Sunday, November 25, 2012

Daniel 7:13,14 Christ the King


It is good to know that God is in control, but it often is not easy to see.  When we turn on the TV or read the newspaper, we see world governments in control.  We see anti-Christian ideas gaining popularity.  We see the church losing ground.  The only thing I can really point to that shows God’s power in the world is that they have never been able to destroy the Christian church.  At times they have thrown Christians to the lions, and at other times they tried to drown the voice of the Gospel with the voices of science and human reason.  But God still has his Church.  His Word has remained unchanged, and he still uses it to rescue people from the darkness of their sin and bring them into his kingdom.  The kingdom that we pray for still comes to us and others.
At the time when the book of Daniel was written, God’s people were about to see one kingdom after another rise to great power, and they would wonder when they would see God’s kingdom come. Isaiah and Jeremiah had given them God’s promises about a glorious, peaceful kingdom in Israel. But before they would see God’s kingdom, they would bow to the power of the Babylonian kingdom, then the Persian, then the Greek, and then the Roman kingdom.  They may have wondered if God’s kingdom would still come, or if things had spun out of his control.
Most of the time, it isn’t easy to see God in control of the world.  The only way is to see the world the way he describes it in the Bible.  God gave Daniel a vision of four beasts to help him and his Jewish people see his power amid all the political upheavals of their world. It helps us too, though, when we use this vision as a filter, or a set of glasses, to help us make some sense out of what God is doing in our world.
In Daniel’s dream, God showed him a lion with eagle’s wings—a powerful combination of the king of beasts and the king of birds.  It stood for the kingdom of Babylon.  Then there was a bear with three ribs in its mouth.  It was told, “Get up and eat your fill of flesh!”  It stood for another powerful kingdom that would destroy many lives, the kingdom of Persia.  A third beast that symbolized the Greek kingdom appeared, and it was a leopard with four wings—a swift beast and a killer.  Then there was a fourth kingdom, symbolized by the most terrifying beast yet. It was the Roman kingdom. It had large iron teeth.  It crushed and devoured its victims and trampled whatever was left.  It was also the most hostile to God—it would speak boastfully against God and persecuted God’s people.
But then the one we have all been hoping for appeared in the dream—God himself.  Daniel called him the Ancient of Days.  He sat on his throne.  The last beast was slain and thrown into the blazing fire.  The first three beasts were stripped of their power.  
Now, in the dream, God sets up his own kingdom.  Jesus rules it, and it will last forever.  Here are the words of our text:
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13,14
This is what we have been hoping to see in our world, and what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer,

 “Thy Kingdom Come”
1.   A kingdom of power and glory
2.   A kingdom of grace
1.  A kingdom of power and glory
But where do you see power and glory today?  An atheist in Santa Monica has all but succeeded in abolishing a 60-year-old tradition of setting up Nativity scenes in the city’s Palisades park.  In San Francisco, it’s shameful that there even has to be a court decision to make people keep their clothes on.  These days since the election, it seems that everyone is more concerned about what Obama is going to do next than what God is going to do next.  On Friday people packed the stores in a frenzied rush of materialism, and with almost the same vigor they leave the churches empty today.  When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we might be thinking, “I wish Jesus would take control of the world again.”
Remember Daniel’s vision.  The worldly kingdoms would seem to have power for a while, but it would not last.  In the end, only Jesus has power, and his power will last forever.  Sure, they may take down the nativity scenes, but they will not take the Word of God away from us, and they will not take away what Christmas means.  The Son of God was born to give life to those who would believe in him, and that will never be taken away.  Long after the atheists, the cities, the governments, and everything else that has opposed Christ is destroyed, we will continue to live and reign with Christ in his kingdom.  When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we pray that Jesus will continue to rule in us and others by the power of his Word, no matter how much the world may rage against us.
In order to see Jesus answering that prayer, we need to come to grips with his power and glory being something that we don’t see yet.  That was one of the points of the vision.  If you lived back then you would have seen the power of the four beasts, but you weren’t going to see the Ancient of Days, and you wouldn’t easily see the power of the Son of Man as he rules the kingdom of God.  It had to be shown to us in a dream.
Pontius Pilate was a man who had a keen eye for the powers of his day.  He knew the power of the Roman government.  He knew the power of the Jewish leaders.  But he saw no power in Jesus, the Son of Man.  He had been told that Jesus was a king, but when he had Jesus on trial, he saw only a man who was no real king, had no serious influence, and was no real threat to the Roman government.  He wanted to release Jesus, but since the Jews insisted he punished Jesus for what he considered to be a joke of a charge.  If he was to be punished for being the king of the Jews, then he ought to look like it; so Pilate dressed him in fake kingly robes and a thorny crown, and then crucified him with a sign over his head that said, “The King of the Jews.”
Jesus’ kingly power is not any more obvious today than it was back then.  But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be seen.  Look at our world through the glasses of Daniel’s vision.  In our world there are powerful governments and powerful popular ideas that are against Christ and all true Christians.  But Christ is the only one with any kind of lasting power.  We see it in the fact that there still are true Christians.  There are still places like this church where the Word of God is preached without twisting it or changing it to make it more popular.  Those who listen and believe still see the power of what Jesus has done by his suffering and death.  When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we pray that he will rule in our hearts, even if no one else notices that power.
In the book of Acts we hear about Stephen, a man who saw the power and glory of God’s kingdom.  What we see in Daniel’s vision was reality for him.  He stood on trial before the Jews for preaching about Jesus, but all of their power and anger did not stop him.  He saw a greater power in Jesus, and he preached a bold sermon in that court, condemning them to their very face.  When they took him out to stone him, God opened heaven so that he could see the glory and power of Christ’s kingdom that he was a part of and would continue to be a part of forever, even though he was about to die.
You will want to be a part of that kingdom too.  Yes, it might mean that you have to buck the popular opinions of the world today.  It might mean trouble with your family.  But on the last day Jesus will appear in obvious power and glory, just like we saw in Daniel’s vision, he will destroy all the kingdoms of the world. That isn’t just a vague idea; those kingdoms that were destroyed in Daniel’s vision were kingdoms of people.  You will want to be on the right side of this power and glory.  You will want to be one of those who are in his kingdom. 
But if you’re no Stephen, if you struggle to see his power today and can’t find the courage to stand up for him, you don’t deserve to share in his power and glory.  In fact, if our heart is with the worldly kingdoms and not with God’s kingdom, we deserve to be destroyed too.  Which kingdom have you been living in?  If your thoughts are all on national politics and our economy, but you have no idea what God is doing in the world today, then you live in the worldly kingdom that will be destroyed.  If the things that the government might do to you or the things that people might say about you are more real to you than the punishment God has threatened against people who sin against him, then you live in the worldly kingdom that will be destroyed.  Do you pray “Thy Kingdom come” more than once a week, when you are forced to pray it in church?  How often do you mean it?  Maybe there are times when you have felt like God has forgotten you or turned against you, and you have been tempted to turn against him. We don’t deserve to share in the glory and power of his kingdom when he appears on the Last Day.

2. A kingdom of grace
Now is the time to take a look at our own situation through the glasses of Daniel’s vision.  The kingdom God set up is not only a kingdom of glory and power; it is also a kingdom of grace.  Daniel saw that the ruler of God’s kingdom is the Son of Man.  He is Jesus, the Son of God who was born as a real human being.  He understands how we see the world, because he has seen it from our perspective.  He knows what it feels like when it looks like God has the plan all wrong.  He saw how the whole world was gathering against him and against the truth.  He knew what God’s plan was for him, but on the night before his death he prayed that there might be a different way.  He would also know what it feels like when God actually does turn against you—God the Father turned against him and punished him for the sins of the world.
This king, the Son of Man, did all of this because he bore our sins.  It was his blood that was shed to bring us into his kingdom, and so he will show us the utmost patience, forgiveness, and care.  He will understand our doubts.  He will be patient with us when we are more concerned with our nation or our state than we are with his kingdom.  He will respond in mercy when we react in anger to his rule and tell him that he doesn’t know what he is doing.  This is why the kingdom was given to him.
The world’s kingdoms promise popularity, money, and as much stuff as you can set your heart on, but Christ continues to rule in mercy through his Word and Sacraments.  In his Word, in Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper—here Jesus mercifully reaches out to you to forgive your sins, to bring you into his kingdom, and rule in your heart.

Conclusion
Martin Luther wrote in his Catechism, “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives his Holy Spirit, so that by his grace we believe his holy Word and lead a godly life now on earth and forever in heaven.”  When you pray, “Thy kingdom come,” pray that Jesus would mercifully rule in your heart now through the Word and Sacraments, so that you will join him as part of his kingdom on Judgment Day. When you see the world raging against Christ and the Bible, and your heart feels like it is being pulled away from God; pray, and know that Christ will not let his kingdom in your heart be destroyed.  “Thy Kingdom Come.”  Amen.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

John 5:25-30 Saints Triumphant


 This is Saints Triumphant Sunday, but who of us is saintly, and how are we really all that triumphant?  World Series Champions are triumphant.  Cancer survivors are triumphant.  But how are we triumphant?  I can’t promise you that Jesus will give you a better life if you pray to him.  I can’t promise that he will heal your illness or make you rich—though we can pray for those blessings and he may give them.  I don’t know though—it’s up to him.
Then too, if saints are holy people (that’s what the word means), who really feels like a holy person?  Jesus will certainly help you to fight against sin, and he will answer your prayers for patience and strength to fight against temptation.  But in this life he will not be taking away your anger problem, or your laziness problem, or whatever it may be.  You just aren’t going to feel very saintly on this side of heaven.
Jesus said some words in the text today that might make you wonder if you will be going to heaven at all.  “Those who have done good will rise to live.”  Does that describe us?  Will we be remembered as ‘those who have done good’— or those who have had opportunities to do good and let them go by, and those who have been harsh and unkind; who have been selfish, proud, and greedy?  When we hear these words from Jesus, so that we don’t hear them and despair, we need to remember everything else that the Bible tells us about Jesus too.  Hear his words from John 5:

“A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

Theme:  Will we be remembered as “those who have done good?”

1.  At first I feel like the answer must be no, because guilt is the toughest stain to remove.  Even if we have been pretty good, all it takes is one wrong move and you will be remembered for that.   You can have a good relationship with your neighbor, but if he messes up once you never forget it.  Guilt seems to stick forever.
There are probably things that you have done that you have never been able to forgive yourself for.  If that is how you think about yourself, then how does God look at you?  Now, I know he is a forgiving God, but consider just how much more demanding he is than we are.  We understand “Do not murder,” and we can live with Jesus’ words, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.”  But Jesus took it a step farther when he said, “Love your enemies, and do good to those who persecute you.”  If we have a hard time forgiving ourselves, how much greater is our guilt in God’s eyes?  It’s no wonder that he sends sinners to hell.
Jesus told a story about a farmer who had a very good crop one year.  He said to himself, “I will build bigger barns and store my crop, and then I will have plenty.  I will be able to take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”  God said to him, “You fool.  This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”  And why?  Only because he had been concerned about himself and his future, but had not thanked God for his good crop.  Jesus said this is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God. 
Will you be remembered as someone who has stored up things for yourself?  Or will you be remembered as one who has done good?  God’s law makes a very strong case against us.
2.  In God’s court, though, we will not be condemned, because Jesus is the judge.  In a courtroom the judge is the only authority.  He interprets and applies the law.  Jesus, our judge, is the one who lived and died for us.  He bore our sins on the cross, suffering our punishment.  He wants to forgive.
When the Jews brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught committing adultery, they wanted to condemn her and stone her to death.  After all, the Law God gave to Moses commanded that such women be put to death.  Jesus was not interested in their accusations, though.  He finally said, “If any of you is without sin, let him throw the first stone.”  Then, after they had all left, he asked the woman, “Where has everyone gone?  Is there no one left to condemn you?”  She said, “No one.”  Jesus said, “Then neither do I condemn you.  Go now, and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus, the judge, offers the best plea bargain ever.  Just like that woman, your sins have been condemned by God’s Law.  But where Jesus sees fear and sorrow he says you are not condemned, and that you must leave your life of sin and live for him now.
You will not be punished, but how will you be remembered?  Will you be remembered as the one who got off easy, or will you be remembered as one of those who have done good?
3.  In my own heart when I think about myself I still feel like the answer is no.  The Law of God cuts off every attempt to be good—Jesus said, “Love your enemies” “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  And yet, we will be remembered as “good.”  I may feel like the answer is no, but Jesus has said yes.
He said, “Those who have done good will rise to live,” and to us he has said, “you will live.”  That is what your baptism meant.  The judge’s decision is that we are the ones have done good and will live.  From the sermon last week, Jesus said, “Whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned.  He has crossed over from death to life.”  Look to your baptism and believe that Jesus used that water to wash away all your sins and give you life.  According to Jesus’ own words, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”  Through the words of Paul in his letter to Titus, God tells us that baptism gives us eternal life.  Today Jesus’ decision has been given to you again, by his command, “Your sins have been forgiven.”  His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper are given to you, so that you share in the forgiveness that he won for you by his death, and also the life that he won for you by rising from the dead. 
Now follow this important logical connection with me.  If those who have done good will rise from the dead and live, and Jesus has said that we will rise from the dead and live, then we must be those who have done good.  We are the saints.
4. But still in our hearts we wonder how this can be that we will be remembered as those who have done good.  I said before, when we read these words from Jesus, we need to remember everything else that the Bible has said about him.  Malachi 3:3 says that “he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” He will purify God’s people like gold and silver.  Have you ever seen the unrefined, silver ore?  It isn’t quite so shiny and pretty as the silver in your jewelry.  It has other worthless rocks and metals mixed in with it.  Today we have factories that do this, but it used to be a person who would crush the silver ore and then heat it up so that the silver would melt and all of the impurities could be taken out.
In Malachi, we find out that this is what Jesus has done for us.  This is how we will be remembered as having done good.  Jesus has taken away all the impurities—everything that is worthless and sinful about us, and he has saved what is good.  Your sins have been taken away from his sight, and what is left is the righteousness that he has given you, and the good things that you have done out of love for him. After you die and Christ raises you, he will say to you, “Come and live in heaven, because your sins have been washed away.”  He will say, “the good that I did in my life is yours, because you have been joined to me.  And your good deeds also will be remembered forever.”
5.  It can truly be said that you have done good, and it can also truly be said that you are triumphant.
An old woman slowly dies as the years go by.  Her friends have passed away, and her family has moved away.  Alzheimers destroys her mind while Parkinsons destroys her body.  Through faith in Christ, she is triumphant. 
A young man struggles to be a Christian in a world where that just isn’t cool.  The entire world and everything on TV and in music encourages sin, and friends do too.  He struggles to find something useful to do with his education and talents.  The women he meets only want sinful fun, and he wonders where he will ever find a girl who he can take home to his parents.  Yet, through faith in Christ, he is triumphant.
Through faith in Christ, you are triumphant in your sickness and mortality:  You have been given the gift of life, a life that will never fail.  You are the ultimate cancer survivor.  In fact, you will survive every illness and live on in heaven, where there is no disease.  You will never age.  You will live on forever in the perfect beauty that God intended for you.  Even though you may struggle in this life to make a living, you are triumphant with Christ.  In heaven you will be wildly successful—more than any business tycoon in this world.  You will have a room in God’s mansion, and you will enjoy all the best of his treasures.
Though your relationships now may all fail, in heaven you will have a perfect loving relationship with every person who has ever lived and believed in Jesus, and you will have a perfect relationship with God too.
In your struggle against sin, you are triumphant.  (Though you must struggle, because no one who gives up in the battle against sin can be triumphant.  God has not given us a license to sin at will.  If you give in to sin you lose, you are defeated.  You can only be victorious if you fight.)
Even though in your struggle against sin you may fall, the robe of Christ’s righteousness is yours and it covers every sin and failure.  The gift of eternal life is already yours, and with it the eternal distinction of being one of those who “have done good.”    And even more than that, in heaven you will have the perfect victory over every sin that you have been wanting to get rid of—you will never again be addicted to anything or controlled by any sin.  You will never again be a contentious or hot-tempered person; never greedy, selfish, or impatient in all of eternity.
For all your struggles against temptation that haven’t seemed to pay off because you don’t think that you’re getting better and your life doesn’t seem to be improving, you are triumphant.  Every time that you struggle against temptation will be remembered in eternity.  We remember Jesus for resisting the devil’s temptations in the desert, and God will remember you when you resist the devil’s temptations.  The times you have fallen are taken away, God remembers when you have resisted, and he says, “You have done well.”

Conclusion
 What are we going to do?  Give up and sin as much as we want, because Jesus has promised that we will be remembered as good people?  Far from it, if you love him.  Don’t give up—Jesus has promised freedom from sin and victory over death and the devil, completely apart from anything we have done.  But also notice the good that you do, and praise God for what he has done in you.  Don’t give up because of the frustrating struggle with sin, because the triumph is yours.  Keep that triumph as motivation.  They say that the best motivation is praise—if you want someone to excel, say good things about him and give him a raise.  That is what God has done for you.  He has promised that he will say you have done well, you have done many good things and you will live.  God has already come to that conclusion because of what Jesus has done and given to us.  Yes, you still struggle, but you have Christ’s forgiveness and his righteousness.  You have the gift of life.  That means you are saints, and you are triumphant.  Amen.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

John 5:19-24 Last Judgment Sunday


There was a wondrous pool in Jerusalem called Bethesda.  Every so often the water of this pool would begin to bubble, and it was said that the bubbles were caused by an angel swooping down from heaven and dipping its wings in the water.  It was also said that the first person to bath in the water after the angel had touched it would be healed from any ailment.  So, naturally there were many people sitting by the water and waiting; waiting for a miracle.
Jesus was by that pool one day, and he saw a man there who had not been able to walk for 38 years.  Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  There was no flashy miracle, no angel dipping its wings, no bubbling water; just the simple word of Jesus, and this man got up and walked. 
The Jews didn’t like what Jesus had done, though.  The Bible says they persecuted him because he had done this thing on the Sabbath day, when no Jews were supposed to do any work.  They accused him of sinning, but Jesus answered them with the words of our text.  He told them that he couldn’t possibly be sinning, because he was only doing the things that he had seen his Father, God the Father, doing.  God the Father is always working and caring for all people, even on the Sabbath, so Jesus also cared for this crippled man and healed him on the Sabbath.  Now the Jews were even more angry, and they tried to kill him, because, as verse 18 says, they understood that he was calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Now today it maybe isn’t so hard for us to believe that Jesus is God, if we are used to that idea.  After all, we have all his miracles.  He healed that cripple, and healed so many others.  What man can do those things?  He must be God.  But the Jews saw the other side of Jesus—his human side.  He was born in Bethlehem.  He grew up in Nazareth and had to learn to feed himself and put his shirt on the right way just like everyone else.   People heard him call himself the Son of God and they said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?”  To them, he looked like just a man, and many did not accept his words.  But to those who did hear him, he did what no man can do: He gave the gift of eternal life.
I think we can understand why it was so difficult for them to see past the humanity of Jesus and honor him as the Son of God.  After all, how well do we actually honor him as the Son of God?    He may not be visibly present, but he has left his Word with us.  He has commanded us to gather together around that Word, to preach it, to baptize, and gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  As you hear the text, ask yourself whether you really do give Jesus the honor that is due him as the Son of God.

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
John 5:19-24


Theme: Honor the Son of God!

1.      The incredible claims.
2.      The incredible gifts

1. Jesus makes some incredible claims about himself, but is it too much to believe?  Perhaps the most incredible claim that Jesus made is here in these verses—the claim that he gives eternal life, a life that never ends, not even when you die.
“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.”  And again, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
An incredible claim, but is it amazing or too much to believe?  We’ve had plenty of incredible claims made by politicians recently; we know what to do.  Let’s check the facts.
Does God have the power to give life?  In the beginning God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and he breathed into him so that the dirt man became a living man.  He took a rib from the man and made the woman.  God certainly can give life. 
But what about Jesus’ claim that he is the Son of God, and he can give life too?  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.   But there is more to it.  Jesus said, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He has crossed over from death to life.”   Lazarus, as far as we know, did die again at some later time.  Also, though we listen to Jesus, all of us will most likely die one day too.  What is all this talk of eternal life?  Jesus is talking about a deeper, more meaningful and lasting life for those who believe in him.  It’s a life that death can’t touch. 
These words from the Bible will help us out: Paul wrote in Ephesians, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins…but God made us alive with Christ.” 
Spiritually, we were all born dead, but none of you here are spiritually dead anymore because of what Jesus has said and done.  You listen to the Savior’s voice.  You do things that please God.  You are all evidence that Jesus does give life. 
Jesus said that this life is eternal—when he gives spiritual life that person continues to live after he dies.  Consider this proof that he has told us the truth: On the Mount of Transfiguration we read about Jesus, walking and talking with Moses and Elijah—two prophets who had believed God’s Word and preached it fearlessly to the people.  Moses had been dead for 1400 years, and it had been at least 800 years since God took Elijah to heaven in that chariot of fire.  Yet, there they were on the mountain, walking and talking with Jesus, just as alive as you and I.  Apparently, God’s gift of life lasts after death.  It truly is eternal. 
Jesus’ incredible claims are true.  He gives life by the power of his Word.  He has promised that you have it right now, and you see it in the spiritual life of your soul as you listen to God and do what pleases him.  Jesus also promised that this would be an eternal life.  You have heard that life lasts after death and you have heard about his power to raise the dead.  It’s incredible and a true claim.  Jesus is the Son of God, and he does give life.  Honor him!
But where is Jesus to receive our honor?  He ascended to heaven.  We don’t see him anymore, though he has promised that he is always with us.  It might be tough to find a way to honor him, except that he has left us with his Word and the Sacraments.  We can honor that.  Honor the Son of God by honoring…

2. His incredible gifts
These gifts are incredible, but are they too much to believe?  Does the Word of God really create faith and give forgiveness of sins and eternal life?  Does Baptism actually wash your sins away, like Jesus said it does?  Is the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper actually Jesus’ body and blood, and do you really receive forgiveness by eating and believing this?  I can’t check the facts on these things.  This is where you have to remember that Jesus is the Son of God, and if he says that this is so, then it is so.  Honor him by believing what he has said. 
Don’t get hung up on the earthly appearance of the gifts Jesus has given us at church.  I know that I’m just a man and I’m young.  I don’t have many experiences and I don’t know much about the world, and I’m not the world’s greatest preacher anyway.  But I’m talking about the Word of God, the Word Jesus gave us; and that’s powerful.  Baptism may look like just a bit of water and a ceremony, but the Son of God has commanded that water to wash your sins away.  The Lord’s Supper also looks like just another ceremony where you get a tasteless little wafer and not enough wine, but the Son of God has declared that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood, and that it gives you forgiveness.
Since he is the Son of God, you will believe and honor what he has given, even though it doesn’t seem like anything all that impressive.  You will be there when his Word is read and taught in church.  If you can get your hands on a Bible, you will read it often on your own time also.  You will have your kids baptized.  You will often think of your baptism and remember that God used that water to wash away all of your sins.  After you have learned all the basic teachings of the Bible, you will joyfully come to the Lord’s Supper with the rest of the congregation, as often as you are able.  Because you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, you will honor his Word and these Sacraments as precious gifts.
Not that’s an incredible claim.  Because you believe Jesus is the Son of God, you will honor his gifts.  Do you really honor his gifts?  Maybe we should do a fact checker on ourselves.  Let’s pull out the church attendance records. Should we be honest about how many times we have not come to church and have skipped the Lord’s Supper?  I know you feel bad about it, because you come to me to try to justify yourself with rather lame excuses about being tired, not feeling well, being depressed, being busy, or having too much pain.  Now, maybe you really were in rough shape, and maybe you did honor God by spending an equally significant amount of time reading the Bible at home when you were sick, and there are legitimate reasons for missing church once in a while, especially if you make it up in some way.  But these are gifts from the Son of God.  If you aren’t here, I should almost be able to assume that you are dead.  Instead, it never surprises me that the church is more than half empty. 
Let’s be honest about how seldom we have thought about what God did for us when we were baptized, and how little comfort we have found in that thought.  When we are here in church, where have our thoughts been?  What is he wearing?  What am I going to make for lunch?  How are the 49ers going to do today?   Have we really honored the Son of God?
Jesus is coming back, and he is coming back to judge.  What are you going to do when you meet the judge?

Conclusion
The gifts are still the same, though you may have neglected and despised them.  Your baptism still counts.  Your sins have been washed away.  God’s Word is still here for you.  Not a page has been taken out of it.  The promises still stand.  “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”  That is still true for you.  Believe it.  The next time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, make sure that you are there.  Jesus will be there, and he will be offering his sacrifice to you, for you to eat and drink and share in the forgiveness that he won for you so that you will have forgiveness and eternal life in him.  Because he is the Son of God, honor his gifts of Word and Sacrament.  Then the Last Judgment will not be a problem for you.  You will not be condemned; you have crossed over from death to life.  Honor the Son!  Amen.