Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sermon Audio: Mark 4:26-34, June 17, 2018

A sermon preached by Pastor Lewis Polzin on June 17, 2018 at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on Mark 4:26-34. The text of this sermon may be found by clicking this link and you may play the audio of the sermon here.

Sermon Text: Mark 4:26-34, June 17, 2018

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text this morning is from the Gospel according to Mark, the fourth chapter:
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. 
Thus far the text.

My dear friends in Christ,
     Jesus is the original gardener.  It’s not really a surprise that He always seems to use gardening or planting parables; He planted humanity straight into a garden that they may live there and have their life abundantly.  When He was resurrected from the dead, the first place He appeared to one of His disciples was in the garden.  Jesus loves the idea of gardening, and so it shouldn’t surprise us either that He enjoys showing so much of the truth of faith in the analogy of the garden.

     Today, He uses two parables, one about the growth of something like wheat, and the other of the mustard seed.  Now, you can absolutely go the wrong way with the mustard seed; I should know, it was preached the wrong way to me for years.  So, let’s start there.  First of all, yes, Jesus says elsewhere that if you should have faith like a mustard seed you can move mountains.  Yes, Jesus chastises His apostles for the little faith they have.  But, please do not think that it means that you are supposed to be the grower of such faith.

     You see, this is how I was taught: that, yes, God planted the seed of faith in me, but I am responsible for making it grow.  Now, in one sense, this is true, but, in the most common sense, it’s not.  Let’s put it this way: science still hasn’t figured out what it is that makes a plant grow.  Oh, they know water, sunshine, nutrients, good soil, protection from heat, all that.  But what’s the spark that makes a seed break open and start giving life to a plant?  They don’t know.  Faith is much the same.  Faith in Christ  has been planted in you, and we know what’s necessary for its growth, the Word, the Sacraments, even the community of believers, but what’s the spark that makes it grow?  What makes some grasp onto it so firmly that they literally die confessing the name of Jesus on their lips and some to treat it like a pretty book that you put on the shelf and only bring it down to show it off?  No one really knows.

     God knows.  He makes faith grow.  And He promises that if one is in the Word, if one is receiving the Sacraments, then He will make it grow.  It must.  That’s its natural response.  For it not to work, well, that’d be like watering a plant but trying to shove the buds back in the stem to make sure it never changes.  In the presence of what it needs, it will grow.  And you are responsible for giving the faith given to you what it needs; only you can drag yourself into the Church.  When you’re younger, your parents can do it; when you’re older, your kids might do it.  But, really, you are responsible.  Yet, God is responsible for making it grow, for making it take shape, for giving it life and vitality.

     He has sown the seed of His Word lavishly upon the earth and given to her the things which it needs.  The Word creates faith and faith is nourished with more of the Word.  This is because God fulfills His promise, even found in the prophet Ezekiel today.  God takes the Word and plants it high upon the mountain, He takes His Son, the Word of God in flesh, and plants Him high upon the mountain of Jerusalem, and opens that seed up to the world, crucifying Him for your redemption, the forgiving of your sins.  And there, upon that tree, every type of person, every piece of creation will come and dwell under Him.  The Lord promised He would do this, then He did it, now He continues to fulfill His promise through His Church.

     This is what the first parable is about, that God would scatter the seed of His Word all around, and it grows and grows and grows.  If a man were to do this, he wouldn’t even get the first concept as to why this works, but as it is God, the Creator of all things, He guides and directs that Word to bring forth its fruit to its fruition.  First the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  And when, finally, the plant has risen to its fullness, God doesn’t just leave it there to wither and die, but, in fact, cuts the grain down that it might produce even more, both in the seeds it leaves and in the purpose of the grain, which is sustenance for creation.

     I mean, when you think about it, our faith, given to us in Baptism, that faith which grasps onto the Truth of God’s Word, which trusts in Christ Jesus for forgiveness, life, and salvation, has to have a purpose.  Grain doesn’t grow for its own sake.  Your faith does not grow for its own sake, but God provokes it to flourish and provides the means for it to do so that it can be a witness to others, to show them where they must come to receive the same.

     And when God spreads the seed of His Word so lavishly, that means He’s not just doing this for me, He’s not just doing it for you, but He’s doing it for all of us, for the entire earth.  And soon, His harvest will come.  Soon, the time is ended for us to bear forth fruit.

     Are you?  Are you bearing the fruit of God?  Do you love learning about His Word?  Do you love learning what He would tell us?  Do you receive each true teaching from God’s Word as a blessing or a burden?  Do you want to spend more time in the Word?  In the Divine Service?  In Bible Study?  Do you remember your Baptism with joy, holding onto it whenever trial and cross grieve you?  Do you remember your Baptism when you rise and when you go to sleep, that you may have no fear?  Do you receive His Supper with thanksgiving, desiring it more and more and more?  Do you want to eat His flesh and drink His blood that you might have life and have it abundantly?  Is it given enough?

     Or do you treat all of God’s good gifts like that third donut?  The first is delicious, filled with wonderful things and reminding you of the goodness of all that God has given.  The second donut is good, too.  It’s sugary and maybe you start to feel a little guilty, but, man, it’s good, and you gobble it up, too.  But, that third donut, well, you feel really guilty about it.  It might even make your tummy upset, so you avoid the third donut, because it’s just too much.

     God’s Word and Sacraments cannot be too much to one who holds on to Jesus.  If you trust Jesus, you can’t get enough of Him, whether He comes in the Word read from the lectern, the pulpit, the Bible study, whether He comes in the Altar, the font, or the Absolution.  Christians desire Christ, because we know that’s how we continue to grow, and we must continue growing until He decides to take us to Himself.

     He is coming to take His harvest home; are you ready?  Today, you are, absolutely.  You have gathered around His Word and Sacraments.  You have confessed your sins and been forgiven in Christ.  You have read His Word, read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested it.  You are preparing to step forward to the Altar to receive His abundant mercy in your mouths.  You will walk past the font to do so.  You are ready today.  God is growing you even now.  You have brought yourself here and God is doing just as He promised.

     Remain in Him.  Remain in His Word.  Our Lord here will tend you as a gentle gardener, pruning off that which will do you ill and giving you that which you need ofr everlasting life.  Our Lord Jesus loves His creation, but He loves you most especially, which is why He has given to you the seed of faith, the seed which brings you to life everlasting.  And He will tend that seed in you, that you may grow to the harvest, and there gather with all of creation under His loving arms.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

     Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord!  Amen.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Bible Study: Proverbs 11:1-7, June 10 2018

A Bible Study taught by Pastor Lewis Polzin on June 10, 2018 at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on Proverbs 11:1-7. Play the audio by clicking here.

Sermon Audio: Mark 3:20-35, June 10, 2018

A sermon preached by Pastor Lewis Polzin on June 10, 2018 at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on Mark 3:20-35. The text of this sermon may be found by clicking this link and you may play the audio of the sermon here.

Sermon Text: Mark 3:20-35, June 10, 2018

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text this morning is from the Gospel according to Mark, the third chapter:
Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” 
Thus far the text.

My dear friends in Christ,
     There’s a lot going on this passage this morning.  Jesus is called crazy, not just by the Pharisees, which you would expect, but even by His family.  Jesus gives us the speech made no more famous by Abraham Lincoln, that a house divided against itself cannot stand.  He compares Himself to a thief.  He talks about an unforgiveable sin. He seems to deny His own family for the sake of those who listen to Him.

     It’s really a strange pericope for the day.  How do you make sense of all of this?  That’s my question, I suppose.  You see, all of our readings, week after week, aren’t chosen by me; they’ve been put together by the Church, and a lectionary, a series of readings and prayers, was put together.  So, whoever came up with this, thought this reading and our Genesis reading and our 2 Corinthians all tied together somehow.  So, what do we make of all of this?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Quick Study on Law and Gospel, Thesis 8, June 3, 2018

This quick study on Law and Gospel was given at the end of service at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on June 3, 2018. The text of the study is included and you may play the audio of the study here.


Sermon Audio: Mark 2:23-38, June 3, 2018

A sermon preached by Pastor Lewis Polzin on June 3, 2018 at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on Mark 2:23-38. The text of this sermon may be found by clicking this link and you may play the audio of the sermon here.