)  Amen.

Grace, mercy and peace be yours in abundance in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  Praise God – from Whom all blessings flow – for the precious, saving gift of Holy Baptism!  Rev. Luther called Baptism the “Royal Sacrament,” and rightly so since it makes royalty of us all!  Holy Scripture can’t stop boasting about Baptism and all that it gives us: “[God] saved us, not by the righteous deeds we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, Who He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we are heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7)  God delights in washing us pure and holy – who were anything but this prior to the Baptismal font.  “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27)  St. Paul comforts us – who fear death and the grave – that we’ve already died with Christ to sin, death and the grave: “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.  We were buried therefore with Him by Baptism 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.” (Rom. 6:3-4)  And St. Peter says straight up, “Baptism now saves you.” (1 Pet. 3:21)

What a true and everlasting comfort, therefore, this saving bath gives to conscience-stricken sinners like us!  Which begs the question, if Baptism is for the remission or taking away of sins, why did our holy Lord Jesus receive Baptism in the Jordan River at the hand of John the Baptist?  Since Baptism definitely saves the baptized from sin, death, devil and hell, why would our Savior, of all people, need to step down into its waters?  O baptized saints, hear four reasons why it was absolutely necessary for your Savior, Jesus, to be baptized for you!  First, though He Himself was without sin as our holy God, Jesus nevertheless came to identify with us sinners.  Secondly, our Lord came to set a good, godly example for us in being baptized.  And thirdly, Jesus’ Baptism began His holy ministry of bringing new life and salvation to the world.  It was His commissioning, His being sent forth by the Father to bear the sins of many and to justify us. 

How we needed Christ to be baptized for us!  All the sin we daily commit, the ills and wrongs we’re guilty of – the awfulness of it all translates into our failure to do what we ought to as God’s people.  We break His holy law.  We violate His divine will.  We’re guilty of offending God in His holiness.  Have you resented someone because of a disagreement, fight, or because they have what you don’t; or because they can do what you can’t?  Have you been discouraged with work, your relationships with others, life in general – to the point that you’ve become cynical, jaded about things?  Resenting others is not living the way that God requires – that pleases Him.  Discouragement happens.  Yet falling into cynicism and being jaded about this or that in life, and life itself, is not good as it leads to a spirit of apathy, not caring, opposing everyone and everything – including God.  It empties into the sewer of self-pity and despair. 

There must be a better way!  There is…in Jesus coming to dwell with us, getting into the dirt and grime with us.  He doesn’t do so in order to join in with us in our discouragement, resentment and self-pity.  He steps down with us into Baptismal waters to pull us up from the depths of our sin and woe.  To deliver us unto something better and true!  Jesus came to eat and associate with sinners and tax collectors who were the most despised, dishonored social group of that day.  These people were scorned and shunned by the scribes, Pharisees and the people of Israel in general.  The sinners and tax collectors hated everyone right back and were filled with great resentment, hurt and restlessness before God – no peace at all!  Then Jesus came to call them to account for their sins of anger, immorality, cheating, etc.  In love He led them to repentance, granting them true faith in God and a genuine love for others – even those who hated them and thought of them as nothing.  Jesus gave them peace with God!  Repent!  Acknowledge your resentment towards others and being cynical.  Jesus overcomes this all and then some!  He binds up and heals your wounded hearts – hurt by your sins and the wrongdoings of others.  He, in His Word, Baptism and Communion, hushes and ends your resentment and your being downcast and dejected about various aspects of your life and life itself.  So don’t refuse God’s work to help you in your troubles and frustrations.  “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that [God’s grace toward you in Christ] and the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3)  Jesus identifies with us in Baptismal waters so that we identify with Him in His righteousness, which He makes ours by faith!

Jesus sets all kinds of virtuous examples for us to follow.  “No one has greater love than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” (Jn. 15:13) Jesus says.  He means what He says and proves it by sacrificing His life for us.  While we certainly can’t give our lives to save others from death and hell like Jesus did, we sure can sacrifice of ourselves for the good of others, to help them in their need.  Also, He says, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (Jn. 13:13)  We, who’re loved by God unto death, have been saved by Him to love one another – and so we do!  There’s to be no limit and no end to our imitating Jesus.  Especially when it comes to Baptism.  Just like Jesus was always faithful to His Father…  Just like He was ever-faithful to us…  We’re to remain faithful to the covenant of our Baptism all our days.  But don’t we fall short in our faithfulness to God and to our Baptismal covenant?  We do.  Yet we should not lose heart and be dejected.  We must admit our failures to live out our Baptismal covenant, trusting that our Lord Jesus stepped into the Jordan to be baptized for us.  He has drawn us by His grace to stand beside Him.  He assumed our burden of obedience to the law of God so that it crushed Him rather than us.  In Christ’s cross, we’re reconciled to God.  Our Baptism into Christ delivers us from our failure to be faithful to God.

In His Baptism, our beloved Lord Jesus is commissioned or deputized by God on high to seek and to save lost, condemned people such as us – to deliver us unto God by His death!  When God the Father says, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased,” (Mt. 3:17) He’s sending forth His Son to be our Lord and Savior with His divine-approval.  No one but Jesus is authorized by God to be your Redeemer from sin, the grave and hellish woe!  The Father is also saying something very clearly to you from heaven.  You who’re so often troubled, fearful that you’re too far separated from God by your guilt to reach Him or to be reached by Him…  Don’t fear!  You don’t ever have to reach God.   He has reached out to you and has taken hold of you as His dearly-beloved children in Jesus!  Since God is well-pleased with His Son, Jesus; and since you believe in Christ Jesus, God is well-pleased with you, too! 

So rejoice in your Baptism!  By it you daily die to sin and death and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.  Give glory to the Holy Triune God, Who so clearly and wondrously reveals Himself to you in our Gospel Lesson!  See Christ your Savior being baptized by John.  See Him fulfill all righteousness for us in the river and in His body on the tree.  Hear your heavenly Father speak well of His only-begotten Son.  See the Holy Spirit land upon Jesus as a dove, filling Him for His ministry ahead.  He has lighted upon you and has filled you too in Baptism.  God couldn’t be more for you and personal to you than He is as your beloved Father, Who sent His Son to save you in the Spirit!  In this one true God you have all encouragement and hope – every assurance that your life is never pointless or futile, but is meant to be joyfully lived to the fullest in Christ – now and forevermore!  So have at it!  Amen.  The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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Arise, Shine with Christ’s Light!  He’s Revealed to You, Too – Mt. 2:1-12 (Epiphany, 1.6.19)

“And going into the house, the Wise Men saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him.” (Mt. 2:11)  Amen.

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Blessed Epiphany, dear saints of God Most Hight!  Epiphany is the Church Season that celebrates the revelation of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world.  It begins with the Magi offering their worship and sacrifices to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.  The effects of this glorious meeting spread quickly, encompassing all the wondrous and glorious ways that Christ’s appearance as the Son of God is made known to all people – all the way to us and everyone else today.

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Christ’s appearing to the Gentiles – the Wise Men first, and countless people to follow – is no small thing!  One false impression and religious error that Jesus came to correct in His ministry was that since salvation is from the Jews, salvation must therefore only be for the Jews – the children of Abraham.  True, salvation is from the Jews only, as Jesus informs the Samaritan woman at the well. (See Jn. 4:22)  God’s eternal salvation is from Jesus – the King of the Jews – alone.  But when Christ reveals Himself to this woman and to her fellow Samaritan townspeople as their Messiah and Savior, too, He wishes for them and for all people to know that He’s everybody’s Savior! 

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The Old Testament anticipates Christ’s coming as Lord and Savior of all – not just the Israelites: “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him,” (Ps. 117:1) the Psalmist declares.  Isaiah the Prophet also writes: “The root of Jesse will come, even He Who arises to rule the Gentiles; in Him will the Gentiles hope.” (Is. 11:10)  And St. Peter, after being tugged by God the Holy Spirit to go preach repentance and faith to the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, does so.  Peter preaches the forgiveness of sins and saving faith in Jesus to Cornelius and his family, and baptizes them all.  Soon after, Peter stuns his fellow Jewish-Christians with the news that salvation isn’t only for Jews who convert to Christianity: “I now truly understand that God does not show partiality or favoritism, but welcomes those from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.” (Acts 10:34-35)  God’s glorious gift of grace and salvation is for all who call upon the Name of the Lord!

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Super-significantly, the Magi – who’ve traveled many miles for who knows how long – come to worship Jesus.  Where have they come from to pay the highest homage possible to the Lord?  We don’t know; Scripture doesn’t tell us.  Babylon or Persia?  As far away as Asia and the Orient; India?  It’s better that we don’t know as these three or more kings really represent all Gentiles from every place on earth, not just a part of it.  As we all know, you only bow down to worship the Deity.  Sadly, too many people have bowed down to worship false deities throughout history to their own shame and judgment.  But the Wise Men get it right!  They bow down and worship the one true God of heaven and earth – the Lord God of Sabaoth, of all power and might.  All glory be to God on high, you do too!  Together with the Wise Men, you bow in humble adoration, worshiping the infant Christ, God in man made manifest!  The Wise Men are proof-positive that you and all creation are to worship and glorify the Lord your God forevermore.

How do the Wise Men know that the little Lord Jesus is the Son of God – their Savior and the world’s Savior?  Did someone tip them off?  Yes!  The same Person Who tipped you off to God’s great love, grace and mercy toward you!    The Holy Spirit lets them in on Jesus’ identity.  He does so – as always – through the witness of His wonderful Word!  And through a sign from the heavens – Jesus’ nativity star that leads their steps to Him. 

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The wise men’s offering of gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh – serves as a sign of the end of the division of mankind, and the acknowledgement by the nations of Israel’s God as the world’s one true God.  Up until Christ’s coming, there was a strong, irreparable division between godly Jews and pagan Gentiles – between the faithful of God and faithless unbelievers.  The warring between God’s faithful and the faithless centered on Gentiles rejecting the God of Israel and believing that He had nothing to do with them.  But when Christ came, and with Him the preaching of His mighty Word of reconciliation, Gentiles were greeted with the good news that God’s salvation is for them – for us – too!  St. Paul puts it best in writing to early Gentiles Christians in Ephesus: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, Who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  And He came and preached peace to” all. (Eph. 2:13-17)  All praise and thanks be to God, Jesus has indeed created one united man out of the formerly hopelessly-divided two!  This “one man” is us, His one holy Christian and apostolic Church!

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Epiphany, as does every Church Season, calls you to repentance and faith.  Since Christ Jesus has come to you, and is revealed as your true Lord and God, what reason or right do you have to cling to your sins, or to deny them or hide them?  He isn’t revealed to you as an ignorer or pass-giver of your trespasses.  After all, your wrong-doing is against Him and His Father.  It’s also against others you’ve hurt, who, like you, are God’s beloved creatures. 

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So confess your inbred desire to fawn after other things than God alone.  Admit that you’ve not loved God with your whole heart, and that you’ve not loved your neighbor as yourselves.  God’s law humbles us in our sinful pride and points us to the dreary life and judgment we deserve for breaking its perfect precepts.  It leads us to the Man Who is God, Who helps us in our need.  Who’s strong to save us from judgment and grant us a blessed, rich life in Him forever.

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The Wise Men’s worship of Jesus – as with all Divine Worship – is a joyful reception of God’s many, precious gifts in His Son.  Really, the Wise Men receive the greatest gift of all that day!  Gold, frankincense and myrrh are valuable, precious gifts fit for a king.  Christ’s gift of Himself is the most precious gift of all!  Fit for the hurting, penitent sinner, pleading for God’s mercy in Jesus!  Jesus Himself is the putting to death of sin and judgment in His forgiveness.  He lavishes us with a lively faith and trust in Him, peace with God and no terror of Him, the fellowship of faith in the Church of God, and a blessed life of love and good works.

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You receive all that the Wise Men received in Divine Worship.  Today’s your joyful reception of the mercy that God has had upon you, all the good He’s done for you – in Jesus!  You’re blessed with even more – a daily washing and regeneration of your body and spirit in your Baptism…  The very body and lifeblood of Jesus going into your mouths at His Word: “Take; eat, drink; this is My body and blood given and shed for you for your life-long good and eternal salvation.”

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You give a good sacrifice to the Lord, too.  You offer God your broken, contrite heart that He’ll never despise, but will forgive, accept and enliven to heaven!  You furnish God with a love-offering that He’ll use for the upkeep and good of His Church, her ministry in Christ and faithful witness.  Also, you offer yourselves here as living sacrifices to God as men, women and children who’re His true, beloved saints.  Who’ll honor Him and His commandments – loving, serving and supporting fellow Church members, your neighbors, the community, etc., as you do. 

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So be ready to enjoy the full outpouring of Epiphany’s riches as Christ’s light shines all over the globe – to every nation, tribe, people and language.  Offer God true and acceptable worship in Jesus, worshiping and glorifying your Savior – now and forever!  Behold Jesus as the Wise Men did – as God Who is man, Who had to die, and Who now has died for the sins of the whole world – including yours and mine.  Who’s risen again!  Be careful to never offer Jesus false, lip-service-only worship as evil King Herod did by only pretending to want to worship the Lord.  Christ drew near to you and embraced you in His love, forgiveness and life on the cross.  Draw near to God in love and devotion.     

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Revel in the beautiful Season of Light now open to you!  Christ the Son of God baptized for you!  Young Jesus worshiping His Father in His House for you, as your Example!  Jesus turning water into wine for you, revealing Himself as your God!  Jesus healing a centurion’s servant, pacifying a stormy, deadly sea, being transfigured in unimaginable light, healing and restoring many – all for His people, all for you!

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Be glad that Epiphany is no let down after the glory of Christmas.  It’s God’s glorious appearing among mortals, His being made known to the world.  And it’s His un-surpassing, unending gift-giving!  The Epiphany of Jesus, which begins for us today, January 6th, is the Lord’s gracious appearance to His people with signs and wonders and favors given at His own expense.

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The Season of Epiphany leads us to the Season of Lent, when our eyes are drawn to Christ’s Passion for our sins on the cross to grant us salvation.  Amen. (Sermon adapted in part from “Proclaim: A Guild for Planning Liturgy and Music,” CPH, 107-108)  The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

    HOLY TRINITY & ST. JAMES LUTHERAN CHURCHES
    PO Box 247
    Lexington, Texas 78947
    PH: 979.773.2634
    lexington.fedor.lcms@gmail.com
    ABOUT US

    We are two conservative, confessional Lutheran churches of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, who, in faithfulness toward God, gather around His Holy Word and Sacraments.

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